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  • Writer's pictureGregory N. Austin

Safeguarding our Institutions

In times of domestic political stress, Lincoln was much less confident. He cautioned that, “to substitute the wild and furious passions in lieu of sober judgments of courts” would ultimately destroy our young nation.

In January 1838, Abraham Lincoln (age 28) gave a speech before the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois. The subject was, "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions".

Lincoln felt that the U.S. had little to fear from foreign nations. In times of domestic political stress however, he was much less confident. He cautioned that, “to substitute the wild and furious passions in lieu of sober judgments of courts” would lead us " destruction". But the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, love of liberty and his faith in “the reverence for the laws be breathed by every American”, would save us.

All of those factions that attacked the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, should reflect on Lincoln’s hope for our laws and courts as a remedy for complaints. Mobs do not have a conscience once they commit to mayhem. Ex-President Donald Trump rejected a peaceful transference of power, instead choosing a lawless mob style attempt at retaining an office not earned or warranted. The courts rejected his complaints over voter fraud 61 to zero.

In May of 1864 as Lincoln was running for a second term for the Presidency; he thought he would not be reelected and he prepared for defeat. The fortunes of the Civil War, however, landed him the victory in November. He resumed the office with his honor intact.

The peaceful transfer of power in the U.S. is a proud tradition. The recipe for peace lies in accepting the will of the people and the court for settling disputes. If a President wins fair and square without evidence of fraud, we are all duty bound to accept the results. Especially if there are cries of “foul” where no fouls exist. Giving in to “wild and furious passions” is what Lincoln suggests would lead to our political demise. Peaceful transfers of executive power must remain sacrosanct. January 6th had all the criminal elements of subversion unworthy of a nation with such a storied history of political power transfers.

We face groundless attacks on our institutions right now. The people have the power to maintain and nurture domestic tranquility. The people are the guardians at Freedom’s gate. But if they sleep while adverse forces of power and money seek to dominate, then Lincoln’s fear of domestic political death remains a possibility. Republican members in the U.S. House have already made attempts to create devils out of innocent unnamed members of the D.O.J., the F.B.I. and others. While they have lists of witnesses to irregularities discovered during the investigation of the Trump Administration, they have yet to provide any names resulting from their most recent investigative spectacle. It appears their strategy now just involves smoke and mirrors.

We must rally around our Flag and our love of freedom passed on to us from those 55 men in Philadelphia in 1787. We must honor education, the F.B.I., the military, the police, social programs and all laws protecting voting rights. Those who harbor voter suppression goals must be condemned, and labeled un-American. Demeaning the rights of minorities simply costs the U.S. Treasury too much money. Bigotry is costly. We must value every citizen and every institution as a civic endeavor.

Editors note: Reading the lengthy text of Lincoln's 1838 address to the Young Men's Lyceum is time well spent and ominously timely given our current political and social environment. It can be found here.

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