By Edward Achorn
A 28-year-old country lawyer made a prescient observation in an 1837 address in Springfield, Illinois. He argued that, given its strengths, free America could only be destroyed from within.
“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!—All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years,” the young lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, asserted.
“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
The country almost died by suicide when that rising lawyer became president decades later. Rather than accept his fair election, the leaders of several states attempted to secede from the Union, and they organized vast armies to oppose the United States when it asserted its authority.
Some wonder whether a new civil war is upon us.
Endless propaganda about the supposedly inherent racism of America — such as the New York Times’ notorious 1619 Project, challenged by serious historians — has led many to accept the notion that whites are by nature evil and oppressive, and forever unwilling to relinquish their hatred of blacks.
Anything that argues otherwise — the Civil War itself, which ended slavery at the cost of 750,000 lives; the Fourteenth Amendment; the civil rights movement of the twentieth century; the integration of politics and police forces; immense public expenditures and massive government programs to aid the less fortunate; the just celebration of black history and of the extraordinary achievements of blacks in America; criminal justice reform; historically low unemployment for minorities — is brushed aside as of no consequence. So are statistics showing American racial attitudes have greatly changed for the better.
Instead, such cases as the horrible death of a black man at the hands of Minneapolis police create a firestorm of hatred and resentment, even before all of the facts are in. The notion that the rule of law and public accountability are essential to make our system more just is similarly discarded.
So we have an orgy of injustice, days of riots that destroy many black neighborhoods, many black-owned businesses and places where people shop, making life much worse for those communities. How that helps is never explained, at least not with any logic.
It seems clear that, as in 1860, America is beset by forces determined to tear it asunder.
One such operation, called Antifa, has finally been targeted as a domestic terror group.
The paramilitary group, which stirs riots and beats up people it disagrees with, is patterned on a communist group that arose in Germany during the 1920s and 1930s, and engaged in street battles with the Nazis. Note the similarity of the German logo then and the American Antifa logo now
This is designed to create the impression that many Americans are fascists, equivalent to the Nazis. But, of course, the communists and Hitler’s National Socialists were two sides of the same coin. Each promoted its own flavor of totalitarian government. Communism and Nazism both killed people by the millions.
The United States Constitution is absolutely opposed to the totalitarian approach of both. It exalts the rights of the individual through such means as divided power, free and fair elections, and the enumeration of civil rights in the Bill of Rights, including free speech, the right to peaceful protest, protection of property and limits on government persecution of individuals.
Antifa seems determined to undermine that just and noble system through violence and intimidation. Because it attacks citizens who may align with the Republican Party, it has been tolerated by some Democratic politicians.
Lincoln spoke in his 1837 address about preserving the results of the American Revolution. Now that free institutions had been established, violence and lawlessness were no longer the answers to injustice: “Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence. Let those materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws.”
Like Lincoln, I believe that our founding documents point the way toward a more perfect union. The answer to wrongdoing by government officials is not hatred, violence and destruction, but reason, accountability and the rule of law, with elected representatives and the public working constantly to ensure civil liberties and protections for the rights of individuals.
Central to the American ideal is that no group is treated better or worse than another. Every citizen is an individual, with sacred rights.
I share Lincoln’s view that these documents are a precious gift to the world, that America is the “last best hope of earth,” and that freedom and the rule of law are the answer. Not the cruelty and injustice of communism, fascism or mob violence.
(Read Edward Achorn’s books about American history.)