Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. We should celebrate this--as Hawthorne called him--"essential representative of all Yankees," and we should be glad that we know why we love him. He knew why the Union was worth saving, and he saved it. He could think and write and talk and laugh, even in the midst of bloody war. In this
Fragment on the Constitution and the Union he nails the connection between the Declaration and the Constitution. The Gettysburg Address enshrines in the American memory both the start and purpose of the Union, thereby clarifying our self-understanding as a people. And it shows that the self-evident truth has now become a proposition; one doesn’t have to be a Euclid scholar to know the large political implications this has for the future, or the military implications it had in 1863: the new birth of freedom would depend on a military vitory. The Second Inaugural is not only fitting and eloquent, but explains why the war came and why it may continue--even after the cause of it is gone--and touches on how man’s purpose and understanding may differ from the of God. Thank you Father Abraham, and happy birthday.