One of Lincoln’s earliest published speeches, the Lyceum Address was delivered when Lincoln was just 28 years old and newly arrived in Springfield, Illinois. A little-known lawyer serving as a state representative, Lincoln spoke before a gathering of young men and women on January 27, 1838 about “the perpetuation of our political institutions.” Prompted by the murder of an abolitionist printer in Illinois two months earlier, he worried that Americans were increasingly inclined to take the law into their own hands. In the grip of strong passions, they were substituting vigilante justice for the justice of law. – What So Proudly We Hail
“This task [perpetuating our political institutions] of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.
How, then, shall we perform it? At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? 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.
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.”
Leon R. Kass
The American Enterprise Institute
Leon R. Kass, M.D., Ph.D., is the Addie Clark Harding Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago and the Madden-Jewett Scholar Emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute. He was chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2001 to 2005. His numerous articles and books include: Toward a More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs, The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of Our Nature, Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marrying (with Amy A. Kass), Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics, The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis, What So Proudly We Hail: The American Soul in Story, Speech, and Song (with Amy A. Kass and Diana Schaub), Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times, and (forthcoming) Founding God’s Nation: Reading Exodus.