Saturday, July 28, 2012

Quote of the Day: Lincoln on Liberty

"The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name — liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names — liberty and tyranny."
- Abraham Lincoln, April 18, 1864


Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock is a student of Abraham Lincoln but his use of a Lincoln quote during a speech in Texas last night is raising some eyebrows.

Mourdock is under fire from Democrat Joe Donnelly for his efforts to stop the Chrysler bankruptcy. His defense of those efforts led him to use part of a Lincoln quote that also includes a reference to slavery. (see full quote below)

He was speaking to a Freedomworks audience in Dallas telling the conservative political action committee that he fought the Chrysler bankruptcy to stop the bankruptcy court from taking the pensions of retired teachers and state troopers. "So that someone else can be given their assets," he said. "It is the same tyrannical principle as in 1858."

The 1858 reference is to a Lincoln quote, one that includes a reference to "one race of men enslaving another race." Today Mourdock said he wasn't comparing the actions of the Obama Administration to slavery. "No, that wasn't the issue at all," he said. "It was about governments actions and taking property."

This afternoon State Democratic Chairman Dan Parker issued a statement calling Mourdock's references to the Civil War era embarassing and inexcuseable. He said Mourdock should apologize.

Here's what Lincoln said in a debate with Stephen Douglas:

"That is the real issue. That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent. It is the eternal struggle between these two principles -- right and wrong -- throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, 'You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle." --October 15, 1858 Debate at Alton

Abraham Lincoln clearly felt in 1858--and still in 1864--that the key principle in question throughout history (not merely during the period of and leading to our Civil War) is not slavery, but that of tyranny: the notion of one person (or group of people) doing as they pleased with the fruits of the labors of other people.

That notion applies down through the ages in countless forms of despotism that elevate some men above others.

It's going to take more than false outrage over Richard Mourdock quoting Abraham Lincoln to get Hoosiers to elect a big government, big spending liberal like Joe Donnelly.