Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy Independence Day.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the stated intent to become free of a ruler who did not respect those living on this continent.

We ended up with laws that were very much flawed. For example, slavery was legal and women could not vote.

Today is the anniversary of the end of the battle at Gettysburg, the end of reasonable expectation that the rebellious states might succeed. For many, this defeat is something they mourn. It was a battle of federal rights versus states' rights. Neither side was fighting for individual rights. The side that lost was fighting, in part, to protect the right of one human being to own another. In other words, fighting to keep individuals from having rights. We should rejoice at the defeat of such a barbaric idea. The side that won did not do anything to put an end to the same practice until after the war was over. So maybe not so much to rejoice over, either.

But what about the Emancipation Proclamation?

This only freed slaves in states that were not under the control of the Union. It was a bribe. Come back and you may keep your slaves. A not so pretty speech, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing. It came before Gettysburg, so the outcome was much more dubious. The need to weaken to opposition was still great. This was "Come back and all is forgiven."

One of the most dramatic moments at Gettysburg is described at William The Coroner’s Forensic Files in the post Joshua Chamberlain. Not your typical American, but the kind of person who did make this country possible, a truly impressive leader. This is not meant to ignore the bravery of all of those who fought with him or against him, but his action was pivotal.

As weak and pathetic as the Emancipation Proclamation was, the follow up to the battle was not. The Gettysburg Address was a momentous speech - brief, motivating, memorable.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.