Author: Lincoln’s legacy continues to be relevant
If Abraham Lincoln were still alive, he might see some familiarity between the controversial issues of today and those he wrestled with as president nearly 150 years ago.
Michael Lind, keynote speaker for Monday's Eighth Annual Lincoln Lecture at the University of Saint Mary, shed light on some of the common misconceptions about the famous president's words and actions, and brought modern relevancy to Abraham Lincoln's rhetoric.
"The Gettysburg Address is more often recited than understood," said Lind, Whitehead Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation and author of the new book, "What Lincoln Believed."
"When Lincoln says that the great Civil War is a test of whether a democratic government can 'long endure,' he is not referring to the evil of slavery. He is referring to the evil of armed insurrection against legitimate democratic government," Lind said.
Lind continued to explain that Lincoln's dire concern was less with slavery than it was with preserving the democracy that was threatened by it.
"The immediate threat to the democracy of the United States was not slavery, it was unlawful rebellion against democratic government," Lind said. "This rebellion was started by slave owners, and its purpose was to protect slavery, but any insurrection or coup d'etat by any other group with any purposes would have threatened democracy in the United States and by implication in the rest of the world, in exactly the same way."
Lincoln was deeply concerned with protecting the Union so that it could provide a legitimate example of a successful democratic government to the rest of the world, which was predominantly ruled by monarchy or aristocracy in Lincoln's day. This was one of the president's justifications for freeing the slaves, Lind said.
Quoting Lincoln's words on the Civil War, Lind said, "'The American democracy will emerge from the contest morally improved by the abolition of slavery, but that reform is a secondary result of a campaign that is of global significance because it proves to the world that democrats can defeat rebellions and enforce democratically made laws and democratically made constitutions.'"
The speech was well received. Anne-Marie Denny, a junior majoring in sports management, was happy she made it.
"Overall it was very good," Denny said of Lind's speech. "I'm glad it happened here at my school so I was able to attend it.
"I just think that what (Lincoln) stood for wasn't common, and he went and did it anyway," she said.
Lind gave his speech after a performance by the University of Saint Mary Concert Chorale and an award presentation for the five winners of the Honest Abe Lincoln Drawing Contest, whose depictions of Abraham Lincoln were voted best out of over 400 entries from local elementary and middle schools.
After the speech, Lind signed copies of his new book at a dessert reception where a few of the university's rare Lincoln artifacts, including an original copy of the 13th Amendment signed by the president, were on display.