Abraham Lincoln on the Existential Threat

This is from Abraham Lincoln’s first major speech, known as the Lyceum Address, given in 1838 (two decades before his presidency):

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.

Title of the speech? “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions”

For what it’s worth, Glenn has got me interested in Lincoln again, and is a big admirer of the 16th president.  I am engrossed in Rich Lowry’s book and hope to review it soon.

2 responses to “Abraham Lincoln on the Existential Threat

  1. Yes, the more you learn about Lincoln, the more impressed you should be. If you consult “LIncoln on Leadership” (A short paperback) you have one of the most compelling management books ever written. That is only my opinon but it is shared by many. Lincoln’s management principles are accompanied by excellent anecdotes supporting his decisions. Some of the brief chapters to whet your appetite – Persuade Rather than Coerce, Honest and Integrity are the best policies, Encourage risk-taking while providing job security, Wage only one war at a time – 15 such chapters, .
    Lincoln also was unimpressed with himself and truly humble.
    Compare that to many of our leaders today and yesteryear. He suffered greatly from depression. He felt life was more of a burden than a gift. This mentality gave him great empathy for others. He is featured in the book – A First Rate Madness. This book has the theme that many of our great leaders suffered from mental illness
    and they succeeded not by overcoming it but because of it – that is, their view of the world gave them greater insight and put them in better touch with reality. I recall Clement Atlee being one of the
    counterexamples of a “well-adjusted” person who didn’t see the coming evils as did Churchill (the latter suffered from bouts of depression).
    Anyway, anything about Lincoln is worth a read. Thanks..

  2. The quote as given is impressive; but, I submit, what he says just before it makes it even more impressive. Indeed, is there anyone who can deny its validity, fail to be swep5 into the relentless flow of Lincoln’s logic? Read the wider context and see for yourself:
    “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 Bonaparte 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.”

    Arnold Kunst
    Introducing Abraham Lincoln to the 21st Century
    Lincoln blog: lucidspeaker.blogspot.com
    Youtube channel: lucidspeaker videos
    916-213-7463

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