Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Go Gettysburg

It's the lack of intellectual rigour in Labour's ranks that surprises me most. Take, for example, the former Labour spad Mike Elrick as he spits bile in the direction of Alex Salmond for not criticising Abraham Lincoln while addressing an audience in the United States of America.

Here's a wee flavour of it:
Ironic isn't it, that Alex Salmond, a politician who has dedicated his political career to tearing Scotland out of the Union that is the United Kingdom, travels 3000 to lavish praise on the greatest unionist politician of all time.

Memo to First Minister: Homework on flight back to Scotland. Must read the Gettyburg Address.
Missing words and spelling mistakes aside, Mr Elrick has either never read or didn't understand the Gettysburg Address. Here's the text (Bliss version):
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.
It's a nationalist text - "a new nation"; "those who here gave their lives that that nation might live"; "that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom" (the Hay and Nicolay versions don't mention God). This short speech is a celebration of a young nation in the midst of the pain of a civil war, spoken with the folk memory of the battle for independence still fresh.

Four months earlier Lincoln delivered his "Response to a Serenade" in which he spoke of the victory at Gettysburg and the root of the Civil War:
we have a gigantic Rebellion, at the bottom of which is an effort to overthrow the principle that all men are created equal
Nothing about secession, then. Mr Elrick might have been better to point to Lincoln's second inaugural address:
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it--all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war--seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.
That said, though, there's the small matter of Lincoln's Address in Independence Hall:

I am filled with deep emotion at finding myself standing here, in this place, where were collected together the wisdom, the patriotism, the devotion to principle, from which sprang the institutions under which we live. You have kindly suggested to me that in my hands is the task of restoring peace to the present distracted condition of the country. I can say in return, Sir, that all the political sentiments I entertain have been drawn, so far as I have been able to draw them, from the sentiments which originated and were given to the world from this hall. I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here, and framed and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved that Independence. I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland; but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men. This is a sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world, if I can help to save it. If it cannot be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.
The difficulty for Mr Elrick is that Abraham Lincoln was quite clearly an American nationalist...


Richard Thomson said...

I bet most Labour 'spinners' were under the impression beforehand that the Gettysburg Address was where Lincoln stayed when he was in town.

Sean McLeod said...

Abe Lincoln explaining why the civil war was necessary... Labour, Freedom of Information On Iraq - No Thanks.