Saturday, July 2, 2011

Conceived in Liberty

In November 1863, President Abraham Lincoln began his remarks at Gettysburg with the statement "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." On that day, President Lincoln continued "We are now engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure."

The four score and seven years have extended themselves into two hundred thirty five and, while no longer engaged in a civil war, the test continues.  Can this nation, conceived and dedicated as it was continue in liberty and justice or must it decline?

One wonders. 

Liberty is not bondage. Neither is it anarchy.  Liberty is freedom with restraint and that restraint must be the minimum necessary to preserve order and encourage felicity. Such was the liberty in which we were conceived, a liberty in law.

Neither is equality reckoned in terms of outcome or resources.  We are each subject to unique conditions.  We are each blessed with unique resources.  In that we each bring nothing into this world and it is certain we shall carry nothing out of it, we are equal.  In between, our equality is reckoned in terms of standing under the law and the opportunity to pursue our own happiness by making as much as possible of what we have as seems good to us.

At our founding, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Inalienable rights cannot be taken away.  Our rights are inalienable, but not inevitable.  Men have struggled and died to secure them for us, and they are only maintained by continued struggle.

Whether our nation will long endure is always contested.  We were conceived in liberty; will we keep it?

The question is ours and ours alone to answer.