American Blessings – Lincoln at Lyceum

The first in a multi-part series of commentaries on Abraham Lincoln’s speech at Lyceum.

By Mark D. Harris

“We find ourselves in the peaceful possession, of the fairest portion of the earth, as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions, conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty, than any of which the history of former times tells us.”

How many of us consider the blessings of being American?

Our geography, from the fertile Great Plains to the extensive and navigable river basins, is the best in the world. We are protected from potential enemies by great oceans to the east and west, broad deserts to the south, and thick forests to the north. Stretching for thousands of miles, we are a land and sea nation like no other on the planet. We were destined for greatness.

Our political institutions are the fairest in the world. For all of our complaining, we have freedom the likes of which has been unknown throughout history and across the globe:

Those who have never known tyranny long for a strong man to take responsibility for them, to give them money, and to keep them free from the troubles of life. They do not know that the government is often the biggest oppressor of all.

Those who have known tyranny long for the freedom to make their own way through their own industry, courage, and wits, helped by their families, friends, and other groups. They know that governments are often the biggest threat to the livelihoods and lives of citizens.
After long and bloody experience in Europe, early settlers built America to balance the needs of its people and to protect its people from their government. They did not try to build a state in which everyone was equal in every way, for this is impossible. Rather, they tried to build a state in which every citizen had a roughly equal chance to fulfill their needs and their dreams.

There are failings in the American political system, but as a system that reflects the will of the people, the failings are really in us. Political divisions are really population divisions. We have a beautiful democracy, but are we men and women enough to keep it?

Let us rejoice in America, her geography and her political institutions, today.

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