On its face, in times of crisis, we love to say “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” as a theme of unity. The words were used in a rock-ish love song in 1969 [Brotherhood of Man, and later by Glen Campbell & Anne Murray, Elton John and 100 others].
We then go on to praise “Father Abraham” Lincoln as the greatest President that ever lived because he freed the slaves while taking us all under his wing and protecting us. What if we said that’s not at all what Lincoln meant? What did he mean?
June 16, 1858: The rest of the story (as Paul Harvey used to say) goes back to the Illinois Republican party convention in Springfield, IL, June 1858. In the contentious race for Illinois Senator, any student of history can tell you, rose from the passion and eloquence of months of public debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas a “popular sovereignty” Democrat. On the 16th, Lincoln rose to accept the nomination of the six-year old infant Republican Party. Keep in mind the Republicans emerged as a radical evolution combining the Whig Party [what we’d call ‘liberal platforms’ today] and the radical Abolitionist movement.
Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, [TOR] 2005, among others, gives us great insight into Lincoln, his intellect, his universe, life, “rivals,” most of whom were like-minded, sharing his ambitions for America. Lincoln has too often been cast as the buffoon even as an ape, but he was likely one of the top two or three original political thinkers, operators and manipulators of our political system. Lincoln also had a complete command of the principles of mathematical logic which he turned into communication skills and political logic in masterful speeches.
Hmm ... he won the race for President in 1860 not by popular vote (29.8%*), but by effective use of the Electoral College process. His electoral victory was undeniable (180 of 303* – almost 60%) while winning less than 1/3 of the people’s. This would not be the only test of Lincoln’s political acumen. [*Handbook of American History, 1968]
[Fun fact – Lincoln won the 1864 election with 55% of popular vote (primarily in North) and by 212 over 21 electoral votes. Even more interesting 4,690,000 voted in 1860, including the South, but 4,010, 725 voted in 1864 with only a 680,000 popular vote increase and without the South participating. Oh, remember only men could vote, women, blacks and Native Americans could not vote.]
--- Excerpt - The House Divided Speech.
Lincoln: “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it.
We are now far into the fifth year, since the policy [Kansas-Nebraska Act] was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.
Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.
In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.
A house divided against itself cannot stand.
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing, or all the other.”
JCC: He says “end to slavery agitation” not “end to slavery.” Importantly, “this government cannot endure,” ... “it will cease to be divided.” It is the agitation, the division by sections that causes discord & disunity which promotes inefficient progress, that is Lincoln’s focus, not slavery unto itself. Slavery is the distraction. What comes in between division and unity? Lincoln has the answer tucked away in his mind. “a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.”
JCC: For the better, the South will break away, the crisis will be reached and it will pass and the country will cease to be divided. A Union will come and save the kingdom. Lincoln would not allow the kingdom to be brought into desolation, but if he cast out the devils then the kingdom would come back anew.
JCC: It is often said that this was one of Lincoln’s greatest speeches or most famous. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” “I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free,” “I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become one thing, or all the other.” As Doris Kearns Goodwin states in TOR (p. 198), his statements were “... echoing the Gospels of Mark and Matthew ...”
Following Lincoln’s complete logic we must look at the King James Version of The Holy Bible, “By His Majesty’s Special Command,” (the Bible of his time) and read in full the texts of the books of Matthew 12:25 through 12:37 and Mark 3:23 through 3:27 as Lincoln the student who would have read, the words therein of Jesus’ statement to the Pharisees in total, then re-read and consumed every word into his mind devouring every syllable by syllable. Jesus’ logic, metaphors and parables would not have been lost on Lincoln regardless of the status of his faith or religion. Lincoln knew his audience at the convention and would have played to their ears and sensibilities.
[Lincoln has often been cast as everything from an agnostic to atheist to reverent student of religion, however that’s a debate for another time.]
Next: United We Stand: – Part 2.