Monday, March 4, 2013

As God gave him to see the right | xpostfactoid

PhotoAs God gave him to see the right | xpostfactoid: by Andrew Sprung 
"I am nearing the climax of Ronald C. White's excellent Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural (2006).  It is leading me to reflect once again why a speech that casts a war that slaughtered 600,000 men as a divine judgment and collective punishment continues to move me.  There is something unique about the tired notion of divine judgment as transmuted by Lincoln's mind and bottomless suffering. White casts the speech as a species of Jeremiad, a dominant form in Puritan preaching, rooted in the inevitable perpetual sense that the New Israel (like the old one) was forever backsliding. White demonstrates that Lincoln was intimately familiar with the genre, which he describes as follows:

The thrust was that the people had sinned by straying from the original vision of their forefathers and thus deserved punishment. Their sin was linked with the judgment of God. Judgment should give rise to repentance. If there was repentance, the preacher offered the possibility of forgiveness. Forgiveness portended hope. Hope should lead to reform (Kindle location 2102-04)
For the United States the "original vision," as Lincoln increasingly cast it in the war's later days (White notes), is the Declaration's credo: all men are created equal..endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Punishment for corruption of that vision, in Lincoln's provisional judgment, is an eye-for-an-eye affair:....."
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