The American Cincinnatus

George Washington
mountvernon.org

Before we start, a question for our readers. Do you prefer when I write about current events, or when I rummage about in our national attic, as I have been doing this week? I won’t say I’ll necessarily abide by what you say, often I write about what interests me at the moment. That’s likely to continue, but perhaps the emphasis could be one or the other, or even a combination, as we’ve sometimes done, applying the lessons of history to things today. Hartley did indeed say, “History is a foreign country, they do things differently there”. But that doesn’t exclude us from learning lessons there either. Let me know what you think in comments.


At the end of last July in Law and Liberty,  Matthew J. Franck wrote a fascinating account of John Marshall’s admiration (and biography of) George Washington.

George Washington resigned his commission as the commander in chief of the Continental Army in a public appearance before the Confederation Congress (then sitting in Annapolis) on December 23, 1783, in his own words “commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God.” Eleven days later, from Richmond, Virginia, John Marshall, a former captain in the 7th Virginia Regiment now married, settled down, and practicing law, wrote to his old friend and fellow veteran James Monroe:

At length then the military career of the greatest Man on earth is closed. May happiness attend him wherever he goes. May he long enjoy those blessings he has secured to his Country. When I speak or think of that superior Man my full heart overflows with gratitude. May he ever experience from his Countrymen those attentions which such sentiments of themselves produce.

Marshall’s veneration of Washington was not unusual among the officers and men who had served under the commanding general. What may have been unusual was the extent to which Marshall’s admiration remained durably undimmed to the end of his own long life more than a half century later.

Nor was it confined to Americans, George III himself, asked John Adams, then Minister to the Court of St. James, what he would do. Adams told him that Washington would return to his farm. The King then said, “Then he will be the greatest man in the world.” This is also where the phrase “The American Cincinnatus”  comes from. In memory of the great Roman general who twice did the same thing, only to suffer persecution.

This last edition, first published posthumously in 1838, is the one brought back into print by Liberty Fund in 2000, edited by scholars Robert Faulkner and Paul Carrese. As Faulkner says in his foreword, “Marshall’s Life of Washington is political history as well as biography. . . . the only comprehensive account by a great statesman of the full founding of the United States.” This is history lived by the author, more Thucydides or Xenophon than Plutarch. And so Marshall, who could remember well the temper of the times, remarks of the beginnings of the Revolution:

Although the original and single object of the war on the part of the colonies was a redress of grievances, the progress of public opinion towards independence, though slow, was certain. . . . To profess allegiance and attachment to a monarch with whom they were at open war, was an absurdity too great to be of long continuance.

Which is something we Americans tend to forget. Back in 1776 very few really wanted Independency as Samuel Adams was wont to call it. They wanted their grievances addressed. They were, in fact, proud of being British. And yes, that is why it bears striking parallels to both Brexit and Trump’s election.

That’s probably enough from me. I would like you to read the linked article, and I’d like you to join me in shortly buying the book, as these things go these days, it’s not particularly expensive.

I’ll leave you with this thought though, as we watch both Washington and London engage im such vituperative arguments.

In one respect, Marshall’s Washington makes for very sobering reading today. We tend to think of George Washington as the Marble Man—all looked up to him, and he merited every encomium bestowed on him. There is much truth in this; he was, after all, the only man ever elected President effectively by acclamation—and twice! But Marshall does not omit another truth: that there were plenty of people eager to bring him down, even among his own countrymen. Rival generals and suspicious congressmen during the Revolution schemed to displace him at the head of the army. As President, Washington had a “honeymoon” that lasted less than two years; then the knives came out, first for men like Hamilton who were his advisers and his instruments, and by the end, for Washington himself.

Manic Monday

U.S. Soldiers from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army Europe and members of Romania’s 21st Mountain Division assess an area of land. (U.S. Army photo by Christopher S. Barnhart/Released)

Manic Monday again, I see. Britain has gotten itself into a constitutional swamp underlaid with quicksand, and in America, the government has so far refused to police the police. In both countries, there is a growing feeling that the government is out of the sovereign people’s control, and the rule of law itself is endangered. Not to mention the suspicion of many that a large part of the civil service (on both sides of the pond) is at best seditious, if not quite treasonous. So, it’s not like I have nothing to write about, it’s that I don’t really want to.

I also suspect you’re as tired of the mess as I am, and, like me, suspect there is not a lot we can do about it anyway. So how about a breath of fresh air.

But we can always feel better when we look around. From Hong Kong where protestors have been carrying the old colonial flag (how unPC) and the British union flag and our own star-spangled banner to Venezuela people always look to us with a longing in their hearts, for most people do wish to be free. Our countries remain the best and almost only hope for truly oppressed people everywhere in the world, and the better thay knew us, the more they wish to be with us. Far smarter than our own elites, I say.

Then there are our military people. I’ve been known to get emotional in my admiration for them, but others have noticed as well. Like a Frenchman, yeah that’s what I said, a Frenchman had something nice to say about American soldiers. Very nice, in fact. Via American Thinker.

Blogger and veteran Wes O’Donnell has translated an editorial in a French newspaper from a French soldier serving with a prestigious U.S. infantry battalion. I recommend reading the whole thing. Here are some excerpts:

US soldiers are in top physical shape compared to the French, and it appears much better in infantry tactics. The soldier notes:

Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins, and creatine — they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them — we are wimps, even the strongest of us — and because of that they often mistake us [the French] for Afghans. [snip] Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how. Beyond the wearing of a combat kit that never seems to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to annoy them in the slightest.

In combat, US soldiers go on the offense in every encounter with the enemy in contrast to soldiers of other nations who have been taught to first defend and await orders:

And combat? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all — always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the shortest delay. That is one of their tricks: they switch from T-shirt and sandals to combat ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the enemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting: they just charge! They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions later — which cuts any pussyfooting short.

And finally:

To those who bestow us with the honor of sharing their combat outposts and who everyday give proof of their military excellence, to those who pay the daily tribute of America’s army’s deployment on Afghan soil, to those we owned this article, ourselves hoping that we will always remain worthy of them and to always continue hearing them say that we are all the same band of brothers.

Something from the original post struck me:

Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location: books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste, etc. In such a way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission.

And that is something almost uniquely American, and one of our great strengths. And it’s remarkable in a country that less than 250 years ago so despised professional soldiers that it abolished the army. For most of us, what we used to call ‘the Big Green Machine’ is nearly the only part of the American government that we trust.

“This we’ll defend”, indeed. I hope we prove to be worthy of them.

Somebody Said Something

Fifty-six years ago yesterday somebody said something. This is what he said:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. **We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.”** We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”1

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

It was an amazing speech that day, at the foot of The Great Emancipator, and it still is today. Every activist for every identity group ought to sit done, shut up, and study Dr. King’s words here. For he does not seek to overpower, he does not seek to shut people down, but to lift them all, he does not seek special privilege, merely common rights denied.

The Rev Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great leader for his people, and now he is a great leader for all people who wish for people to be treated fairly and with justice.

It is a shame that that did not include the Democrat Party, then or now, which has always survived by making sure its supporters never got ahead enough to see the truth about the Plantation. And most of the rest are little better. Ever notice how little recognition this get on TV, in the papers? There’s a reason for that, it undermines the whole industry of race hustling, reminding us that we are all equal and that some are not more equal because they are black or yellow of female. Equal is equal, as A=A. That should be our goal.

And mind that what Dr. King was fighting for was equality under the law, he may well have thought that blacks deserved more economic opportunity, who being of goodwill wouldn’t have. But his concern was that the law treats all the same. Well folks, hate to tell you this but when I look at the circus in Washington, we’re rapidly going the wrong way, and the slope is steep and very slippery. I have serious doubt that the Republic will survive this onslaught.

And so now, fifty-six years later, Dr. King’s words still apply to American blacks, who are still oppressed, but they are now joined by the majority of white Americans in their oppression.

God help us all, whatever the color.

Pictures: Crossing the Swamp Edition

Crossing the Swamp

(h/t Jon McNaughton) Still some available!

List of figures from left to right: Nikki Haley, James Mattis, Ben Carson, President Trump, Jeff Sessions, Mike Pence, Melania Trump, Mike Pompeo, Sarah Sanders, Ivanka Trump, John Bolton, Kellyanne Conway, John Kelly.

No man left behind.

Russians are the least of our problems

Lunch Time? Sure!

Relevant to my interests, as they say!

Mostly from PowerLine, and elsewhere

The Indispensable Man

Yesterday was, of course, the anniversary of George Washington’s birth. Without his life, the United States, if it even existed, would be a very different place. Long ago, Jessica touched on his (probably unconscious) model:  Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.

I addressed King George’s view of him after he resigned his commission in the Continental Army here, and here, even how the left attempts to steal the legacies of the founders.

Scott Johnson at PowerLine wrote about him yesterday, as well.

In anticipation of Washington’s visit to Newport, the members of America’s oldest Jewish congregation prepared a letter welcoming Washington for presentation to him at a public event on the morning of August 18. The letter was authorized by the congregation’s board and signed by its president, Moses Seixas. It is Washington’s magnificent letter responding to Seixas that that has become famous as one of the classic statements of religious toleration in America.

The congregation’s letter to Washington is not so well known, although the most prominent line in Washington’s letter is an echo of the congregation’s letter to Washington. By far the most striking feature of the congregation’s letter is its expression of sheer gratitude to Washington himself and to America for the freedom and equal rights the congregants had attained as American citizens. Here is the congregation’s letter:

Permit the children of the stock of Abraham to approach you with the most cordial affection and esteem for your person and merits ~~ and to join with our fellow citizens in welcoming you to NewPort.

With pleasure we reflect on those days ~~ those days of difficulty, and danger, when the God of Israel, who delivered David from the peril of the sword, ~~ shielded Your head in the day of battle: ~~ and we rejoice to think, that the same Spirit, who rested in the Bosom of the greatly beloved Daniel enabling him to preside over the Provinces of the Babylonish Empire, rests and ever will rest, upon you, enabling you to discharge the arduous duties of Chief Magistrate in these States.

Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens, we now with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People ~~ a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance ~~ but generously affording to all Liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: ~~ deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language equal parts of the great governmental Machine: ~~ This so ample and extensive Federal Union whose basis is Philanthropy, Mutual confidence and Public Virtue, we cannot but acknowledge to be the work of the Great God, who ruleth in the Armies of Heaven, and among the Inhabitants of the Earth, doing whatever seemeth him good.

For all these Blessings of civil and religious liberty which we enjoy under an equal benign administration, we desire to send up our thanks to the Ancient of Days, the great preserver of Men ~~ beseeching him, that the Angel who conducted our forefathers through the wilderness into the promised Land, may graciously conduct you through all the difficulties and dangers of this mortal life: ~~ And, when, like Joshua full of days and full of honour, you are gathered to your Fathers, may you be admitted into the Heavenly Paradise to partake of the water of life, and the tree of immortality.

Done and Signed by order of the Hebrew Congregation in NewPort, Rhode Island August 17th 1790.

Moses Seixas, Warden

The painting that leads this article was painted by Scottish-born portraitist Archibald Robertson, on commission from David Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan (1742-1829), who wished, he wrote,  “that I might place it among those whom I most honor.” (You can read the earl’s entire letter to Washington here;Buchan also entrusted Robertson with a special gift for Washington, a wooden box said to be made of the oak that sheltered William Wallace.). From: Two Nerdy History Girls.

After some adventures of its own,”in 1951, the current Earl Buchan presented the painting to Sulgrave Manor,the English birthplace of Washington’s ancestors, where it hangs today.”

But before (or after, who knows) painting that portrait of Washington as the fearless and decisive Commander in Chief, he painted another one, a miniature of Washington (and another of Martha, as well, as they appeared in 1792.

This one shows the very man that quelled the only reported American military coup with the words.

 “Gentlemen, you must pardon me. I have grown gray in your service and now find myself growing blind.”

As General Light Horse Harry Lee eulogized him:

First in War, First in Peace, First in the Hearts of his Countrymen.

Life is Winning in America

A few videos, scenes, not to mention words that moved me relating to The March for Life in Washington last Friday. Enjoy!

Over at Life News, there is an amazing time-lapse video of the people streaming the streets.

One more video maybe

The Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, wrote an op-ed in the National Review last Friday.

In short, life is winning in America again. It’s winning because of the policies of our administration, and because of the commitment and compassion of those who gather today in our nation’s capital, and in marches, meetings, and homes all across the country.

Life is winning through the steady advance of science that illuminates when life begins.

Life is winning through the generosity of millions of adoptive families, who open their hearts and homes to children in need.

Life is winning through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis-pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations who bring comfort and care to women, in cities and towns across this country.

And life is winning through the quiet counsel between mothers and daughters, grandmothers and granddaughters, between friends across kitchen tables, and over coffee on college campuses, where the truth is being told, and hope is defeating despair.

We must continue to be a movement that embraces all and cares for all out of respect for the dignity and worth of every person. We must recommit ourselves to be a movement of compassion, not confrontation, of generosity, not judgment, and above all else, we must continue to be a movement of love.

This I know we’ll do – because I have faith.

I have faith in the goodness of the American people. I have faith in the president they elected. And I have that other kind of faith – the faith that moves mountains, and that, even now, stirs all across America.

And Senator Mike Lee with a floor speech in the United States Senate.

Mr. President, today hundreds of thousands of Americans from all walks of life will participate in the 45th annual March for Life.

Why do these citizens march, year after year?

It certainly isn’t for their health … Or for the media coverage.

No, these Americans march on behalf of those who cannot.

They march for uniquely vulnerable members of the human family. For the unborn. For those threatened by abortion. And for the countless innocent lives already lost.

These Americans march to protest the legal regime that sustains abortion.

The cornerstone of that crumbling edifice is Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that invented a so-called “right” to abortion in the Constitution, and in so doing stripped the unborn of their right to life.

The principal effect of Roe on our culture has been to cheapen the value of humanity itself. 

Roe has insinuated into the law a poisonous notion, the notion that some human beings may be treated as things. As objects to be discarded when they are inconvenient. We’ve seen this before in human history.

But an unintended effect of Roe has been to kick-start a movement that has lasted for four-and-a-half decades.

Roe did not resolve the abortion debate — although it tried to. Rather it intensified the debate.

The nation’s conscience was not deadened by Roe’s euphemisms and evasions; rather it was brought to life.

Like a firebell in the night, Roe awakened a generation of Americans to the injustice of abortion.

Countless thousands of them are marching in Washington, Salt Lake City, and cities across the country today.

But the institution of abortion still has its defenders. Vociferous defenders, even.

Why does this issue arouse such anger and passion?

I argue it is because the pro-life and pro-abortion rights movements offer competing moral visions for our society. Indeed, competing arguments about human dignity and what it means to be human in the first place.

Both moral visions are as old as the nation. They have appeared in various guises all throughout our history.

But there is a consistent trend in how the clash of visions has played out in every era.

The vision advanced by the pro-life movement has inspired righteous protests. The other vision has been used to rationalize hideous injustices.

The pro-life vision embraces our country’s noblest truth. The pro-abortion vision twists it.

Let me explain what I mean.

Our Declaration of Independence contains one of the most succinct and revolutionary statements in human history.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are LIFE, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We know that the United States has not always acted on this high principle. We have denied life, liberty, and opportunity to our fellow man in countless cruel and unfortunate ways.

But even in the darkest times, patriots and reformers have looked to this passage as a guiding light, because it is the conscience of our nation.

Abraham Lincoln referred to the Declaration constantly in his speeches, calling it the “sheet anchor of American republicanism” and the “Father of all moral principle.”

He called the Declaration’s statement on human equality the “electric cord” that links patriotic Americans through the ages.

Now that electric cord has reached us. It is a direct line that runs from the Founding Generation to the very heart of the pro-life movement.

The core conviction of the pro-life movement is that “all men are created equal.” That all have a right to life.

We believe that every human being has dignity and merits protection simply by virtue of being human.

You will often hear pro-lifers emphasize the human features of unborn children, as well we should.

We point out that the human heart begins to beat as early as 16 days after conception. We point out that the unborn child can yawn, react to pain, and suck her thumb. And we point out that that thumb even has a one-of-a-kind fingerprint.

But we do not mention these characteristics because they are what give unborn children worth. It is not our fingerprints or even our beating hearts that make us people.

Rather, we point to these characteristics because they point in turn to something more fundamental.

They point to the inescapable fact that the unborn child is a human being, just like us. A member of our messy family.

It is that endowment, that shared humanity, that gives us all moral worth.

And so, to summarize the pro-life position, we have only to repeat those five words in the Declaration: “All men are created equal.” All are entitled to life.

But to be sure, not everyone shares the belief that all men are created equal.

At various times this belief has been called an “error of the past generation.” It has even been called a “self-evident lie!”

Few today would denounce the Declaration of Independence in such terms.

But defenders of abortion still repudiate the Declaration by their actions, and by the arguments they advance to protect legal abortion.

Defenders of abortion no longer dispute that unborn children are living human beings. How could they? Science testifies unequivocally to our shared humanity.

Most sophisticated defenders of abortion do not even dispute that abortion is a violent act.

If you do not believe me on this point, perhaps you will believe Ronald Dworkin, a prominent apologist for the pro-choice position: “Abortion,” Dworkin writes, “[is] deliberately killing a developing human embryo.”

He goes on to describe abortion as a “choice for death.”

So if abortion defenders do not deny the humanity of the fetus, and if they do not deny that abortion kills the fetus, how then do they defend abortion?

In short, they do it by segregating the human family into two classes: Human beings who are worthy of life — sometimes referred to as “human persons”– and human beings who are unworthy of life — “human non-persons.”

According to this view, human beings do not deserve protection on the basis of their humanity alone.

Rather they gain the right to life when they attain certain characteristics — usually some level of cognitive ability or bodily development.

Since the unborn lack these magic personhood qualities, they lack the right to life and may be dismembered in the womb. They are “human non-persons.” Or so the argument goes.

There are many problems with this chilling view. It has been rebutted at length by smarter men and women than me.

But for the purposes of today, it is enough to point out the track record of this argument.

Because it just so happens that every time mankind has been artificially divided into classes — into “persons” and “non-persons” based on their race, sex, genetic fitness, or any other attribute — the result has been calamity.

Which leads to a very simple question that has never been satisfactorily answered by abortion’s defenders: Why should we believe that this time is any different?

Abortion is a difficult subject matter for so many reasons, but on another level it is quite simple.

Our society has to choose between the two visions of human dignity described above.

Put simply, do we believe that all men are created equal? Or that some are more equal than others?

This simple question deserves a simple response: We must choose the first of those options, and affirm that all human beings are created with dignity.

And we must reject all attempts to separate the human family into higher and lower classes.

Let us see these attempts for what they are: Cruel fictions that cheapen life itself.

Just as there is no such thing as “life unworthy of life,” there is no such thing as a “human non-person.” There are just people. And we are each fearfully and wonderfully made.

Yes, dignity was ours before we stirred in the womb. It is stamped onto the very fabric of our genome. It is printed onto our soul.

This is the truth so brilliantly proclaimed in our nation’s Founding Documents — even as it is denied by our legal system, starting with Roe v. Wade.

But even though the laws of man are against us (for now!), the truth is with us. And the truth can erode even the most formidable edifice of lies.

And so, on this forty-fifth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, let us respond to Roe as Frederick Douglass responded to a similar indignity, Dred Scott v. Sandford.

“Happily for the whole human family,” Douglass thundered, “their rights have been defined, declared, and decided in a court higher than the Supreme Court.”

Those words are as true today as they were when they were spoken.

They call us to continue the winding march for justice — and for life –until the unalienable rights of every human being are respected in our land.

Thank you.

 

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