"If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." — Abraham Lincoln1
This is the first time I’ve seen Lincoln’s reference to national suicide. I’m more familiar with James Burnham’s book Suicide of the West that was published in 1964. The Cold War with Communism was in high gear in the 1960s. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a front-page nail biter.
Burnham’s book issued a stark warning to America that went beyond failed ideology of Communism as W.J. Rayment points out:
“Burnham’s thesis . . . was the growth of liberalism and its complete blindness to death, cruelty and injustice perpetrated by leftist regimes.
"In 1964, as today, it is very easy to see how a thinking person might see the intellectual drift to the left as a move toward societal suicide. For liberalism is a cry for the supremacy of general good intentions over the practical application of common sense. Burnham said that liberals are often driven by ‘profound non-rational, often anti-rational sentiments and impulses.’ Ideas like the welfare state and leniency on criminals to facilitate rehabilitation may have sounded good coming out of the mouth of a liberal, but they were disastrous in practice.
"Burnham's book . . . was in effect a warning that leftward drift would ultimately destroy all affluence and freedom in the world.”
Lincoln indirectly blamed slavery for lawlessness in the United States. While we’ve abolished chattel slavery, we’ve substituted it with a new type of slavery. There are no longer chains, overseers with whips, and restrictive plantations.
In most cases the outward indicators that people are slaves are hidden, and that's the way our government wants it. Most of the debilitating effects of the new State slavery can be seen in cities like Detroit and certain parts of Memphis, Atlanta, and Philadelphia. These cities committed suicide a long time ago, and their elected officials led them to the ledge.
Today’s political slavery is more insidious because the people enslaved don’t know they’re slaves. It’s not the so-called welfare queens and those who live in Section 8 housing who are the only ones enslaved. Young people who go to college on government grants and loans are also slaves to the State. That's why we shouldn't be surprised when they they vote for their slave masters because they've been really good to them.
The same can be said of the more than 90 percent of parents who send their children to government schools to be indoctrinated by the State. A majority invariably vote for the perpetuation and growth of government at the expense of others.
They, too, are slaves. Dependency is slavery.
No amount of fact-spreading and resultant consequences of their choices to put their faith in government will deter them ultimately from turning to government for security when a crisis comes. H. L. Mencken said it well:
“The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”
What Lincoln and Burnham did not see was a downgrading of personal morality of the worst kind and its legitimization by the State. A softening of morals results in the softening of the mind and the ability to think straight.
The use of the phrase national suicide is more than a metaphor. Liberalism kills, whether it’s with economic issues (slavery to the state) or social issues (homosexual marriage, abortion, divorce, single parents, out of wedlock births). “Who will follow the Jews, the gypsies, the handicapped and the aborted unborn who have died by the millions already?”2.
- Abraham Lincoln's Lyceum Address was delivered to the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois on January 27, 1838, and was titled “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions.” [↩]
- Os Guinness, A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 163–164 [↩]