for moral ones. While it was far fromrnunusual for Amcriean politieians in thernera before Lineoln to invoke God andrnquote seripturc in their speeches, it hadrnal\a s been done in the pro forma mannerrnexpected of public figures in arnChristian nation, hi his liberal use ofrnscriptural metaphor, Lineoln demonizcdrnhis political enemies in an unprecedentedrn\a and succeeded in puttingrnthe coming reign of Truth and Justicernin a political context for the first time.rnHis greatest speeches (including thernGctt sburg /ddrcss) borrow biblical imagesrnmeant to illustrate the kingdom ofrnGod, using them out of context in orderrnto explain a political objeetixe in thernkingdom of man.rnThe fact that explicitly atheisticrnphilosophies have never been able torngain the influence in America that thevrnhold in Western Europe is more the resultrnof this infusion of the language ofrnfaith into our public discourse than arnsign of a successful resistance to secularization.rnThat we retain the languagernof traditional belief in the face of rampantrnmaterialism is explained bv the factrnthat much of that belief was transferredrnto our political institutions and to thernidea that thcv could bring about the ultimaternfulfillment of the individual. Religionrnhas been so confused with patriotismrnin the public mind that God’s rolernhas been reduced to that of a checdeaderrnfor the hcgcmonv of American politicalrnand economic ideas the world over,rnrather than the source of an objectivernmoralit’ for indiiduals. The rc’olutionrnin political rhetoric introduced b lancolnrnmade ]50ssible this confusion, asrnwell as the absolute and uncritical faithrnin mere political abstractions, such asrn”free speech” and “democratization,”rnthat we find todav.rnThe re’oluti()n in thought had evenrngreater repercussions. The sourcesrnfor Lincoln’s understanding of thernIhiion and the central, almost obsessive,rnrole of the Declaration of hidependeneernin that understanding, go a long wa towardrncxj^laining what some scliolars liaernseen as a puzzling ineonsistcnex concerningrnslavery. While his defense ofrnthe notion of inseparable union tookrnmuch from Daniel Webster and thernNew iMigland tradition of constitutionalrnlaw, his elevation of the principle ofrnec|ualit- to the rule b- which politicalrnsstems must be measured owed morernto the Transeendentalist school of Parker.rnThe latter notion was. Wills notes, sornradical that the pro-Lincoln Chicagornlimes criticized the President in thernstrongest possible terms for his extremism;rn”It was to uphold this Gonstitution,rnand the Union created by it, that our officersrnand soldiers gave their lives at Gettrnsburg. How dare he, then, standingrnon their graves, misstate the cause forrnwhich thev died, and lil)cl the statesmenrnwho founded the government? 1 heyrnwere men possessing too much self-rcspeetrnto declare that negroes were theirrnequals, or were entitled to equal priileges.”rnThis sliould remind us that the astrnmajoritx of those who participated in orrnsupported Lincoln’s effort to put downrnthe rebellion in the South did not in anrnwav concei’e of the conflict as a war ofrnabolition, or even, for that matter, as anrnaffirmation of the ccjualitv of men.rnrhey saw it in precisely the terms inrnwhich Lineoln had previously presentedrnit: an effort to ]5rcservc the originalrnconstitutional compact. At Gettsburg,rnas Wills puts it, they had their “intellectualrnpocket picked” when Lincoln substitutedrnthe “proposition” of cqualitx forrnthe constitutional rule of law as the nation’srnfounding principle.rnI’his is not to sa’ that the reading ofrnthe Gonstitution outlined at Gettsburgrnwas without precedent in Lincoln’s pre-rni()us pronouncements on the subject,rnindeed, despite the fact that it was notrnfulK elaborated until the debates w ithrnDouglas, the essentials were alread’ inrnplace as eadv as the 1840’s; what variedrnwas I .incoln’s presentation of it. To abolitionistrnaudiences, as at his “House Di-rnided” address at Springfield in 1860,rnhe went after slavery directly, making itrnclear that he would not tolerate its continuedrnexistence on the continent. Yetrntwo years earlier, in his debates withrnStephen Douglas in southern Illinois, hernhad explicitly played the race card forrnhis white listeners, whose fear of economicrncompetition led them to opposernnot only the spread of slavery but alsornthe idea of free blacks residing in theirrnstate. And in his first Inaugural Address,rnhe pledged support for a constitutionalrnamendment that would have prcentedrnany interference with slaver- in the statesrnwhere it existed.rnThis seemingly blatant inconsistencyrnbegins to dissolve when we see that oppositionrnto slavery was not, in fact, w hatrnmotivated Lineoln. He certainly foundrnthe Peculiar Institution personally distasteful,rnand one might een sa” that hernbased his political career on his oppositionrnto it. But if he regarded slavery asrnan evil, it was ehiefh because slavery inrnthe South was the immediate politicalrnbarrier to his vision of a go ernmcnt “ofrnthe people, bv the people, and for thernpeople” (a phrase he lifted from Parker).rnIn other words, he saw it not sornmuch as a moral evil as a political evil.rnSlavery was problematic because it, asrnwell as the entire states’ rights philosophyrnit supported, stood in the wa’ of thernnew society Lincoln wished to found.rnIf the new order could be founded withoutrnimmediate abolition, so be it; if not,rnhe would proceed with abolition. (Lincolnrnthought the best solution vvould bernto send the slaves back to Africa.)rnlb grasp the difference between thernold order and the new, we must understandrnthe difference between a socict’rnbased on the established rule of law,rnhowever imperfect, and one based onrnthe approximation of an abstract idea.rnI .incoln found his idea of equality not inrnthe Gonstitution but in the second linernof the Declaration of Independence,rnk’ollowing his nixstic mentor Parker, hcrnbelieved that the aim of the Foundersrnwas to “protect each man in the entirernand actual enjoyment of all the unalienablernrights”—an agenda thatrnsounds strangch’ contemporary. In thisrnwa” each man, beginning life on anrnequal footing with his fellow citizens,rncould be guaranteed the right to use allrnthe fruits of his own labors, as well as tornrise as high as his talents and ingenuityrncould take him.rnThe only problem with this grand andrninspiring vision is that it did not (andrnstill does not) correspond w ith life as wernfind it in the real world. The FoundingrnI’athers may have had high hopes for thernAmerican experiment in self-government,rnbut the very thing that inspiredrntheir optimisim about the prospect forrnfreedom was the firm constitutional limitationrnon the arbitrary and potentiallyrnt rannieal use of federal power. Thernidea that the government in Washingtonrncould be the guarantor of that freedomrn—and indeed would intervene inrnstate affairs, using an abstract measure ofrn”equality,” to safeguard that freedomrnwhcreer it might be iolated—wouldrnhave struck them as absurd. The federalrngovernment was precisely the thingrnthey sought freedom from.rnWhen an abstract ideal replaces inheritedrnlaw as a measure of the alidityrnlANUARV 199 3./29rnrnrn