The Ethics of Our Political Faith
Rockford Register, April 13, 1861
The Republican doctrine as set forth in the Chicago Platform, involves a vital principle in ethics, which makes the party consistently acting therefrom a living body, whose growth and maturity must be commensurate with the ultimate perfection of our political system.
By refusing to incorporate the institution of slavery into our national polity, and determining to regard it henceforth as the temporary creation of local law, which an advancing civilization will modify, ameliorate, and finally altogether repeal, a way is opened for the descent into the public mind of the pure principles of Divine justice, which shall yet bring our national government into full accord with that immutable order which rules throughout the universe, and secures the stability of the kingdom of Heaven.
The vital principle referred to is that of the Equality of Man—a truth not obvious to the senses, but one that is hidden in God, and revealed to those only who in all sincerity approach Him. This vital truth, even though it be the central thought, the pivot upon which turns the whole system of free government, was yet but dimly recognized by the men who put their signatures to that immortal Bill of Rights which first gave it a political expression. Its light flashed forth for a season, and all well-disposed minds gave it an unquestioning assent; but the magnitude of its importance could not be fully disclosed in that day. If, then, those earnest, self-sacrificing men, the fathers of our Republic, could see the truth but dimly, how altogether obscure must it have been to the self-seeking politicians of a later period? And how totally must it have been eclipsed, when, during the administration of Mr. Van Buren, the presiding officer of the U. S. Senate solemnly affirmed that he would not recognize any higher law than the Constitution, and that whoever did so in that body was a traitor! From that hour commenced the decline and fall of the Democratic party, which, having lost the rule, is now madly striving to effect the ruin of our government. Who can fail to perceive that this wonderful transformation is the direct effect of political atheism?
In referring to these events we have no purpose of casting censure or reproach upon any person connected with them. Far otherwise. We know that the light of that primary truth, of which we have spoken, had disappeared, like a star that had sunk below the horizon, in the first evening of our political existence. But now, as the morning dawns, and we are entering upon the "first day" of our national genesis, its light re-appears with seven-fold splendor, and the great doctrine of Equality stands forth a perpetually shining orb in the sphere of natural science. The truth is now beginning to be understood that no mere man can be said to be possessed of an underived life, or to have life in himself, for the reason that this is an exclusively Divine attribute; and it is this great truth that makes each one of God's human creatures the equal of every other; for when life in all is derived from God, no one can have a claim to superiority over another. It matters not what may be the endowments of an individual—however brilliant in intellect, or pure in morals—there is no merit in the case, upon which to found a claim to individual superiority over the merest profligate and vagabond on earth. All such claims are founded upon the sensuous fallacy that the life of a man is his own, and is not derived from God.
Hitherto we have, as a people, been sadly blind to these truths, and consequently devoid of that genuine humility which is an inseparable accompaniment of true dignity. We have been inflated with pride at our supposed superior endowments over the people of other nations and tribes, and have been filled with contempt toward such as are of less lofty pretension than we are. Witness, for instance, the boasting, self-glorifying, spread-eagle style of oratory that has been so popular in this country until very recently; and bear in mind, also, the cruel treatment and gross injustice which four millions of helpless, unresisting, service-loving Africans are constantly receiving from our people. Before the testimony of these two witnesses we must bow our heads in shame and deep contrition, and perform the works of true repentance, before we can be enabled to see the light which Revelation and Science unite in offering for our relief. That work has been begun, and will no doubt be carried forward, either with or without our individual co-operation. Let each one remember, however, that it is his privilege to co-operate in the great and good work, and thus be borne along to those mansions of rest which are open for the reception of all who shall have worked earnestly and faithfully in the cause.
In this work our political action is made conformable to, and sanctified by a truly religious life; for we are laboring in an unselfish cause, even that of rescuing the creatures of God, whom He designs shall receive the impress of His own image, from that perpetual degradation to which a false, atheistic policy is endeavoring to consign them. We are laboring to establish justice in our political affairs, which alone can secure for ourselves and our posterity the blessings of Liberty. We are, in short, but pursuing that straight-forward course of duty toward God and our fellow man that shall open our hearts and understandings for the reception of a larger measure of the Divine life, and thus be enabled to beautify the earth, by substituting good for evil, blessing for cursing, good-will toward all, and hatred of none.
This is the high purpose for which we are to-day called upon to devote ourselves—a purpose which includes all earthly good, and reaches beyond into the whole future. We believe that the leading men of our country are animated by this purpose, and that they are and will be endowed with wisdom and strength to firmly pursue it, offering no concession or compromise to its enemies, and regarding no event as a calamity but such as would weaken, turn aside, or thwart this holy purpose. We believe it to be in accord with the Divine purpose, and therefore to be pursued at whatever cost. This is the sentiment of a majority of the people, and we rejoice that we have at last attained to a political faith based upon sound principles of ethics.