Lincoln's View of the Political Problems Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1413 Words
Date:  2022-04-18

"The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions" was the title of Abraham Lincoln's speech that he delivered in January 1838. The speech was addressing young men about the threats that faced the United States as are public and the institutions therein. Lincoln's speech was intrigued by the murder of Elijah Lovejoy who was killed by a mob in his house because of being an abolitionist. In his remarks, he discussed slavery as a major threat to the US political system because it was destructive. Lincoln warned his listeners that the government was coming to a halt if slavery was continued. The foreigners who came in as slaves were soon going to destroy the Americans and according to him, Americans were rather destroyed by themselves or their people if at all they had to go through destruction. He criticized mob action that had led to the death of Lovejoy and viewed it as a breach of the rule of law. Failure to uphold the rule of law was the reason the USA was going to experience a downfall (Lincoln 2009, p 14). If the people were not going to gain self-control to moderate their actions, there was no future for the US and that would mean that it was going to lose its honor as the blessed nation that stood on fertile land (Lincoln 2009, p 14).

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Lincoln put it clear that it was not easy to maintain a republican government because people acted unconstitutionally. His speech followed deaths and threats of the media and editors. This was impunity and unconstitutional to kill people just because they held different views and opinions. It was against the constitution of the US that was put forth by their forefathers. He said, "Let every man remember that to violate the law is to trample on the blood of his father and to tear the charter of his own, and his children's liberty. Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother, to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap." He continues to advise people that respect for the law should be taught in schools and be adopted as 'a political religion' such that it will be taught to people of all ages, genders, and colors.

Lincoln states that people were overpowered by evil passions that lead them to torture and slaying people. He gave examples of people who had been tortured for taking and standing their position regarding slavery, although he consciously left out the murder of Lovejoy which was still a pain in the nation. He left out the issue so that he does not arouse the emotions of his audience who were diverse in the issue of slavery. However, he used all other cases that were similar, for example, the hanging of gamblers which revolved to negroes and then to the white man and the burning of McIntosh among other cases (Lincoln 2009, p 17). Lincoln's was a call to all people of America to reason soberly and act by which does not allow and hanging of people. It was a call for equality of people's rights, both the negro and the white. He asserted that because they were the starters of the animosity that had stricken most states, they must also be willing to stop it.Abraham Lincoln was by no means trying to say that the law is always just. It is the same law that failed to stop slavery in the USA. Lincoln had been holding strong against the law and holding a revolutionary movement to stop slavery which he regarded as torture to humanity by their races. What Lincoln was saying in his speech is that the law had the provision against arbitrary killings. It is that provision that people had broken by perpetrating killings of people who did not wrong anybody. That was the law he was talking about when he mentioned the 'rule of law' throughout his speech. The law is not always just because it has not taken action to punish the murderers which he says that, if they go unpunished, they will continue committing the same evils. By failing to punish those who kill other people, "the lawless in spirit are encouraged to become lawless in practice." (Lincoln 2009, p 18) All these he recognizes as bad law and calls for enforcement of the law so that the necessary actions will be taken to make sure that murder is stopped. He calls people to abolish the bad laws as soon as they discover them, by holding tight to their religious morals which do not support the bad laws.

According to his argument, maintaining proves to be more difficult than founding. The rule of law was founded by their ancestors with a good will, to guide and show the Americans how to live and relate to one another. However, maintaining the law has proved difficult, evidenced by all the killings that were taking place. Throwing people in rivers is not by any chance according to the law. The country was also founded by their fathers, and it was only young- few years after their independence (Lincoln 2009, p16). Despite the efforts of the freedom fighters, it was still difficult for America and its government to protect its people from oppression and extrajudicial deaths. They were able to maneuver the founding process without losing their lives, but now they were losing it while maintaining the freedom. They were losing their lives in very simple ways, people who encouraged the sale of people and subjection to labor were killing them for not concurring with them. That's why Lincoln said that America would not be assured of survival if the government was incapable of protecting its people from threats such as death. Therefore, in some sense, maintaining is harder than founding.

In the latter part of his speech, Lincoln was talking of a leader who would come from amongst themselves. He feared that an opponent would come to compete for power against him and that the opponent would do it to gratify his own needs. Lincoln mentioned the 'family of the lion or the tribe of the eagle' while referring to the Napoleon, the Alexander and Caesar who he claimed would never be satisfied. He said that such was only after positions as either presidents or congresses and were after no good of the people of America. He asked a rhetorical question to simulate the minds of his listeners that, "Is it unreasonable then to expect, that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us? And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs." (Lincoln 2009, p 20). They would as well misappropriate the finances of the Americans to make themselves rich and to make themselves discrete. They would do it at the expense of both the slave and the free.

In self-description, he talked of the ideal leader who would come to replace the ancestors who had good intentions for the people of America, respecting the law and upholding the constitution. The leader he described was much later discovered to be him when he became the president of the US. Some of his quotations in the 1838 Lyceum speech. He concludes his speech by calling all people cold, calculating and unimpassioned reasoning. His persistence in the rule of law was observed throughout the life of Lincoln and compose of what is referred to today as Lincoln's philosophy.


In conclusion, Abraham Lincoln's speech "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions" was triggered by the killings that were happening in both the northern and southern states of America; whether they practiced slavery or not. More specifically, it was impelled by the killing of Lovejoy who was an abolitionist and acted against slavery, an act which people thought was very radical because the constitution of that time was still for slaves. Lincoln discusses the injustices and puts more emphasis on the rule of law. Towards the end of his speech, he expresses his fear of the ambitious leader who would come and take over the power and become a dictator. His speech is a call for the people of America to stand in solidarity and turn against the evils I the society and when the time comes, to turn against the self-centered leaders.


Lincoln, A. (2009). Abraham Lincoln: Selected speeches and writings. Library of America.

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