‘Laus Deo’ says an inscription chiseled onto the eastern face of the pyramid atop the Washington Monument in Washington, DC. As the sun rises, its light strikes those words before reaching any other point in the city.
‘Praise be to God’ is the translation.
Today we celebrate the birthdays of two of our great presidents, George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865).
Those two leaders were men of God. Never be led astray by those nonbelievers who claim that our nation is a secular endeavor with church and state separate. Because our freedom is based in the power of God. Washington knew this and stated it over and over, seeing Divine Intervention a total of 62 separate times in America’s revolution when the facts on the ground looked bleak. About this, Washington wrote in 1792:
“I am sure that there never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe, that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God, who is alone able to protect them.”
In his Farewell Address, he said this about our need to maintain our religiosity and thus our morality and virtue and thus our freedom:
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. … And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.“
The splendid power of freedom is granted never by man but only by the Supreme Being – thus the rights we have are called “God-given”. And it is never just a list of entitlements to which we each are allowed to fix our own prescription. Freedom is the balancing of two egalitarian forces – rights and responsibilities. And therein lies the greatness of Washington, Lincoln and of our historically singular constitutional republic. Our nation cannot survive without those responsibilities being folded into the batter of freedom and well understood by the people and their leaders.
Freedom is not for the timid, the unresolute, the slothful, the nonbelieving, the ignorant or the vainglorious. Freedom is maintained only by a vigil that must rival the intensity of Washington’s long campaign against the British in which he relinquished his earthly comforts for the ideal of man. It is said that during the entire six-and-a-half year war that Washington spent only one night at his home at Mount Vernon.
World freedom is based on American freedom. Without the fortitude of Washington and Lincoln, the world would be a very different place today. Washington nurtured our liberty and often found himself on the edge of desolation. Lincoln saw the bleakness of slavery and fought to grant human rights to all those inhabiting our land.
The war to grant that freedom and preserve the union was pain, burden, heartache, regret and sorrow. 630,000 men died! Lincoln suffered great guilt, understandably. Imagine the impact of the Civil War on the people and on the nation. But finally that war was a campaign of resolution and forthrightness.
In Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863 he said, in part:
“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The address was received with only a smattering of applause and considered by many at the time to be a failure. Yet its words have come down to us as one of the great oratories of our noble experiment. “…government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” This indeed is a universal truth, that liberty is timeless.
“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,” said Lincoln speaking the way God would instruct a man whom He had so burdened and so humbled.
Lincoln and Washington indeed were self-effacing in their lives despite the tales of Washington’s coldness, cockiness, arrogance and, yes, his vanity. Whatever his exterior, however, his inner fire built a nation.
Today we celebrate their births as masters of time, men who transcended their eras and are remembered by history for their courage and foresight. Washington – surveyor, planter, distiller, general, president – and Lincoln – grocer, surveyor, postmaster, barrister, orator, president – must not simply be two men we remember on one long weekend in February with car sales and ski trips. They are giants who we must keep in our hearts on every day of the year.
Please visit my website at www.nikitas3.com for more. You can print out for free my book, Right Is Right, which explains why only conservatism can maintain our freedom and prosperity.