On his Facebook page (the “official” one labeling him a “government official”), Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano posted this today:
Adding this comment:
While these words are generally attributed to President Lincoln, that is not a verifiable fact. Regardless of the author, this is a profound statement of what we are seeing in reality in our nation today. In the words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Well, it’s nice that Doug has at least made some kind of attempt to be historically accurate. I’d like to think he posted the warning because he knew he would call him if he didn’t.
ID as think so, but while I’m pretty sure someone in his office is reading this blog, I can’t be sure it’s Doug himself.
In any case, Doug’s Lincoln citation problem pops up when you search the attribution history.
Fortunately, Politifact has already done this:
(Lincoln) never said that. But it’s not too far from an actual Lincoln quote.
So where does it come from? And in what context?
That’s where Doug’s problems begin.
It is one of Lincoln’s first major speeches, says Politifact:
On January 27, 1838, Lincoln spoke before the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois, about “the perpetuation of our political institutions.” During that speech, he said: “At what time, then, is danger to be expected to approach? I answer, if it ever reaches us, it must spring up among us. It cannot come from outside. If destruction be our lot, we must we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
You can read the full speech here. Probably something Doug should have done himself. You’ll see in a minute.
Lincoln opens by saying that the topic of the speech is “the perpetuation of our political institutions”.
Is Doug Mastriano so politically deaf that he doesn’t hear the warning sirens?
Lincoln sets the framework:
In the great journal of things that happen under the sun, we the American people find our checking account, dated from the nineteenth century of the Christian era. We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the most beautiful portion of the earth, in terms of the extension of the territory, the fertility of the soil, and the salubrity of the climate. We find ourselves under the rule of a system of political institutions, which are more essentially conducive to the ends of civil and religious liberty than the history of past times tells us.
And he goes on to say that the founders (although he does not use that term) established this form of government and took it upon himself to carry out the task of protecting it and transmitting it to future generations.
That’s where the Lincoln quote comes in:
How, then, shall we carry it out? At what point should we expect danger to approach? By what means shall we fortify ourselves against it? Will we wait for some transatlantic military giant to step foot in the Ocean and smack us down? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (except ours) in its military chest; with a Buonaparte for commander, he could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a path in the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point, then, is it to be expected that danger approaches? I answer, if it ever reaches us, it must spring up between us. You cannot come from abroad. If destruction is our lot, we must ourselves be its author and consummate. As a nation of free men, we must live all the time, or die. by suicide.
and is the very next sentence of Lincoln’s speech exposing the danger of Doug Mastriano’s policy. See if you can see it:
I hope I’m being too cautious; but if I am not, there is, even now, something ominous between us. I mean the growing contempt for the law that permeates the country; the growing willingness to substitute wild and raging passions for the sober judgment of the courts; and worse than wild mobs, for executive ministers of justice.
If you missed it, it’s the part about substituting justice for “wild and raging passions.”
If you want to see more, Lincoln says this a bit later:
There is no grievance that is a proper object of redress under mob law.
Lincoln’s solution here is a deep respect for the rule of law:
May reverence for the law be breathed by every American mother, to the babbling, babbling baby in her lap; that it be taught in schools, seminaries and universities; let her write in Primmers, spelling books, and almanacs; — let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in the legislative halls and enforced in the courts of law. And, ultimately, that it becomes the political religion
of the NATION; and that the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the serious and the gay, of all sexes and languages, and colors and conditions, sacrifice without ceasing on their altars. (Emphasis added.)
Do you see why Doug should have avoided having anything to do with this speech? Even the possibly paraphrased misattributed quotes from him?
This is the man who was Trump’s “point person” in the phony election scheme set up to keep the loser of the 2020 election in power.
The architect of that scheme is he currently faces debarment in California.
He was there when the Trump mob stormed the Capitol.
And one of Mastriano’s political advisers was photographed a few meters away of the Trump mob pushing against a gate of the Capitol.
I’m thinking “historian” Doug Mastriano completely missed Lincoln’s point, either the actual words or the misattributed ones.