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The government shutdown: Lincoln said it best

October 01, 2013|By Michael Hiltzik
  • What would he think of his Washington now?
What would he think of his Washington now? (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty…)

In February 1860, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech at New York's Cooper Union that many historians believe catapulted him onto the national stage and into the presidency. It may even be more pertinent today for what he said about intransigent political blocs.

A few excerpts:

Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events. [...]

Under all these circumstances, do you really feel yourselves justified to break up this Government unless such a court decision as yours is, shall be at once submitted to as a conclusive and final rule of political action?

But you will not abide the election of a Republican president! In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then, you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us! That is cool. A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!" [...]

A few words now to Republicans. It is exceedingly desirable that all parts of this great Confederacy shall be at peace, and in harmony, one with another. Let us Republicans do our part to have it so. Even though much provoked, let us do nothing through passion and ill temper. 

(h/t Scott Lemieux)

Reach me at @hiltzikm on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or by email.

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