03 October 2010

Misquoting History - On Purpose?

"So I opened the pamphlet and read the final paragraph:

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Deeply moving—but, I thought, something isn’t right. Did you notice what had been omitted? What’s missing is Lincoln’s description of the United States as a nation under God. What Lincoln actually said at Gettysburg was: 'that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.' The American Constitution Society had omitted Lincoln’s reference to the United States as a nation under God from the address he gave at the dedication of the burial ground at Gettysburg."

The excerpt above comes from a piece at First Things and was written by Robert George. George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton. I suppose some would classify Professor George as a "religious fundamentalist" and guilty of "historical fundamentalism."

George goes on to point out . . .

"The omission of the words 'under God' in a document characterized as a founding text by a liberal legal advocacy organization in the context of our contemporary debates over the role of religion in American public life and the meaning of the Constitution’s provisions pertaining to religion is just too convenient. We now have positive evidence that they know exactly what they are doing, and, to achieve the result they want, they are willing to violate scholarly consensus, common sense, and the memorization of generations of schoolchildren."
(Emphasis mine.)

You can also see the common narrative in this event and what I've pointed out in two recent posts here and here. One can clearly see the real agenda of the left and academic revisionists. You can read Professor George's complete piece here.


Marc Ferguson said...

There are a few extant versions of the "original," with minor variations. At least one version, the "Nicolay" copy, does not include the words "under god." I don't think there's anything nefarious going on here.


Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hey Mark. I'm no Lincoln expert, but I believe most Americans who ARE familiar w/the Gettysburg address are accustomed to the one which contains the phrase, "under God." Why would the lesser known one be used here? There has to be a reason someone would pick the more obscure version.

Marc Ferguson said...

The American Constitution Society has addressed this tempest:



Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Marc - That's good and shows the power of blogging. However, the author of the post revealed, I believe, what was really irritating her:

"At a time when many conservative pundits and policymakers can only try to distract from the administration's efforts to address real problems, it is perhaps not surprising that some would try to refocus attention on such peripheral issues."

"The administration's efforts to address real problems" ???

Yeah, right.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) is one of the nation's leading *progressive* legal organizations."

What more need be said? A casual browse through the site reveals a cabal of leftists. They admit it "progressives" - actually, more damaging than leftists. I have no problem with their right to promote their views, but let's not pretend they don't have an agenda. The writer admits 3 of of 5 of the known versions of the GA have the "God" reference, so why not go with the majority and the one with which most Americans identify?

John Cummings said...

The November 20, 1863 edition of the New York Times published Lincoln's speech with the full (best known) version, including the "Nation shall under God" wording. The ACS can't dodge that one. The publication also makes notations of the spots where the crowd applauded during the dedicatory speech. This certainly suggests an eyewitness accounting of what was said by the President the previous day.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello John. Again, I'm no expert on Lincoln or the GA, but the NYT account certainly would lend weight to the "under God" version.

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Perhaps Brooks Simpson will offer an opinion on the different GA versions.

Ghost said...

What did news reporters hear and transcribe at this event?

I checked several articles from a newspaper archive and every one has "under God."

Bob Pollock said...


I'm not as concerned about leftist conspiracy agendas as you are, but regardless of whether Lincoln included "under God" in his Gettysburg Address or not, I think there is little question that he believed human events were directed by God in some way. Historians will continue to debate the depth and details of his faith, but all one has to do is read his Second Inaugural Address. As Lincoln stated, however, the difficulty is in determining exactly what God's will is:

"Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes."

It seems likely that Lincoln believed God was on the side of the United States (the last best hope of earth), and if that was so, then where did that leave the Confederacy? Would you argue that Lincoln was wrong when he interpreted God's will thus:

"Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether"

Was the war willed by God as punishment for the sin of slavery? Was the result willed by God?

Just wondering what your thoughts are on all this.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Hello Bob. Excellent questions. I've pondered the same ones myself, though I believe Lincoln also said something to the effect of, "The question should not be is God on our side, but are we on God's side?"

"Was the war willed by God as punishment for the sin of slavery? Was the result willed by God?"

I believe the answer to both questions is yes. I've stated so before and address it more in my book about Jackson and his black Sunday school class. If you don't mind, I'd like to put a little more effort into this before I respond in more detail and I'm rather busy at the moment. I'll post a more detailed answer later tonight. After reading it, let me know what you think.


Ghost said...

"Was the war willed by God as punishment for the sin of slavery? Was the result willed by God?"

If so, how did England, France, Spain, etc., who engaged in slavery for a much longer period of time and in many cases had a more severe from of slavery than the United States...
...get off the hook?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


In response to your question, here, in part, is what I wrote in my book:

"To argue that slavery and Christianity could peacefully coexist denies the obvious. Since man-stealing and slave-trading was specifically condemned and punishable by death in the Old Testament (see Exodus 21:16: “He that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his
hand, he shall surely be put to death”), American slavery was destined for God’s judgment from the beginning. Slavery is inherently accompanied by evils and mistrust. And race-based slavery is particularly evil and
sinful. Man-stealing, coupled with the haughty, prideful spirit of superiority by nineteenth-century white Americans—North as well as South—invited the judgment of God. God visited the nation with a war that took more lives than all other American wars combined—decimating a generation of white Americans within four terrible years."

You also asked:

"It seems likely that Lincoln believed God was on the side of the United States (the last best hope of earth), and if that was so, then where did that leave the Confederacy?"

As you well know, many in the Confederacy believed God was on the side of the CSA - Davis, Lee, Jackson and many Southern ministers. My personal belief is that God was not on either side.

Bob Pollock said...

That is a good question. (Although I'm curious how any form of slavery could be much worse than the peculiar institution of America.) What do you think the answer is? Mind you, I didn't say this was my belief, I said it was Lincoln's belief.

If God was not on either side then why did the North win? Couldn't God have willed a way where neither side won? It sounds like you are in agreement with the abolitionists. You quoted the very Scripture they quoted, but as you point out many Southerners vehemently disagreed. They found plenty of Scripture to back their argument that slavery was a divine institution as I'm sure you know. (Mark Noll's "The Civil War as a Theological Crisis" might interest you if you haven't read it already.) Regardless of what they believed, if God willed that the war would be fought as punishment for slavery, then does that mean God Himself believes slavery was the cause of the war? If not for slavery would there have been no war?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


I believe its a huge mistake to always associate victory w/God's blessings or favor. A crude example: a 250 pound man overpowers and rapes a 120 pound woman, though she fights with all her will and might. The man "wins."

The abolitionists were, for the most part, Unitarians and Transcendentalists - at least that was their theological base. Their view of Scripture was not within what would be considered Christian orthodoxy.

There's no question that Scripture, particularly the OT, allowed slavery in certain circumstances. But the experience of the Jews in Egypt, the Exodus, etc, shows there were exceptions as well. The NT, while not specifically condemning of slavery, clarified God's purpose and plan for mankind. I do not believe that plan included slavery - for reasons already stated.

"does that mean God Himself believes slavery was the cause of the war?"

Of course, I can only surmise, but I do believe that was part of the reason. I also mentioned the "prideful spirit of superiority by nineteenth-century white Americans—North as well as South"

It's also important for me to remind you that I believe the North bears just as much of the burden regarding slavery as did the South. If slavery was the South's "peculiar institution" the slave trade was the North's. One could not have existed without the other.

"If not for slavery would there have been no war?"

Again, impossible for anyone to say w/certainty. My opinion is yes, due to the tariffs and other economic strains and differences.

Ghost said...

"I'm curious how any form of slavery could be much worse than the peculiar institution of America."

The mortality rate of slaves in the US was far lower than any other place in the western world.