HOW LINCOLN SAVED THE IDEA OF REPUBLICAN GOVERNMENT. Reading the quotations expressing the hope of British aristocrats that the American experiment should come to an end made me think again about the Gettysburg Address. I have posted here on how the idea that the Civil War was fought over slavery is only now overcoming resistance. Another idea—that the war was fought to preserve the Union —was inherent in the language of the time. It was the “Union Army” that fought. Today, after the republic has celebrated its bicentennial and has long been firmly established, it is a little hard to see a third idea that was at stake: that the war was fought to preserve and defend the idea of republican government and that the survival of the republican idea was very much in doubt. I have not experienced the doubt that Lincoln stated so clearly: “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” Lincoln identified “the great task remaining before us…. that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

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