December 3, 1861 (a Tuesday)

Today’s Republicans, the so-called party of Lincoln, in their anti-government zealotry — conscious of their patrician backers — have strayed far from the ideals of Lincoln, whom they would like to claim as one of their own.

Over 150 years ago, in his first State of the Union address on 3 December 1861, Republican President Abraham Lincoln warned of “the approach of returning despotism” which he described as “the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor in the structure of government.” He then stated his clear belief in the supremacy of the people:

Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

He next described the state of relations between labor and capital in the entire U.S. (not just the rebellious South) ending with this summary of what was then the American reality:

The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and prosperous system which opens the way to all, gives hope to all, and consequent energy and progress and improvement of condition to all.

Then Lincoln wrapped it all up with this warning to hard-working Americans:

No men living are more worthy to be trusted than those who toil up from poverty; none less inclined to take or touch aught which they have not honestly earned. Let them beware of surrendering a political power which they already possess, and which if surrendered will surely be used to close the door of advancement against such as they and to fix new disabilities and burdens upon them till all of liberty shall be lost.

Clearly this surrender of political power is already largely in place.

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