Posted by: W. E. Poplaski | December 3, 2009

Weekly Read Along–December 4, 2009: For a Vast Future Also

Material for the Stout-Hearted Reader to Ruminate

♦ Essays, Lectures & Speeches ♦

—   —   —

James M. McPherson (1936 – ) is professor emeritus of United States history at Princeton University and past president of the American Historical Association.  His specialty is the American Civil War.  He has authored several books on the topic, including Marching toward Freedom: The Negro in the Civil War, 1861-1865. (1968), Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (2003), and Abraham Lincoln (2009).

This week’s text is McPherson’s NEH Jefferson lecture, “’For a Vast Future also’: Lincoln and the Millennium”, given at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall, Washington D.C. on March 27, 2000.   His lecture was about Lincoln’s understanding of the historical significance of the times   “…[Lincoln] was intensely aware, as he told Congress in December 1861 when America was engulfed in a tragic Civil War, that this struggle to preserve the Union “is not altogether for today—it is for a vast future also.”

The distinction between “negative liberty” and “positive liberty” is an important point in McPherson’s lecture about Lincoln—

 “The concept of negative liberty is perhaps more familiar. It can be defined as the absence of restraint, a freedom from interference by outside authority with individual thought or behavior. Laws requiring automobile passengers to wear seatbelts or motorcyclists to wear helmets are a violation of their liberty to go without seatbelts or helmets. Negative liberty, therefore, is best described as freedom from. Positive liberty can be defined as freedom to–freedom to live longer and better because wearing a seatbelt or helmet has saved one from death or inquiry.”

Join others from around the world in this weekly reading event! You can find McPherson’s text at this website:

http://www.neh.gov/whoweare/mcpherson/speech.html

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