Unity was the watchword of our founding fathers. Just before signing the Declaration of Independence Benjamin Franklin uttered these words:
“We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Franklin created a well-known political carton “Join, or Die” and first published it in his Pennsylvania Gazette on May 9, 1754. The most popular American flag of its day showed a snake divided in parts representing the thirteen colonies. The slogan was: UNITE OR DIE.
Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? (Matthew 12:22-26)
Satan does not divide himself, but he will attempt to divided the people of God. Division is one of his best weapons. He is a liar and distorts the truth. That is what many political demagogues attempt to do, to gain their own advantage. It is not a sign of great leadership.
Abraham Lincoln was one of our greatest leaders. He would often take a potentially unpopular position in an attempt to bring people together for a greater cause than some momentary political advantage. On June 16, 1858, more than 1,000 Republican delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, statehouse for the Republican State Convention. They chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln delivered this address to his Republican colleagues, here presented in part:
A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.
Lincoln lost the election, some would say, because of this speech. However, history and righteousness were on his side. Because he was willing to risk for a right cause our nation eventually moved forward, with God’s help. What type of leaders do we have today? Do they seek to unite us behind noble causes or do they attempt to divide us for their short-term political gain?
Here is what Walt Whitman thought of Abraham Lincoln:
O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up–for you the flag is flung–for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths–for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
Lincoln died in pursuit of a noble cause. His closing words of the Gettysburg Address still ring true:
It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”