There’s a reason why history is important. History is about knowing the truth about our past and therefore about ourselves. Not surprisingly, those who meddle with it usually do so from less-than-noble motives. In the latest edition of First Things, Princeton University’s McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence Robert P. George suggests that the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy has been the latest to attempt to re-write – or, more accurately, erase – history by reprinting Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and omitted the words “under God” in their reprinting. Professor George observes:

The Gettysburg Address is the set of words actually spoken by Lincoln at Gettysburg. And, as it happens, we know what those words are. (The Bliss copy nearly perfectly reproduces them.) Three entirely independent reporters, including a reporter for the Associated Press, telegraphed their transcriptions of Lincoln’s remarks to their editors immediately after the president spoke. All three transcriptions include the words “under God,” and no contemporaneous report omits them. There isn’t really room for equivocation or evasion: Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address—one of the founding texts of the American republic—expressly characterizes the United States as a nation under God.

George goes on to ask why an organization such as the American Constitution Society which, presumably, values the American constitution and other important documents in America’s legal and political history would make such an omission. Even diehard atheists, one might add, who purport to believe in truth should be asking what is going on here. It’s one thing to argue about the precise place of religion and religious-informed belief in the public square. It’s quite another, however, to try and ever-so-slightly distort the lens through which we examine the history of these matters.

Professor George, one of the world’s leading natural law theorists and a leading scholar of constitutional interpretation and civil liberties, also appears in Acton’s documentary, The Birth of Freedom, which likewise underscores the historical role played by religion and religious belief in the American Founding and other key events in America’s experiment in ordered liberty. Again, it’s not a question of whether one is a believer, an agnostic, or an atheist. It’s a matter of accurate historical memory. Nations that deceive themselves about their pasts build their present and future upon the shifting sands of lies and half-truths.

  • Roger McKinney

    It’s often said that the victor writes history, but it’s also true that those who write history become the victors. That’s because people look to history for support of policies and theories. So people are anxious to write history that supports their viewpoints.

  • Melissa

    This is such a recurring scenario. It’s not the first time I hear of some historian or politician trying to remove “under God” out of something. It’s a shame that they try to do this. It’s our nation’s history that they are erasing too. They forget the fact that this nation was founded upon Christian beliefs and that is why “under God” is so prevelant in documents. I find this very stirring and insightful to saddly, yet again, another “under God” being taken out.
    zetify.com

  • John

    I agree that we should never rewrite history and that the removal of pieces of a speech is absurd.
    This is small little nothing action, though. Where is your outcry against the Texas school board for re-writing history to make it more modern-Christian friendly?
    Religious extremists have, for years, been trying to create the myth that the US was founded on Christianity. You can see even in Melissa’s comment that this lie continues unabated.
    The US was founded on the principles of the Enlightenment. The principles of the Enlightenment absoutely reject religion as a basis of political theory. In other words, the US was founded on the absolute rejection of Christinity as a basis of political theory.
    It’s not a matter of opinion. Those that purport that this country was founded on Christianity are very simply liars. Yet, I don’t see your blog post decrying that.

  • http://blog.cfmpl.org Andrew Haines

    Roger, excellent point: “those who write history become the victors.” Unfortunately, this is pretty true across the board; and the omission by the American Constitution Society will likely stand because only a few eyes are trained on its attempted deception.

    This isn’t the sort of thing that will make headlines, after all.

  • Patrick Powers

    A Progressive site, American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, has also usurped “The Birth of Freedom” for some of its publications. Fortunately, they are not selling their version of the Gettysburg Address, or it would be as mislabeled as catsup without tomatoes…maybe Gettysburg-lite.

  • me

    Of course, the real story is that the ACS included an actual written draft of Licoln’s speech. This draft, along with several other drafts, did not include the reference to God. And, although it’s true that certain reporters said Lincoln referred to God, there are other contemporaneous reports that make no mention of this.

    One wonders why Professor George, who is so concerned with the ACS’s alleged omissions from the Gettysburg Address, himself omitted these critical facts.

  • Neal Lang

    “This is small little nothing action, though. Where is your outcry against the Texas school board for re-writing history to make it more modern-Christian friendly?”

    And where is your outcry that the Progrssives who had been producing the Texas textbooks for decades had omitted the undenible “truths” that every one of our Founders believed that they were founding a new Nation based on Christian Principles? Those patriots in Texas were merely correcting your sides omissions and distortions!

    “Religious extremists have, for years, been trying to create the myth that the US was founded on Christianity. You can see even in Melissa’s comment that this lie continues unabated.”

    Leftist Progressive like have, for decades, been trying to create the myth that Faith, especially the Christian Faith played no part in the founding of our Nation. Only an idiot can read the Declaration of Independence and deny that the Founding Principles of the United States of America were not based on the Creator God of Genesis, Who created man in His Own Image thus endowing man with “certain unalienable rights.” Of course, they instructed you that THESE TRUTH ARE SELF EVIDENT – except to folks like you who can’t handled the TRUTH!

    “The US was founded on the principles of the Enlightenment. The principles of the Enlightenment absoutely reject religion as a basis of political theory. In other words, the US was founded on the absolute rejection of Christinity as a basis of political theory.”

    No, you fool the US was founded on the Self Evident Truth of the “laws of nature and nature’s God”, to wit:

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

    This entire concept is is totally based on the teachings of Christ – the key concept of which is the equality of man under God. By denying this only makes you more stupid than “Enlightened!”

    “It’s not a matter of opinion. Those that purport that this country was founded on Christianity are very simply liars. Yet, I don’t see your blog post decrying that.”

    Of course, it is your opinion. Virtually every Founder in their speeches and correspondence confirmed the fact that the United States of American was founded on Christian Principles. And that a people that did not retain these moral Christian Principles would not be able to enjoy the Limited Government and Liberty framed by our Constitution. Please provide me with an example where any one of the Founding Fathers of this Nation express a doubt that our country was Foundered on Christian Principles. If you can’t, than please stuffle yourself and your leftist rhetoric.

    “I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the Savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses. Whether we look to the first Charter of Virginia or the Charter of New England or the Charter of Massachusetts Bay or the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, the same objective is present – a Christian land governed by Christian principles. I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it: freedom of belief, of expression, of assembly, of petition, the dignity of the individual, the sanctity of the home, equal justice under law, and the reservation of powers to the people…I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country.” US Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren at the 1954 National Prayer Breakfast

    Also note the following sampling:

    “The aggregate happiness of the society, which is best promoted by the practice of a virtuous policy, is, or ought to be, the end of all government . . . .” – George Washington, Founding Father

    “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” – Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father

    “It is in the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigour. . . . degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats into the heart of its laws and constitution.” – “It is in the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigour. . . . degeneracy in these is a canker which soon eats into the heart of its laws and constitution.” – Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father

    “The institution of delegated power implies that there is a portion of virtue and honor among mankind which may be a reasonable foundation of confidence.” – Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father and Framer of our Constitution

    “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea.” – James Madison, Founding Father and Framer of our Constitution

    “. . . Virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone that renders us invincible. These are the tactics we should study. If we lose these, we are conquered, fallen indeed . . . so long as our manners and principles remain sound, there is no danger.” – Patrick Henry, Founding Father

    “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams, Founding Father

    “Our liberty depends on our education, our laws, and habits . . . it is founded on morals and religion, whose authority reigns in the heart, and on the influence all these produce on public opinion before that opinion governs rulers.” – Fisher Ames, Founding Father

    “It is certainly true that a popular government cannot flourish without virtue in the people.” – Richard Henry Lee, Founding Father

    “Whenever we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.” – Thomas Paine, Founding Father

    “[N]either the wisest constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt. He therefore is the truest friend of the liberty of his country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen onto any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man.” – Samuel Adams, Founding Father

    “The catholic principle of republicanism [is] that every people may establish what form of government they please and change it as they please, the will of the nation being the only thing essential.” –Thomas Jefferson: The Anas, 1792. ME 1:330