Magazine May 17, 2010, Issue

Darwin’s Constitution

(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
Why progressives took it upon themselves to purify our founding charter of its meaning

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln told his listeners at Gettysburg that America was “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Decades earlier, he had said that Americans were the “legal inheritors” of the “fundamental blessings” bequeathed by the Founders — whose principles, institutions, and very names they had a duty to preserve. The Founders, he said, bequeathed us a constitutional order in conformity with the eternal cause of civil liberty and natural rights, and they must therefore shine on in “naked, deathless splendor.” Lincoln was profoundly wary of the notion of progress in government;

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