Lincoln’s message on mob rule

Our friend Jean Yarbrough is the Gary M. Pendy Sr. Professor of Social Sciences and Professor of Government at Bowdoin College and the author, most recently, of Theodore Roosevelt and the American Political Tradition, 2013 winner of the American Political Science Association’s Richard E. Neustadt Prize for the best book on the American presidency. If you have ever wondered what we are to make of Theodore Roosevelt, Professor Yarbrough’s book provides the lucid answer.

Now comes Professor Yarbrough to recall Lincoln’s “Timely Message on Mob Rule.” Lincoln opposed “the mobocratic spirit” (“which all must admit, is now abroad in the land”) and counseled the inculcation of “a reverence for the [C]onstitution and laws.” Revisiting Lincoln’s great Lyceum Address of 1838, Professor Yarbrough concludes:

For too long, America’s school children have been fed a steady diet of racism, genocide, and greed, capped off by the New York Times’ ideologically driven 1619 Project. Is it any wonder that our young people are more drawn to socialism, “democratic” or otherwise, when this is all they know? Meanwhile, as Heather Mac Donald has shown, college and university presidents have declared with one voice that they will use every tool in their educational arsenal to fight against “systemic,” “institutional,” and “structural” racism, even as they themselves skirt the law regarding illegal immigration, racial discrimination, and the rights of the accused. Reverence for the law is in short supply in the very citadels of learning where it should be enshrined.

If our 45th president can channel the insights of our 16th president, opposing mob violence and restoring civic education, he will have a winning message.

Lincoln’s Lyceum Address is posted online under the title “The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions.” Visit or revisit it along with Professor Yarbrough’s timely column on Lincoln’s timely message.

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