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The Elections of 1856 and 1992

By Editorial Staff
Published April 2, 2008

By Ron Auvil

As we approach the presidential election of 1992, I am reminded of the strikingly similar campaign of 1856. The similarities include an unresolved constitutional issue, a controversial Supreme Court decision, a caretaker presidency, and most of all, a sense of national frustration.

In 1856, the unresolved issue was that of slavery. Slavery was an explosive issue whose fuse burned shorter and shorter. Slavery was not specifically forbidden in the Constitution, although the language in the Constitution and the framers’ concept of natural law could be construed as condemning it. The result was a lack of national consensus and a division of the nation into two soon-to-be-armed camps. Each camp had some claim on the wording used by the Founding Fathers.

The unresolved issue today is abortion. The fuse on this issue is also burning shorter with each passing day. Abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution. Those who are pro-abortion have to “find” this so-called right. This view of course will not stand among those who are pro-life, who correctly see the pro-abortion lobby as having created “rights” which cannot be found in the Constitution. The result is the same as in 1856; a lack of national consensus and the division of the nation into two camps. Whether or not these camps become armed remains to be seen. However, if the historical pattern remains constant, a Harpers-Ferry type of incident can be expected to occur soon.

The overturned Supreme Court case of 1856 also mirrors a 1992 controversy. That being the Dred Scott case which upheld slavery and was undoubtedly bad law. It was turned de facto by the Civil War and de jure by the postbellum 14th amendment. In the same way, pro-lifers and many constitutional constructionists see Roe vs. Wade as bad law and one which must be overturned.

The election of a caretaker President in this election would also parallel 1856. In the same way that President James Buchanan was a time-serving do-nothing, who served neither side of a rapidly deteriorating nation, a movement toward a morally neutered, and mythical middle ground could lead to a severely crippled executive branch. Just as James Buchanan’s attempt at centrist, amoral politics could not serve as a lightning rod for the tensions which were then building, neither will the same political philosophy or lack thereof help to decide our current cultural war. This trend is both ominous and dangerous.

The most obvious parallel between the election of 1856 and 1992 is the sense of national frustration in the air. I believe the reason that politicians “just don’t get it” is due to the to the fact that they’ve lost contact with the people they are supposed to serve. If you talk to the average citizen, you will soon learn of the rapid moral decay in our land and the general frustration over the status quo. To paraphrase historian Shelby Foote, “They are being led in directions that they do not care to go.” This mood is as electric in this nation as in the humid air before a thunderstorm. I know for certain that this mood exists in this nation.

We can only hope to hear soon of a lawyer from a small town in Illinois…

Ron Auvil is a staff member of Christian Evangelistic Endeavors, a ministry dedicated to bringing a great revival to the Church and spiritual awakening throughout the nations. If you wish to receive more information about CEE, you may write to:

CEE, 35155 Beachpark Dr., Eastlake, OH 44095.


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Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.

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