After the Mexican-American War, as Southern slaveholders and their political allies sought to extend the realm of slavery into the West and tip the nation's political and cultural balance to the advantage of slaveholders, many believed liberty was at risk.
In the wake of the Dred Scott decision -- in which the Supreme Court argued that the federal government could not prohibit slavery in the territories because enslaved human beings were a form of property protected by the Fifth Amendment -- Abraham Lincoln, then a Senate candidate, explained his own understanding of the coming crisis.
"I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free," said Lincoln. "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."
The question we face in this era is: Will America be a nation essentially organized around traditional families, largely free of government restraint, where individuals generally seek to order their lives according to the inalterable moral norms of the Judeo-Christian tradition? Or will it be a nation where the traditional family is essentially extinct, where people are largely dependent on government for some of their most basic needs and where the inalterable moral norms of the Judeo-Christian tradition are generally flouted and sometimes even criminalized?
Back in 1930 (in inflation-adjusted 2012 dollars), the federal government took in $55.942 billion, spent $45.768 billion and ran a surplus of $10.174 billion. There were 122,775,046 people in the United States that year. So, inflation-adjusted federal spending was only about $373 per person.
In 2012, the federal government took in $2.449 trillion, spent $3.538 trillion and ran a deficit of $1.089 trillion. As of September 2012, the last month of the fiscal year, the Census Bureau estimated there were 314,332,190 people in the Untied States. So, federal spending was about $11,256 per person.
The federal government today spends 30 times as much per person as it did in 1930. Over the same span, the family and government's respect for it have disintegrated.