The Battle Hymn of the Republic

Posted: Jul 06, 2006 12:01 AM

Mine eyes have seen the glory

"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." On July 4, 1776, the adoption of the Declaration of Independence signaled the birth of a new nation. So was born a beacon of liberty to nations around the globe, a country dedicated to the proposition that government exists to serve its citizens, a state built on the principle that all men have rights and that those rights must be protected.

of the coming of the Lord:

Lord Charles Cornwallis was humiliated. His superior army had been pinned down at Yorktown, and help would not arrive in time to prevent defeat. And so, on October 19, 1781, the British forces under Cornwallis surrendered. Cornwallis refused to hand over his sword to General George Washington personally; instead, he sent his proxy, Brigadier General Charles O'Hara. As Washington's proxy, General Benjamin Lincoln, accepted the sword, the British forces marched off the field. In the background, British musicians played "The World Turned Upside Down."

He is trampling out the vintage

On August 24, 1814, First Lady Dolley Madison was in a panic. The British were on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. She quickly grabbed a full-length portrait of George Washington and fled the city. Only hours after her departure, the British would burn the White House and the Capitol to the ground. Only a miraculous rainstorm would save the rest of the city from total destruction.

where the grapes of wrath are stored;

As President Abraham Lincoln stood before Congress on December 1, 1862, the Union was in dire straits. The United States of America was on the brink of collapse. But Lincoln offered hope instead of fear. "Fellow-citizens," he stated, "we can not escape history. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free -- honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just -- a way which if followed the world will forever applaud and God must forever bless."

He hath loosed the fateful lightning

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson, the former "peace candidate," addressed Congress. War could not be avoided. He said, "[T]he right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts -- for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free. To such a task we can dedicate our lives and our fortunes, everything that we are and everything that we have, with the pride of those who know that the day has come when America is privileged to spend her blood and her might for the principles that gave her birth and happiness and the peace which she has treasured. God helping her, she can do no other."

of His terrible swift sword:

On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke to Congress. In the aftermath of the brutal Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt demanded a Congressional declaration of war. "No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory," Roosevelt averred. "There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God."

His truth is marching on.

On January 31, 2006, as American troops were engaged in remote areas of the Islamic world, President George W. Bush gave his State of the Union Address. "Lincoln could have accepted peace at the cost of disunity and continued slavery," Bush said. "Martin Luther King could have stopped at Birmingham or at Selma, and achieved only half a victory over segregation. The United States could have accepted the permanent division of Europe, and been complicit in the oppression of others. Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must decide: Will we turn back, or finish well?"