A land without cities may be a poor country, but a land without a countryside is no country. Look at the state of both our states and cities to measure the strength of our union. Walk the streets of New York City or Chicago or Los Angeles or San Francisco, or review the number of street crimes in any one of these cities, so as to see a state of nature.
See the nastiness of street life and the wealth of poverty in the streets. See the irony of “Hamilton” on Broadway, and the death—the assassination—of Hamiltonianism in the streets. See the reality of streets in the wild, of violence in the streets, while the ruling class violates wildlands with impunity.
If the ruling class does to the environment what it has done to the urban environment, we will not have an environment. If the few overrule the rule of law, wrapping themselves in Look’s ecology flag—for that is what it is, a look rather than an outlook—we may save the trees but lose the species; we will lose everything, including the trees and the forests, if we cannot reintroduce species to the wild.
If we cannot reconcile progress with preservation, if we believe the two are irreconcilable, we cannot be a nation of Hamiltonian powers and Jeffersonian rights. If we believe these things, we cannot believe the second-most important thing Jefferson said, “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.”
If the third president of the United States could speak of reconciliation, we can honor it. If the 16th president of the United States could seek reconciliation, if he could unite North and South with his own blood, we can further his legacy by keeping the peace.
If we can do these things, we can be a people with a certain idea of America, of certain unalienable rights, to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle us. But we cannot be a nation, conceived in liberty, without a land in which nature thrives.
Hamilton respected the land, Jefferson revered it; and Lincoln returned to it, after passing through 444 communities in seven states.
Past the sound of muffled drums and the silence of spectators, past 7 million faces across 1,654 miles, past the nation’s capital and the capital cities of Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and Indiana, he was laid to rest in Springfield, Illinois.
His passing does not mean a nation of cities and open spaces, with a place for all living creatures, is dead.