Madison, Lincoln, and Civic Education

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All political regimes face the challenge of preserving themselves. External threats can be dangerous but in most cases they are also obvious; the more subtle challenge is sustaining the integrity of the regime itself. In a constitutional republic such as the United States, this requires maintenance of political institutions to be sure, but also—and more fundamentally—the proper attachment of the people to the Constitution. Can such attachment be cultivated without undermining the principles of self-government? While democratic theorists in America going back at least as far as Jefferson have worried that enduring constitutional forms prevent authentic democratic rule, my purpose here is to compare two well-known texts that answer the question in the affirmative, James Madison’s Federalist 49 and Abraham Lincoln’s Lyceum Address.

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