(Originally published on 03/12/09. I have made editorial changes and updated the links.)
On February 12, 1809, two men were born whose lives forever changed this world, one for the good, one for the worse. Abraham Lincoln's preservation of the Union and abolition of slavery guaranteed that the truths contained in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, would remain the rationale for this country's existence. In his time Democracy was not the standard by which people were governed. If the Union had been dissolved, Democracy would probably still be on the defensive as a viable form of government. (For a fuller discussion of these issues, see Part V of this series.) If the Union had been dissolved, the world would have been under the control of one or a few world powers. Germany, possibly in its Nazi incarnation, would certainly have ruled much of this hemisphere. Without the United States becoming a world power, much of the world would be under the domination of distant empires. (For a discussion of this last point, see here and especially here for information on German designs on U.S. territory as late as the 20th century.)
Also born on this day, Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution has to this day challenged the Biblical doctrines of both creation and the special creation of man in the image of God. While the 20th century might still have been the most violent century in man's history, Darwinism played a major part in how many of the 20th century's worst totalitarian regimes treated mankind. No, Darwin was not a Nazi and he would probably have been horrified by the atrocities committed by the Nazi's and Communists. Yet by denying man's place as the pinnacle of God's creation, he made it possible for tyrants and their scientific supporters to declare that man was just an animal. This led to the specific treatment of the Jews that culminated in the Holocaust. For a full discussion of Darwin's impact on history, see here and here.
So we have in one day the birth of one man whose life affirmed the whole human race's dignity as being created in the image of God with inalienable rights, and the birth of another whose life's work denied that special creation and which caused man to be seen as an animal, and to be treated as such.
Wouldn't it have been a catastrophe if Darwin had been born fifty years earlier, publishing "On The Origin Of Species" in 1809, instead of 1859. Had this happened, evolutionary theories would have already been entrenched in the scientific world, and would have been seen as a further bulwark in the defense of slavery. Slaves, such as Frederick Douglass, would have been seen as those who were lower on the evolutionary scale. The defenders of slavery would have contended that slaves were therefore not fully human and incapable of governing themselves as the fully evolved white race, therefore slaves had no rights as they were a lower form of animal. Evolution would have been used to defend the "permanent necessity" of slavery. It would also have been a catastrophe had Lincoln not transformed the war into a fight to end slavery. If slavery remained in existence after his Presidency, then as Evolution became more accepted, it would have been used as a justification to the continue the institution of slavery. That would have guaranteed that not only slaves in America would remain in bondage after 1865, it would have guaranteed that many overseas would remain in chains as well.
(The belief that all men were created equal was was rejected by the spokesmen for the Old South. See Part V of this series.)