Carol Platt Liebau: Once to Every Man & Nation

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Once to Every Man & Nation

There's an old hymn from the Civil War era that goes

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide
In the strife of truth with falsehood
For the good or evil side.

That isn't to call those who are opposing the war evil; it is to make the point that sometimes, a moment of truth arrives where people are forced to decide on which side of a great conflict they will cast their lot.

As this piece by Bill Kristol notes, such a moment is arriving for seven Republican senators: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, John Sununu of New Hampshire, and George Voinovich of Ohio.

They have the choice of whether to support the Levin-Warner defeat resolution, which -- as General Petraeus has pointed out -- will enspirit the enemy or whether to support a Republican resolution or none at all.

But as they make this calculation, they need to understand what they are doing. The United States is standing at a crucial turning point, where either our commitment to victory will be reaffirmed, or we will send a message that our resolve lasted only as long as success was easy.

What's more, in crass political terms, these senators need to know that, if they squander the national security bona fides of the GOP, they -- and the rest of the party -- won't necessarily be spared by the voters in 2008; they'll simply lose their respect and come across as "me too, but less" Democrats. And in the long run, history will treat them no better, judging that they were swept with the transient waves of public opinion, to the detriment of America's national security.


Blogger charles Nightingale said...

The hymn was written by James Russel Lowell in 1849. It can be found in the 1940 Episcopal Hymnal, number 519. Interestingly, it is not in the new hymnal. For an audio version of the tune with lyrics, go to

2:33 PM  
Blogger stackja1945 said...

Another old hymn: Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, With the cross of Jesus going on before.
And a song of WW2 Praise the Lord and pass the ammo.
The choice: march or surrender?

5:44 PM  
Blogger Greg said...


5:41 AM  
Blogger maha said...

Um, James Russell Lowell wrote this poem to PROTEST the war in Mexico. It's an ANTI-WAR song.

Do keep up.

7:46 AM  
Blogger dwcrx said...

It is true the original poem was written to protest the war; however, if you read it, that fact isn't so clear. It seems more to say there are times when choices have to be committed to. Based on my (limited) knowledge of Lowell, his major theme was opposition to slavery. Interestingly, the song doesn't directly address slavery or the war with Mexico.

It speaks to me about making decisions and commitments in light of the fact that we are G-d's caretakers of His kingdom on earth.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Knutz said...

Actually, everyone that has posted is somewhat correct.

The ORIGINAL was written in December 1844 and was written as an ANTI-SLAVERY poem, called "The Present Crisis." It was later converted in several portions to become "Once Every Man and Nation" and used as a battle hymn for human rights in the modern age.

1:47 AM  
Blogger Knutz said...

Actually, this was written as "The Present Crisis," which was anti-slavery. It later had several portions changed and became known as "Once to Every Man and Nation," and used as a battle hymn in the modern campaign for human rights.

1:49 AM  

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