Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Watchwords of Liberty

Watchwords of Liberty
Robert Lawson ~ Little Brown, 1943

As today is the date that will live in infamy, I thought I'd share a bit of Americana I picked up at the library yesterday. Written and illustrated by Robert Lawson (the man behind The Story of Ferdinand), Watchwords of Liberty is a collections of essays written around famous quotes from American History. Chock full of inspirational battle cries and momentous moments in the founding of our nation, the book is also sprinkled with all sorts of interested yet dated political agendas. When Lawson writes on REMEMBER PEARL HARBOR, it's obvious the man was NOT a FDR fan.

In doing a wee bit of research of Lawson and the book, I read that he (along with a medley of famous and later-famous artists) were camouflage painters in France during WWI, and that strand of Internet wisdom led me to the fascinating art of "dazzle painting" ships during war.

But, of course, I digress.

Here you will find eloquent observations (accompanied by Lawson's stellar pen and ink drawings) on such illustrious quotes as...

We hold these truths to be self-evident, -- that all men were created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. ~ Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, 1776

I would rather be right than president. ~ Henry Clay, 1850

That these dead shall not have died in vain... that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. ~ Abraham Lincoln from the Gettysburg Address, 1863

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1933

What strikes me about this book is really the idea of saying something important and meaningful in a time of need, and this is expressed beautifully in the forward where Lawson writes:

In searching through the words of our great men we find that one fact stands out strikingly. Though many of their sayings were born of war, nowhere in the words of our most honored fighting men does one find a trace of hate or venom. There is determination, but behind it lies sorrow and regret. Grant, the ruthless bulldog in combat, gave Lee's defeated armies the most generous and kindly terms; said, "Let us have peace." Sherman, who blazed a path of desolation from Atlanta to the sea, said, "War is hell." Lee, whose magnificent generalship tore the Union armies into bloody distraction, prayed for the enemy each night, counseled his ruined and embittered people to "bury contention with the war".

Men of smaller mind, in both war and peace, have screamed bitterness and vengeance-- their words and their memories have died away. The words that speak sublime courage, sacrifice, devotion to the right, live on.

Words to live by in every situation. And though every country's history is often distorted in the eyes of those remembering, one thing is clear. If you say one, true thing in the moment, the meaning will last.


Read along on Facebook, tumblr, Twitter and Etsy!


Kip Noschese said...

Great post, Burgin! I've always been a fan of Lawson but was unaware of this book. Thanks for sharing.

Jil Casey said...

Eloquent words from Lawson and top notch illustrations.

stephanie said...

Lawson is such a fantastic artist! There were a lot of illustrators who did that kind of work during the war. I think I first read about it when reading about Lawson, myself

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