Abraham Lincoln and the Preservation of the Union

Abraham Lincoln, Gardner, 1863

Abraham Lincoln and the Preservation of the Union

 

Abraham Lincoln was born in Hodgenville, Kentucky, on February 12, 1809 to a farmer, Thomas Lincoln, and his wife, Nancy (née. Hanks) Lincoln. Though he had limited access to education, young Lincoln read extensively when not working on the family farm. In early adulthood, he worked on a flatboat transporting produce on the Mississippi River, as a store clerk, postmaster, and surveyor. Ambitious and likeable, he was elected to the Illinois legislature in 1834, studied for and passed the bar exam in 1836, and began practicing law in 1837.

Lincoln ran for and won a seat in Congress as a Whig in 1846, but did not enter the national stage until 1858, when he ran against Stephen Douglas for a Senate seat. Although Lincoln lost this election, he gained fame for his articulate positions on slavery and states’ rights in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and subsequently won the Republican presidential nomination. Without the support of even one southern state, he won the presidency in the election of 1860. Southern secession began soon after, leaving Lincoln with one of the greatest challenges faced by the United States: reunification.

In his first term as president, Lincoln made the difficult decision to declare war on the seceded southern states. On January 1, 1863, he released his famous Emancipation Proclamation, which abolished slavery in the United States. Although the Proclamation didn’t take effect in the south until after the war, it was a significant step towards liberty and pinpointed the meaning of the war: not just reunification of the states, but the end of American slavery.

The Civil War did not start off well – Lincoln struggled to find competent generals, and public support fluctuated. The turning point of the war is still debated among scholars today, but an increase in Union military victories and Lincoln’s reelection are often credited to the appointment of Ulysses S. Grant and the success of Sherman’s March. The war ended in April 1865. Sadly, Lincoln did not have time to enjoy peace or work towards Reconstruction. He was assassinated on April 14, 1865 in Ford’s Theatre, less than a week after Lee’s surrender.

On the occasion of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12, we’ve gathered together a collection of resources recognizing his influence in American political thought and as a preserver of the union. Take a moment today to browse these resources and consider his life and legacy.

Lyceum Address, January 27, 1838

“…Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason, must furnish all the materials for our future support and defence.–Let those materials be moulded into general intelligence, sound morality, and in particular, a reverence for the constitution and laws: and, that we improved to the last; that we remained free to the last; that we revered his name to the last; that, during his long sleep, we permitted no hostile foot to pass over or desecrate his resting place; shall be that which to learn the last trump shall awaken our WASHINGTON.

Upon these let the proud fabric of freedom rest, as the rock of its basis; and as truly as has been said of the only greater institution, ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’

From Abraham Lincoln Online >>

 


 

Resources on Abraham Lincoln:

Diana Schaub on Lincoln at Gettysburg

National Affairs assistant editors Devorah Goldman and Daniel Wiser, Jr. spoke with JMC faculty partner Professor Diana Schaub on her essay on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address from the Spring 2014 issue of National Affairs.

Click here to visit National Affairs >>

 

Diana Schaub on Lincoln and the Dred Scott Decision

In Fall 2017, Professor Diana Schaub visited Harvard’s Program on Constitutionalism and Democracy, a JMC partner program. She delivered a lecture on Lincoln’s Dred Scott speech and Lincoln’s understanding of equality.

Click here to visit YouTube >>

 

Allen Guelzo on Lincoln

In 2009, renowned Abraham Lincoln scholar and JMC faculty partner Professor Allen Guelzo sat down with the Jack Miller Center’s Dr. Michael Andrews to discuss why Lincoln is considered one of our nation’s greatest presidents.

Click here to view the entire playlist on YouTube >>

 

Steven Smith on Lincoln and the Problem of “Towering Genius”

In 2016, faculty partner Professor Steven Smith appeared at the Ohio University’s George Washington Forum, a JMC partner program, to speak on Lincoln.

Click here to visit YouTube >>

 

A Jack Miller Center Pathway to the Founding Essay

In 2008, on the cusp of the Lincoln bicentennial, Allen Guelzo compiled a list of the five greatest Lincoln books up to that point.

The year 2008 is not quite over yet, but already, by the annual tally I do for our Civil War Era Studies website at Gettysburg College, 244 Civil War-related books have issued forth from publishers’ presses. And just as daunting, thirty of those are about some aspect of the life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Yes, that’s just one, as-yet-unfinished year. That only adds to the burden of sorting-out the approximately 16,000 other books which have been published about Lincoln since his death in 1865. So where, in this bewildering thicket, should someone begin reading about Abraham Lincoln?

Click here to view Professor Guelzo’s list >>

 

What So Proudly We Hail

Abraham Lincoln, George H. Story, c.1915The What So Proudly We Hail online curriculum offers an ebook on Abraham Lincoln,“The Meaning of Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday,” as well as an entire curriculum, “Lincoln and the Constitution.”

Many Americans would be surprised to learn that Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, 1809, has never been celebrated as a federal holiday. The day is often associated (erroneously) with Presidents Day, officially Washington’s Birthday and celebrated on the third Monday in February. But even without an official national holiday, Lincoln remains among the most admired American presidents. His face is printed on the five-dollar bill and stamped on the penny. He has national shrines in three states, including one of America’s most iconic landmarks—the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

What accounts for our extraordinary interest in Abraham Lincoln? In this ebook, we examine the words and deeds of our sixteenth president. The first chapter explores the origins and traditions of celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The second chapter looks at the life and career of Lincoln: his improbable rise from humblest origins; his statesmanship during the Civil War, and his tragic death. The final chapter raises questions about how we today are to remember Lincoln.

Each selection includes a brief introduction by the editors with guiding questions for discussion. Readers are also encouraged to see our “Lincoln and the Constitution” curriculum and video conversations, created in conjunction with the AEI Program on American Citizenship.

Read the ebook here and view the curriculum here >>

 

*If you are a JMC fellow who’s published on Abraham Lincoln or his political thought, and would like your work included here, send it to us at academics@gojmc.org

 


 

Commentary and articles from JMC fellows:

 

Abraham Lincoln: Statesmanship and a Country Divided

 

Lincoln and Douglas, Allen GuelzoMatthew Brogdon, Young Mr. Lincoln in Ford’s Theater.” (Perspectives on Politics 47.2, April 1, 2018)

Nicholas Buccola (editor), Abraham Lincoln and Liberal Democracy. (University of Kansas Press, 2016)

Michael Douma (co-author), The Danish St. Croix Project: Revisiting the Lincoln Colonization Program with Foreign-Language Sources.” (American Nineteenth Century History 15.3, 2014)

Michael Douma, The Lincoln Administration’s Negotiations to Colonize African Americans in Dutch Suriname.” (Civil War History 61.2, June 2015)

Justin Dyer, Lincolnian Natural Right, Dred Scott, and the Jurisprudence of John McLean.” (Polity 41.1, January 2009)

Robert Faulkner, Lincoln and the Constitution.” (The Revival of Constitutionalism, University of Nebraska Press, 1988)

Redeeming the Great Emancipator, Allen GuelzoRobert Faulkner, Lincoln and the Rebirth of Liberal Democracy.” (Journal of Supreme Court History 35.3, November 2010)

Allen Guelzo, Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas. (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009)

Allen Guelzo, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President. (Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999)

Allen Guelzo, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America. (Simon & Schuster, 2008)

Allen Guelzo, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America. (Simon & Shuster, 2004)

Allen Guelzo (editor), Lincoln: An Intimate Portrait. (TimeLife Books, 2014)

Allen Guelzo (editor), Lincoln Speeches. (Penguin USA, 2012)

Abraham Lincoln and Liberal Democracy, Nicholas Buccola (ed.)Allen Guelzo, Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction. (Oxford University Press, 2009)

Allen Guelzo, Redeeming the Great Emancipator. (Harvard University Press, 2016)

Benjamin Kleinerman, The Discretionary President. (University Press of Kansas, 2009)

Benjamin Kleinerman, Lincoln’s Example: Executive Power and the Survival of Constitutionalism.” (Perspectives on Politics 3.4, December 2005)

Rafael Major, Those that Have the Power to Hurt and Will Do None: Shakespearean Dimensions of Lincoln’s Statesmanship.” (Perspectives on Political Science 41.2, 2012)

John Sexton, On Lincoln’s ‘Pragmatism.’ (American Political Thought, 2.1, Spring 2013)

David Siemers, Principled Pragmatism: Abraham Lincoln’s Method of Political Analysis.” (Presidential Studies Quarterly 34.4, December 2004)

Rogers Smith, Lincoln and Obama: Two Visions of American Civic Union.” (Representation and Citizenship, Wayne State University Press, 2016)

Rogers Smith (co-author), Still a House Divided: Race and Politics in Obama’s America. (Princeton University Press, 2011)

Steven Smith, Abraham Lincoln’s Kantian Republic.” Abraham Lincoln and Liberal Democracy, (University of Kansas Press, 2016)

Steven Smith, Lincoln and the Politics of the ‘Towering Genius.'” (American Political Thought 7.3, Summer 2018)

Steven Smith, Lincoln’s Constitutional Leadership.” (National Affairs 13, Fall 2012)

Steven Smith, Lincoln’s Enlightenment.” (Principle and Prudence in the Western Political Thought, State University of New York Press, 2016)

Old Whigs, Greg WeinerSteven Smith, Why Did Lincoln Go to War?” (The Political Thought of the Civil War, University of Kansas Press, 2018)

Steven Smith (editor), The Writings of Abraham Lincoln. (Yale University Press, 2012)

Gregory Weiner, Old Whigs: Burke, Lincoln, & the Politics of Prudence. (Encounter Books, 2019)

Gregory Weiner, Of Prudence and Principle: Reflections on Lincoln’s Second Inaugural at 150.” (Society 52.6, 2015)

Gregory Weiner, Prudence as Excellence: Edmund Burke, Abraham Lincoln and the Problem of Greatness.” (The Imaginative Conservative, April 1, 2013)

Thomas West, Jaffa’s Lincolnian Defense of the Founding.” (Interpretation 28, Spring 2001)

Jonathan White, 155 Years Ago: Lincoln and the Black Delegation.” (The Lincoln Forum Bulletin 42, Fall 2017)

Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War, Jonathan WhiteJonathan White, Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War: The Trials of John Merryman. (Louisiana State University Press, 2011)

Jonathan White, A Black Soldier from Charlottesville Writes to Lincoln.” (University of Virginia’s John L. Nau III Civil War Center Blog, September 30, 2016)

Jonathan White, Did Lincoln Dream He Died? (For the People: Newsletter of the Abraham Lincoln Association 16, Fall 2014)

Jonathan White, Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln. (Louisiana State University Press, 2014)

Jonathan White, ‘For My Part I Don’t Care Who is Elected President’: The Union Army and the Elections of 1864.” (This Distracted and Anarchical People: New Answers for Old Questions about the Civil War-Era North, Fordham University Press, 2013)

Jonathan White, The ‘Good and Kind’ Heart of Lincoln.” (New Jersey Monthly 37, January 16, 2012)

Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln, Jonathan WhiteJonathan White, How Lincoln Won the Soldier Vote.” (New York Times “Disunion,”, November 7, 2014)

Jonathan White, The Lincoln Administration and the Supreme Court during the Civil War: A Letter from Attorney General Edward Bates.” (Journal of Supreme Court History 37.3, November 2012)

Jonathan White, Lincoln on Law, Leadership, and Life. (Sourcebooks, 2015)

Jonathan White, Lincoln’s Other Habeas Corpus Problem.” (Ex parte Merryman: Two Commemorations, Library Company of the Baltimore Bar, 2011)

Jonathan White, The Presidential Pardon Records of the Lincoln Administration.” (Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 39.2, Summer 2018)

Jonathan White, President Lincoln and the Sleeping Sentinel: A Story of Civil War Redemption.” (The Lincoln Forum Bulletin 40, Fall 2016)

Lincoln on Law, Leadership, and Life, Jonathan WhiteJonathan White, The Soldier Vote of 1864 and the Expansion of Suffrage.” (The Lincoln Forum Bulletin 36, Fall 2014)

Jonathan White, Why It Makes Sense to Pair Lincoln and Nelson Mandela.” (Time.com, April 15, 2015)

Michael Zuckert, Lincoln and the Problem of Civil Religion.” (Lincoln’s American Dream, Potomac Books, 2006)

Michael Zuckert, The Peak of American Political Religion: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.” (The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Religion and Politics in the U.S., Wiley-Blackwell, 2016)

Michael Zuckert, Providentialism and Politics: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and the Problem of Democracy.” (Abraham Lincoln and Liberal Democracy, University Press of Kansas, 2016)

 

*If you are a JMC fellow who’s published on Abraham Lincoln or his political thought, and would like your work included here, send it to us at academics@gojmc.org

 


 

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