Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Lincoln and Liberty

Lincoln and Liberty: Wisdom for the Ages

Edited by LUCAS E. MOREL
Introduction by Clarence Thomas
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 392
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qhm08
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Lincoln and Liberty
    Book Description:

    Since Abraham Lincoln's death, generations of Americans have studied his life, presidency, and leadership, often remaking him into a figure suited to the needs and interests of their own time. This illuminating volume takes a different approach to his political thought and practice. Here, a distinguished group of contributors argue that Lincoln's relevance today is best expressed by rendering an accurate portrait of him in his own era. They seek to understand Lincoln as he understood himself and as he attempted to make his ideas clear to his contemporaries. What emerges is a portrait of a prudent leader who is driven to return the country to its original principles in order to conserve it.

    The contributors demonstrate that, far from advocating an expansion of government beyond its constitutional limits, Lincoln defended both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. In his introduction, Justice Clarence Thomas discusses how Lincoln used the ideological and structural underpinnings of those founding documents to defeat slavery and secure the liberties that the Republic was established to protect. Other chapters reveal how Lincoln upheld the principle of limited government even as he employed unprecedented war powers.

    Featuring contributions from leading scholars such as Michael Burlingame, Allen C. Guelzo, Fred Kaplan, and Matthew Pinsker, this innovative collection presents fresh perspectives on Lincoln both as a political thinker and a practical politician. Taken together, these essays decisively demonstrate that the most iconic American president still has much to teach the modern-day student of politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5103-8
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xxii)
  4. Introduction: Lincoln, Dred Scott, and the Preservation of Liberty
    (pp. 1-14)
    Clarence Thomas

    Since my youth, I have admired Abraham Lincoln greatly. Back then, we thought of Lincoln as “the Great Emancipator.” In difficult times that would follow in my life, he represented a model of perseverance, and in my early years in Washington he served both as an inspiration and a beacon that highlighted the underlying principles of our country, especially the Declaration of Independence. So, my interest in him has been deeply personal and long-standing.

    Lincoln’s battle against slavery and the threat it posed to our nation’s survival is one of the most important chapters in our nation’s history. Lincoln saved...

  5. Part I. Lincoln’s Character

    • 1 “The Great Invention of the World”: Lincoln and Literature
      (pp. 17-38)
      Fred Kaplan

      In February 1859 Abraham lincoln presented a lecture on “discoveries and inventions” at Illinois College, in Jacksonville, one of the earliest sites of higher education in the state. Lincoln, as is well known, never received formal education even to the level of secondary school.¹ He was now attempting for the second time to elucidate a subject with wide ramifications that had been of interest to him for much of his life. He was addressing a relatively sophisticated audience, the Phi Alpha Society. Lincoln’s first effort at a lecture on “discoveries and inventions” had been presented to the Young Men’s Association...

    • 2 Lincoln, Shakespeare, and Tyranny
      (pp. 39-58)
      John Channing Briggs

      What did Abraham Lincoln learn from William Shakespeare? The brief and still surprising answer is that he learned a good deal about tyranny. There is no readily adaptable pattern of emancipation in Shakespeare’s plays.Emancipate, emancipation, liberate,andliberationare absent from his vocabulary.Slaveappears five times, andslavery135, but those instances almost never carry a meaning directly related to what became American slavery. The free Othello tells of being taken into slavery as a war captive, not as chattel. He has been liberated by a means he does not disclose. InThe Tempest, the nobleman Ferdinand, not...

    • 3 Lincoln and Race
      (pp. 59-78)
      Michael Burlingame

      The subject of Lincoln and race is complicated and cannot be fully addressed in this chapter. I will therefore focus on only three considerations that critics of Lincoln cite regularly: the allegation that he was a “reluctant emancipator,” his endorsement of colonization, and Frederick Douglass’s characterization of him as “preeminently the white man’s president.”

      It is fashionable in some circles to assert that Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation only because of political and diplomatic pressure, not because he himself hated slavery and wished to abolish it. In fact, Lincoln loathed and despised slavery from his early years. “I have always...

    • 4 Learning to Love Lincoln: Frederick Douglass’s Journey from Grievance to Gratitude
      (pp. 79-102)
      Diana J. Schaub

      “Any man can say things that are true of Abraham Lincoln, but no man can say anything that is new of Abraham Lincoln.” That observation was made by Frederick Douglass in his great oration in memory of Lincoln, delivered in 1876 upon the occasion of the dedication of the Freedmen’s Memorial Monument to Abraham Lincoln, in Washington, DC. It’s still the case today. Not even by resorting to lies and untruths can one find anything new to say about Abraham Lincoln. The truths and untruths—and maybe most common, the half-truths—have all been around a long time. The task...

  6. Part II. Lincoln’s Politics

    • 5 Lincoln and Political Principles
      (pp. 105-126)
      Thomas L. Krannawitter

      Commenting on the meaning of the Fourth of July in an 1858 speech in Chicago, Abraham Lincoln argued that America’s founding political principle, the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, is “the father of all moral principle.”¹ For Lincoln, individual freedom under republican self-government is a moral no less than a political cause. And Lincoln understood that moral and political right spring from the sound ground—nature, or natural right—by which the human mind can discern rational principles for human action, principles that cut through time and across space and are therefore universal, principles that are not...

    • 6 Lincoln, Liberty, and the American Constitutional Union
      (pp. 127-144)
      Lucas E. Morel

      A perennial question regarding Abraham Lincoln’s understanding of the federal constitution is whether preserving the American union was more important to him than promoting liberty for all. Lincoln took up the question of liberty when he addressed a sanitary fair (the Women’s Central Association of Relief) in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 18, 1864:

      The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the samewordwe do not all mean the samething. With some the word...

    • 7 The Democratic Statesmanship of Abraham Lincoln
      (pp. 145-170)
      Steven Kautz

      Democracy is self-government. Statesmanship can oftendiminishself-government: when we think of George Washington or James Madison, we say “founding father,” often with capital Fs—not “fellow citizen.” We are governed by such men; we do not govern ourselves. And yet the statesmanship of a Winston Churchill or an Abraham Lincoln can alsoennobledemocracy, enabling “We the People” to be worthy of self-government. How should we understand this paradox of democratic statesmanship?

      Lincoln’s task in the 1850s was to restore slavery to a “course of ultimate extinction,” upon which (as he often said, perhaps with some exaggeration) the founders...

    • 8 “Public Sentiment Is Everything”: Abraham Lincoln and the Power of Public Opinion
      (pp. 171-190)
      Allen C. Guelzo

      “Our government rests in public opinion,” Abraham Lincoln said in 1856. And how could it be otherwise (he explained in 1859), since “in a Government of the people, where the voice of all the men of the country, enter substantially into the execution,—or administration, rather—of the Government—in such a Government, what lies at the bottom of it all, is public opinion.” “Public sentiment is everything,” he replied to Stephen A. Douglas in 1858. “Whoever can change public opinion can change the government.” It is “public opinion” that “settles every question here,” he added in 1860, and in...

    • 9 Lincoln and the Lessons of Party Leadership
      (pp. 191-206)
      Matthew Pinsker

      Even the most casual students of Abraham Lincoln are familiar with his greatest speeches. Literary achievements such as the Gettysburg Address, Second Inaugural, and sections of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates have become enshrined in American national memory. Lesser-known but still significant efforts such as the Peoria Speech (1854), the Cooper Union Address (1860), and the First Inaugural (1861) are also now part of the cultural literacy of any serious Lincoln devotee. But press Lincoln buffs on the content of his shrewdest confidential political statements, ask them to describe in detail his most significant partisan letters, memos, or documents, and even the...

    • 10 Lincoln’s Theology of Labor
      (pp. 207-222)
      Joseph R. Fornieri

      Near the end of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was reunited with his best friend and Springfield roommate Joshua Speed. Upon observing the president reading the Bible, Speed asked whether or not he had abandoned his youthful skepticism. Lincoln’s reply is noteworthy in testifying to his understanding of a potential harmony between faith and reason. He explained, “[T]ake all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will live and die a happier and better man.”¹

      Speed’s reminiscence is credible because it accounts for the welldocumented facts of Lincoln’s youthful skepticism along with...

  7. Part III. Lincoln at War

    • 11 Abraham Lincoln as War President: Practical Wisdom at War
      (pp. 225-276)
      Mackubin Thomas Owens

      No president in American history, before or since, has faced a greater crisis than the one Abraham Lincoln confronted in the spring of 1861. Although sections of the country had threatened disunion many times in the past, the emergency had always passed as some compromise was found. But in 1861, Lincoln, who had won the election of 1860 because of a split in the Democratic Party, faced a rebellion “too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings.”¹ By the time of his inauguration on March 4, 1861, seven states had declared their separation from the Union...

    • 12 Lincoln’s Executive Discretion: The Preservation of Political Constitutionalism
      (pp. 277-312)
      Benjamin A. Kleinerman

      Both Abraham Lincoln’s exercise of executive power and his defense of that exercise are the most paradoxical aspects of his presidency. Summing up one of the essential paradoxes, Wilfred Binkley writes: “Surely no one could have guessed that in this harassing critic of the war policy of President [James K.] Polk there lurked even the possibility of a war President who was to deal with Congress and the Constitution at times in a manner more imperious than any President before or since.”¹ That is, in the first place, Lincoln’s exercise of executive power, or what might be called a “prerogative”...

  8. Part IV. Lincoln and Modern-Day America

    • 13 Lincoln and the Progressives
      (pp. 315-352)
      Ronald J. Pestritto and Jason R. Jividen

      In many respects the Barack Obama presidency has become a unifying force for both conservatives and liberals. Conservatives seem united in looking aghast at what they consider to be the radical and comprehensive remaking of American national government—a remaking that seems to reject not only the American constitutional order, but to exceed even the ambitions of the New Deal and Great Society in its extension of governmental authority into the private sphere. Yet the developments since 2009 have been in the making for the better part of the twentieth and now twenty-first centuries, as the Constitution appears to have...

  9. List of Contributors
    (pp. 353-356)
  10. Index
    (pp. 357-370)