Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Allen C. Guelzo
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Beneath the surface of the apparently untutored and deceptively frank Abraham Lincoln ran private tunnels of self-taught study, a restless philosophical curiosity, and a profound grasp of the fundamentals of democracy. Now, in Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction, the award-winning Lincoln authority Allen C. Guelzo offers a penetrating look into the mind of one of our greatest presidents.
If Lincoln was famous for reading aloud from joke books, Guelzo shows that he also plunged deeply into the mainstream of nineteenth-century liberal democratic thought. Guelzo takes us on a wide-ranging exploration of problems that confronted Lincoln and liberal democracy--equality, opportunity, the rule of law, slavery, freedom, peace, and his legacy. The book sets these problems and Lincoln's responses against the larger world of American and trans-Atlantic liberal democracy in the 19th century, comparing Lincoln not just to Andrew Jackson or John Calhoun, but to British thinkers such as Richard Cobden, Jeremy Bentham, and John Bright, and to French observers Alexis de Tocqueville and François Guizot. The Lincoln we meet here is an Enlightenment figure who struggled to create a common ground between a people focused on individual rights and a society eager to establish a certain moral, philosophical, and intellectual bedrock. Lincoln insisted that liberal democracy had a higher purpose, which was the realization of a morally right political order. But how to interject that sense of moral order into a system that values personal self-satisfaction--"the pursuit of happiness"--remains a fundamental dilemma even today.
Abraham Lincoln was a man who, according to his friend and biographer William Henry Herndon, "lived in the mind." Guelzo paints a marvelous portrait of this Lincoln--Lincoln the man of ideas--providing new insights into one of the giants of American history.
required to keep the slave in bondage). To Lincoln’s generation, however, stability was merely another word for stagnation, for the repression of talent and imagination. “I believe that Free Trade in Ability has a much closer relation to national prosperity than even Free Trade in Commodities,” wrote the Mancunian inventor and industrialist James Naysmith. Cobden lauded “the love of independence, the privilege of self-respect, the disdain of being patronized or petted, the desire to accumulate
colleague who had “supposed Lincoln poor,” saying, “I am not so poor as you suppose.” Law and power Lawyering was more than just a living for Lincoln. The revolutionaries who constructed the American republic in the 1770s believed that their republic was likely to survive only if it could find some form of political or social adhesive that would take the place of the venal cement, which held monarchies together—patronage, kinship, deference, and outright corruption. They expected to find
thin legal ice by invoking his war powers, and so he was careful to justify the proclamation “as a fit and necessary military measure . . . to suppress insurrection,” and to limit its application only to the secessionist states (and even then, not to those portions of the Confederacy under Union occupation). Lincoln may have been ready to issue his emancipation proclamation on the spot. But Secretary of State William Seward, with an eye on the possible diplomatic repercussions, begged Lincoln to
occasionally beat him “for neglecting his work by reading.” Thomas Lincoln had at least been willing to send Abraham to school so that “I should be well educated.” But as Abraham Lincoln remarked years later, Thomas Lincoln’s idea of being “well-educated” was limited to having “me cipher to the rule of three.” Father and son even split over religion. Thomas Lincoln belonged to the Separate Baptists, a small Baptist sect, which, like the Lincolns’ Puritan ancestors, preached absolute
entrepreneur with big plans and a bigger mouth, hired Lincoln to help take a flatboat of goods down Illinois’s Sangamon River, down the Illinois River, floating from there out onto the Mississippi and down to New Orleans. Lincoln was now about to enter in the new world of commerce, credit and markets. New Orleans was Abraham Lincoln’s first sight of a larger outside world, since the Mississippi was the great commercial highway on which all American commerce west of the Appalachians flowed. In