Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Allen C. Guelzo
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.
About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.
‘‘All the ﬂourishing cities of the West are mortgaged to this money power,’’ raged Missouri senator Thomas Hart Benton, ‘‘They are all in the jaws of the monster!’’ Benton’s fury, shared by the Jeffersonian faithful, found numerous other targets. Banks that suspended specie payments—payment in hard coin to depositors who wanted their money back—were 33 Advancement Lincoln and the Whig ideology Lincoln closed down by state legislatures in Pennsylvania and Vermont; in Ohio, anti-bank riots
territorial or state constitution? If before, what would be done with any slaves brought into the territory before the vote?) What was more, popular sovereignty avoided entirely the question of whether extending slavery was compatible with the principles of a liberal democracy—whether, in other words, it was right or wrong to tolerate the expansion of slavery anywhere. But since, as Lincoln ruefully observed, ‘‘the Union, now, as in 1820, was thought to be in danger . . . devotion to the Union
architects of the American order had always intended to eliminate slavery. The steps they took to ensure this were gradual and indirect, but they always pointed in the direction of extinction. The KansasNebraska Act implied that the Founders’ strategy of elimination was no longer the policy of the republic; if anything, Lincoln complained, Kansas-Nebraska betrayed the intentions of the 67 Liberty It was the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Lincoln said in 1860, and its ‘‘repeal of the Missouri
that character, was going exactly—as he expected.’’ Lincoln’s ability to interpret ‘‘the great scale of action’’ to the American public would turn out to be his greatest asset. His own 111 Lincoln writing and speaking style had been hammered out on the hard anvil of county courthouses, where clarity, precision, and brevity were key to convincing juries, and he took that passion for persuasion into his public documents as president. That talent for brevity and breadth shone especially in the
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 predestination— that God controlled all events, down to the smallest human choice. Young Abraham, by contrast, would mimic sermons, but without believing them. His stepmother remembered that ‘‘Abe had no particular religion’’ and ‘‘didnt think of that question at that time, if he ever did.’’ It has been