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The Mystery and Wonder of Lincoln

I was visiting family last week and stumbled on a book in my father’s library, Lincoln’s Virtues, by William Lee Miller.  I teach a course on Lincoln regularly, including this semester, so old Abe has been in my thoughts.  I devoured this book.  It is particularly good on Lincoln’s early years.  This passage is worth quo…

  1. smp16

    I read Lincoln’s Virtues last year as part of a graduate course on Lincoln. It was my favorite book that I read all semester. I highly recommend it!

  2. katievs

    He is a mystery and a wonder.

    I’m ordering the book now.

  3. Flagg Taylor
    katievs: He is a mystery and a wonder.

    I’m ordering the book now. · 3 minutes ago

    Katie,

    I still can’t believe you attended Solzhenitsyn’s Liechtenstein address!!!

  4. Byron Horatio

    My favorite Lincoln quote was in his defense of Grant on accusations of drunkeness on the job.  “Find out what whiskey that man drinks, and send a barrel of it to all my other generals!”

  5. katievs
    Flagg Taylor

    katievs: He is a mystery and a wonder.

    I’m ordering the book now. · 3 minutes ago

    Katie,

    I still can’t believe you attended Solzhenitsyn’s Liechtenstein address!!! · 1 hour ago

    I can’t either.  But it’s true.  I was really there.  It was right down the street from the hospital in Vaduz where my first baby was born.  Here’s the little chapel in Triesen, where she was baptized.

    triesen-chapel.jpg

  6. DocJay

    I cannot imagine a life without hunting, fishing, and farming but Lincoln certainly managed a wonderful existence without them. He was among our greatest and thank goodness there are those who teach of him in meaningful fashion so as to expel the leftist rot others have filled our youth’s heads with.

  7. Mel Foil

    Some things that Abe Lincoln actually said, or that someone wished he’d said:

    When I hear a man preach, I like to see him act as if he were fighting bees.

    He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas better than any man I ever met.

    If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.

    No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.

    I have stepped out upon this platform that I may see you and that you may see me, and in the arrangement I have the best of the bargain.

    The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.

    I care not much for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.

  8. Robert Lux

    Another book I need to read…

  9. Robert Lux
    katievs

    Flagg Taylor

    katievs: He is a mystery and a wonder.

    I’m ordering the book now. · 3 minutes ago

    Katie,

    I still can’t believe you attended Solzhenitsyn’s Liechtenstein address!!! · 1 hour ago

    I can’t either.  But it’s true.  I was really there.  It was right down the street from the hospital in Vaduz where my first baby was born.  Here’s the little chapel in Triesen, where she was baptized. · 11 hours ago

    Exquisite photo. 

  10. Flagg Taylor
    Robert Lux: Another book I need to read… · 4 minutes ago

    Maybe this should be a post, but the best Lincoln books in my view:

    Jaffa, Crisis of the House Divided

    John C. Briggs, Lincoln’s Speeches Reconsidered

    Allen Guelzo, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America

    Lord Charnwood, Abraham Lincoln

    Richard Cawardine, Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power

  11. Flagg Taylor
    Byron Horatio: My favorite Lincoln quote was in his defense of Grant on accusations of drunkeness on the job.  “Find out what whiskey that man drinks, and send a barrel of it to all my other generals!” · 12 hours ago

    There’s also a wonderful letter he wrote to General Hooker–I’ll track down the date for you–need to get to my office.

  12. Skyler

    Lux, it would be anachronistic to ascribe the modern progressive movement to Lincoln.This essay you cite is filled with wonderful quotes by Lincoln. Most politicians, including our current President, can be quoted saying wonderful and inspirational things. Obama talks a lot about reaching across the aisle for one example, yet he is the most vicious partisan we’ve seen in quite some time. Likewise Lincoln’s quotes should never be taken at face value. It would be somewhat unfair to equate Lincoln with the devil, but it is equally unfair to treat him as a sainted visionary. We should pay closer attention to his deeds, not his pretty words. Few historians treat him realistically.

  13. Robert Barraud Taylor

    Carwardine’s book is titled Lincoln:  A Life of Purpose and Power.  I think it’s so good because it was written for a series on leaders and how they achieved and used their power.  It gave the book a focus, but not a thesis statement.  That said, the book transcended the series in which it was appeared because Carwardine is a sensitive and insightful historian. 

    I like Guelzo’s Redeemer President very much, as well. It does such a wonderful job of teasing out the complexity of religious thought and belief in Lincoln, his milieu, and in the middle of the 19th century.

  14. Robert Barraud Taylor

    The letter to Hooker is, btw, dated January 26, 1863.  It is a marvelous piece of writing, in just 350 words or so.  It contains these among other marvelous sentences:

    I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.

  15. FX Meaney

    Thank you for this.

  16. Percival

    Lincoln knew how to lead.  He wrote to Grant after the Vicksburg Campaign.

    My dear General

    I do not remember that you and I ever met personally. I write this now as a grateful acknowledgment for the almost inestimable service you have done the country. I wish to say a word further. When you first reached the vicinity of Vicksburg, I thought you should do, what you finally did—march the troops across the neck, run the batteries with the transports, and thus go below; and I never had any faith, except a general hope that you knew better than I, that the Yazoo Pass expedition, and the like, could succeed. When you got below, and took Port Gibson, Grand Gulf, and vicinity, I thought you should go down the river and join Gen. Banks; and when you turned Northward East of the Big Black, I feared it was a mistake. I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong.

    Yours very truly,

    A. Lincoln

  17. Look Away

    I am with Skyler on the Lincoln issue.  I do think the South would have been much better off had Lincoln guided the nation through reconstruction and reconciliation. However he was no saint, made a huge strategic errors in the build up to the war, particularly in forcing the hand of a very reluctant Virginia to leave the Union and then allowed his Commanders to wage war in a manner that would be classified as war crimes today. Had Davis and Lee more Lincoln in them, they would have allowed Jackson out of the ShennendoahValley in 1862 to burn down Baltimore or Philadelphia and forced Lincoln to sue for peace.

    Lincoln adoration may allow us to assuage what passes for white guilt on slavery and other issues,  and mitigte our embarrassment of the Founding Fathers who did not deal with slavery, but that does not change the fact that his governance was oftern ruthless and pragmatic in a manner that would not be tolerated in a leader today.

  18. Flagg Taylor
    Robert Barraud Taylor: The letter to Hooker is, btw, dated January 26, 1863.  It is a marvelous piece of writing, in just 350 words or so.  It contains these among other marvelous sentences:

    I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship.· 2 hours ago

    Thank you Robert, that is indeed the letter I had in mind.  It’s an impressive display.  Lincoln shows Hooker that he sees right through him.  It must have sent a chill down Hooker’s spine.

  19. Noesis Noeseos

    Lincoln’s capacity for (Smithian) sympathy showed brilliantly in his admonition that after the South was defeated and secession crushed, the North should “let ‘em up easy,” just as Lincoln himself did whenever he beat a foe in a wrasslin’ match.

  20. Flagg Taylor

    By the way, has anyone read Miller’s sequel to Lincoln’s Virtues, called President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman?

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