John Brown: Blazing a Moral Path for the Cautious Lincoln to End Slavery

President Lincoln was a statesman. John Brown was a radical. That’s the traditional view of how each one fought slavery. Introduction One of the most underappreciated figures in the nation’s history, John Brown, has been introduced to Americans by the Showtime series “The Good Lord Bird,” based on the James McBride novel of the same[…]

The First Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln

On Inauguration Day, Lincoln’s procession to the Capitol was surrounded by heavily armed cavalry and infantry. Introduction The first inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as the 16th President of the United States was held on Monday, March 4, 1861, at the East Portico of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. This was the 19th inauguration[…]

Lincoln’s Appointment of Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase in 1864

Chase continued to pursue the presidency, seeking the Democratic nomination in 1868 and the Liberal Republican nomination in 1872. Introduction Salmon Portland Chase (January 13, 1808 – May 7, 1873) was a U.S. politician and jurist who served as the sixth Chief Justice of the United States. He also served as the 23rd Governor of Ohio, represented Ohio in[…]

Packing the Supreme Court with Abraham Lincoln in the 1860s

The Court was a ‘partisan creature’ and President Lincoln and the Republican Party remade it so that it reflected the party’s priorities. Introduction History shows that political contests over the ideological slant of the Court are nothing new. In the 1860s, President Abraham Lincoln worked with fellow Republicans to shape the Court to carry out[…]

Lincoln’s Profound and Benign Americanism, or Nationalism Without Malice

Lincoln was that rare bird, a man who dealt in moral ideas without falling into moralism and superior self-righteousness. Abraham Lincoln is the greatest of all interpreters of America’s moral meaning. He surpasses even Thomas Jefferson, though Lincoln himself might take exception to my claim. [1] Lincoln certainly gave Jefferson high praise, and he made[…]

‘Old-Fashioned’ Nationalism: Lincoln, Jefferson, and the Classical Tradition

Seeing Lincoln’s nationalism from an unlikely, and fresh, perspective: its connection, via the Enlightenment, to classical antiquity. In 1870 the former vice-president of the Confederacy, Alexander H. Stephens, offered what has surely become the best-known characterization of Abraham Lincoln’s nationalism. In Lincoln, Stephens suggested, the sentiment of Union “rose to the sublimity of a religious[…]

Elections in 1864 during the Civil War

Lincoln was presiding over a bloody civil war with waning popularity. But he steadfastly rejected pleas to postpone the election. Introduction The outlook was not promising in 1864 for President Abraham Lincoln’s reelection. Hundreds of thousands of Americans had been killed, wounded or displaced in a civil war with no end in sight. Lincoln was[…]

Celebrating Freedom: The Emancipation Proclamation Expanding a Founding Ideal

The meaning of the Emancipation Proclamation, for those at the time and for us today. As he stood before hundreds of rapt listeners at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Congressman John Lewis took a moment to reflect on the opening passage of the Declaration of Independence. Echoing others who have spoken from the steps,[…]

How Lincoln’s Assassination Stunned the Nation

The timing of the assassination made Easter Sunday 1865 a particularly important—and confusing—occasion. Shot on Good Friday and dead on Saturday: The timing of the assassination made Easter Sunday 1865 a particularly important—and confusing—occasion, as shocked mourners came to church for what should have been a day of rejoicing over both the resurrection of Christ[…]

Abraham Lincoln’s Leadership in Crisis

Lincoln expertly managed leading politicians, related well with the people, and dealt clearly with the military. Introduction In March 1861, as Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as president, the United States faced its greatest crisis: its sudden and unexpected dissolution. Seven of the then 31 states had already voted to secede from the Union. What he[…]

Lincoln, the North, and the Question of Emancipation

It was only midway through the war that Lincoln reached the conclusion that abolishing slavery would preserve the nation. Originally published by Newberry Digital Collections for the Classroom, 09.05.2017, Newberry Library, republished with permission for educational, non-commercial purposes. Introduction For generations, Abraham Lincoln has been known as “the Great Emancipator.” His Emancipation Proclamation of January[…]

The ‘Comic News’, Lincoln, and the Civil War

Although Lincoln’s image in this and the British comic press was typically pejorative, there were moments of ambivalence. By Gary L. Bunker Introduction Neatly tucked away in the archives of history and hidden from the view of scholars for more than a century are political caricatures, satire, and doggerel of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil[…]

Harriet Monroe’s Abraham Lincoln

Monroe was instrumental in shaping the modern literary treatment of Abraham Lincoln. Introduction In 1919, when Harriet Monroe reviewed a new stage hit Abraham Lincoln, by British playwright John Drinkwater, it was already a Broadway smash and would run continuously for five years in nearly every major American city.[1] Although audiences were clearly thrilled, Monroe[…]

Lincoln’s Suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus: An Historical and Constitutional Analysis

Habeas corpus can constitutionally be suspended – the question is by whom, Congress or the President? By James A. Duelholm, J.D. Introduction In the 143 years since the end of the Civil War, historians have examined Abraham Lincoln and his conduct of the war in great and at times excruciating depth. Lincoln’s power to suspend[…]

Lincoln’s Construction of the Executive Power in the Secession Crisis

Americans in the deepest sense went to war in 1861 to resolve the nature of the Union and the status of slavery in our republic. In American politics the executive power is at once the most prized of governing institutions and the part of the Constitution believed most dangerous to the liberties of the people.[…]

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: Opponents Unified in Founding Principles

They asked voters to sort through mounds of partisan propaganda and do whatever necessary to understand the issues. By Georgiann Baldino Political insults and conspiracy theories are nothing new in American history. One election in particular set a standard for nasty charges and countercharges. In the 1858 Illinois senatorial contest, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas hurled insults and[…]

“Simply a Theist”: Herndon on Lincoln’s Religion

Herndon would have sympathized with the contemporary journalist who dryly remarked that John Wilkes Booth’s fatal bullet had “made it impossible to speak the truth of Abraham Lincoln hereafter.” Introduction On the evening of Friday, December 12, 1873, William Herndon rose to address a public meeting at the courthouse in Springfield. Undaunted by the bad[…]

Abraham Lincoln in European Popular Culture

Lincoln has generally been absent as a model in European social and public life, rarely emphasized as an essential part of education or in the public forum. By Dr. John DeanMaître de Conférences 9° of Cultural History and American StudiesUniversity of Versailles Saint-Quentin en Yvelines Introduction This article argues that Lincoln is not a universal[…]

Statues and Status: Lincoln in Europe

The exponential growth of his popularity built into a memorial crescendo. Lincoln’s ascension to the status of icon was not smooth and steady. Journalist Horace Greeley predicted in April of 1865 that the sixteenth President’s reputation would grow proportionate to the distance from his own era, and it grew steadily from his death in 1865,[…]

Matthew Brady’s Abraham Lincoln

Mathew Brady’s photographs of Lincoln were one of the major sources for press illustrations in both Europe and the United States. By Dr. Marie Cordié LevyScholar, History of Photography Introduction Understanding the medium itself—the photography and the photographer—offers an important key to understanding how the Lincoln image was constructed in Europe. This paper also investigates[…]

Classical Rhetoric as a Lens for Reading the Key Speeches of Lincoln’s Political Rise, 1852–1856

Exploring his evolving rhetorical ability that enabled him to grow from a political party operative into a party leader, then into a statesman. After Abraham Lincoln’s first political career ended with the expiration of his only term in Congress in 1849, he concentrated on building his law practice, pursuing only limited political activity until his[…]

Lincoln in Scotland: A Gift of the Gilded Age

This gift from America to Scotland can be understood as a symbol of Gilded Age transatlantic relations. Introduction On August 21, 1893, a bronze stature of Abraham Lincoln was erected in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland. This article examines the story of this monument and the motivations of the men who erected it, as a[…]

“Had Mr. Lincoln Lived”: Alternate Histories, Reconstruction, Race, and Memory

Imagining what might have happened is natural. In reflecting on the legacy of the American Civil War, Robert Penn Warren observed that the war “is our only ‘felt’ history—history lived in the national imagination.” The problem, as Warren noted and historians have further explored, is that Americans have never felt the same way about the[…]

“Home Is the Martyr”: The Burial of Abraham Lincoln and the Fate of Illinois’s Capital

Many questions linger regarding the process and motivations of Lincoln’s burial in Springfield. By Dr. Jeremy PrichardHistorian, 19th Airlift WingLittle Rock Air Force BaseUnited States Air Force Introduction Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and burial have attracted broad interest from both professional and novice historians alike.[1] Authors of books and articles still find new ways of probing[…]

Evangelical Religion and Evangelical Democracy in the 19th Century

The problem with mixing religion and politics was that political issues became moral issues and, therefore, more difficult to deal with in the political process. Evangelical religion and evangelical democracy reinforced each other in nineteenth-century America. The spread of evangelical Christianity and democracy across a continent justified the wars against Native Americans and Mexico, and[…]

Completing the Work of the Framers: Lincoln’s Constitutional Legacy

Lincoln deserves far more credit than he has received as an architect of American constitutional law. Introduction When we think of the architects of our constitutional order, we naturally think of the Founding Fathers. In particular, we think of James Madison, the “father of the Constitution.” Madison and his colleagues at the Philadelphia Convention drafted[…]

The Election of 1864 and the Importance of Founding Intent

The founders were an essential political and cultural touchstone in the election of 1864. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”[1] While it might be somewhat trite to begin an article on the[…]