Sunday, June 20, 2010

Abraham Lincoln: The Great Pretender?

Recently I wrote Slamdunk that I had been to the Lincoln Memorial and as always, had an emotional reaction there. He wrote me back to say that Lincoln's reputation was nearing zero in many milieus of political thought. I think I have identified two. They are expansions of things I learned on Lincoln in high school.

The first one is that Abraham Lincoln was not sufficiently distressed about the plight of slaves. That he belonged to a political party that took a political or expedient view in regard to ending slavery. This diminishes his reputation among students of civil rights and African-American history. It makes him seem hypocritical.

Curiously, this argument is also used by those on another end of the political spectrum, those who believe Lincoln headed a government that intervened too much in daily life, especially in individual liberty as expressed by free enterprise. Lincoln instituted income tax. He suspended the writ of habeus corpus by Presidential Order. And there are a few other items against the libertarian point of view.

In this sense, the argument about Lincoln's sincerity is used as an ad hominem argument, that is, that his dilatory attitude on slavery showed him as a hypocrite in all other areas. Therefore, his thievery of civilian powers was just what you'd expect.

There are life-long students of Lincoln who surely could answer these questions in more detail and with more references than I will. However, that will not stop Ann T. from putting her two cents in.  I plan three posts: first to deal with hypocrisy and slavery. Second, on income tax and Lincoln's ideas on free enterprise--his philosophy of political economy. Third, on the suspension of habeus corpus with some side information on him as Commander-in-Chief and how it all fits together.

Mostly I will be using Lincoln's own words, from letters, speeches, and memoranda, as provided by the Library of America volume of his writings. But I will also use Web references, Shelby Foote's history of the Civil War, and a few other texts I happen to have hanging around the house.

I'm grateful to Slamdunk for bringing this to the front of my mind. And doesn't it fit right in with the kinds of things I like to think about?

10 comments:

the observer said...

Ann T:
I'm looking forward to your discussions. I don't think Lincoln deserves these post post presidential ad hominium attacks.

Presidential revisionism is a dangerous thing especially when we look at things more distant time wise--mores and culture have changed since the mid 1800s and applying our (Politically Correct) lens to history is not always a good thing.

The Observer

the observer said...

Ann T:
I forgot to mention: Did you see my note on your car question? Did that help any?
T.O., riddled with ADD as usual

VF: table

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
I should be starting it this week. As usual, the more I read, the harder it is to sift the information down.

But I am fascinated with this question.

The other thing, Feel Free to add in whatever you know that contradicts or supports . . . it's way more fun that way!!

Thanks for stopping in,
Ann T.

P.S. Comments and discussion are welcome from all! Debate will also be encouraged.

Ann T. said...

Dear T.O.,
I DID get it, thank you. Unfortunately I still haven't found the darn car. I was just sure it was a Fairlane and it isn't. Plus there may be more than one red vintage car in my 'hood with two-tone seats (!), so I'm still scoping this out.

Thank you lady,
That ditz Ann T.

Christopher said...

I'm just finishing a course on political decision making. Three models are discussed, the first being the Rational Actor Model which assumes unitary actors make value-maximizing decisions. But the second two models are much more complex, and are much closer to exploring the realities of decision making. They analyze organizational behavior and governmental processes and how they influence decision making. If you get a chance, Essence of Decision by Graham Allison. It's a staple in political science courses, so maybe you've read it. But it's definitely opened my mind to how just how complex something so simple can seem.

Ann T. said...

Dear Christopher,
Oh! Good call! I do have Graham Allison and will review!

Thank you very much,
Ann T.

Bob G. said...

Ann:
I'll be looking forward to your views on Lincoln...knowing you, it should be VERY good...!

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for tackling this one Ann T. I look forward to your opinions on what is no longer such a simple subject.

Ann T. said...

Der Slamdunk,
I am thrilled with the subject. I planned to post tomorrow, but I found more stuff . . . and Christopher's recommendation was also prime.

So I'm thinking Wednesday.
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob,
I am so flattered! I think Wednesday, and I'm going to TRY not to run on forever, LOL!!

Thanks for the encouragement!
Ann