Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)

Allen C. Guelzo

Language: English

Pages: 116


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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.

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American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good

First Family: Abigail and John Adams

Who Was Abraham Lincoln?



















elites did not mind questioning the authority of the king, but they did not welcome the subversion of their own legal standing by the revolutionary committees that erupted onto the streets of Philadelphia and Boston. Even as devout a revolutionary lawyer as John Adams could step down from his chair as vice president to tell the U.S. Senate that he would never have taken up the revolutionary cause if he imagined that the revolution would put down the common law as well as the king. The gentry

as a freshman in the Illinois legislature, and although he had come with notes in hand to give speeches on “the true and the whole question of the protective policy,” his debut speech in Congress in December 1847 was a full-throated attack on Polk and the war. The president had gone to war on the grounds that American troops had been attacked on American soil; but was it really American soil? Or were the Americans willfully trespassing on Mexican territory on Polk’s orders? Lincoln wanted an

ambition has been a failure—a flat 6. Stephen Arnold Douglas, Democratic Senator from Illinois, 1847–1861. failure; with him it has been one of splendid success. His name fills the nation; and is not unknown, even, in foreign lands.” The principal reason for Douglas’s success, apart from his own personal political charisma, was the solid loyalty of Illinois to the Democratic party, from the time of its admission to the Union in 1818. Only a handful of counties stretching across the

Burlingame. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. Pratt, Harry E. The Personal Finances of Abraham Lincoln. Springfield, IL: Abraham Lincoln Association, 1943. Russell, William Howard. My Diary North and South. New York: Harper, 1863. Stevens, Walter B. A Reporter’s Lincoln. Edited by Michael Burlingame. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. Chapter 1: Equality “Lamon’s Life of Lincoln.” North American Review 116 (Jan. 1873). Hammon, Neal O., and Richard

English philosopher Thomas Hobbes in 1662. Even if we grant that some men are stronger, faster, or wiser than others, still “Nature hath made men so equal in the faculties of body and mind” that “when all is reckoned together, the difference between man, and man, is not so considerable.” With the American Revolution, the final doom of hierarchy seemed to have struck at last. “Mankind being originally equals in the order of creation,” argued Thomas Paine in his incendiary pamphlet, Common Sense,

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