Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Abraham Lincoln

Relying heavily on Article I, § 8 of the U.S. Constitution (which enumerates Congressional powers and prohibits the suspension of habeas corpus “unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it”), [Chief Justice Roger] Taney issued an opinion declaring that only Congress, not the president, was empowered to suspend habeas. [Ex parte Merryman, 17 F. Cas. 144 (C.C.D. Md. 1861)]

Lincoln ignored Taney’s decision. In a subsequent message to Congress Lincoln tacitly acknowledged that Congress, not the president, had primary power over habeas but he made a powerful appeal to the laws of necessity and interpreted his presidential oath (which also is prescribed by the Constitution) to require him to preserve the government at all costs. --Joseph A. Ranney, Inter Arma Silent Leges: Wisconsin Law in Wartime, Wisconsin Lawyer, February 2009

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address is often described as the greatest of American political speeches; but how many of our fellow countrymen remember that the Second Inaugural was a sharp reminder to the entire nation that our common life stands under judgment and that getting the Big Questions wrong can have terrible costs? --George Weigel, A Campaign of Narratives, First Things, March 2009

We see in the Lyceum Speech and Lincoln's love of Shakespeare the assumption that tyranny cannot be resisted without a sympathetic appreciation of the genius-tyrant's power to seduce a free people, and perhaps himself, with measures that subvert a self-governing republic. What better examples of this phenomenon in Shakespeare than Richard Duke of Gloucester's successful wooing of his suspicious yet fatally naïve victims; Claudius's secret yearning to confess his murder while conspiring to keep Gertrude and kill Hamlet; Macbeth's falling back before his bloody dagger yet doing the deed anyway and then acting the part of a savior king visiting judgment on the unfaithful? --John C. Briggs, Steeped in Shakespeare, Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2008

As fate would have it, the last time these two American friends saw each other was on the occasion of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. Douglass listened to the speech with the crowd and thought it contained some "brave good words." Afterward, he went to the Executive Mansion to attend the reception, but was not allowed to enter. When he sent word to Lincoln that he was being detained, the president ordered that he be admitted. Douglass found Lincoln in the elegant East Room, standing "like a mountain his grand simplicity, and home-like beauty." Lincoln said, "Here comes my friend," and took Douglass by the hand. "I am glad to see you," said the president. Then he asked Douglass how he liked his address, for "there is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours." Douglass famously said, in words that aptly sum up the work to which their lives had been devoted, "Mr. Lincoln, that was a sacred effort." --Peter W. Schramm, Douglass and Lincoln, Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2008, review of 'Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln', by John Stauffer, and 'Frederick Douglass: Race and the Rebirth of American Liberalism', by Peter C. Meyers

As the code's Confederate critics noticed immediately, the laws of war Lincoln announced in 1863 were far tougher than the humanitarian rules McClellan had demanded a year earlier. The code allowed for the destruction of civilian property, the bombardment of civilians in besieged cities, the starving of noncombatants, and the emancipation of civilians' slaves. It permitted executing prisoners in cases of necessity or as retaliation. It condoned the summary executions of enemy guerillas. And in its most open-ended provision, the code authorized any measure necessary to secure the ends of war and defend the country. "To save the country," the code declared, "is paramount to all other considerations." --John Fabian Witt, Lincoln's Laws of War: How he built the code that Bush attempted to destroy, Slate, February 11, 2009 (via Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy)

In the flashcard version of history, Darwin is the bewhiskered Victorian guy who said everybody evolved from monkeys and stole the credit for creation from God. Lincoln is the stoic symbol of American righteousness that wrote tablet-ready speeches and freed the slaves, only to be shot and killed by a crazed Shakespearean actor. --Geoff Pevere, Lincoln and Darwin: Separated at birth? Toronto Star, February 1, 2009, review of Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life, by Adam Gopnik (via Arts & Letters Daily)

If the hottest political question in this bicentennial week is “what would Lincoln do?”, then the first answer is surely try a lot harder to repair America’s faltering commitment to meritocracy. --The Economist, The war over Lincoln: America is throwing a big birthday party for its 16th president, and everyone wants a share, February 12th 2009

For two long years into our national fratricide, he repeatedly disavowed emancipation as his goal because that divisive issue might defeat his overriding purpose: to establish the principle of majority rule in the world’s most daring experiment in self-government by insisting that the whole country abide by the results of its national election. --William Safire, Lincoln Monuments, The New York Times, February 6, 2009

Both were born on Feb. 12, 1809. A writer, William Thayer, later proposed an international holiday to commemorate the heroes, respectively, of Justice and Truth. --Richard Eder, Angels and Ages, Los Angeles Times, February 1, 2009, review of Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life, by Adam Gopnik (via Arts & Letters Daily)

A man who defined his time as much as he was defined by it, Lincoln had little education, few social graces, and not much in the way of looks. What he did have was a brilliant, inquisitive mind and the ability to grasp complicated situations from all sides and find the best course toward resolution. In addition, he was one of the great political writers and speakers of his day. --Zack Handlen, A.V. Club, January 22, 2009, review of A. Lincoln, by Ronald C. White, Jr.

In the mid-1960s, the Guinness Book of Records claimed that more had been written on Abraham Lincoln than on any other figure in world history - Napoleon was a distant second. --Allen Barra, Lincoln's many faces: 200 years after his birth, there's more to know, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 17, 2009, review of Abraham Lincoln, by James M. McPherson, Abraham Lincoln, by George McGovern, Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, by Fred Kaplan, and The Lincoln Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Legacy from 1860 to Now, edited by Harold Holzer

Lincoln was self-deprecating and funny in a way that will ring true for the Jon Stewart generation. Just as Mr Obama managed to call himself a black and white “mutt” on national television, so Lincoln good-humouredly adjusted to the consensus description of himself as one of the ungainliest men in politics. --The Economist, Honest Abe, reborn, January 15, 2009, review of A. Lincoln: A Biography, by Ronald C. White

Today, Lincoln is revered for his combination of faith and epistemological modesty, a skeptical believer who sought to do God’s will without ever claiming to know it—a view that requires one to overlook the fierce and relentless way he conducted the war that defined his presidency. --Wilfred W. McClay, Lincoln the Great: Though He Didn’t Look That Way at the Time, Humanities, January/February 2009 (via Arts & Letters Daily)

There is a measure of contrarian charm in some of the conservative criticisms of Lincoln. There is no doubt that we still live with his dramatic expansion of the power of the federal government, and some of the speculations about how the Civil War could have been prevented are of more than passing, if only academic, interest. But Abraham Lincoln is alone among American presidents, and almost alone among the leaders of nations, in evincing a gravity and wisdom born of life’s bittersweetness and reaching toward what can only be described as moral and spiritual grandeur. --Richard John Neuhaus, While We’re At It, First Things, January 2009

he was not just a genius and humanitarian. He was more than that. He was one hell of a lobbyist, lawyer and manipulator. Of course he never sold a senate seat but he damn sure took care of his friends who took care of him. --Tom Roeser, Former Railroad Lobbyist Lincoln Might Twitch in His Grave but Not Turn Over—Completely: Hasn’t Stirred in Oak Ridge Yet, December 11, 2008 (via Dad29)

Lincoln was entering uncharted waters as he confronted a rebellion "too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings." --Mackubin Thomas Owens, Commander-in-Chief, Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2008, discussing Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief, by James M. McPherson, Lincoln's War: The Untold Story of America's Greatest President as Commander in Chief, by Geoffrey Perret, Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime, by Eliot A. Cohen, and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, by Allen C. Guelzo

Speaking of chugging locomotives, there are plenty of them in another TV series about the Lincoln marriage, the 360-minute documentary, Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided, which aired on PBS in February 2001. There are also plenty of spinning carriage wheels, pounding hooves, falling raindrops, lighted windows, and hands doing everything from splitting rails to playing harpsichords, stitching velvet to signing historic documents. There's also a lot of mood music, two actors (David Morse and Holly Hunter) reciting passages from the Lincolns' papers, and finally (it almost goes without saying) the steady cadence of David McCullough's voice stroking its serene way through the narrative. --Martha Bayles, Unfinished Work, Claremont Review of Books, Winter 2008, discussing Abraham Lincoln, directed by D.W. Griffith, Abe Lincoln in Illinois, directed by John Cromwell, Young Mr. Lincoln, directed by John Ford, Gore Vidal's Lincoln, directed by Lamont Johnson, and Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided, directed by David Grubin. (See Hobo Matters)

One of Lincoln’s most brilliant insights was that great social movements, once launched, often spill beyond their original borders: that the Civil War would trigger an equal-rights revolution that would not be limited to black Americans. --Joseph A. Ranney, Abraham Lincoln’s Legacy to Wisconsin Law, Part 1: A New Birth of Freedom: Civil Rights Law in Wisconsin, Wisconsin Lawyer, December 2008

Not until the president discovered Ulysses S. Grant, and not until Grant came to Washington as general in chief in early 1864, did Lincoln have a leader ready to end the rebellion by destroying the Confederacy’s ability to resist. --Jean Edward Smith, Crisis Manager, The New York Times, October 17, 2008, review of Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief, by James M. McPherson

Lincoln may have been dead for four-score-and-seven years when Brown v. Board of Education (1954) inaugurated the "second Reconstruction," but many conservatives who were dubious about the second Reconstruction's use of federal power—especially federal judicial power—as the principal lever for bringing down Jim Crow could hardly help suspecting that the template for federal intervention in the 1950s had been copied from Lincoln's in the "first Reconstruction." --Thomas L. Krannawitter, Washing Mud from Marble, Claremont Review of Books, Summer 2008, review of Vindicating Lincoln: Defending the Politics of Our Greatest President, by Allen C. Guelzo

When Lincoln and Douglas went at it, each contest took three hours: one hour for the opening speaker (they alternated), an hour-and-a-half for his opponent, and then a half-hour's rebuttal. Even more amazing, to modern sensibilities, is that the entire discussion was devoted to a single subject—the expansion of slavery into the western territories. There were no newsmen preening for the cameras and lobbing self-serving questions. They were taking notes. --Charles R. Kesler, A Righteous Wind, Claremont Review of Books, Summer 2008

Owing to this apparent singleness of heart and purpose, a biography of Lincoln is the less indispensable to the forming of a true estimate of his character; yet, when a man entirely unheard of beyond the limits of his native state, becomes in less than four years, not a household name only, but almost a household face amongst a friendly indeed, but at the some time rather a critical and unsympathetic people like ourselves,— when, amongst many conflicting opinions as to the wisdom of his aims and of his measures, we find but one as to their loftiness and disinterested patriotism,—when we consider that no statesman has ever, in so short a time and under such adverse circumstances, rooted himself so deeply in the esteem and even in the affections not alone of his own countrymen but of foreign nations,—we cannot but wish to see if a confidence so unbounded, a regard so sincere and so widely spread, is justified by a nearer and more searching investigation into the character of its object. --The Economist, Review, July 29th 1865, of The Life and Administration of Abraham Lincoln: Presenting his Early History, Political Career, Speeches, Messages, Proclamations, Letters, &c., by G. W. Bacon truth, the gain is incalculable. Whatever compromises Mr Lincoln may concede to the South with respect to the limits and the right use of the Congressional or Presidential power, he stands irrevocably pledged to the principle that slavery is wrong, and that the national power, so far as it can be fairly used at all, must be used to limit, to repress, to promote its extinction. --The Economist, The Republican President's Creed, November 24th 1860

Lincoln's Black History, by Garry Wills, The New York Review of Books, June 11, 2009, review of Lincoln on Race and Slavery, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr., coedited by Donald Yacovone

Looking For Lincoln: A Conversation with Andrew Ferguson, by Bruce Cole, Humanities, November 2007
(via Arts & Letters Daily)

Our Inner Abes by Florence King, review of Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America by Andrew Ferguson, The Wilson Quarterly, Posted August 5th, 2007 at Review-a-Day

What Did He Really Think About Race? by James M. McPherson, review of The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics by James Oakes, The New York Review of Books, March 29, 2007

The Gay Emancipator? What's wrong with The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, by David Greenberg, Slate, January 14, 2005, at 2:36 PM PT

Honest, Abe? A dishonest book claims Lincoln as the first log cabin Republican, review by Philip Nobile of The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln, by C.A. Tripp, Weekly Standard, January 17, 2005

Was Lincoln Gay? by Richard Brookhiser, New York Times, January 9, 2005

The Americanization of God, review by Christopher D. Levenick of Jonathan Edwards: A Life, by George M. Marsden, America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln, by Mark A. Noll, and Lincoln by Richard J. Carwardine, Claremont Review of Books, Fall 2004

Lincoln for Liberals, review by Tom Krannawitter of Why Lincoln Matters: Today More Than Ever, by Mario M. Cuomo, Claremont Review of Books, Fall 2004

A Democrat's Republican, review by Alan Wolfe of Why Lincoln Matters: Today More than Ever, by Mario M. Cuomo, Commonweal, September 10, 2004

One Nation Under God, by Glen Thurow, review of Abraham Lincoln's Political Faith by Joseph R. Fornieri, Claremont Review of Books, Summer 2004

One Last Card to Play, by Peter W. Schramm, review of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, by Allen C. Guelzo, Claremont Review of Books, Spring 2004

Lincoln on Judicial Despotism, by Robert P. George, First Things, February 2003

Honest, Abe book has its moments, review by Tim Cuprisin of Abraham Lincoln: A Penguin Life, by Thomas Keneally, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 5, 2003

Lincoln’s Great Rejections, review by John C. Chalberg of Lincoln’s Virtues: An Ethical Biography, by William Lee Miller, Crisis, December 2002

Lincoln’s Prudence, review by Allen C. Guelzo of Lincoln’s Virtues: An Ethical Biography, by William Lee Miller, First Things, October 2002

Irving Babbitt on Lincoln and Unionism, by James Seaton, Humanitas 2002 No. 1 [10 pp. pdf]

The Problem of Lincoln in Babbitt’s Thought, by Richard M. Gamble, Humanitas 2002 No. 1 [12 pp. pdf]

The Heritage of Lincoln, by James Seaton, Humanitas 2002 No. 1 [5 pp. pdf]

Dishonest About Abe, by Tom Krannawitter, review of The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, by Thomas DiLorenzo, Claremont Review of Books, Spring 2002

The God He Barely Knew, review by George McKenna of Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, by Allen C. Guelzo, First Things, August/September 2000

Abraham Lincoln & the Last Best Hope, by Jean Bethke Elshtain, First Things, November 1999

Lincoln, 'Macbeth,' and the Moral Imagination, by Michael Knox Beran, Humanitas, 1998, No. 2

The great authority attached by law to the President's office reverts to Mr Johnson, but the far greater moral authority belonging to Mr Lincoln disappears. --The Economist, The Assassination of Mr Lincoln, April 29th 1865

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