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Abraham Lincoln's Leadership Profile

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Ben Widner

on 3 October 2017

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Transcript of Abraham Lincoln's Leadership Profile

Status - What is Lincoln's Legacy?
* America's Secular Saint: http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/last-speech-april-11-1865/
* Honest Abe: http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/notes-for-a-law-lecture-july-1-1850/
* The Railsplitter: http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/first-campaign-statement-march-9-1832/
* Father Abraham: http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/letter-to-ulysses-s-grant-january-19-1865/
* Savior of the Union: http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/second-inaugural-address-march-4-1865/
* Great Emancipator: http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/emancipation-proclamation-january-1-1863/

Click Links for Access to Primary Documents related to each theme
Links to some Lincoln speeches performed by "Union Jeff"
Cooper Union First Inaugural
Historians Cont.
On the Cooper Union Speech: "Even Lincoln’s language contributed to the effect he sought; the careful structure of the speech, the absence of incendiary rhetoric, even the laborious recital of the voting records of the Founding Fathers, all suggested reasonableness and stability, not wide-eyed fanaticism."

David Herbert Donald. Lincoln. (Simon and Schuster). 1995.
Final thoughts
Ideas on Union & Lincoln's Legacy
Gettysburg Address: read by Jeff Daniels
Abraham Lincoln: Union Savior
Context and Conclusions:

On Lincoln's 1st Inaugural: "By positioning the North as the defender of the Union rather than as the invader of the South, Lincoln could not have believed he would persuade the secessionists, but he surely hoped to stiffen the North’s determination to uphold the Union at whatever cost."
- James Oakes. The Radical and the Republican. (New York W.W. Norton). 2007.

Lincoln and Union
What do some noted historians say?
On the letter to Reverdy Johnson
* The private letter to Reverdy Johnson (US Senator, upset with the actions of John Phelps and the handling of Lousiana) as Lincoln's "credo" for the war. Lincoln writes that he will do what it takes, as much as he can, to preserve Union and win this war.

Lincoln's Last Speech: April 11, 1865:
Last Public Address, Aprill 11, 1865, in Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (8 vols., New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 8: 400-405, http://quod.lib.umich.edu/l/lincoln/.
A Close Reading:
By Ben Widner
Questions for Discussion:

What key words / arguments does Lincoln use in pushing for the Reconstruction of Union?
Contrast the language from his First Inaugural Address regarding the fractured nation.
Compare / contrast the language to the letter to Horace Greeley (July, 1862)

* Oakes using the language "at whatever cost," a phrase that is important to understanding Lincoln's Legacy of preservation of Union
* Oakes also believes that Lincoln's vision of Union was always meant to be "Union without slavery" in
This was a political speech, and so "lighter" than the 'House Divided' speech. But notice
the importance of the Founding Fathers evident in Donald's words. Lincoln mentions "the facts" repeatedly in this speech regarding our founders.
Lincoln and Union: ideas using documents
House Divided
1. Understanding Lincoln requires an understanding of the context of his words: including time, place, audience, and intent
2. Understanding Lincoln requires an understanding of subtext of his words: were these words public or private? Were they prepared in light of other events / ideas?
3. Understanding Lincoln means diving headfirst into a massive field of words, literature, revision, and interpretation
4. Understanding Lincoln is daunting in that the myth of Lincoln has been created; the truth is hard to find, and any one single and simple answer in likely incomplete
5. Revisionism has played a major part in telling American History, especially when it comes to our fondest "memories" of our heroes
6. To simply "attempt" an understanding of Lincoln is a treasure in and of itself and will enrich any person in America who is hoping to find out from what we come
7. Lincoln's Legacy is at least twofold in interpretation: the
and the
created by memory / it is complicated in telling "sides" of Lincoln and "separating" these sides in telling the same story of the Lincoln as Leader

**Special thanks to Professor Matt Pinsker, the Gilder Lehrman Institute, the House Divided Project, and Dickinson College
Some images
Discussion question for further study:
Can we separate the Lincoln who wants "Union" from the Lincoln who believes in the end of slavery? Are these sides of Lincoln one and the same?
"The Fiery Trial" By: Eric Foner
Some thoughts from Harold Holzer, author of "Lincoln at Cooper Union"
1st Inaugural
At Cooper Union
Lincoln playing "cards"
Foner believes Lincoln's political life was one of growth and change; fluid and evolutionary

In the context of the 1862 letter to Horace Greeley, Foner states:

"There is no question that winning the war and preserving the Union were uppermost in Lincoln's mind, and that as far back as his law career he had always maintained a distinction between professional responsibilities and personal beliefs." (228-229) But Foner continues to say that this letter is meant to prepare the Union for the policy of emancipation.

Questions for discussion: How did Lincoln's political ideas change? Did his personal views change regarding Union and slavery? Use evidence
As Lincoln took office, the Union had already been falling apart. As he struggled to find ways to hold it together, Foner also explains that he struggled to maintain a consistent policy - with an exception of not wavering on the concept of not allowing slavery to extend:

"Although his stance evolved as the crisis developed, he proved willing to be conciliatory on what he deemed nonessential questions, but steadfastly refused to compromise on the non-extension of slavery. And he unwaveringly insisted on the permanence of the Union and his right to assume the presidency." (145)
Eric Foner. The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. (Norton). 2010.
Do the last public words of Lincoln allow us to see a changed man / politician? How does he show that he does not believe that the fight for "Union" is over just yet?
* "Not necessarily breaking rules, but bending them for the sake of the preservation of the nation, and in his view the subsequent preservation of the Constitution."

- Matthew Pinsker: Understanding Lincoln: Letter to Reverdy Johnson: 1862. From the Gilder Lehrman Institute video on Vimeo. http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/letter-to-reverdy-johnson-july-26-1862/

For discussion: How far was Lincoln willing to push the law to accomplish his goal of preservation of the Union?
Does this hurt his legacy?
* Holzer believes, as many others do, that Lincoln's 1860 speech at the Cooper Institute made him the Republican Candidate for President (which of course ultimately leads to his presidency
* Holzer sets out a list of unspoken goals that Lincoln set for himself in this speech, including how to present his mental acumen, how to distance himself from Seward and John Brown, among other goals.
But his rhetoric calls on the "founders."
Lincoln's ideas of our law go back to the founders. In response to Stephen Douglass' comments that: "our founders, when they framed the Government under which we live, understood this question just as well, and even better, than we do now,"
Lincoln cites "George Washington eight times, Thomas Jefferson twice, and even manage to include Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin once each..."
Lincoln also uses Douglass' line in some way, "no fewer than fifteen times in his speech."

* In this context Lincoln is referring to our founders' - to whom he looks back to as the most important guide of our legal actions - beliefs regarding slavery.

Lincoln must not ignore an overt evil (slavery) to avoid a worse evil (destruction of Union), according to Holzer. Union without slavery.
Lincoln at Cooper Union. Harold Holzer. (Simon and Schuster). 2004
Foner on NPR and an excerpt from "The Fiery Trial": http://www.npr.org/2010/10/11/130489804/lincolns-evolving-thoughts-on-slavery-and-freedom

Freedom National
An introduction via quora:

Questions for Discussion:

What is Lincoln's greatest legacy?
How did American History drive Lincoln to preserve Union?
How did President Lincoln's goals show in his words (publicly and privately)?
Was Lincoln fueled by ideas or by actions? Explain with evidence.
Did Lincoln's words (public and private) use the same tactics / express the same goals?
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