Essays lincoln douglas debates

I found “Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words”, by Douglas L. Wilson, to be far superior to Mr. Kaplan’s book. While Mr. Kaplan is occasionally very insightful, it seems to me that his book is too anxious to prove that Lincoln was a “writer” as we tend to stereotype writers in our own era, anti-social, hypersexualized, and deliberately provocative and controversial, especially on the subject of religion. This leads to at least one instance of Mr. Kaplan painting himself straight into an inescapable corner. One of Mr. Kaplan’s main observations about Lincoln’s writing (one shared with many, if not most, Lincoln scholars) is that Lincoln’s writing was persuasive because of Lincoln’s own firm belief in what he wrote and said — to be convincing, one must be convinced. Yet Mr. Kaplan staunchly insists that Lincoln was a lifelong atheist who ridiculed religion at every opportunity (despite a great deal of research to the contrary — see “Lincoln’s Melancholy”, by Joshua Wolf Shenk, for a thorough analysis of the documentary and other evidence of Lincoln’s travels from atheism to freethought to Bible-based spirituality). So how does Mr, Kaplan purport to explain, say, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, incorporating his “Meditation on the Divine Will”? Does he believe that Lincoln insisted on speaking from firm belief in all respects save one, and that in that one respect, Lincoln felt free to indulge in bald hypocrisy and manipulation? His anecdotes concerning Lincoln’s sex life also fail to stand up to any kind of close analysis — he recounts as fact an incident involving Lincoln and a prostitute to whom he was purportedly introduced by his good friend Joshua Speed, but his supporting “evidence” consists, essentially, of a chain of oral history that amounts to “Herndon said that Speed said that the prostitute said that Lincoln said…” As a lawyer, I feel reasonably confident in asserting that a statement like that would be accepted as evidence in no court of which I have ever heard. (I also find it interesting that Mr. Kaplan points out that Lincoln and Speed were both known as “infidels” during the early years of their friendship, yet quotes at length from their private correspondence, which in Lincoln’s case is filled with references to the “Almighty,” “Divine Providence,” and the like. Even if Lincoln felt compelled to play the hypocrite to the public in order to avoid political suicide, would he have felt similarly constrained to do so with an old friend of like mind, in whose company he allegedly slandered religion and the concept of Deity with right good glee?)

Mr. Lincoln’s early biographer, Josiah G. Holland, wrote: “Wherever he moved he found men and women to respect and love him. One man who knew him at that time says that ‘Lincoln had nothing, only plenty of friends.’ And these friends trusted him wholly, and were willing to be led by him.” It was a trait Mr. Lincoln nurtured through his presidency. Wrote Holland: “People were glad to see him rise, because it seemed just that he should rise. Indeed, all seemed glad to help him along.” 20 Another early biographer and friend, Isaac Arnold, wrote that Mr. Lincoln “loved, and trusted, and confided in the people to a degree rarely known in a statesman. He had faith in the common every-day folk, with a yearning for their happiness almost paternal. The people seemed to feel instinctively how thoroughly he trusted them, and they revered and trusted him in turn.” 21

Essays lincoln douglas debates

essays lincoln douglas debates


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