What Would Lincoln Do?Roundup: Historians' Take
tags: Abraham Lincoln, Presidents Day
Richard Brookhiser is the author of James Madison (Basic Books) and Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington (Free Press).
Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday we mark this holiday weekend, had less leadership experience than almost any earlier president. George Washington and Andrew Jackson had been generals, several other presidents had been governors, and all the Southerners had owned plantations. They had run organizations and managed men. President Lincoln, by contrast, was a former state legislator, a one-term congressman and the senior partner of a two-man law firm; he kept his most important papers filed away in his hat.
And yet Lincoln filled the office of president so effectively that he regularly tops historians' rankings of great presidents.
It helped, of course, that he was one of the greatest writers in the American canon—certainly the greatest ever to reach the White House (Jefferson at his best could be equally good, but his range was narrower). Leaving aside such extraordinary talents, which of Lincoln's principles of action can guide his successors?
Cite precedent. Lincoln the lawyer was ever mindful of precedents, while Lincoln the unhappy son who never bonded with his hard-driving, un-bookish father was always looking for paternal surrogates. He found both precedents and men he could look up to in America's founding fathers....
comments powered by Disqus
- 10 questions and answers about America’s “Big Government”
- Lithuanian nationalists celebrate Holocaust-era quisling, Pepe the Frog near execution site
- Lincoln, Washington and Roosevelts remain history’s best presidents in survey
- Winston Churchill essay on 'aliens' found: 'British Bulldog' had a philosophical streak
- Doppelgänger ethics: Why Austria arrested a Hitler double
- Israeli schools' history lessons create good soldiers, says pundit
- Yuval Noah Harari foresees a god-like future for humans
- Published Historian Of Spain Indicted By A Federal Grand Jury For Possession Of Child Pornography
- Stephen F. Cohen continuing his lonely campaign to stop the media from "Kremlin-Baiting President Trump”
- Seven Books Named as Finalists for the 2017 $50,000 George Washington Prize