Monthly Archives: June 2014

Chris DeRose on Lincoln and his predecessors

In The Presidents’ War: Six American Presidents and the Civil War That Divided Them, Chris DeRose examines how Lincoln’s predecessors reacted to the secession crisis.  Roll Call recently featured a very favorable review of the book:

These men had some triumphs. Van Buren built a national party, Tyler annexed Texas, Fillmore steered the Compromise of 1850 to passage — successes that yielded mixed results and sometimes violent reactions.
But they were, for the most part, frittering around the edges of an impending national catastrophe, not because they couldn’t see it, but because they could. Rather than confront it, they chose to trim, or avert their gaze.
The story of the six presidents really begins when the sixth arrives in the capital to confront a task “greater than that which rested upon Washington.”
And it is here where DeRose’s well-seeded narrative bears fruit. For we now know these men, from their deeds and words — and when they challenge Lincoln’s policies, their narrow interests and lack of vision quickly become obvious.
They deride Lincoln as a sectional man, but he is the only one among them who seems to understand the nation they have all governed.
Hidebound by pieties of the past, none can fully see their way clear to the new birth of freedom Lincoln promises, not just for enslaved blacks, but for the entire United States and all of humanity.
“The former presidents were living in a world they did not recognize,” DeRose writes.

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Filed under Civil War, Lincoln as President, Lincoln Historiography

Making of a shrine at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial

In the first installment of a two-part article at National Parks Traveler, Richard Sellars examines the religious imagery at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Indiana:

Several of the most prominent Lincoln sites, such as his home in Springfield, Illinois, Ford’s Theatre in Washington, and across the street the Petersen House where he died, portray aspects of the historic Lincoln, the gifted mortal—husband, father, lawyer, president. Other places are more clearly shrines: The imposing neoclassical marble temples found at the Lincoln birthplace in Kentucky and the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., reflect his deification in the public mind.

In Indiana, the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial also suggests his deification, but in a distinctive way. Reflecting a devoted public’s high tribute to Lincoln and his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, the memorial’s designers rejected neoclassicism and chose traditional Christian symbols.

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Gustav Niebuhr on Lincoln, Henry Whipple, and the Dakota War

John Fea’s blog has an interesting interview with Gustav Niebuhr, author of the new book Lincoln’s Bishop: A President, a Priest, and the Fate of 300 Dakota Sioux.  The book examines Bishop Henry Whipple’s work to reform America’s Indian relations and his influence on Lincoln’s response to the Dakota War of 1862.

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Filed under Lincoln Historiography