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Abraham Lincoln, Philosopher Statesman

Joseph R. Fornieri

Publication Year: 2014

What constitutes Lincoln’s political greatness as a statesman? As a great leader, he saved the Union, presided over the end of slavery, and helped to pave the way for an interracial democracy. His great speeches provide enduring wisdom about human equality, democracy, free labor, and free society. Joseph R. Fornieri contends that Lincoln’s political genius is best understood in terms of a philosophical statesmanship that united greatness of thought and action, one that combined theory and practice. This philosophical statesmanship, Fornieri argues, can best be understood in terms of six dimensions of political leadership: wisdom, prudence, duty, magnanimity, rhetoric, and patriotism. Drawing on insights from history, politics, and philosophy, Fornieri tackles the question of how Lincoln’s statesmanship displayed each of these crucial elements.

Providing an accessible framework for understanding Lincoln’s statesmanship, this thoughtful study examines the sixteenth president’s political leadership in terms of the traditional moral vision of statecraft as understood by epic political philosophers such as Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. Fornieri contends that Lincoln’s character is best understood in terms of Aquinas’s understanding of magnanimity or greatness of soul, the crowning virtue of statesmanship. True political greatness, as embodied by Lincoln, involves both humility and sacrificial service for the common good. The enduring wisdom and timeless teachings of these great thinkers, Fornieri shows, can lead to a deeper appreciation of statesmanship and of its embodiment in Abraham Lincoln.

With the great philosophers and books of western civilization as his guide, Fornieri demonstrates the important contribution of normative political philosophy to an understanding of our sixteenth president. Informed by political theory that draws on the classics in revealing the timelessness of Lincoln’s example, his interdisciplinary study offers profound insights for anyone interested in the nature of leadership, statesmanship, political philosophy, political ethics, political history, and constitutional law.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Front matter

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pp. i-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

...strong egos of the men in his cabinet.” His example reveals “that in the hands of a truly great politician the qualities we generally associate with decency and morality—kindness, sensitivity, compassion, honesty, and empathy—can also be impressive political resources.” Granted that interpersonal skills and managerial...

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pp. xv-xviii

...Bruce Frohnen; Lee Cheek; Tommy Kirk; Robbie and Rick Mortillaro— guitar craftsmen; Stephen Sfekas and Dean Mesologites—“The Greeks”; Amy Beu Hughes and the Hughes family; Dick, Dana, and Lisa Kieffer; Nicky Lueck Hastings...

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pp. 1-27

...the way for an interracial democracy. Though rare, this combination of theory and practice in politics is not unprecedented in Western history. One can point to the examples of Cicero, Thomas More, Edmund Burke, and the American...

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1. Wisdom

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pp. 28-54

...self-discipline, reflection, and learning. They were placed in the service of an honorable ambition that ministered to the common good. Lincoln was a supreme autodidact. With less than a year of formal schooling, he taught himself how to read...

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2. Prudence

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pp. 55-78

...laws, customs, and opinions. Prudence harmonizes universal principles of right reason with the particularities of time and place. The following chapter considers...

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3. Duty

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pp. 79-107

...highest elected official of the nation, the president swears a solemn oath “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” An evaluation of Lincoln’s...

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4. Magnanimity

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pp. 108-128

...of insight and guidance in his private and public life. Informed by the Bible’s teaching of servant leadership, humility, and higher purpose, Lincoln’s political...

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5. Rhetoric

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pp. 129-146

...moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.”...

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6. Patriotism

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pp. 147-166

...and leave one’s Country no better for the life of him that lived and died her child.” Such expressions of gratitude and service are characteristics of the true patriot. Unfortunately, modern efforts to uncover the subconscious springs of...

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pp. 167-172

...helped carry him to the presidency. Indeed, humility was part and parcel of his greatness of soul or magnanimity. His humble recognition of the vast difference...


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pp. 173-204

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 205-212


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pp. 213-218


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pp. 219-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780809333301
E-ISBN-10: 0809333309
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809333295
Print-ISBN-10: 0809333295

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 20
Publication Year: 2014