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Lincoln's America


Edited by Joseph R. Fornieri and Sara Vaughn Gabbard

Publication Year: 2008

To fully understand and appreciate Abraham Lincoln's legacy, it is important to examine the society that influenced the life, character, and leadership of the man who would become the Great Emancipator. Editors Joseph R. Fornieri and Sara Vaughn Gabbard have done just that in Lincoln's America: 1809-1865, a collection of new and original essays by ten eminent historians that place Lincoln within his nineteenth-century cultural context.

Among the topics explored in Lincoln's America are religion, education, middle-class family life, the antislavery movement, politics, and law. Of particular interest are the transition of American intellectual and philosophical thought from the Enlightenment to Romanticism and the influence of this evolution on Lincoln's own ideas.

By examining aspects of Lincoln's life—his personal piety in comparison with the beliefs of his contemporaries, his success in self-schooling when frontier youths had limited opportunities for a formal education, his marriage and home life in Springfield, and his legal career—in light of broader cultural contexts such as the development of democracy, the growth of visual arts, the question of slaves as property, and French visitor Alexis de Tocqueville's observations on America, the contributors delve into the mythical Lincoln of folklore and discover a developing political mind and a changing nation.

As Lincoln's America shows, the sociopolitical culture of nineteenth-century America was instrumental in shaping Lincoln's character and leadership. The essays in this volume paint a vivid picture of a young nation and its sixteenth president, arguably its greatest leader.




Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Title Page

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I was born and raised in Lincoln, Illinois. My hometown is the first named for and by Abraham Lincoln before he became famous, my forefathers making the decision in 1853 to name their prairie settlement after a gangly, circuit-riding lawyer who frequently visited the area. When informed of the request, the young

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Introduction: Interpreting Lincoln the Man and His Times

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pp. 1-6

Do the times make the man, or does the man make the times? Is history begotten by the conscious actions of heroic leaders, or are human agents the product of historical forces beyond their control? Though it may be something of a cliché (like asking, “what comes first, the chicken or the egg?”), the question is nonetheless worth pursuing as we celebrate the life, times, and legacy of Abraham Lincoln on the occasion of the bicentennial of his ...

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1. A. Lincoln, Philosopher: Lincoln's Place in Nineteenth-Century Intellectual History

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pp. 6-27

The nineteenth century in Europe and America was an era of second thoughts. Those second thoughts were largely about the Enlightenment, which had been born in the mid-1600s as a scientific revolution and blossomed into the Age of Reason in the 1700s, when it seemed that no puzzle was beyond the grasp of scientific rationality. That blossom was snipped all too quickly by the French Revolution, which drowned rationality in human ...

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2. Tocqueville and Lincoln on Religion and Democracy in America

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pp. 28-54

The French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville and the American statesman Abraham Lincoln provide comparable wisdom about the moral and religious foundations of American democracy. Tocqueville, a foreign observer, is the famed author of Democracy in America, a work that has been aptly described as “at once the best book ever written on democracy and the best book ever written on America.”1 Lincoln, a native citizen, is the savior of the...

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3. Schooling in Lincoln’s America and Lincoln’s Extraordinary Self-Schooling

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pp. 55-71

Abraham Lincoln’s climb to the peak of what Kenneth J. Winkle calls the “occupational ladder” characteristic of nineteenth-century Illinois shows that, from early in life, he was a person to be reckoned with. At age twenty-two, after living and working as a farmer, he served a stint as a flatboatman on the Mississippi River. He was also a miller and a store clerk at that age. At age twenty-eight, he was officially enrolled as an attorney by the clerk of the ...

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4. American Religion, 1809–1865

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pp. 72-93

The two specifically historical questions required for treating the subject of this chapter are, first, what was the nature of Abraham Lincoln’s own religion? And, second, how did Lincoln’s personal religion reflect (or stand out from) what was characteristic of American religion during his era more generally? Answering these already knotty questions is made more ...

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5. The Middle-Class Marriage of Abraham and Mary Lincoln

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pp. 94-114

On the night Abraham Lincoln was elected president, he walked to the telegraph office in Springfield, Illinois, to follow the election returns. Mary Lincoln stayed at home and in fact locked him out of the house. According to a reminiscence, Mary told Abraham “that if he wasn’t at home by 10 o’clock she would lock him out. And she did so. But, Mr. Lincoln said that when she heard the music coming to serenade them she turned the key in a hurry.” This story, like so many others depicting the Lincolns’ sometimes-stormy ...

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6. Abraham Lincoln: The Making of the Attorney-in-Chief

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pp. 115-134

America’s sixteenth president is best known for his political career, but his quarter-century practice of the law prepared him for his ultimate role as the attorney-in-chief in the executive mansion. His political skills were honed in his training as a lawyer and the practice of the law in Illinois. In many ways, the issues of slavery and secession were legal issues, and he was prepared to tackle them based on his training and the practice of the...

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7. “No Such Right” : The Origins of Lincoln's Rejection of the Right of Property in Slaves

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pp. 135-150

“I can express all my views on the slavery question,” Lincoln declared in August 1858, “by quotations from Henry Clay.” One month earlier he said that he had “always hated slavery, I think as much as any Abolitionist,” adding—as if this explained everything—“I have been an Old Line Whig.”1 What did Lincoln mean by this? Which of his “views on the slavery question” did he trace back to Clay, the most prominent Whig politician of the ...

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8. Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Movement

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pp. 151-168

What was it in the leadership of Abraham Lincoln that set him apart from all the others who strove to end slavery?
The first of the important distinctions that elevates Lincoln above the rank and file of America’s antislavery leaders is obvious enough: Lincoln was the leader who occupied the White House and meted out a series of blows to the institution of slavery that cumulatively killed it. But this preeminent ...

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9. “As Good as It Can Be Made” : Lincoln's Heroic Image in Nineteenth-Century Art

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pp. 169-190

It is difficult to imagine the young Abraham Lincoln’s log cabin boyhood homes decorated with pictures—not even the ubiquitous early prints of his hero, George Washington, that adorned so many rustic and remote American outposts by the early nineteenth century. Such images, inexpensive and surprisingly available even on the frontier, began appearing in such settings ...

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10. Lincoln and the Nature of “A More Perfect Union”

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pp. 191-224

Although much criticized in recent decades, it is doubtful that national sovereignty and identity will any time soon be abandoned as a form of political association. How peoples and nations come into existence, constituting themselves on the basis of distinctive values and purposes, will remain a central concern of political and historical analysis. Nowhere else does this ...


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pp. 225-230


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pp. 231-232


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pp. 233-242

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809387137
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809328789

Publication Year: 2008