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Judging Lincoln

Frank J. Williams. Foreword by Harold Holzer. Epilogue by John Y. Simon

Publication Year: 2002

Judging Lincoln collects nine of the most insightful essays on the topic of the sixteenth president written by Frank J. Williams, chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and one of the nation’s leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln. For Judge Williams, Lincoln remains the central figure of the American experience—past, present, and future.
Williams begins with a survey of the interest in—and influence of—Lincoln both at home and abroad and then moves into an analysis of Lincoln’s personal character with respect to his ability to foster relationships of equality among his intimates.
Williams then addresses Lincoln’s leadership abilities during the span of his career, with particular emphasis on the Civil War.  Next, he compares the qualities of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill. The final essay, cowritten with Mark E. Neely Jr., concerns collecting Lincoln artifacts as a means of preserving and fostering the Lincoln legacy.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Title Page

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

During the famous Illinois senatorial debates of 1858, challenger Abraham Lincoln liked to goad his opponent incumbent, Stephen A. Douglas, by referring to him by a name clearly meant in those days to disparage him: judge. With Lincoln, it was never “Senator Douglas.” It was always “Judge Douglas.” The old debate transcripts still fairly crackle with the ...

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pp. xvii-xviii

First and foremost I credit my closest Lincoln friend, Harold Holzer, author and cofounding vice chairman of the Lincoln Forum, for suggesting that I do this book of essays. He even suggested the title, read the manuscript, and provided the foreword. I am deeply indebted to Michael Vorenberg of Brown University, author of the definitive study on the Thirteenth ...

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pp. xix-xxvi

The dawn of the twenty-first century seems an appropriate time to reevaluate ourselves both as a nation and as a people: where we have been, where we are, and where we might be going. And for me, Abraham Lincoln remains the central figure of the American experience, past, present, and future. I began collecting books about Lincoln fifty years ago. Then I became ...

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1. Abraham Lincoln, Our Ever-Present Contemporary

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pp. 1-16

Americans are ambivalent about authority figures and heroes. Our revolutionary past makes us skeptics—at least it turned us against monarchs if not presidents. Our typical experience with political leaders tends to confirm our suspicions. Nonetheless, modern political science suggests the public’s close identification with presidents.1 Assassination and death in office ...

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2. “A Matter of Profound Wonder”: The Women in Lincoln’s Life

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pp. 17-33

First let me state what this paper is not. It is not a series of biographical sketches about the women in Lincoln’s life, nor is it a treatise on whether he was referring to his natural mother or his stepmother when he called one of them “my angel...

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3. Abraham Lincoln: Commander in Chief or “Attorney in Chief”?

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pp. 34-59

Because more is now known about Abraham Lincoln’s legal practice than ever before, historians risk the temptation to focus too much on his legal career and not enough on the fact that, for Lincoln, the law was in many respects a means to politics, his first love. It is necessary to remember that the sixteenth president is unique among the for ty-three men who have served ...

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4. Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties: The Corning Letter

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pp. 60-79

Wartime procedures implemented by Lincoln suggest much about politics and philosophy.When the government of a democratic nation imposes harsh methods to sustain itself, there rightly will be sincere protest and criticism, and there will be slurs upon democracy itself. This criticism will endure if the nation survives. But what if it does not survive? What if it fails ...

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5. Abraham Lincoln: The President and George Gordon Meade—An Evolving Commander in Chief

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pp. 80-92

Presidents and military officers must act under changing circumstances. They do not have the luxury of hindsight. Moreover, they have the capacity to develop in their roles or to regress. If one thing is certain about Abraham Lincoln, it is that he is the prototype of the maturing political leader. This essay explores another dimension—his capacity as president to ...

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6. A View from the Field: The Soldiers’ Vote for Abraham Lincoln’s Reelection

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pp. 93-127

The presidential campaign of 1864 occurred during a particularly troubled time. In fact, no election in history ever took place at a worse time. The nation had been entangled for three years in a bitter civil war. The growing dissent against an unpopular conscription policy, combined with growing public uneasiness over broadening the goal of victory to include...

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7. The End of Slavery: Lincoln and the Thirteenth Amendment —What Did He Know and When He Did Know It?

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pp. 128-145

Lincoln's legislative, military, and rhetorical skills formed a seamless fabric of democratic leadership that cloaked a nation during crisis. The passage of the Thirteenth Amendment may be viewed as the legislative peak of Lincoln’s leadership in the same way that the Gettysburg victory was ultimately a part of his military leadership and the Gettysburg Address epitomized ...

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8. Warrior, Communitarian, and Echo: The Leadership of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Franklin D.Roosevelt

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pp. 146-162

Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Franklin D. Roosevelt are three of the political Goliaths of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Each led a democratic nation through war, and each articulated for both his constituency and posterity the underlying principles for which his ...

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9. Lincoln Collecting: What’s Left?

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pp. 163-178

As the world's greatest democratic political leader, Lincoln invites modern enthusiasts to approach him through a variety of doors. Most Lincoln enthusiasts can trace their interest to a book or some historical document, item, or experience that opened a door for them to Lincoln’s enduring legacy and cast a major impact on them. If not a book, perhaps it was a ...

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pp. 179-182

Beginning to write a biography of Abraham Lincoln in 1922, former U. S. Senator Albert J. Beveridge denied that the “last word” on Lincoln had already been written by arguing that “the first word has not been penned.” Beveridge’s own Lincoln, meticulously researched and lavishly footnoted, completed only through 1858 when Beveridge died, did not achieve


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pp. 183-192


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pp. 193-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780809389254
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809327591

Publication Year: 2002