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Claiming Lincoln

Progressivism, Equality, and the Battle for Lincoln’s Legacy in Presidential Rhetoric

Jason R. Jividen

Publication Year: 2011

Abraham Lincoln is clearly one of the most frequently cited figures in American political rhetoric, especially with regard to issues of equality. But given the ubiquity of Lincoln’s legacy, many references to him, even on the presidential level, are often of questionable accuracy. In Claiming Lincoln, Jividen posits that in much 20th-century presidential rhetoric, especially from progressive leaders, Lincoln’s understanding of equality is slowly divorced from its grounding in the natural rights thinking of the American Founding and reinterpreted in light of progressive history. Claiming Lincoln examines the manner in which rhetoricians have appealed to Lincoln’s legacy only to distort that legacy in the process. Focusing on Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson and touching on Barack Obama, Jividen argues that presidential rhetorical use and abuse of Lincoln has profound consequences not only for how we understand Lincoln but also for how we understand American democracy. Jividen’s original take on Lincoln and the Progressives will be of interest to scholars of American politics and all those invested in Lincoln’s legacy.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-6

Contents

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pp. 7-8

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-2

...This book would not have been possible without the efforts of my teachers. For his direction and support, I owe much gratitude to Professor Larry Arnhart. Thanks are also due to Professors Gary Glenn, Christine Dunn Henderson, and Gregory Schmidt for their guidance and inspiration during the writing of this book and beyond. I would like to acknowledge the efforts ...

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Introduction

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pp. 3-8

...of the most frequently mentioned figures in American political rhetoric, and we have witnessed Barack Obama’s appeals to the Lincoln image during his recent campaign and in his early speeches as president. Beginning on the eve of the two-hundredth anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, Obama’s appeals have created...

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1. Lincoln and the Idea of Equality

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pp. 9-32

...of equality that sought to secure individuals’ equal liberty to exercise diverse and necessarily unequal talents and abilities in the pursuit of happiness, under the rule of law, while expecting an inequality of results or outcomes among individuals in that pursuit. Lincoln recognized that this pursuit must be moderated by competing...

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2. Theodore Roosevelt’s Lincoln

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pp. 33-63

...inauguration, Theodore Roosevelt received a gift from his friend and former Lincoln secretary, John Hay. While taking the oath of office the next day, Roosevelt wore this gift upon his finger—a ring holding a lock of hair snipped from the head of Abraham Lincoln shortly after his assassination. Several years ...

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3. Woodrow Wilson’s Lincoln

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pp. 64-96

...presidential election, Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressive Party’s rhetorical use and abuse of the Lincoln image was in full swing. However, this appeal to Lincoln was by no means limited to Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s Democratic opponent also claimed the Lincoln inheritance. The 1912 election is sometimes characterized as a contest ...

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4. Franklin Roosevelt’s Lincoln

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pp. 97-133

...and the basic tenets of American progressivism are incompatible. We have seen, however, that the progressives nevertheless sought to incorporate Lincoln into their political rhetoric. In the progressives we find a historicized Lincoln who has been divorced from natural right, and divorced from the principles of the ...

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5. Lyndon Johnson’s Lincoln

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pp. 134-153

...the Lincoln image continued to be associated with what many referred to as “expanded” or “deeper” notions of equality. If the Lincoln image underwent a revitalization in Roosevelt’s New Deal, then the rhetorical appeal to that image exploded from the late 1950s to mid-1960s during the American civil rights movement. In the summer ...

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6. Barack Obama’s Lincoln

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pp. 154-173

...of Lincoln’s birth in 2009, we have witnessed yet another explosion of interest in our sixteenth president, fueled not only by the bicentennial but by the political rhetoric of Barack Obama. In February 2007, just two days before Lincoln’s birthday, Obama announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency in Springfeld, Illinois. ...

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Conclusion

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pp. 174-180

...the attempt within the American political tradition to “get right” with Lincoln, he recounted an effort on the part of American politicians to square their policies and ideas, indeed their understandings of what American democracy should be, with Abraham Lincoln’s legacy. Politically, the peak of that effort ...

Notes

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pp. 181-212

Bibliography

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pp. 213-228

Index

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pp. 229-233


E-ISBN-13: 9781609090166
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875804354

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2011