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Abraham Lincoln

After reading Nevin's history of the Civil War era, I have become even more impressed, if that was possible, with the leadership of Abraham Lincoln.

Now there was a man who understood "exit strategy," who knew that it was possible to win in such a way that it was a defeat and who knew that compassion is a powerful political weapon.

Lincoln had his super-patriots calling for the utter obliteration of all the nation's enemies. He had those who thought that giving a speech solved a problem. His wisdom was to know that there was a day after the war ended and that without a plan for the peace there would be another war. For that he was vilified as soft on treason.

In a time of small plans and small vision he, even before he was president, again and again put the conflict on a higher level and called people to a nobler conception of their duty and tasks. And such eloquence! - not just at Gettysburg, though that would be enough, but at countless other times. His Second Inaugural Address is the finest speech by an American politician - ever.

I wonder if we will ever see that sort of leadership again.

If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? - Second Inaugural Address

I have never united myself to any church, because I have found difficulty in giving my assent, without mental reservation, to the long, complicated statements of Christian doctrine which characterize their Articles of Belief and Confessions of the Faith. When any church will inscribe over its altar, as its sole qualification for membership ... the Saviour's condensed statement of both Law and Gospel, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they mind, and they neighbor as thyself," that church will I join with all my heart and all my soul. - to Congressman Harry C. Deming, quoted in Mario Cuomo, Why Lincoln Maters, p. 132

Last modified 12/24/06; posted 1/6/01. © 2006 John P. Nordin