Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Lincoln's "growth"

Allen C. Guelzo correctly slams Eric Foner's "The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery," in today's WSJ.  Guelzo's book on the subject of emancipation is, of course, the last word on the subject because Guelzo understands both Lincoln's principles and his prudence.  I suspect Foner wanted the progressive counterweight to it, hence this boring tome on on Lincoln's "growth," how he is our "contemporary," the "living constitution," etc.
Categories > History

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Thanks for this, PWS. Not surprising on Foner's part. Just today, we read and discussed the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and I brought in my apple of gold and held it up to the class to represent the Declaration and American principles of liberty, natural right, self-government, and equality.

Fredrickson has the short book called "Big Enough to Be Inconsistent." So if Lincoln does not evolve he must be confused, but no worry he is still great. Thanks for pointing me to the Guelzo article. It properly clarifies the issue.

Guelzo's book on the road to emancipation was great and highly useful. For the first time, I understood fully why Lincoln did not end slavery immediately as abolitionists demanded.

I did appreciate Foner's Free Soil, Free Men and Free Labor, as well as his tome on Reconstruction, but his far-left politics have so infested his work that I found his The Story of Freedom both boring and insulting.

I love the last line: "Less pardonable is the reduction of Lincoln's complex politics to fuzzy psychological concepts like "growth," transforming the story of what was indeed a fiery political trial into a therapeutic fairy tale." Perfect.

I also liked Free Soil, Free Men and Free Labor. But I don't really read books anymore, I just read scathing reviews. A well written review on either the left or the right substitutes for the underlying work, and is interesting because it is usually written by someone who cares more about the topic than I do. That is I assume they took the time to read the book or watch the movie, and often times they review it and catch points of emphasis that I would just glaze over. They tend to make mountains out of mole hills, and marvelous beanstalks out of beans. I suppose I could still read the books, or consume traditional media but when I do my reaction is much more muted . The bright lines of intellectual battle seem absent or overdone. The reviewer mixed in his immagination and created a derivative work. So in some sense all books on Lincoln reduce complex politics to whatever fuzzy notions the reader himself can gleam unaided. It is all in how the book is read, and how much immagination you can summon to read with or against the author.


You miss a whole lot reading like that, John Lewis.

John Lewis . . . what Kate said . . . and, yet--you're not simply insane. If one subtracts the "I don't read books" part of what you say, there's something very good in what you say, it seems to me. But instead of making a case against reading books, what you have really done is make a case for reading reviews. Having said that, it is true that one can't read every book. So sometimes, I think, a few good and passionate reviews are better than reading nothing. So the solution, it seems to me, it to subscribe to the Claremont Review of Books. Here's a link:

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