Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln

From the Archives: Lincoln and Religion

Even on vacation I think of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural. It beats the latest polling news, which I don’t get anyway.

Religion in Politics: It’s Not the Certainty, It’s the Doubt

One of the most fascinating columns I’ve read in some time is from the Boston Globe’s Scot Lehigh, his Gay Marriage: A Look Back After 10 Years.  He vividly recalls the turmoil at the State House as conservatives fought to overturn the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision. Lehigh especially decried “fanatics and fundamentalists” “who believed they had a direct line to God.” It’s enough to make many of us wish religion would just go away from American politics.

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Lincoln and Douglas Debate Immigrant Children

Obviously Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas never debated immigrant children; they were one issue candidates in 1858 and the issue was slavery. Circumstances were quite different regarding immigration in the 1850s; no one could be “illegal” since the nation had done nothing to restrict immigration. Still, the different understandings Douglas and Lincoln had of the Declaration of Independence are instructive for our current heated debate over immigrant children.

The Declaration was all to Lincoln. In Independence Hall in Philadelphia in 1861 he told a crowd: “I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence….which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men.”

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Our Ancient Faith

Last year for America’s birthday I compiled some of my favorite quotations from Abraham Lincoln about the Declaration of Independence. They appear below. Lincoln revered the Declaration and proclaimed it “my ancient faith.” The scholar Garry Wills in his book Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America argued that Lincoln placed equality in a central place in our national discourse where it had not been before. This has been exposed in a sense by some conservative scholars but, too late; Will says we understand the Declaration the way Lincoln taught it.

The Declaration is still revealing itself to us and perhaps always will. It is adapted in calls for equality from oppressed groups, as in the Seneca Falls Resolution calling for women’s rights: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” At his “I Have a Dream” speech Dr. Martin Luther King opened with language recalling the Gettysburg Address and stated that “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”

That was Lincoln’s creed, and his ancient faith.

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Religion in Politics: It’s Not the Certainty, It’s the Doubt

One of the most fascinating columns I’ve read in some time is from the Boston Globe’s Scot Lehigh, his Gay Marriage: A Look Back After 10 Years.  He vividly recalls the turmoil at the State House as conservatives fought to overturn the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision. Lehigh especially decried “fanatics and fundamentalists” “who believed they had a direct line to God.” It’s enough to make many of us wish religion would just go away from American politics.

It never will. Besides the more interesting thing about religion isn’t the certainty; it’s the doubt.

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Jeff McCormick: Two Places at One Time?

Recently the Boston Globe ran a story detailing how Independent candidate for governor Jeffrey McCormick either did or did not play fast and loose to avoid or not avoid income and capital gains taxes in Massachusetts.

I hope that’s clear.

In December 2009 McCormick bought a condo in Portsmouth, NH and in mortgage documents said it would be his principal residence. New Hampshire has no capital gains or income taxes which might come in handy if you happened to be a resident who made a $640 million profit a week before the closing, as McCormick and his firm did. But then McCormick’s tax returns for the relevant years list Massachusetts as his primary residence. So where was he?

Gosh, what might Abraham Lincoln say about something like this?

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Republican Senate Candidates and Immigration

The Boston Marathon bombing is already impacting the debate on immigration policy and the issue of immigration keeps coming up in the Republican senate debates. The candidates have slightly different takes on it, though they all want to seem tough on the Mexican border. I’m far from any kind of an expert on immigration policy but I’m close to an irritable observer of how politicians try to exploit animosity toward unauthorized immigrants. And a conversation with John Burt, author of Lincoln’s Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln, Douglas, and Moral Conflict, has me thinking that we may be far distant from what the words of the Declaration of Independence imply about immigrants.

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GOP: Party of Reagan, Lincoln, or … Dan Winslow?

Recently I applauded a video released by Rep. Dan Winslow  for getting two mentions of Abraham Lincoln into only a little over two minutes of video. But I also questioned whether it is realistic to reclaim the mantle of the Party of Lincoln for an institution that has so long been the Party of Reagan. So does Dan Winslow of the Massachusetts GOP represent the Party of Reagan or the Party of Lincoln?

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Can Obama Win the Debate with Metaphors?

The Yale economist Robert J. Shiller is urging President Barack Obama to find a new metaphor to define his second term policies that would make inclusion its focus. Shiller means economic inclusion, which he sees as essential to our national and global progress. You can read Shiller’s post A Metaphor for Obama over at Project Syndicate.

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Dan Winslow on Abraham Lincoln

Winslow-Daniel-1687-Web-195x230LincolnI recommend Rep. Dan Winslow’s video Be Part of the Solution, especially because in just over two minutes he weaved in two separate references to Abraham Lincoln. I was jumping up and down with excitement when I heard that. Rep. Winslow wants to reclaim Lincoln as the proper symbol of the Massachusetts Republican Party (national Republicans overwhelmingly prefer Ronald Reagan), and good for him.

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The Genius of Abraham Lincoln

My students know that even my love for teaching Massachusetts Politics pales before my love for teaching The Political Thought of Abraham Lincoln. So I saw Lincoln the day of its release. The film is accurate on many levels, including the portrayal of the politics of getting the amendment through, the relationship of the president to the co-equal branch of Congress, and the divisions within even a dominant political party that make measures difficult to pass. Let me briefly say something about two matters: Lincoln’s constitutionalism and the tension between Lincoln and radical abolitionist Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens.

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