Big Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts by George M Fredrickson

By George M Fredrickson

“Cruel, merciful; peace-loving, a fighter; despising Negroes and allowing them to struggle and vote; holding slavery and releasing slaves.” Abraham Lincoln was once, W. E. B. Du Bois declared, “big sufficient to be inconsistent.” sufficiently big, certainly, for each new release to have its personal Lincoln—unifier or emancipator, egalitarian or racist. so that it will reconcile those perspectives, and to supply a extra complicated and nuanced account of a determine so valuable to American background, this ebook specializes in the main debatable point of Lincoln’s concept and politics—his attitudes and activities concerning slavery and race. Drawing cognizance to the constraints of Lincoln’s judgment and regulations with out denying his significance, the booklet offers the main complete and even-handed account to be had of Lincoln’s contradictory therapy of black americans in issues of slavery within the South and uncomplicated civil rights within the North. George Fredrickson exhibits how Lincoln’s antislavery convictions, notwithstanding real and powerful, have been held in cost through an both robust dedication to the rights of the states and the constraints of federal strength. He explores how Lincoln’s ideals approximately racial equality in civil rights, stirred and reinforced via the African American contribution to the northern warfare attempt, have been countered through his conservative constitutional philosophy, which left this subject to the states. The Lincoln who emerges from those pages is much extra understandable and credible in his inconsistencies, and within the abiding ideals and evolving ideas from which they arose. Deeply principled yet still unsuitable, all-too-human but undeniably heroic, he's a Lincoln for all generations. (20080218)

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Additional info for Big Enough to Be Inconsistent: Abraham Lincoln Confronts Slavery and Race (The W. E. B. Du Bois Lectures)

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Bennett gets some things right. Lincoln did share the racial prejudices of his time and place. 32 The book is clearly driven by ideology—Bennett’s deeply held belief that the situation of blacks in the United States was not fundamentally changed by emancipation or even by the civil rights movement and continues to be separate and unequal. Lincoln shares the blame for this failure because his actions fostered the illusion that racial justice and equality had been achieved or were readily achievable.

16 One of the factors that lay behind the intense rever51 big enough to be inconsistent ence for the law that Lincoln expressed in the Lyceum Address was his sense that there was a competition for the mind of the nation between two professions— lawyers and clergymen. Lawyers stood for reason, moderation, and the resolution of disputes through calm deliberation and judicious compromise. Clergymen and their avid followers, in contrast, stood for emotionalism, perfectionism, and an uncompromising commitment to absolute truths and ideal solutions to complex problems.

50 What implications for Lincoln’s views on slavery and 39 big enough to be inconsistent race might be derived from the political and social contexts in which he operated? As an ambitious politician, Lincoln had to be acutely aware of public sentiment. He could hardly stake out positions that were contrary to what was generally believed by the electorate at a time when he was running for office or otherwise participating in political campaigns. But there were some issues on which the public was sharply divided, such as the question of the future of slavery in the federal territories.

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