Sunday, October 21

Abraham Lincoln

I just finished reading Carl Sandburg's one volume Abraham Lincoln biography. Sandburg's work was fine. It's not how we would do biography nowadays. Lincoln was very impressive. I decided part-way through to keep a running list of some of his virtues.

  • sense of humor
  • humility -- including humble origins, being a man of the people, and being able to admit when he was wrong
    • he even sometimes took blame that wasn't his
  • didn't take things personally
  • confident
  • had one, chief goal
  • was guided by what seemed practicable given the situation
  • persistent
  • pushed the war despite failures and against contrary special interests
  • great communicator -- plain-spoken, logical, connected with his audience, storyteller
  • deliberate -- made plans and drafted letters that he didn't always act on or send
  • not vengeful -- let bygones be bygone, both big and small
  • willing to 'sit on the fence' and not be drawn into vicious partisan politics
  • basically had dictatorial powers, but did not abuse them
    • ike Washington (and Cincinnatus), he could walk away
  • moved slowly on slavery
  • built bridges -- for example, with Congress
    • curried favor with important influencers, including giving political favors, in pursuit of his one goal
And a few other reflections:
  • I can't conceive doing so well as Lincoln, nor even having agreed with all of his policies if I had lived in that time.
  • I wonder, though, if maintaining the union justified that terrible war. Could we have got away with no more slavery in new states and territories?
  • The sympathizers in England among the cotton industry, etc., were appalling.
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