Abraham Lincoln, Philosopher Statesman
Joseph R. Fornieri
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What constitutes Lincoln’s political greatness as a statesman? As a great leader, he saved the Union, presided over the end of slavery, and helped to pave the way for an interracial democracy. His great speeches provide enduring wisdom about human equality, democracy, free labor, and free society. Joseph R. Fornieri contends that Lincoln’s political genius is best understood in terms of a philosophical statesmanship that united greatness of thought and action, one that combined theory and practice. This philosophical statesmanship, Fornieri argues, can best be understood in terms of six dimensions of political leadership: wisdom, prudence, duty, magnanimity, rhetoric, and patriotism. Drawing on insights from history, politics, and philosophy, Fornieri tackles the question of how Lincoln’s statesmanship displayed each of these crucial elements.
Providing an accessible framework for understanding Lincoln’s statesmanship, this thoughtful study examines the sixteenth president’s political leadership in terms of the traditional moral vision of statecraft as understood by epic political philosophers such as Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. Fornieri contends that Lincoln’s character is best understood in terms of Aquinas’s understanding of magnanimity or greatness of soul, the crowning virtue of statesmanship. True political greatness, as embodied by Lincoln, involves both humility and sacrificial service for the common good. The enduring wisdom and timeless teachings of these great thinkers, Fornieri shows, can lead to a deeper appreciation of statesmanship and of its embodiment in Abraham Lincoln.
With the great philosophers and books of western civilization as his guide, Fornieri demonstrates the important contribution of normative political philosophy to an understanding of our sixteenth president. Informed by political theory that draws on the classics in revealing the timelessness of Lincoln’s example, his interdisciplinary study offers profound insights for anyone interested in the nature of leadership, statesmanship, political philosophy, political ethics, political history, and constitutional law.
2015 ISHS Superior Achievement Award
denial of black citizenship and the further sweeping assertion that the black man had “no rights that the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced slavery for his benefits”; (2) the denial of the federal right to restrict slavery in the territories; and (3) the affirmation of a national right to property in a slave under the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause. In effect, Taney reversed the free soil motto of “freedom national and slavery local” by
government.”47 This phrasing studiously avoided bellicose language like “invasion” or “force” that could alienate remaining loyal states teetering on the brink of secession. Acting on the vision of statesmanship in the Cooper Union address, as chief executive, Lincoln would perform his duty with the faith that “right makes might.” In concluding his argument, he framed his duty in a manner that placed future responsibility for war on those who had seceded. In performing its duty, the government
I would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it.”39 Some did not think Lincoln up to the task. His folksy demeanor gave the mistaken impression that he was a mediocrity or even a well-intentioned buffoon. In contrast to Washington’s forbidding aloofness, the sixteenth president’s humble origins, western accent, lack of refinement, coarse storytelling, and awkward appearance seemed the very opposite of aristocratic bearing and greatness. Upon initial impression, Edward Everett,
promise: “Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it. Let north and south—let 160 PATR IOTISM all Americans—let all lovers of liberty everywhere—join in the great and good work. If we do this, we shall not only have saved the Union; but we shall have so saved it, as to make, and to keep it, forever worthy of the saving. We shall have so saved it, that the succeeding millions of free happy people, the world over, shall rise
civilians 166 PATR IOTISM arrested under Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus were suspected deserters or draft evaders.” 73 Moreover, as seen in chapter 4, on duty, Lincoln distinguished in the Vallandigham case between constitutionally protected speech that criticized the government and speech that incited resistance to the draft. While compatible with universal norms, Lincoln’s reflective patriotism appreciates our limits and duties as citizens who are encumbered within a