Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lincoln Worship Redux

recounting of the story of Lincoln's leadership, his remarkable ability to persevere through adversity, to use his common sense and uncommon intelligence to chart a road to victory, amazes still, and reminds us yet again of our extraordinary good fortune as a nation to have had that man in that office at that moment. We are reminded, too, of the seeming hopelessness of the task that Lincoln faced as he took office in 1861. He was so loathed he had not even been on the ballot in ten southern states; the secession of seven states took place before he was even inaugurated. By the time nine months of his presidency had elapsed, northern forces had been ignominiously defeated only miles from the Capitol; efforts to liberate Unionist Tennessee had failed; no military commander seemed to have any plan for effective movement against the enemy; and northern popular opinion was impatient for either military success or political compromise. "The bottom is out of the tub," Lincoln proclaimed in despair. "What shall I do?"

In the face of such odds, he managed to create an army, win a war, and save a nation--setting the stage as commander-in-chief for Union military triumph but also, as national strategist and policy maker, tying war aims to larger purposes--creating the new birth of freedom of which he spoke, and which we are still realizing today. Perhaps this is why, in the season of his two-hundredth birthday, this remarkable president continues to mean so much to us. Abraham Lincoln is, quite simply, the greatest argument against despair in dark times that our history provides."  -- Drew Gilpin Faust is president of Harvard University and the author most recently of This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War

... yes, but -- No matter the purity of his motives, he was stll the co-architect of unimaginable suffering that haunted the nation for a century. I do wonder if he'd known in '61 the depth of horror in store in the next 4 years, would he still have accepted the challenge? No one worshiping at his altar ever seems to raise the question.