Uncovering the Real Lincoln
Our special issue examining the iconic figure of Abraham Lincoln drew appreciative letters from longtime Lincoln admirers, Civil War buffs and readers surprised by historians' new insights. Many of those who wrote lamented today's lack of political leaders with President Lincoln's great gifts
"Lincoln represents all that is best about our country. Despite his human faults, he can easily be called the only true American saint."
JIMMIE A. STARK
YOUR SPECIAL REPORT ON "THE TRUE Lincoln" [July 4], besides being superbly written, renewed my dormant sense of patriotism. Although in recent years I have felt great discouragement over the direction the U.S. seems headed in, reading about my favorite President was a good shot in the arm, like experiencing the Fourth of July fireworks.
TIME IS TO BE COMMENDED FOR THE ARticles on Lincoln. Author Joshua Wolf Shenk observed that Lincoln's words have been used to support all kinds of causes. That's because Lincoln was a true leader who used his humor to disarm his adversaries and his common sense and knowledge of humanity to gradually ease them into a new position without bombast and stonewalling. Unfortunately, today we seem to be lacking political leaders with those abilities. If our elected representatives studied Lincoln a little more or studied as he did, things just might improve.
FRANK L. VISCO
YOU OFFERED A REMARKABLY SUCCINCT but subtle examination of Lincoln that focused on the key aspects of that American icon and the important people in his life. For more than 50 years, I have been fascinated by the Civil War, Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and the issues surrounding slavery. If your report had been available years ago, I could have saved the tuition for a couple of undergraduate and graduate courses as well as a few feet of Lincoln books in my library. Ah, but the fun is in the reading and discovering what Lincoln the man reveals to different scholars.
JOSEPH D. FULLER III
ILLINOIS SENATOR BARACK OBAMA WROTE that the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the rebellious states, "was more a military document than a clarion call for justice." Obama's piece failed to describe the complete historical context of the document. Lincoln's ability to end slavery was restricted by the limits of his constitutional power. As Commander in Chief, Lincoln had certain war powers that enabled him to free slaves in territories that had seceded from the Union at the time of the Proclamation. Slavery throughout the U.S., however, could be abolished only by a constitutional amendment--the 13th, which was ratified by the states in 1865. The proclamation clearly had certain powerful and advantageous political implications, especially overseas. We must, however, acknowledge the enormous risks Lincoln took in issuing it. We need only examine the anxious reaction of his contemporaries to gauge how politically risky a move it was.
Short Hills, N.J.