Thursday, March 21, 2013

Deconstructing Lincoln



It seems historians never grow weary of Lincoln, approaching him from any number of angles in trying to ascertain perhaps our most enigmatic president.  John Burt has chosen to re-explore Lincoln's philosophic grounding in Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism.  Unlike William Lee Miller's book from a few years back, Lincoln's Virtues, Burt focuses intensely on the Lincoln-Douglas debates, coming to terms with the dichotomy that exists between the two men when it came to the issue of slavery vs. states' rights.  But, like Miller he examines the debates and the speeches Lincoln gave, looking for salient clues as to his reasoning, although Burt doesn't go as far as his presidency.

It sounds like quite a heady book to read Steven's Smith's review, moving well beyond the standard narrative like we saw in the movie, Lincoln, which Smith alludes to.  Burt apparently "sees Lincoln as a historicist for whom our moral concerns emerge only over time."  Democracy becomes a destiny to be fulfilled over time, not one guaranteed in the Constitution as so many like to interpret it.

I don't know if there are any takers, but I'm game.

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