From Publishers Weekly
People from across the political spectrum are embracing Lincoln in the ongoing debate over our 16th president's political philosophy. Several months after Mario Cuomo's Why Lincoln Matters: Today More Than Ever
, political commentator Lind (The Next American Nation
) endeavors with some success to disassemble Lincoln as a liberal icon and reclaim him as a hero for American conservatives. Lind argues that a raft of biographies written by left-wingers during FDR's New Deal identified Lincoln with a progressivism he would have found abhorrent. As Lind cogently points out, Lincoln repeatedly identified himself as a Henry Clay Whig. "Henry Clay had helped organize the Whig Party in opposition to Jackson, the hero of New Deal Democrats.... Cut off from his political predecessors, Lincoln was also separated from the Republican presidents who succeeded him, such as William McKinley and Herbert Hoover." Likewise, Lind quite correctly places Lincoln in the conservative Federalist tradition of Hamilton, Jay and Adams: men who worried about the tyranny of the majority and the risk to property inherent in democracy, and therefore sought to maintain democracy by building in limitations. Thus Lincoln as shown here remains the champion of government of the people, by the people and for the people—but with a few major asterisks.
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Liberal political writer Lind contributes a provocative viewpoint to the body of Lincoln commentary. Yet Lind's conclusions about the Great Emancipator's politics are not entirely novel: it's not news that Lincoln modeled himself after Henry Clay. Lind parses Lincoln's oeuvre and synthesizes his selections to shape Lincoln not as an original but as a legatee, albeit an exceptionally articulate one, of Clay's constitutional and economic vision of America. Clay's "American System" promoted protectionism, central banking, and subsidized transportation improvements. Lind maintains that dividing Lincoln from the Gilded Age that followed his death, including the imposition of racial segregation, is a misinterpretation of Lincoln's entire career. Lind's Lincoln is a white supremacist. Lind supports his theory by quoting Lincoln on colonizing American blacks abroad and, although he regards Lincoln's opposition to slavery as genuine, minimizes any sentiments indicating Lincoln was favorable toward civil rights for blacks. Ready for inevitable attacks from upholders of an "evolving" Lincoln, Lind presents his critics with evidence they must overcome. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved