The Mind of the Emancipator
There is no end to the flow of books written about Abraham Lincoln. But Allen Guelzo's 1999 book, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, is a solid part of the canon. An intellectual biography of Lincoln, the book won the Lincoln Prize for 2000 and the 2000 Book Prize for the Abraham Lincoln Institute. Guelzo won both prizes again in 2005 for Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America.
Now Guelzo has followed up with Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009), a collection of essays on key (and sometimes conflicting) aspects of Lincoln's thought. From 1998 to 2004, Guelzo was the dean of the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University. Since 2004 he has been the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College.
In the introduction to Abraham Lincoln as a Man of Ideas, you write about the way people frequently ask, "What would Lincoln do?" WWLD, if you will. Given the tremendous technological, political, and cultural gap between Lincoln's time and ours, how realistic is it to ask that question?
It's not realistic at all.The interest in WWLD is more metaphorical, more a matter of character questions. People are really asking what kind of a person Lincoln was. When we see intractable political or economic problems, we want those traits to be deployed and to succeed in the same way that Lincoln succeeded in facing the Civil War.
Since Lincoln was not a religious believer in the way that most other Christians of his time were, where did Lincoln's morality come from?
It came from a number of sources, the most important of which is natural law theory. But Lincoln, not a professional philosopher, dabbled in a number of systems or theories about virtue. He didn't ...