Burlingame observes that Lincoln’s “impersonal manner of presenting his argument recalls the impersonal way in which he wrote his autobiographical sketch in 1860, alluding to himself in the third person.” Ibid., 768. Surely He intends some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal could make, and no mortal could stay. On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. Consider what is required for this explanation to be correct. See Andrew Ferguson, “Lincoln and the Will of God,” 23 (the Second Inaugural reflects “Lincoln’s deepest contemplation and belief”) and Andrew Ferguson, Looking for Lincoln: Adventures in Abe’s America (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007), 261–62. Lincoln’s poignant appeal for his hearers’ prayers, see supra note 150 and accompanying text, only makes sense if he believed in a participatory God. . [4] To strengthen, perpetuate and extend this interest, was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war, while the government claimed no right to do more, than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. The Bible was gifted to President Lincoln by the Citizens Volunteer Hospital of Philadelphia on June 16, 1864. Andrew Ferguson, although thinking that people often wrongly assume they know more about Lincoln’s religion than they actually do, agrees that it is incorrect to conclude there is no certainty whatever about Lincoln’s faith. He looked to God and the Bible: “It is the best gift God has given to man. There he gave his celebrated speech, the Gettysburg Address, wherein he hoped that the nation shall, "under God," have a new birth of freedom. [9] It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. White, “Lincoln’s Sermon on the Mount,” 223. . Ronald White writes that “any analysis of Lincoln’s public religion must include the question: Was he using religious words simply for public consumption?”[54] Some scholars have explained the pervasive religious tone of the Second Inaugural on these grounds. Lincoln was obviously referring to the “So help me God” that has always been part of the presidential oath even though the Constitution does not prescribe that phrase. James Adams labeled Lincoln as a deist. According to scholars, he may have drawn the expression from George Washington's hagiographer, Parson Weems.[45]. Lincoln put these views into practice on the specific issue of whether slavery was immoral. . As he expressed it elsewhere, the war was a “mighty convulsion, which no mortal could make, and no mortal could stay.” Abraham Lincoln, “Letter to Eliza P. Gurney,” Roy P. Basler et al., eds. Interestingly, the Fehrenbachers state no specific reason for doubting the authenticity of another of Brooks’s recollections concerning Lincoln’s prayer life: Lincoln told Brooks “‘that after he went to the White House he kept up the habit of daily prayer. Lincoln arguably could have realized that his Northern audience would not enjoy being labeled co-sinners with the South. Its concluding phrase, “And the war came,” foreshadows Lincoln’s subsequent argument that God was the ultimate author of the war. Carwardine apparently disagrees. James Reed, writing in 1873, pointed out the dilemma that evidence of Lincoln’s deepening religious faith presents to those who want “to fasten on him the charge of permanent skepticism.” While generally praising Lincoln’s honesty, these same people, by arguing that Lincoln was only using religion for political advantage, “attribute to him the very grossest duplicity.” James Reed, “The Later Life and Religious Sentiments of Abraham Lincoln,” reprinted in Appendix IV, Barton, Soul of Abraham Lincoln, 318; see infra note 209 and accompanying text. . [182] Donald’s error, however, goes beyond this. In view of the number and variety of the testimonies to Lincoln’s personal prayer life, this response strains credulity. . One week after the funeral, he isolated himself in his office and wept all day. . Lincoln introduces his discussion of God’s will pertaining to slavery by saying, “If we shall suppose.”[39] Fred Kaplan therefore concludes that what follows “is in its entirety a hypothesis: let us for the moment, [Lincoln] proposes, speculate about these matters . Carwardine, “Whatever Shall Appear to Be God’s Will,” 92–93. It has been reported that in 1834 he wrote a manuscript essay challenging orthodox Christianity modeled on Paine's book The Age of Reason, which a friend supposedly burned to protect him from ridicule. Nor did he denounce his enemies—even in the slaveholding states—as his moral inferiors. There are other scholars, including Mark Noll and Garry Wills, who, in discussing Lincoln’s religion, focus on the “God’s judgment” aspects of the Second Inaugural, and do not, through its language or otherwise, comprehensively engage the issue of Lincoln’s final understanding of the nature of God. Wilentz, though, asserts that Lincoln, although admittedly attending church more often and deriving some benefit from the preaching, remained a “Victorian doubter,” who never came to believe in a living God. "[48], On the day Lincoln was assassinated, he reportedly told his wife at Ford's Theatre that he wanted to visit the Holy Land and that "there was no place he so much desired to see as Jerusalem." However, historian Mark Noll states that "Lincoln never joined a church nor ever made a clear profession of standard Christian belief. to liberal civilization.” Ibid., 22. The same theological allegory was to be prominent in Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address in March 1865: Both [North and South] read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. [7] He seemed to believe in an all-powerful God, who shaped events and, by 1865, was expressing those beliefs in major speeches.[8]. . In his remarks as probably delivered, Lincoln said he placed his “reliance for support” on the same “Almighty Being” whose aid sustained Washington. or merely . [68], A Bible that belonged to President Abraham Lincoln resurfaced 150 years after his death. Our goal has been to present the case for Lincoln’s belief in a personal, sovereign God. There is considerable additional evidence that Lincoln coveted others’ prayers for him. The reply from Phineas Gurley, pastor of the same New York Avenue Presbyterian Church while Lincoln was an attender, to Reed's question was: I do not believe a word of it. But his mistakes do not stop there—he somehow interprets the Civil War as a whole as signaling a transformation in American life from reliance on God to faith in history. Excuse the liberties I have taken with you- hope you won't have a fight with Johnson. . The tentative language comes after Lincoln said, “The Almighty has His own purposes.”[48] There is nothing provisional about this statement. I should give up hoping for success.’”[125] To believe that one is assisted by others’ prayers is to believe as well in one who hears and answers. Peter Cartwright to rebut “the charge of atheism.” See Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln, 2:238–40. At some point, these theories exceed any reasonable threshold of plausibility. Lincoln, according to Guelzo, reached the point where he could only talk about slavery in categories of right and wrong determined by Lincoln’s understanding of the “justice of God.” See infra note 174. Carwardine, Lincoln, 235. [1] Some argue that Lincoln was neither a Christian believer nor a secular freethinker. Ibid., 463. Several people reported that Lincoln told them that his feelings about religion changed at this time. . . . [6] Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Kaplan elsewhere explains that this “power” actually was nothing other than the old doctrine of necessity, “the universal law” of “‘cause and effect’ . All dreaded it—all sought to avert it. Gopnik, Angels and Ages, 187. "[3], But Ward Lamon claimed that Mary Lincoln said to William Herndon: "Mr. Lincoln had no hope and no faith in the usual acceptance of these words". In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party -- and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose. We can’t outsource them upward. See infra note 150 and accompanying text. we could not expect to escape punishment for it.’” Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, comp. . [203] Could there be an exegesis more dismissive of what Lincoln said[204] and more mistaken concerning Lincoln’s beliefs about God?[205]. For our rejection of this claim, see supra notes 41–53 and accompanying text. A charge having got into circulation in some of the neighborhoods of this District, in substance that I am an open scoffer at Christianity, I have by the advice of some friends concluded to notice the subject in this form. One might argue that Lincoln had not reached any firm conclusions as to the nature of God, but still chose to use language that he knew would forcefully impact his Bible-steeped audience. Miller, President Lincoln, 260. After leaving home, he took a flatboat trip down the Mississippi, […] Ibid., 472 (referring to William Lee Miller, “Lincoln’s Second Inaugural: The Zenith of Statecraft,” The Center Magazine [(July/August 1980)]: 53–64). See also Collected Works, 5:146 (Lincoln, in a message to Congress, refers to his “great responsibility to my God”); Collected Works, 7:302 (Lincoln says he is “responsible . Naturally, the response was heartening. [53], Allen C. Guelzo wrote that "Given that Lincoln never made any such profession publicly to anyone else, the account itself is dubious." According to biographer Rev. See Wilson, Lincoln’s Sword, 13; Collected Works, 4:190. We disagree with this characterization. “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever: that considering numbers, nature and natural means only, a revolution of the wheel of fortune, an exchange of situation, is among possible events: that it may become probable by supernatural interference! Noll’s bottom-line assessment is that Lincoln was “seriously religious,” “immersed in the Scriptures,” respected God, was eager “to commit the Civil War to divine rule,” and possessed a “personal sense of living under the authority of divine providence.” Ibid., 5–6. For an especially thoughtful discussion of Lincoln’s spiritual development, see Nicholas Parrillo, “Lincoln’s Calvinist Transformation: Emancipation and War,” Civil War History 46 (Fall 2000): 227–53. . "[67], Guelzo, director of Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, published Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President in 1999. He believed there was some kind of God, but whether this God was a personal God, whether this God gave active direction and intervention to human affairs, that was a subject that, over the years, he tended to shift his position on a good deal.”[161], How could Lincoln be “close to a Deist” if he believed that God had “a conscious will to intervene”? . This strategic-theology argument differs from the please-the-public theory previously discussed. . A mere force or law does not have a “purpose,” a term that connotes intention and choosing. Similarly, is it credible that Lincoln during the Springfield Farewell made an emotional appeal for prayers on his behalf, see supra note 150 and accompanying text, all the while knowing that he did not believe in the efficacy of prayer? It was the sincere expression of the abiding faith of Abraham Lincoln in God, prayer, and duty.” Ibid. As Carl Sandburg recounts in Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years, Lincoln attended one of Cartwright's revival meetings. I remember well his argument. [22] Lincoln’s language also portrays God as having an active will; He chooses how to act. Karl Marx—sublimation of Old Testament fatalism into a new religion of history, where history does the brute, necessary work of nation building through the extended punishment that Jehovah had done before.” Ibid., 131–32. [148], Wilson’s failure to comment on Lincoln’s conception of God as personal is especially surprising in view of Wilson’s important contribution to our understanding of Lincoln’s famous Springfield Farewell Speech in February 1861. This does not strike us as a particularly cheerful or heroic way of looking at the world. See Morel, Lincoln’s Sacred Effort, 199, 200, 207. See supra notes 100–105 and accompanying text. Consequently, those embarking upon historical inquiry concerning Lincoln bear a great responsibility. . Abraham Lincoln’s views and values were influenced heavily by his upbringing. He argues that the most likely spoken version is the one labeled “B Version” by Collected Works. Yet the contest began. E. Fehrenbacher, Lincoln in Text and Context: Collected Essays (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1987), 162–63. However, we have shown that Lincoln’s beliefs progressively changed in one way only—toward an eventual firm belief in a personal God. See supra note 150 and accompanying text. There is other important corroborating evidence, including (a) Lincoln’s initial presidential oath of office, infra notes 118–20 and accompanying text; (b) the significant references to prayer in the Springfield Farewell, infra notes 149–55 and accompanying text; and (c) Lincoln’s vow pertaining to issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, infra notes 167–73 and accompanying text. To contribute to a thorough examination of the question posed, we will discuss representative dissenting scholars from each category. . . Historian Allen C. Guelzo notes: "This was no mean feat, coming from a man who had been suspected of agnosticism or atheism for most of his life. Ibid. Lincoln had hoped to resolve the conflict peacefully without a civil war. In keeping with his admonition that one should judge not lest he be judged, Lincoln renders a judgment that applies first and foremost to himself. Noll, though, falls short of affirming that Lincoln believed in a personal God. We—even we here . One has to wonder what Herndon thought when Lincoln, as president, issued a proclamation with this language: “The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of … "[37] The differences in interpretation of Lincoln's statement may be due to the belief that "swearing or vowing" to God was considered blasphemous by some religious organizations.[1]. William Miller understands how a “logician might assume that Lincoln affirmed the Almighty’s almighty purposes . He frequently referred to God and had a deep knowledge of the Bible, often quoting it. became an active and more personal God.”[122] Again Carwardine is ambivalent—Lincoln’s God became “more personal.” In what way? convictions because of his immense value in the nation’s culture wars. After charges of hostility to Christianity almost cost him a congressional bid, he kept his unorthodox beliefs private. [198] Thus, we believe Kaplan erred in letting an inaccurate theological presupposition limit his thinking on what Lincoln must have meant. See supra notes 120, 152; supra notes 75, 81 and accompanying text. See supra notes 54–89 and accompanying text. Wilson recounts that Lincoln’s spontaneous plea for prayer led to an “emotional exchange between [him] and the crowd,” in which Lincoln’s “exhortation to pray elicited choked exclamations of ‘We will do it; we will do it.’” Wilson, “Lincoln’s Sword,” 13. . But some scholars have doubts. . But, when I went to Gettysburg and looked upon the graves of our dead heroes who had fallen in defense of their country, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ. See supra notes 162, 174. See Trueblood, Abraham Lincoln: Theologian of American Anguish (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 136–38; Wolf, The Almost Chosen People, 179, 181–86. Frequency alone is not the only factor. 1) Lincoln did not make firm claims but was only speculating, 2) Lincoln did not mean what he said but spoke religiously only to please his audience, Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life, Herndon’s Life of Lincoln: The History and Personal Recollections of Abraham Lincoln, s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers, Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Lincoln’s Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural, Lincoln’s Moral Vision: The Second Inaugural Address, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words, American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America, Lincoln’s Sacred Effort: Defining Religion’s Role in American Self-Government, President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman, Abraham Lincoln: The Man Behind the Myths, The Lively Experiment: The Shaping of Christianity in America, With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Looking for Lincoln: Adventures in Abe’s America, Faith and the Presidency: From George Washington to George W. Bush, Lincoln’s Proclamation: Emancipation Reconsidered, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America, Abraham Lincoln and American Political Religion, Lincoln in Text and Context: Collected Essays, Under God: Religion and American Politics, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America, Abraham Lincoln: Theologian of American Anguish, Personal Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech Nobody Knows, Abraham Lincoln: Great American Historians on Our Sixteenth President, What Lincoln Believed: The Values and Convictions of America, Lincoln, Religion, and Romantic Cultural Politics, Skip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information), http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.2629860.0033.105. [18], One can read the Second Inaugural in many different places and formats, but none more impressive than as carved on the north, inside wall of the Lincoln Memorial. It is more likely, however, that Lincoln was alluding to the sustenance God gave him in response to others’ prayers. For Lincoln to think that blame was actually shifted, he had to have believed what he said. Willie is reported to have often remarked that he wanted to become a minister. This has been portrayed to have been Lincoln's "reply" to this unnamed Illinois minister when asked if he loved Jesus. Harvey Lee Ross, mail carrier who lived in New Salem with Lincoln in 1834, asserts that this was a fictional story by Herndon. [149] Wilson says that the “most electrifying moment” of the poignant scene was Lincoln’s “emotional plea” for prayer: “I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I will receive . We have used our best judgment. Calling Lincoln’s language “deistic” is by definition to assert Lincoln’s non-participatory, and hence non-personal, conception of God. . Douglas Wilson points out that Lincoln’s final version of the Second Inaugural, the one he delivered on March 4, 1865, was actually printed ahead of time and distributed to the press the day of the inauguration. Allen Guelzo argues that the Doctrine of Necessity did not necessarily depend upon any kind of God, deistic or not, but may have been attributed “to a comparatively impersonal cause or force.” Guelzo, “Abraham Lincoln and the Doctrine of Necessity,” Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association 18 (Winter 1997): 64. . . The historical record contains considerable raw data pertaining to Lincoln’s religious beliefs: his words, both written and spoken, and his actions. Carwardine, however, does not argue that Lincoln was disingenuous in his choice of religious language. Jon Meacham uses an even stronger word, “startling,” to describe the address’s “religiosity.” American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation (New York: Random House, 2006), 121. [13], The starting point for our argument is the Second Inaugural Address,[14] which some believe to be Lincoln’s greatest speech. This is a transcript from the video series Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln.Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus. [14] Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Richard Carwardine thinks the speech has “the character of a sermon,” Lincoln, 246, and Doris Kearns Goodwin says, “More than any of his other speeches, the Second Inaugural fused spiritual faith with politics.” Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005), 699. Wilson later quotes Lincoln’s letter to Thurlow Weed, in which Lincoln flatly states that the address contained “‘a truth which [he] thought needed to be told’” (276); see supra notes 84–89 and accompanying text. This discouraged Britain from getting involved and supporting Confederacy. his new position may be understood as something like an extension or amplification brought about by the transforming pressures of the office.”[138] But it was not much of an “extension or modification.” Lincoln had long “endorsed” the Declaration of Independence’s acknowledgment of a creator who endowed humans with inalienable rights. See, e.g., infra notes 37–38 and accompanying text. Finally, Ross states he was very well acquainted with everyone in the community of New Salem and he would have known about any conversations regarding a document of this nature. that the crime of slavery could not be purged from this guilty land except by blood.” Abraham Lincoln: The Man Behind the Myths (New York: HarperPerennial, 1994), 118. Fornieri, Abraham Lincoln’s Political Faith, 171. In the Second Inaugural Address, Lincoln ‘abandoned his secular view of history and resigned himself to serving as an instrument in the hands of God.’” White, “Lincoln’s Sermon on the Mount,” 223. The Almighty has His own purposes. But it would be incorrect to conclude that Carwardine brands Lincoln’s religious language as exclusively instrumentalist. all of Lincoln’s religious expressions appear as part of utterances that directly address political problems, that are given in a political context, or that intend to have political effects.” Abraham Lincoln and American Political Religion (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1976), xii. . He must go with God if he wants to be a living and vital power. . The specific “truth” Lincoln thought it necessary to convey was that there was “a difference of purpose” between God and man. . See Matthew Pinsker, “Lincoln Theme 2.0,” Journal of American History 96 (September 2009): 436. . Many scholars have observed that Lincoln undoubtedly shocked his audience. Miner’s account of Mary Lincoln’s telling of this incident is not included in the Fehrenbachers’ study of Lincoln’s recollected words, presumably because Mrs. Lincoln spoke of a private prayer she overheard rather than words directed to any person. And how does the failure to state the date and context of the remark suggest that he misreported its content? Especially after the death of his young son Willie in 1862, Lincoln moved away from his earlier religious skepticism. necessarily remain[s] a puzzle.”[2] We believe that such assertions are overstated. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. Richard Carwardine concludes that Lincoln stated this assessment as the “only . [209] Second, Lincoln would have needed an unremitting focus on exploiting opportunities for foisting insincere evidence of his prayer life on credulous observers. To Gopnik, it means “a world without a present God but with providential purposes.” Ibid. See supra text accompanying note 55. William Barton, Lincoln likely had written an essay something of this character, but it was not likely that it was burned in such a manner. . [46], In response to the reported speech in Maryland, Lincoln's law partner Herndon remarked "I am aware of the fraud committed on Mr. Lincoln in reporting some insane remarks supposed to have been made by him, in 1864, on the presentation of a Bible to him by the colored people of Baltimore. rather consistently [led] Lincoln to express a more personalized view of Providence.” Ibid., 23. [69], Mary T. Lincoln to James Smith, June 8, 1870, in Robert J. Havlik, "Abraham Lincoln and the Reverend Dr. James Smith: Lincoln's Presbyterian experience of Springfield,". But he would not move beyond anything more than that, anything more explicit than that. : Harvard University Press, 1993), 156, he unaccountably says that “Lincoln’s religious views were related most closely to his private life. Appendix, Para. The good Lord has called him home. [107] Instead, we will focus on the recent parameters of the debate. Others in this category are Elton Trueblood and William J. Wolf. to relieve himself of responsibility for the carnage in which he was implicated, off-loading it onto an all-controlling Providence.” But Miller ultimately concludes that “its effects were, rather, personal and national humility and self-criticism: while we act, responsible for our actions, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see it, we recognize that there are purposes beyond our own.” Miller, President Lincoln, 406. Recollected Words of Abraham Lincoln, 50, liii. : Gettysburg College, 2001), 21. We have already commented on this broader inquiry,[106] but we now turn to a fuller consideration. In fact, Kaplan uses this argument as a general explanation of Lincoln’s religious language. Richard Carwardine writes that this phrase turned “a legal document that could be defended upon [Lincoln’s] war powers into one that also acknowledged his private faith.” Carwardine, “Whatever Shall Appear to Be God’s Will,” 96.
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