Hundreds of books have been written about Abraham Lincoln – so many, in fact, that Lincoln scholars are fond of saying more books have been written about Lincoln than about God.
That’s what one of those scholars, K.M. Kostyal, reminds readers in a cover story about Lincoln in “Exploring History,” a new magazine published by National Geographic.
After all that ink, is there really anything new to say about America’s 16th president? Probably not, although Kostyal does try to remind readers of an often overlooked truth:
Abraham Lincoln, now revered as a pillar of American democracy, was actually something of a radical in his time.
“When Abe saw fit, he lived against the grain,” Kostyal tells readers. “In a world of hunters, he gave up hunting and even wrote a childhood composition championing animal rights (this at a time when his family was barely subsisting); in a world of overt religiosity, he was a skeptic and a deist; in a family where his father abhorred his bookishness, he was a ‘Constant and . . . Stubborn reader’ . . .” In a rough-and-tumble male culture, adds Kostyal, Lincoln didn’t use tobacco, curse, gamble or drink alcohol.
One has to wonder what today’s political culture would make of such an oddity.
And one also has to wonder what today’s tea party activists would think about the Republican Lincoln’s view of government.
“In his heart, Lincoln was a Whig — the party of what many people today would call big government,” Kostyal writes. “Whigs were devoted to the notion of internal improvement as the future of America. They wanted more railroad lines, canals, dredged and navigable rivers, and a national banking system. Lincoln fervently believed in all of this and built his early career on it.”
No man is infallible, and Lincoln wasn’t right on every issue, but he did display an independence of mind and an active intellect that made him a great president.
We hope voters value similar qualities in the people they elect to public office.