Lincoln as monster

I have easily a dozen Civil War books going at this point.

My primary focus, though, in the coming weeks are David Herbert Donald’s biography of Lincoln and Gore Vidal’s novel about Lincoln.

The question at hand–or at my hand, at any rate–is how can any sane person, guided by humanitarian impulses, lead a nation into war? 

From whence comes the gall and temerity to send young people to their deaths?  Especially in a "good" man?

It wasn’t concern for black folks.  Lincoln was all for sending blacks back to Africa, and he felt–or expressed that he felt– that whites were the superior "race."  (Nonetheless, the byplay between him and Frederick Douglass will be fascinating to explore.)

So we’re left with "preserving the Union."  What does that mean?  What would be the alternative plans, and why were they unacceptable to him, to the point of launching the hell that is war?

One of the great values of Gary Gallagher’s Civil War course for The Teaching Company is his occasional reminder that hindsight is not the way to go when looking at history, that human decisions among living alternatives are always at work, that nothing is pre-ordained.

It’s so easy to have one’s vision clouded over by the Lincoln myths, but so rewarding to probe beyond them.

So onward we press.

Robert Devereaux

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