Monday, June 15, 2009
Lincoln-The Gold Standard
Lincoln has become the hallmark of a great President in our minds. The reasons are obvious but there are certain facts that we shouldn't forget.
First, the US News and World Report article talks about his darkest hour. The truth is that Lincoln faced many dark hours. There was the crisis before Fort Sumter, the defeats at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville and the hard summer of 1864 when Union armies were stuck before Petersburg and Atlanta.
It should also be remembered that he did not start out as a great President. The handling of the Sumter crisis showed his inexperience. He found himself caught between his Navy and Secretaries of State. His Cabinet suffered from an initial phase of disarray. However, Lincoln eventually learned from his mistakes before the firing on Fort Sumter and eventually gained contol over his Cabinet. Experience allowed him to forge his political talent into mastery.
Another important reality should also be remembered. The Northern public largely stood behind him. Men left Harvard University to join the Union Army. The North endured horrendous casualties before reaching final victory. Great leaders require good followers. Northerners were willing to follow and sacrifice.
None of this is to detract from his achievements but to recall that it did not come easily or cheaply.