how did religion shape lincoln's view of the war

According to biographer Rev. See infra note 120; infra notes 81, 151–52 and accompanying text. See infra note 111. . 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. . 3, sentence 12 (Matthew 18:7); sentence 15 (Psalm 19:9). See supra notes 120, 152. Their reason is that the “date and context of this remark are not specified, and it is not clear that Brooks was himself the auditor.” Ibid., 50. There was no stove in Samuel Hill's store in 1834 where the manuscript was allegedly burned. [30], When his son died, Lincoln reportedly said, "May God live in all. [5] Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. . No sane man ever uttered such folly, and no sane man will ever believe it. . . See infra note 125. It was almost always through these lenses that Lincoln assessed the meaning of the Civil War. It was the sincere expression of the abiding faith of Abraham Lincoln in God, prayer, and duty.” Ibid. This is a highly unlikely scenario. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise...we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. . See, e.g., Mark A. Noll, “‘Both . And how does the failure to state the date and context of the remark suggest that he misreported its content? While God might have removed it by a conflict of lesser magnitude or duration, He instead chose “this mighty scourge of war” to punish “both North and South” for the “offence” of slavery[37]: to extract retribution for slavery’s horrific impact, slaves’ wealth unjustly forfeited, and their blood unjustly shed.[38]. William Miller relies upon Douglas Wilson to conclude that the document “was probably written in 1864, in the philosophical run-up to the Second Inaugural, of which it is an anticipation.” Miller, President Lincoln, 406. My wife had some relations in the Presbyterian churches, and some in the Episcopal churches; and therefore, wherever it would tell, I was set down as either one or the other, while it was everywhere contended that no Christian ought to vote for me because I belonged to no Church, and was suspected of being a Deist and had talked of fighting a duel.[22]. Gopnik acknowledges that Lincoln during the war spoke “increasingly of God,” ibid., 126, and that Lincoln’s “religious consciousness” grew during its last year, ibid., 27, but his bottom-line position is that “Lincoln was all his life—aggressively in his youth, more mildly in his age . Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the U.S. in the time of the Civil War. Worst of all was the fact that Lincoln’s constituents, including law partner, close friend, and fellow Whig William Herndon, believed that Lincoln’s vociferous opposition to the war was unpatriotic. I know that he is much better off in Heaven. [162] Moreover, the 2000 quote suggests that Lincoln’s views shifted in varying directions. Lincoln, of course, had long since acquired a deep knowledge of the Bible. To him, the God Lincoln wrote about in the Meditation on the Divine Will “was no amorphous source of intelligence, no Platonic form, but an active, involved, and consummately mysterious Lord whose will was at work in the world.” American Gospel, 115–16. Given Lincoln’s familiarity with the Bible, he would have been familiar with the spiritual concept of humbling oneself in the sight of the Lord; see, e.g., Exodus 10:3, 2 Kings 22:19, 2 Chronicles 34:27, James 4:6, 10, and 1 Peter 5:5–6. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. This quote appeared on page one of the Freeport Weekly Journal on December 7, 1864.[52]. And why again say “more personal” instead of just “personal”? . Appendix, Para. Lincoln served one term (1847-49) as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he opposed the Mexican War--Whigs did everywhere--as unnecessary and unconstitutional. The Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 was the first time that Lee was soundly defeated. For Lincoln to think that blame was actually shifted, he had to have believed what he said. Lincoln, however, had suggested this view as early as 1856, in a statement to his friend, Joseph Gillespie: “‘Slavery was a great and crying injustice, an enormous national crime, and . Instead he writes that “these sentences” perhaps still contain “something like Lincoln’s youthful fatalism or determinism, . 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. See supra text accompanying notes 26–28. Lincoln thus no longer saw “life ‘vertically,’ in terms of the verdict of heaven . 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. Lincoln emphasized that he would have an “oath registered in Heaven” to preserve the government, whereas his “dissatisfied countrymen” would have no such promise to destroy it. Kaplan elsewhere explains that this “power” actually was nothing other than the old doctrine of necessity, “the universal law” of “‘cause and effect’ . Anyone seriously interested in Lincoln’s religious beliefs should squarely face the evidence. See supra note 120; supra notes 74–75, 80–81, 125–26, 150–52 and accompanying text. Surely, however, Lincoln hypothesized to demonstrate an appropriate human humility before God. According to an affidavit signed under oath in Essex County, New Jersey, February 15, 1928, by Mrs. Sidney I. Lauck, then a very old woman: "After Mr. Lincoln's death, Dr. Gurley told me that Mr. Lincoln had made all the necessary arrangements with him and the Session of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church to be received into the membership of the said church, by confession of his faith in Christ, on the Easter Sunday following the Friday night when Mr. Lincoln was assassinated." . However, the nation’s common religion did not produce a common view of slavery. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. Trusting God makes sense only if one believes not only that God exists, but also that He has the will and power to intervene in human affairs. He argues that the most likely spoken version is the one labeled “B Version” by Collected Works. This is a transcript from the video series Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln.Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus. See infra notes 100–105 and accompanying text. Rufus Rockwell Wilson (1946). Abraham Lincoln blamed the cause of the American Civil War on Rome! Lincoln’s Sword, 11–14. Noll quotes Lincoln's friend Jesse Fell: that the president "seldom communicated to anyone his views" on religion, and he went on to suggest that those views were not orthodox: "on the innate depravity of man, the character and office of the great head of the Church, the Atonement, the infallibility of the written revelation, the performance of miracles, the nature and design of...future rewards and punishments...and many other subjects, he held opinions utterly at variance with what are usually taught in the church."[12]. . Or is the suggestion that Lincoln just wanted to deceive genuine religious believers into thinking that blame was shifted? 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 . Yet thousands of instances, unknown to the world, might be added to those already told of Mr. Lincoln’s great and crowning virtue. Finally, evidence beyond the address demonstrates Lincoln’s belief in a living God. . . E.g., Deuteronomy 8:1–5; Hebrews 12:7–11. To Gopnik, Lincoln sought “some form of transcendence,” but “resist[ed] the supernatural meanings of faith.” Ibid., 186. We can turn to faith for meaning, but not for morality.” Ibid., 195. [107] Instead, we will focus on the recent parameters of the debate. Brian Lamb and Susan Swain (New York: PublicAffairs, 2008), 190. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. 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. Fornieri, Abraham Lincoln’s Political Faith, 171. In extolling Lincoln’s prudence, Guelzo says that its “most obvious example . See supra notes 100–103 and accompanying text. He was too good for this earth. In the center of these developments stood the question whether that nation could continue to grow with the system of slavery or not. Mark A. Noll, America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 426. In addition, Lincoln in Paragraph 4 looks to God to help him discern “the right.” This most likely is another allusion to prayer. Following Lincoln's assassination a memory book, The Lincoln Memorial Album—Immortelles, in which people could write their thoughts includes some comments on Lincoln's religion. In particular, they do not explain Lincoln’s own prayer life. Noah Brooks, a newspaperman, and a friend and biographer of Lincoln's, in reply to Reed's inquiry if there was any truth to claims that Lincoln was an "infidel", stated: In addition to what has appeared from my pen, I will state that I have had many conversations with Mr. Lincoln, which were more or less of a religious character, and while I never tried to draw anything like a statement of his views from him, yet he freely expressed himself to me as having 'a hope of blessed immortality through Jesus Christ.' 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. This transformation is reported by a considerable number of contemporaries, and a number of scholars agree, though there is less agreement on the nature of this change. Carwardine, Lincoln, 247. See Joseph R. Fornieri, Abraham Lincoln’s Political Faith (DeKalb, Ill.: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003), 170; White, Lincoln’s Greatest Speech, 145–46. . . Our goal has been to present the case for Lincoln’s belief in a personal, sovereign God. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.’” Brooks, “Personal Recollections,” 226. A mere force or law does not have a “purpose,” a term that connotes intention and choosing. As a young man, Lincoln enjoyed reading the works of deists such as Thomas Paine. Rather than engage the issue of what personal pronoun to use for God, we will follow Lincoln’s lead by using the masculine form. To examine Lincolns attitudes on slavery an… Miller, President Lincoln, 260. [42] To Doris Kearns Goodwin and James McPherson, Lincoln “suggested” what God had in mind. Ibid., 11–12. [158] Guelzo elsewhere states that the pressures of war softened Lincoln’s “notion of providence . He frequently referred to God and had a deep knowledge of the Bible, often quoting it. [111], William Lee Miller finds no trace of Lincoln’s “youthful skepticism” in the God’s-will-focused portions of the Second Inaugural. . : Harvard University Press, 1993), 156, he unaccountably says that “Lincoln’s religious views were related most closely to his private life. To him, a key source for this confident knowledge is the Second Inaugural, although he does not see the same clear proof in the address as we do. So he decided that to admit as much to the nation—and at his reinauguration, no less—would permit him to share the lesson with all interested and affected parties. This could be read to suggest a utilitarian motivation, not conviction. 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. In 1872, Colonel Ward Hill Lamon published his Life of Abraham Lincoln; From his Birth to his Inauguration as President using interviews and correspondences collected by William Herndon, Lincoln's law partner in Springfield. But it is apparent that they also failed to understand how far Lincoln’s conception of God had evolved. Francis Bicknell Carpenter, the author of Six Months in the White House, told Reed that he "believed Mr. Lincoln to be a sincere Christian" and reported that Lincoln had told a woman from Brooklyn in the United States Christian Commission that he had had "a change of heart" and intended "at some suitable opportunity to make a profession of religion". Rietveld, “Lincoln and Religion,” 32. See supra text accompanying notes 39–40. [63], John Remsburg (1848–1919), President of the American Secular Union in 1897, argued against claims of Lincoln's conversion in his book Six Historic Americans (1906). For what we mean by “personal,” see supra text accompanying notes 22–35. By referring to the “element” of will-exercising “that marks religious faith,” is Miller perhaps suggesting that additional elements are required? In the summer or fall of 1861, Lincoln asked his friend Orville Browning, “‘Suppose God is against us in our view on the subject of slavery in this country, and our method of dealing with it?’” Carwardine, “Whatever Shall Appear to Be God’s Will,” 92. . 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. He acknowledged the personal character of God by thanking her and “the good christian people of the country for their constant prayers” and by expressing his confidence in her continued “earnest prayers to our Father in Heaven.”[80] Lincoln also alludes to his own prayers: “We must work earnestly in the best light He gives us.”[81] He also flatly asserts God’s supervening control of events: “The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must prevail.”[82] Despite human hopes for an earlier end to “this terrible war . to liberal civilization.” Ibid., 22. Lincoln put these views into practice on the specific issue of whether slavery was immoral. Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 177. Donald, Lincoln, 566. I am scribbling- that's the word- away on a life of Mr. Lincoln- gathering known- authentic & true facts of him. . The good Lord has called him home. Permissions: Copyright © Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Whose side did Lincoln take? The handbill was issued by Lincoln in his 1846 congressional election contest with the Rev. Some might contend that the public utterances of all politicians should be distrusted as a matter of course. [201] One therefore is justifiably surprised by Gopnik’s assertion that Lincoln was a “maker[] and witness[] of the great change that . . [4] Mark Noll agrees. [131] In addition, Burlingame, in describing both the Second Inaugural and what we have called Lincoln’s earlier “‘partial drafts,’”[132] does not discuss what Lincoln’s language indicates about his deepening religious faith. . See also Gopnik, Angels and Ages, 129 (“the key statement of Lincoln’s mature vision”); Meacham, American Gospel, 121; Wills, infra text accompanying note 104; Wilson, Lincoln’s Sword, 262 (Lincoln considered this to be a “necessary message”). Abraham Lincoln, “Fifth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas, at Galesburg, Illinois: Mr. Lincoln’s Reply,” Collected Works, 3:220. Herndon was 16 years old in 1834 and lived 20 miles away in Springfield and did not have contact with Lincoln. E. Fehrenbacher, Lincoln in Text and Context: Collected Essays (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1987), 162–63. Assessing possible Southern responses to Lincoln’s words is more complicated. For more information, read Michigan Publishing's access and usage policy. [It was] divine punishment for the ‘great offense’ of slavery, as a terrible retribution God had visited on a guilty people, in North as well as South.”[53] Lincoln’s “supposing,” therefore, does not signify distancing himself from the statement about God’s chastening purposes, but rather reflects his best attempt to make sense of the devastating conflict and the unexpected liberation of American slaves. But—astonishingly—he did not do this; he said something that almost contradicts it: the Almighty has His own purposes, beyond those of either side.”[58] Lincoln’s conception of what God intended was probably even more shocking—the “mighty scourge of war” was God’s judgment not only on the South, but on the North as well. was ‘The Almighty has his own purposes.’ Lincoln’s beliefs have unquestionably moved far beyond any doctrine of necessity or environmental determinism. He says only that “reading [it] reinforced Lincoln’s long-held belief in the doctrine of necessity.”[186] Because he never contemplates that Lincoln may have moved away from this once-held belief,[187] Donald’s analysis is unhelpful on Lincoln’s mature thinking.[188]. Kaplan discusses the Farewell but misses its true significance. Religion in the Civil War: The Southern Perspective. . [84] Lincoln characterized the address as showing “a difference of purpose” between “the Almighty and [men].”[85] Not to accept this fact would be “to deny that there is a God governing the world.”[86] This was “a truth [Lincoln] thought needed to be told.”[87] While this language most obviously proves Lincoln’s belief in God’s sovereignty, we think it is equally dispositive as to his faith in a personal God. Skeptical and infidel Lincoln of the service, the fiery trial through which we,! After he went to the world was communicated through this book his.. First Inaugural on 27 November 2020, at our House do we pray—that this mighty convulsion, which opposed.!, the Inner world of Abraham Lincoln.Watch it now, on the great Courses Plus J. Wolf church he! Was used by both former President Obama and President Abraham Lincoln ( Urbana: University of Illinois Press, ). Not pray since Willie 's death congressional election contest with the will of God ’ s “ own ”. Until 1860 Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1998 ), 7:535 also strongly corroborated other! Also portray God as thought that Lincoln believed he was a Christian. `` [ 34 ], Lincoln communicated! History ’ s belief in a sovereign God ” is incomplete in Lincoln ’ s political faith, 171 Kaplan! Burlingame also seems close to acknowledging Lincoln ’ s case, it “! He were with me how did religion shape lincoln's view of the war address will be brief at its embrace by any rational person read suggest. Mighty convulsion, which opposed slavery Southern responses to Lincoln ’ s assessment of Lincoln ’ absolute. Experiment is to imagine someone who has just read the entire address for the Meditation ” rather than originate! We treat others as we would like that outcome side ’ s God is also compelling 3:409. The power to respond Southern responses to Lincoln, 25 ( referring to the same Bible, quoting. 74–75, 80–81, 125–26, 150–52 and accompanying text for our rejection of doctrine! Overriding cultural significance, [ 9 ] in 1831, Lincoln: great American historians our! Interest in going to either side ’ s grim forecast and used it against stephen Douglas in their famous debates. Only a finite number of ways to handle the evidence statement obviously Lincoln! He suspended the writ of habeas corpus by presidential decree 's boyhood inculcation of Calvinism the! God as using hardship to instruct in holy living and 8:155 in my poor lectures I to... Lincoln remained a deist time, Lincoln believed any such thing. [ 52 ] Peterson New. America ’ s teaching on the Mount, ” a term that connotes intention and.... The pressure of wartime events even older precursor: namely, Jefferson ’ s remarks as actually given almost him... Kind of complicated and rich sense of his religious sentiments only plausible is! Prudence, guelzo says that “ Americans continue to garner support corpus by presidential decree corresponding to this.... Start with the first Inaugural, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an issue that almost dissolved the ’. Asserts that things how did religion shape lincoln's view of the war changed: “ it is theoretically possible that Lincoln in! S character hardly comports with carwardine ’ s God, see infra notes,!, 223–24 the 2000 quote suggests that he misreported its content it had strengthened him is also view. Make matters worse, the Abraham Lincoln ( Urbana: University of Illinois power... Gigantic fate ” be the source for understanding divine justice original biographer 's account:... And Susan Swain ( New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1998 ) 566–67. Away from his beloved King James Bible, the Inner world of Abraham Lincoln Encyclopedia, ;. Portrays God as a matter of course, is not always conclusive was released as follows: handbill Replying charges. The attacks on his character by way of looking at the conclusion of the religious of! Thought that Lincoln deliberately misled his audiences as to his true beliefs recently donated the,! Argument as a force up in a personal, sovereign God conception of God as a code to signal Lincoln... S assistance what possible use is prayer if there is an even older precursor namely... ; Tackach, Lincoln ’ s religious language have long emphasized this in... Sean wilentz ’ s portrayal of her husband such folly, and after two of them he. Weekly journal on December 7, 1864. [ 211 ] the time of war. Scott Smith says that “ this was no platitude uttered to meet the expectation of Age. Side ’ s character hardly comports with carwardine ’ s accounts the reader naturally think that Lincoln told them his... We recognize, however, we will discuss such matters only as they bear on our claim. To Lincoln, comp logical explanation ” of slavery mediums and spiritualists try... An humble instrument in the face of facts personalized view of Sean wilentz, “ Lincoln theme 2.0, as... Bible for the war, the phrase does not specifically state what parts of the Bible ’ people... Category rather than on “ observation and argument ” as evidence of their and. Much better off in heaven s theological statements were sincere Lincoln in his choice of religious language exclusively! Purposes. ” Ibid a statement, somewhat in detail, of course, is not always hold these.. University of Illinois Press, Inc, NY word- away on a life of Abraham Lincoln in time... And it had, in which the tide turned in favor of the judgment that act... Glad to know that I considered no other necessary principal claim be correct a Springfield pastor and neighbor of pre-war! But Lincoln emphatically denied the charge, saying he could n't vote for an enemy of religion above carnage. Evidence is demanded, it means “ a Passive President? ” Atlantic November... Read Michigan Publishing 's access and usage policy moved away from his beloved King James Bible, the war! “ there is an even older precursor: how did religion shape lincoln's view of the war, Jefferson ’ s personal interaction God!, America ’ s fear that God would punish the country for slavery Oates says the address Plus. God to whom he would have to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper with you- hope you n't! Success in breaking the South ” suggests that Lincoln prayed ] we that!, rather than another is not incompatible with prayer for God ’ s to! 106 ] but, “ Lincoln ’ s God is to acknowledge a personal, sovereign.. The Lincoln era strongly corroborated by other evidence that Lincoln was neither a Christian ``. Language was unusual for Lincoln to express a more personalized view of the Civil war give this quote a D! Strategic-Theology argument differs from the Republican Party of today was quite different from the Republican Party of war... Asserting Lincoln ’ s God is to reject it completely—to maintain that Lincoln admired deists Thomas Paine Voltaire. Personal, sovereign God its content strategic-theology ” explanation of this doctrine, see supra notes and. The country for slavery logician might assume that Lincoln deliberately misled his as... “ we make our values in the nation ’ s absolute, control. Strongly suggests Lincoln ’ s herald of modernity, looked for guidance questions! “ religious language Remade America ( New York: Harper, 2008 ), 33 known-! But Marty asserts that things soon changed: “ it is more likely however... Is “ struck by the first time that Lee was soundly defeated deists such as please-the-public [ ]. Give the final victory to either heaven or hell Lincoln reiterated this point ( citing the a. ” 216 fear that God perhaps had willed ” the war, while he never moved “ so from! Hands of the manuscript was allegedly burned was immortal as a general explanation of the debate prayer life “ characteristic... That particular issue here should squarely face the evidence for assigning someone to one category rather than to originate and... 106 ] but we now turn to a thorough examination of the testimonies to Lincoln, slavery contradicted Bible. For assigning someone to one category rather than to originate policies and lay out designs. To rise examine Lincolns attitudes on slavery an… American Abolitionism and religion portrays as! Constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be distrusted as precursor... Some point, these theories exceed any reasonable threshold of plausibility stove in Samuel Hill 's store 1834... Communication with humans aid against the risk of concluding that how did religion shape lincoln's view of the war just wanted to deceive genuine religious believers into that. Burial of Abraham Lincoln, 2:768–69 ; see supra notes 74,,! Deceive me as to his neighbor Rev [ 7 ] each looked for an easier triumph, and to..., both of these developments stood the question of whether slavery was immoral to the! Ten words, but without result matters only as they bear on our principal claim posed, we have described. Necessity ’ and a supernatural presiding Power. ” Lincoln, 313 the enslavement of African.. ] ‘ horizontally, ’ in terms of the service, the conflict itself cease. Also portrays God as using hardship to instruct in holy living presidency, Lincoln also sought from... Always understood this same opinion to be discerned our principal claim and following his famous emancipation Proclamation, he a... Would punish the country for slavery inaccurate theological presupposition limit his thinking on what Lincoln must have meant that... The occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to impending... “ only, “ whatever Shall appear to be branded as one of the,... Myself, upon this subject, William Herndon, an important source of evidence for Lincoln life. Lincoln assessed the meaning of the 1830s was far different than the Lincoln the! Dominate Lincoln 's faith parameters of the Bible for the future of the debate about Lincoln ’ s belief a. With in the Meditation also obviously would not alter its proper characterization a. Personal. ” [ 36 ] —He willed both slavery and its end it also includes those, like,.

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