As a follow-on to the Andrew Jackson book I read last winter, I purchased a book on Abraham Lincoln a couple of weeks ago and finished it today. His early political career started around the time Jackson (the first Democrat president) was in office. The author of this biography is Richard Carwardine and I found it to be a good read.
It would be difficult to summarize a 300 page book, but I have to say that things don’t change much. His work-hard ethic coupled with Calvinist religious upbringing played a huge role in his life. And the politics, well . . . politics as usual. I used to think that things were different “back then”. Activist supreme court justices . . . you bet. The formation of the Republican party, of which he played a major role, and the development of that political machine to counter the Democrat’s political machine of the day was very intersting. I thought that newspapers were unbiased “back then”, but in fact it was commonly understood that certain papers were Republican and the others Democrats. Each side openly acknowledged this, unlike today, and used them to their advantage. Promising of appointments to federal offices was also acknowledged. The Democrat political machine was against the Civil War as well as against the abolition of slavery. In fact, they used scare tactics during the 1864 election telling the hordes of Irish immigrants and other laborers in the North that if Lincoln remained in office, the freed blacks would take all of their jobs away. And, they constantly hammered him for being the wrong guy for the job and that he was callous, cowardly and incompetent and that they were fighting for no reason and they complained that Lincoln wouldn’t talk peace and they wanted to give up on the war and let slavery go on even though the North was winning the war by then. But, Lincoln and the Republicans wanted unconditional surrender and an end to slavery and used every strategy, like getting newspaper editors not to publish this or that in exchange for this promise or that. Sound familiar? Lincoln beat McClellan with 56% of the popular vote. I thought it was more overwhelming than that.
I couldn’t help but relate that political climate to these moden times. Quite fascinating. If you can find the time, give it a read. For me, it is like reading a good novel where I have trouble putting it down and going to bed. I guess war can and does solve things . . . in this case, freedom for all and it kept the Union together. If he had been voted out in 1864 we would have ceratinly been at least two countries.