Thursday, September 27, 2007



There is an interesting short piece in the Daily Californian, an independent student newspaper at the University of California Berkeley campus, about a talk by Garry Wills, Pulitzer Prize winner for his book, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America.

Lincoln widely used Biblical references and other religious images in his speeches but, according to Wills, he was "elusive" when it came to pinning down his spiritual profile.

... Lincoln both related to what Wills called “the Biblical sense of the struggle for freedom” and separated himself from the evangelical movement of the 19th century, instead drawing from transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“He was the champion of the common people, but he didn’t share their religion,” Wills said. “He was an uncommon man with a radically different mind.”
Relating Lincoln to our own time, Wills said:

This too is a time of great trouble in many ways. ... There have been some hellish things about religion and politics lately. Lincoln was always trying to calm people down in times of religious fervor. He tried to expel fanaticism in times of war.
As might be expected from a historian of Lincoln, our own circumstances do not come off well in comparison:

Wills sometimes criticized President Bush and his administration. Asked how Lincoln would handle the conflict in Iraq, Wills replied that "he never would have gotten us into it."
Now, that's understatement.

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