The Wit of Lincoln

America’s Best President?

Abraham Lincoln has been renowned in American history and culture to many people as the best president ever. By all means, he definitely has earned a positive reputation. Lincoln reunited the union, abolished slavery, and sought to uphold the promise that “All men are created equal.”

Many people, however, are unfamiliar with Lincoln’s wit. A lawyer before becoming president, Lincoln astonished many people with his remarkable storytelling. Often, the tales that Lincoln told were not only entertaining but inspiring, too. During his run for the presidency, as well as during his presidency, Lincoln often used metaphors and comparative statements to justify his position on certain issues.

At times, he invoked a religious tone. At other times, he took what we, today, would consider a common-sense approach but in the most intellectual way possible. Let’s take a look at the thoughts and metaphors invoked by who most people consider our most beloved president.

Abraham Lincoln’s Outspokenness

President Lincoln was always anti-slavery, but he was not always a prominent abolitionist. His shift to that position would not come until roughly halfway through the Civil War. Even in the years before the war, however, Lincoln was heavily outspoken against the institution, and several of his famous speeches invoked numerous anti-slavery metaphors.

Andrew Jackson’s vice president, John C. Calhoun, was very outspokenly pro-slavery. He even developed a theory known as “Positive Good.” That is, good for both the slave and the master. Although Calhoun’s theory was developed several decades before the 1860s, Lincoln ushered in what should be considered the finest rebuttal to Calhoun, though not aimed at him directly. Lincoln stated, “Whenever I hear anyone arguing in favor of slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”

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Lincoln’s Presidential Debates

During the presidential debates between Lincoln and his Democrat opponent, Stephen Douglas, slavery was the hottest topic. Slavery impacted nearly every ring of the political sector. There was constant debate about how or if it should be extended. This did not just affect western territories; it also involved southerners claiming that they had a right to take slaves into free states, such as New York.

Slavery was at the forefront of secession.

One of Lincoln’s most famous speeches before his presidency came in 1858. Standing at the former capitol building in Springfield, Illinois, Lincoln invoked a biblical tone on the state of the union in relation to the issue of slavery, stating, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half-slave and half-free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”

“It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the states, old as well as new – North as well as South.” Lincoln’s prediction was correct, as just three years later, the deadliest war fought on American soil would rage and ultimately decide the fate of slavery.

Was the Civil War Necessary?

Many people have asserted that there was no need for a war to end slavery. It was abolished peacefully in virtually all other locations – with the exception of Haiti. My question in response to their claim that there was no need for a war is, “How long should it have continued, if not for the war?” Southern slave-holding Democrats were unwilling to compromise on the issue. For years, the federal government made compromises on slavery, giving it mostly to the states to decide. This comprising allowed slavery to extend along the southern border to New Mexico and Arizona.

Democrats had also enjoyed a majority in government until the 1860 election. They demanded liberty to leave the union, after Lincoln (R) was elected. Though Lincoln originally stated that he had no intention of abolishing slavery in the states where it existed; all he asked was that it stay confined. Should the South have been allowed to leave the union peacefully? I want this to be a thought-provoking question. If one takes time to read the southern secession declarations issued by various southern states, it does not take long to see that slavery was at the very forefront of immediate causes.

Mississippi makes the claim that they have a much more-needed reason to secede from the union than the founders did from Britain. This is after the state listed slavery as the position with which they were “thoroughly identified.” Northern states issues, such as not obeying the Fugitive Slave Clause, were also at the forefront of discussions. Does something like that really classify as “Oppression?” I am not sure how anyone could honestly think so.

Lincoln Used his Wit to Educate

For years, some people have criticized Lincoln as being a destroyer of liberty, due to the fact that he did not let the south go. As stated before, Lincoln viewed a union that allowed secession as descent into anarchy. He also did not believe the South had a moral right to secede, and to be fair, neither did Robert E. Lee. Slavery was at the forefront of secession. Lincoln stated, “It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask for a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged.”

Perhaps the best metaphorical quote stated by Lincoln can also be related to his view on liberty versus slavery. “The shepherd drives the wolf from his sheep’s throat, to which the sheep praises him as the liberator. The wolf then denounces the shepherd as the destroyer of liberty.” Perhaps it is time for us to educate all Americans on the wit and wisdom that Lincoln used.

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Author Profile

Garrett Smith
Garrett Smith is a writer for NRN and recent graduate from Western Carolina University. He is a history major with a minor in political science. As a Conservative, Smith believes that the Left has taken over America's education system, which means they now control its history. To make their fellow Americans feel guilty, they often invoke a feeling of "American Shame" in students, indoctrinating them with radical, un-American ideas. It is Smith's goal to teach Americans the true history of America, and along with this, use its history to explain what makes us great.