Phillip W. Magness

Historian – 19th century United States

The Politics of Remembering Lincoln

Here’s a short piece I wrote for the Daily Caller in which I take a look at the use and abuse of Abraham Lincoln to form modern political arguments. There are plenty of culprits both favorable and hostile to Lincoln, as well as on the political left and right alike. Excerpt:

“A casual observer might wonder why a president who died almost a century and a half ago is the subject of such divergent and heated editorializing. Lincoln’s central place in the pantheon of American civic religion offers one explanation. But the deeper problem is that politicized history, whether laudatory or disparaging, typically makes for bad history, because it incentivizes an evidentiary technique that seeks out confirmation for a preconceived position or argument. Pundits latch on to a Lincolnian program as a panacea for modern political maladies left and right. Historical knowledge in turn suffers as an immensely complicated figure during an irreducibly complex war becomes a shallow stand-in for political scorekeeping.”


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