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William Lee Miller (1926–2012)

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William Lee Miller has taught at Yale University, Smith College, Indiana University, and the University of Virginia, where he is currently Miller Center of Public Affairs Scholar in Ethics and Institutions

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In one sense, this book is the natural sequel to Miller's previous _Lincoln's Virtues_, with that other volume covering the pre-presidential years, and this one covering his years as president. In another sense, however, these two books are quite different. In that earlier book, Miller had no problem admitting Lincoln's failings, but in _Duty of a Statesman_ Miller seems to want to play Lincoln's defense attorney, putting the most generous construction on all of Lincoln's actions and the least generous construction on the actions of Lincoln's opponents. In this hagiography of President Lincoln, Miller seems even to have forgotten those prior admissions.

Perhaps defensive attorney is not the right analogy. At times, Miller shares curious facts with us and is apparently oblivious that there is anything in need of defending. For example, on page 218 Miller quotes Lincoln to the effect that John J. Key was not chargeable with "disloyalty", then on page 219 quotes Lincoln to the effect that Key's talk was "treasonable", and Miller comments not at all about the inconsistency.

It is ironic that Shelby Foote, who viewed Lincoln as good but not uniquely so, seemed to exemplify "malice toward none" in his writings so much better than some of Lincoln's enthusiasts.
… (lisätietoja)
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cpg | 5 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Dec 22, 2020 |
Some things I got out of this book:

- Slavery was THE issue. Slavery was morally wrong. (The issue was NOT race.)
- Lincoln was thorough in his research for speech preparation.
- He did not hold grudges.
- Lincoln spoke out on principles: Polk was expansionist & created the Mexican war then blamed it on Mexico. Although it might hurt his career and the war was already over, he spoke out against the false claims.
- Lincoln spoke out on principles: He spent 6 years speaking against Douglas on the slavery issue.
- The book only lightly talks on Buchanen’s treason against the union - following Lincoln’s example of being gentle on his opponents.

"... 3958 books about him already published by 1939" (Page 33)

Lincoln did not hunt, [or] fish, was kind to animals, fled from farming, did not take up carpentry, "Lincoln never used tobacco; ...did not swear, in a social world in which fighting was a regular male activity, Lincoln became a peacemaker; in a hard-drinking society, Lincoln did not drink, when a temperance movement condemned all drinking Lincoln, the non-drinker did not join it; in an environment soaked with hostility to Indians, Lincoln resisted it; in a time and a place in which the great mass of common men in the West supported Andrew Jackson, Lincoln supported Henry Clay ...in a southern-flavored setting soft on slavery, Lincoln always opposed it ...was generous to blacks; in an environment indifferent to education, Lincoln cared about it intensely ..." (Page 43)

"Lincoln would not be sentimental about the traditional one-room schoolhouse ..." (Page 41) "... Lincoln himself would write as an adult, that he does not look back in piety and gratitude to any mentors ... Not his father, not really his mother or stepmother, not the school, not the church, not any adults in Pigeon Creek or New Salem." (Page 84)

"Abraham's stepmother was by her own modest admission, not equipped to be a mentor to this unusual boy. Her contribution seems to have been her recognition that he was unusual ..." (Page 59)

Chapter 4: I want in all cases to do right; Section 4: Be Emulous to Excel

“Many of the literary selections [that Lincoln copied] are chosen, evidently, for their services in moral improvement - but from writers of distinction,…” (Page 79)

“It is ideal as well as absurd to impose our opinions upon others." (Page 79)

“…You must love learning, if you would possess it. In order to live it,…" (Page 79)

“Rhetoric as a classical field had a closer connection to ethics than a modern mind might imagine." (Page 81)

“Lincoln would read Shakespeare throughout his life, very much including his time as president of the United States." (Page 79)

“Although Lincoln apparently did read, at some time in his youth, that ubiquitous American classic The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, …Lincoln never refers to it. His moral universe was less that of Franklin than that of Shakespeare.” (Page 81)

“He was also separated … from the unmasking subversive thinkers on the Continent in the nineteenth century - Marx, Feuerbach, Nietzsche, not to mention Freud and multiple others in the twentieth … that would tend to undermine or overthrow or deny the notion of each human being as a rational moral agent.” (Page 82)

“[The Bible] is the best gift God has given to man”; “All the good that the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book”; “All the things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.” (Page 83) “But for [the Bible] we could not know right from wrong.” (Page 84)

“In his six-year encounter with Senator Stephen Douglas, as we will see, he would make unusually clear the link he asserted between God as creator and the American belief in equality.” (Page 88)

“After four years of the terrible scourge of fratricidal war, begun in response to his own election, he would in his greatest speech recommend binding up the nation’s wounds ‘with malice toward none, with charity for all.’” (Page 90)

"Lincoln, the loyal party man, had a particular scorn for politicians in Illinois who switched from the Whigs to the more dominant Democrats. ... [For] example Thomas Ford, the governor who wrote a sour book about Illinois politics..." (Page 107)

"But although, to be sure, Lincoln changed, as we all do, and kept learning, as some do - I suggest, nevertheless, that there was on this point no radical discontinuity in his life." (Page 115)

"He would be unequivocal about what caused the war: Slavery caused the war, not any of those unlikely other causes later proposed by apologists or revisionists -" (Page 287-288)

"It is important, if you are to make an effective ethical criticism of some part of the existing world to the broad public, that your moral judgement not be thrown at the heads of your hearers like a rock." (Page 294)"

"Lincoln would observe that the two sides in the terrible war read the same Bible, prayed to the same God, and each invoked God's aid against the other." (Page 295)

“And [the lines] were distinctly drawn. Douglas said so, Lincoln thought so, the audiences of the time on both sides thought so - but some scholars and Lincoln writers looking back in later years have not thought so.” (Page 343)

“And in his last great utterance, the Second Inaugural Address, there would be a paragraph, not always noticed in this connection, that would surely testify to the intensity of the writer’s conviction that American slavery was an immense evil. ...” (Page 390)
“Fondly do we hope - fervently do we pray - that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ’the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’" (Page 390)

“… It is reasonable to argue that Lincoln became president in spite of the split in the Democratic Party, not because of it.” (Page 404)
… (lisätietoja)
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bread2u | 4 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jul 1, 2020 |
Highly readable study of Lincoln's presidency. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Lincoln's use of the pardon power. His handling of McClellan was also highly interesting, to say the least. Very different from Obama and McChrystal!
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GaylaBassham | 5 muuta kirja-arvostelua | May 27, 2018 |
Highly readable study of Lincoln's presidency. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Lincoln's use of the pardon power. His handling of McClellan was also highly interesting, to say the least. Very different from Obama and McChrystal!
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gayla.bassham | 5 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Nov 7, 2016 |


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