Every 4th of July, we commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence – some 250 years ago – but the proclamation that all men are created equal was not truly realized until another proclamation was made some 90 years later, on September 22, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln may not have been one of the original founders of the United States of America, but his influence on our nation’s trajectory rivals even George Washington’s. More books have been written about Lincoln than any other American, and his actions as President permanently altered the very definition of American liberty. In this sense, Lincoln can be said to have presided over a second founding moment – of almost equal importance to the first in 1776.
John Cribb has written the latest in a long line of books about Lincoln. Old Abe: A Novel distinguishes itself as one of the few historical novels – accurately retelling the story of Lincoln’s last five years leading up to his untimely demise. Cribb joined me to unpack the complex and fascinating legacy of Abraham Lincoln, from his election to the Presidency, through the tumultuous war that almost tore the country apart, to his assassination in 1865.
Of course, we discussed the role Lincoln played in ending the “peculiar institution,” which the founders themselves had neglected to solve in their own struggle for emancipation. Can this help explain why celebrating the 4th of July has become less popular in recent years? I asked John how “Old Abe” can help us recover a sense of patriotism in every generation.
Finally, we discussed the murkier questions of Lincoln’s legacy, including the growth of federal power and the questionable suspension of Habeas Corpus during the Civil War.