This read was much different than I anticipated. I thought that I would primarily be reading about Lincoln's incredible accomplishments, his great leadership, and his remarkable life. Now those elements were in the book, but it included much more.
This book is not about praising Lincoln by ignoring his shortcomings, nor does it attempt to rewrite history and add unsubstantiated flaws to a man of great character. Also, much to the chagrin of many I'm sure, it raises doubts about his faith.
It was fascinating to trace his life from childhood, his start in politics, his "accidental" presidency, and his leadership and trials through the civil war. I was somewhat surprised to find out how unpopular he was with most of his contemporaries, how he struggled with doubt and indecisiveness, and how he was more opposed to the expansion of slavery than to slavery itself. His belief was that if slavery was kept from expanding, it would naturally die out over time, which he saw as a good thing. This was not the top hat wearing icon I was presented way back in the day when I brought my lunch to school.
It seemed that Lincoln never really considered himself one of God's elect. Yet, he seemed to have no doubt that he played an integral part in God's plan for the time he lived and led. There is a sense of irony here for me. Lincoln went out of his way at times to shed the label "Christian" and it seems he had real doubts about God and His Word. Yet, he was quick to credit "God" for successes, victories, etc... In fact he defends the Emancipation Proclamation as a promise he made to his Maker.
In reading through some of the footnotes and other references, some portray Lincoln as a very devout and religious man who made decisions out of his deep beliefs. Others, describe Lincoln as a racist and saboteur of the constitution.
The other irony that I was left with was this. Here was Lincoln who went out of his way to speak of his faults and not present himself as this man of deep spiritual convictions. However his actions spoke volumes on his morality, virtue, and the value he placed on life and liberty. Over the past 25 years I would argue that we have often seen the opposite. Many politicians who are quick to wear the label "Christian" and speak of their morality, yet their values, virtue, and takes on life, when really examined seem to be contrary to God's Word. It couldn't be that they wear the label for political purposes, could it?
I could begin a rant here... but back to the book. It was a great read that helped me think differently about Lincoln than I have before, yet in a way that makes me admire him more. The book is long, but worth the time.
Well, two presidents down (Washington and Lincoln), 41 to go. Maybe next, I will read about William Harrison. He was only president for a month.