Home / Robert Farley / The Party of Lincoln

The Party of Lincoln

Middle aged clean shaven Lincoln from the hips up.
Attributed to Nicholas H. Shepherd, based on the recollections of Gibson W. Harris, a law student in Lincoln’s office from 1845 to 1847. – Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25071089

Don Doyle has a fine review of Louise Stevenson’s new book on Lincoln’s trans-Atlantic influences. It’s hard to read some of it without immediately thinking of the presumptive nominee of the Grand Old Party:

Lincoln’s “German Lessons” take us to the many immigrants from the German states who had settled in the Midwest, many of them fleeing repression after the failed revolution of 1848. The German 48ers were revolutionary, or “red,” republicans whose abhorrence of slavery and aristocracy drew them to the Republican Party. But the party made an alliance with the nativist Know Nothing movement, and this left German voters divided and therefore much sought after by both parties. Lincoln worked hard to win German votes in 1860. He funded Theodore Canisius to publish a German-language newspaper to spread Lincoln’s message to German voters in their own idiom. He took pains to distance himself from the nativist Know Nothing Party and linked their xenophobia and anti-Catholicism to prejudice against blacks, both rooted in bigotry against people based on their circumstances of birth. “When the Know-Nothings get control,” he wrote in 1855, the Declaration of Independence “will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners and Catholics. When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty” (p. 121). If some assert the principle of equality does not apply to blacks, what is to stop them from excluding others? Lincoln asked (p. 145). Historians debate whether Lincoln owed his victory to German voters, but there is no question that he felt indebted to them. Once elected president, he appointed numerous Germans, Canisius among them, to diplomatic posts and other government positions.

Trump’s addendum would surely run “the Declaration of Independence will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, foreigners, and CatholicsMuslims’, and this is a good thing. A great thing, in fact.”

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  • Scotius

    The Republican Party, right on slavery, wrong on everything else since.

  • Bootsie

    That picture of Lincoln always creeps me out.

    It’s like he’s young…but old at the same time and his corporal form can’t reconcile this.

    • The Dark God of Time

      Note that his hands are bigger than normal for a man of his frame, to judge by the book one of them is resting on. Probably the braces photographers used to keep their subjects in place didn’t fit his rather large and lanky proportions

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        Obviously photoshopped. The reflections are all wrong.

      • Another thing he doesn’t share with the current nominee.

      • I believe he had Marfan Syndrome. Overly large hands and lankiness are physical symptoms.

  • DrDick

    Ah yes, the 48ers, my people, at least on my father’s side. Lincoln may have been the last Republican president, save perhaps Eisenhower, who was not merely a tool for the plutocrats.

    • CP

      First and last, eh?

      As big a douchebag as he was in other ways, Teddy Trust-Busting Roosevelt deserves a shout-out too. And maybe Nixon; was he anyone‘s tool? I had the impression that he was pretty big on being the Man In Charge, in contrast to the Reagan and Dubya administrations where the cabinet was in charge and the amiable dunce just smiled for the cameras.

      But yeah, I love Lincoln. Being on the right side of the civil rights issues of his day was good. He also said things about labor and capital that no presidential nominee from either party would dare say today (though Sanders might shout it from the sidelines), and opposed the Mexican War in terms that would sound familiar to any Iraq War opponent. He’s one of the few historical figures of whom I’m completely comfortable saying that he would be a Democrat, and a pretty liberal one at that, if he were alive today.

  • Marek

    Did not know this about Lincoln. It would be interesting to track down some of these German-language newspapers.

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