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Lincoln and the American Founding

Lincoln and the American Founding

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Lucas E. Morel


Hardcover (Other formats: E-book)
176 pages, 5 x 8

Concise Lincoln Library


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Table of Contents

Table of Contents



About the Book

In this persuasive work of intellectual history, Lucas E. Morel argues that the most important influence on Abraham Lincoln’s political thought and practice was what he learned from the leading figures of and documents from the birth of the United States. In this systematic account of those principles, Morel compellingly demonstrates that to know Lincoln well is to understand thoroughly the founding of America.
With each chapter describing a particular influence, Morel leads readers from the Founding Father, George Washington; to the founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution; to the founding compromise over slavery; and finally to a consideration of how the original intentions of the Founding Fathers should be respected in light of experience, progress, and improvements over time. Within these key discussions, Morel shows that without the ideals of the American Revolution, Lincoln’s most famous speeches would be unrecognizable, and the character of the nation would have lost its foundation on the universal principles of human equality, individual liberty, and government by the consent of the governed.
Lincoln thought that the principles of human equality and individual rights could provide common ground for a diverse people to live as one nation and that some old things, such as the political ideals of the American founding, were worth preserving. He urged Americans to be vigilant in maintaining the institutions of self-government and to exercise and safeguard the benefits of freedom for future generations. Morel posits that adopting the way of thinking and speaking Lincoln advocated, based on the country’s founding, could help mend our current polarized discourse and direct the American people to employ their common government on behalf of a truly common good.


Lucas E. Morel is Professor of Politics and Head of the Politics Department at Washington and Lee University, and Honored Visiting Graduate Professor in the Master of Arts program in American History and Government at Ashland University in Ohio. His previous publications include Lincoln and Liberty: Wisdom for the Ages and Lincoln’s Sacred Effort: Defining Religion’s Role in American Self-Government. He is a trustee of the Supreme Court Historical Society, former president of the Abraham Lincoln Institute, and member of the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, which will plan activities to commemorate in 2026 the founding of the United States of America.


"This highly readable volume deserves a place in every Lincoln library."—William D. Pederson, The Lincoln Herald

"[This book] is densely packed with astute observations beneficial to general readers and Lincoln scholars alike. Morel's cogent writing style makes the book eminently readable and he wisely employs a policy that other historians should emulate which is to let Lincoln himself do most of the talking."—David J. Gerleman, Civil War Book Review

"[Morel] shows how Lincoln sought to emulate George Washington, a man whose life encompassed both wartime trials and peacetime politics and a leader who was resolute when necessary but flexible when compromise was the best path to success. . . . This volume is a concise, convincing assessment of Lincoln’s forward-looking administration, which remained loyal to the principles of the nation’s founders."—S. J. Ramold, CHOICE

“Lucas Morel’s Lincoln and the American Founding should bring a cooling cloth to fevered brows, since the Lincoln whom Morel lays out in five lapidary chapters—on the Constitution, original intent, slavery and its compromises, the founders’ goals, and Lincoln’s conservatism—is very much in the founders’ image.”—Allen C. GuelzoClaremont Review of Books

“Morel showcases how the American founding had a profound effect on Lincoln, who was able to utilize the nation’s shared past to build a stronger future.”—Anne E. MoseleyCivil War Monitor

“It is impossible to come away from this book without a renewed respect for the man that fought so hard to preserve our union on the basis of equality and republican government.”—Krystina SkurkThe Federalist

“In a time when some Americans are vandalizing statues and other artistic representations of the Founding Fathers and even some of Lincoln and going so far as portraying the men of the founding generation as villains, Morel’s book is vital reading. . . . This is a gem of a book by a scholar for a general audience in need of an understanding of how the founders influenced Lincoln and, thereby, all of us.”—Hope J. LemanNew Books Network

“Out of collapse, renewal: Lucas E. Morel shows how, in our darkest hour, Abraham Lincoln drew on our previous darkest hour for inspiration and wisdom.”—Richard Brookhiser, author of Give Me Liberty: A History of America’s Exceptional Idea
“With admirable clarity and conciseness, Morel explores Lincoln's political philosophy and its roots in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The discussion of how Lincoln used these iconic documents in his treatment of the issue of slavery is particularly incisive and valuable. This is an important contribution to the literature on the sixteenth president.”—James M. McPherson, author of The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters
“It is instructive to be reminded that Abraham Lincoln thought Constitutional restraints were to be taken seriously, political decisions were to be made by officials accountable to those whose lives are affected by those decisions (i.e., voters), and mob rule posed a grave threat to American freedom. Morel’s thoughtful, convincing book shows how profoundly Lincoln’s political thought was rooted in his reverence for the wisdom of the Founders as embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.”—Michael Burlingame, editor of Sixteenth President-in-Waiting: Abraham Lincoln and the Springfield Dispatches of Henry Villard, 1860–1861