In 1860, Abraham Lincoln (and the Republican Party) stood as the only viable alternative to the moral indifference of Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas’s “popular sovereignty” and the pro-slavery politics of Vice President John Breckinridge of Kentucky. This lecture will argue that Lincoln was a savvy but principled politician who tried to restore the Spirit of ’76 as the leading principle of American self-government. Without a return to the equality principle of the Declaration of Independence, which Lincoln insisted included black people, he believed the nationalization of slavery would occur through the acquiescence of white northerners. If they permitted its expansion into the federal territories, Lincoln predicted that the legal groundwork would be set to prevent northern states from continuing to prohibit slavery by their laws or constitution. The lecture will focus on Lincoln’s skill in promoting a freedom agenda irrespective of race as he avoided the charge of fanatical abolitionism while also striving to maintain the union of American states.
Lucas E. Morel is the John K. Boardman, Jr. Professor of Politics and Head of the Politics Department at Washington and Lee University. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of Lincoln and the American Founding and Lincoln’s Sacred Effort: Defining Religion’s Role in American Self-Government; and editor of Lincoln and Liberty: Wisdom for the Ages. Dr. Morel was the Garwood Visiting Research Fellow at the James Madison Program in 2008-2009. He is a former president of the Abraham Lincoln Institute; chair of the Academic Committee and founding member of the Academic Freedom Alliance; a consultant for the Library of Congress and National Archives; and currently serves on the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, which will plan activities to commemorate the founding of the United States of America.