Book Review - Lincoln on God and Country - by Gordon Leidner, Reviewed by Antigoni Ladd
The Smithsonian Associates Civil War E-Mail Newsletter, Volume 3, Number 8
In today's climate of cynicism and stale rhetoric, Gordon Leidner refreshingly takes us back to the subjects that were most significant to Lincoln. They are: the Nation's founders; the American people; preserving the government; law and politics; the meaning of freedom; leadership; faith; and finally, our duty to preserve all that is good about our country for future generations of Americans. In addition to a short Lincoln biography, Leidner precedes each chapter with an enlightening paragraph summarizing the subject and putting each issue in perfect perspective for today's readers.
That covers the Country in the title, but what's God got to do with it? Although Lincoln was not initially a religious man, he firmly respected the values found in modern religion and lived his life accordingly. As he matures, we see through his writings how this formed the basis of his actions and his extraordinary strength of character. Leidner's selections serve to enhance our understanding of Lincoln and these values. As stated in Michael Burlingame's introduction, "The speeches and letters gathered here offer a revealing portrait of Lincoln in both phases of his remarkable career. We hear the purple prose, the satirical wit, and the occasional demagoguery of the 1830s and 1840s and the surpassing eloquence of the 1850s and 1860s." This change of perspective from Lincoln's early and later writings may be attributable to his renewed interest in religion.
Ed Bearss adds to this by writing that Leidner's use of Lincoln's words, "illustrates the genius of a man who attended only six months of 'blab' schools but spoke to the ages, a talent that eludes today's speech writers and spin doctors." It was the political sentiments of that era, the religious environment of that time, and the moral strength of the man himself which combined to make Abraham Lincoln the remarkable individual he was, an individual who appeared on the scene during a period of our country's greatest need.
Leidner provides more gems for his readers with lesson plans and web resources to accompany the book. These can be found on his web site, greatamericanhistory.com.
Our country will forever be indebted to Abraham Lincoln. We also are indebted to Gordon Leidner for helping us better understand both why we owe this debt, and the extraordinary individual to whom we owe it.
Antigoni Ladd is an independent scholar, teacher, and co-founder of Tigrett Corp. Tigrett offers unique training sessions which use historic examples to motivate and teach executive leadership skills.