Talk:Abraham Lincoln

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 Definition (1809-65) Born in Illinois, President of the United States during the American Civil War. [d] [e]
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This is a wonderfully readable and interesting article. Thanks, Dr. Jensen. --Larry Sanger 10:14, 7 April 2007 (CDT)

I enjoyed reading the article, I added quite a few wikilinks. Some links I know do not exist yet, but I hope they will soon. I hope they are found acceptable, otherwise anyone may change or revert. Matt Mahlmann 21:03, 8 April 2007 (CDT)
I have to add my voice here. I'd love to see this worked toward approval. Stephen Ewen 21:26, 21 April 2007 (CDT)
For a really interesting take on Abraham Lincoln encyclopedia articles, go to and use your browser to search for the words If the unpaid amateurs and then read the two paragraphs that follow. Stephen Ewen 01:46, 22 April 2007 (CDT)
Rosenzwig makes some good points. But Using a paid essay by a Pulitzer prize winner, who had a year to do it and professional editing help, as the standard is a bar too high, which no reference work can remotely approach. Richard Jensen 15:48, 22 April 2007 (CDT)
Just some good ideas there, that's all, like using some choice Lincoln quotes. Stephen Ewen 19:43, 22 April 2007 (CDT)

Neutrality issues

Reading through this article, it seems to me that some of the language presents neutrality issues, particularly in the intro. Here are the points I noticed specifically:

  • Much of the intro seems to praise Lincoln and defame his enemies. For instance, it says that he "saved the Union". Lincoln's policies did have the result that the United States continued include the south, but is "saving the Union" the most neutral way to describe this? The same sentence describes him as "an icon of American values"; what does it mean to say that someone is an icon of a nation's values? The following sentence adds additional plaudits.
  • The intro says that Lincoln "abolished slavery". As I'm sure we're all aware, this is not, strictly speaking, true. Slavery in the U.S. was abolished by the 13th amendment, and amendments are passed by Congress and the states, not by the president. I realise that Lincoln played a large role in abolishing slavery, but still this phrasing enhances the laudatory tone.
  • Does "slave power" menace republican ideals? Didn't slave societies produce most of the greatest American republicans, viz Washington, Jefferson, Madison (to say nothing of the ancient Greek republicans as another example).
  • The intro states that Lincoln's destruction of the Confederacy, "guaranteed that 'government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.'" Is this a neutral observation? Granted, it was Lincoln's own view of his actions, but, to take two examples, Acton and H.L. Mencken argued that the opposite was true.
  • Under Whig Politician, the article states that Lincoln had "four brilliant terms" in the state legislature. Ideally, it should elucidate what was brilliant about them.
  • When discussing the 1860 presidential campaign, the article says, "Republicans demanded equal rights and freedom for all men". This seems to imply that the Republicans campaigned on an abolitionist platform in 1860, which was not the case. The general tone of the article's treatment of Lincoln and the Republicans during this period seems to emphasise their principled opposition to slavery in a way that strikes me as slightly dubious ... however, I'm not an expert on the subject, so I will leave that to more informed opinions.
  • The clause, "aware that this was a crisis in mankind's history" (in the second paragraph under Civil War: 1861) has a rather vague meaning, which the remainder of the sentence does little to clarify: "Lincoln pledged never to surrender 'that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but I hope to the world for all future time.'" Lincoln was not much involved in intervening overseas, so the mention of the Declaration giving liberty to the world is a bit of a non sequitur in the context of discussing his policies in office.
  • The article says, ""Sherman gave Savannah to the nation as a Christmas present". This is an unfortunate bit of phrasing, considering the toll of human suffering that the capture of Savannah caused.
  • Under Civil War: 1864-5, the article says, "The issues over which the Civil War was fought - union versus disunion, freedom versus slavery - proved to be nonnegotiable." This seems a bit like post hoc analysis. It's true that there was, in fact, no negotiated solution to the war. Various people tried to negotiate one, though, and it's hard to know for sure that it couldn't have worked.—Nat Krause 02:04, 24 April 2007 (CDT)
In response to Nat Krause.
  1. it's not controversial to say AL saved the Union. Historians are pretty unanimous about that. Whether that's good or bad depends on whether you want the Confederacy to win.
  2. 99% of the slaves of 1860 were freed by the time the 13th amdt passed; the Emancipation did most of the work. Lincoln by the way is given primary credit for the 13th.
  3. "Slave Power" was the way Lincoln and the GOP phrased the issue. By 1860 the slaveowners had repudiated Jefferson.
  4. did Lincoln promote government of/by/for the people? More than anyone else, and he locked that goal deep into the American value system. Mencken cannot be considered a serious historian, and he despised democracy, so his goal was ridicule not scholarship. Acton supported the Confederacy; he was not much in favor of liberty for the blacks.
  5. good point about AL in Illinois state legislature. The whole article is short and needs expansion especially here.
  6. "equal rights and freedom for all men" was Lincoln's position in 1860 and the Rep party as well. The 1860 GOP platform said: That all men are created equal... is essential to the preservation of our Republican institutions; and that the Federal Constitution, the Rights of the States, and the Union of the States, must and shall be preserved.[1]
  7. Lincoln had a world vision (very explicit in Gettysburg address)--he saw a world historical duty [if I can use a Hegelian term] to promote democracy worldwide and that is a major legacy
  8. It is not true that Sherman hurt Savannah or its people--in fact he lifted the blockade and brought in food, and freed the slaves. Sherman himself used the "Christmas present" terminology.
  9. union versus disunion proved to be non-negotable as late as Feb 1865 when Lincoln personally met with top Confederate leaders; freedom versus slavery -- Lincoln tried very hard to buy out the slaves but the slaveowners refused. Richard Jensen 03:21, 24 April 2007 (CDT)

Lincoln's negative impact on history

The article fails to tell these negative impacts Lincoln left on history. While I wholeheartedly respect Professor Jensen and believe his knowledge of history is trillions of times better than mine, I'd still like to point them out:

  1. Disintegration of federalism and self-governance of states: Lincoln's civil war was the final demise of states' rights and the culminating assertion of federal supremacy. Slavery, as repugnant to fundamental morality, would be democratically abolished in the South anyways no matter if a war was fought or not. Even if Lincoln let the Confederacy remain independent, in 21th century today slavery would not be still in place there. Lincoln prematurely abolished slavery and the result of it was a century of racial tension and the centralization of power (just a couple years ago the decision Gonzales v. Raich is the result of centralized federal power going after the most vulnerable people). The right of states to secede was obliterated, and this is afoul with the very modern principle of regional self-determination.
  1. Formation of the Corporate America: Lincoln's policy favored big corporations and railroads, which led to the future rise of robber barons like Rockefeller and Jay Gould. His Supreme Court nominee Stephen Johnson Field uses 14th Amendment to protect corporations while let the blacks suffer a century of Jim Crow oppression. Field's judicial opinion indirectly gave the inception of the Lochner era later on.

Also, there were even abolitionists supporting the confederacy, such as Lysander Spooner.

--Yi Zhe Wu 20:27, 6 May 2007 (CDT)

These are not, in my view "negative impacts," but rather interpretative claims *within* a certain political viewpoint of the ultimate consequence of some of Lincoln's actions. That slavery would have been abolished anyway seems to me a specious (as well as unprovable) claim. Unless Yi Zhe Wu can document that such arguments have been made by specific historians, preferably historians without a partisan political agenda, I do not think these are worthy of mention as such in the Lincoln entry. It may well be appropriate, however, to reference such claims (again, if they can be documented) in entries on the relevant issues such as Federalism or "States' rights". ...said Russell Potter (talk) (Please sign your talk page posts by simply adding four tildes, ~~~~.)

States rights--the states are doing just fine and are much stronger in 29007 than they were in 1859. Corporations are indeed part of modernity. The term "Robber Barons" is an artful combination of crime (robbers) and aristocracy (barons) and in not an analyticval term. for the real opponents look at the Copperheads article. Richard Jensen 12:19, 7 May 2007 (CDT)
I agree corporations would probably come to rise without civil war. However, I'd dispute about the states' rights assertion. The recent court decision Raich says the federal government may prohibit the cultivation of marijuana even if states allow it---in Justice Thomas' word, it would be "unthinkable in the early days of the republic". The "robber baron" is an artful combination, yes, however, in reality, people like J. D. Rockefeller did benefit from post-war federal government policies. The copperheads, yes, Lincoln slaughtered them without trial. From the Copperheads article, "The sentiments of Copperheads attracted Southerners who had settled north of the Ohio River, social conservatives, poor subsistence farmers, and foes of railroads, banks and monopolies." This line correctly reflects that during the civil war the poor and the disadvantaged did not like Lincoln at all, and Lincoln did indeed favor the rich. Yi Zhe Wu 15:25, 7 May 2007 (CDT)


Despite my comments opposing the claimed "negative" impact of certain of Lincoln's policies above, I do think the tone of this entry needs work. Adjectives abound such as "remarkable" and "brilliant" which seem both needless and, potentially, a problem in terms of our Neutrality policy. However much we may admire Lincoln, better to let the facts speak for themselves. Also, it might be noted somewhere that Lincoln's political opponents saw him as a backwoods buffoon who could not resist quoting from "Joe Miller's Jests" -- this would be relevant and perhaps useful in setting him in his context, rather than enshrined as a "great man" who could do no wrong. Russell Potter 20:46, 6 May 2007 (CDT)

Not to contradict you, Russell--you might be right in this case (I won't take a position). But as a general point, unless there are many familiar with Lincoln who disagree with certain epithets, then they are not in conflict with Neutrality Policy. It isn't biased in itself to say, for example, that Shakespeare is regarded as one of the most brilliant writers in English language: that's a fact. --Larry Sanger 22:59, 6 May 2007 (CDT)

I want to play devil's advocate for a minute and what if by some incredible chance it's discovered that Bill Shakes wasn't the original author of a few of his works? Then that would be contentious; and it would be foolish to say that he was brilliant. Is, for the sake of the context, brilliant a subjective term? --Robert W King 13:19, 7 May 2007 (CDT)

Agreed! I'm an enormous admirer of Lincoln, but I do feel a bit put upon as a reader when the frosting of adjectives outweighs the cake of achievements. You're right, though, it's not a neutrality issue, more a style issue; a little "regarded as" would do the trick. Russell Potter 23:03, 6 May 2007 (CDT)

the article's language reflects the consensus of experts, who have a very high admiration indeed of Lincoln, especially his use of politics, morality and language. CZ needs to let readers know that. Note the article explictly says Lincoln was wrong or mistaken about several major issues, again reflecting the consensus of scholars. Richard Jensen 00:36, 8 May 2007 (CDT)


I think an article about Lincoln may need an image of him. However, there are way too many portraits of Lincoln. Some editor/experts please help to choose the best one to represent him. Yi Zhe Wu 19:25, 19 May 2007 (CDT)

I suggest the following image which has been made available for fair use with credit line to the Chicago Historical Society.
Photograph of Abraham Lincoln taken in Chicago by William Shaw 188 Clark St. in 1859.
Chicago Daily News negatives collection, DN007087. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society.
I was never particularly happy with the photograph so I took it into to see if I could improve upon it; I added a gradient transparent adjustment layer and adjusted the contrast. Any comments? --Robert W King 22:55, 22 October 2007 (CDT)

Russell Potter 10:25, 20 May 2007 (CDT)

Hearing no objection, I'll move this into the main article. Russell Potter 21:11, 21 May 2007 (CDT)

Good picture, I think it is in public domain since it must have been taken when Lincoln was alive, which is long before 1923, copyright expired. Yi Zhe Wu 21:30, 21 May 2007 (CDT)
It's likely that the original would be PD, but since the digital image is (presumably) a copy made by the Chicago Historical Society, the digital embodiment is being used under their fair use guidelines, just to be safe. Russell Potter 21:33, 21 May 2007 (CDT)
Okay, another doubt I have is about the CZ policy that fair use pictures should only be used when free ones aren't available. I don't know if official U.S. white house pic would be better or not. What's your opinion? Yi Zhe Wu 21:35, 21 May 2007 (CDT)
I'll have to double check, but I don't think that CZ policy is not to use a better image available under a fairly clear grant of fair use, or with permission, over PD image that is of less value. I prefer this one, myself. Russell Potter 21:44, 21 May 2007 (CDT)
CZ should stick to the policy that all pictures pre 1923 are public domain. that is the law and we might as well use it as policy. Hypothetical speculation that some day the law will change is irrelevant. At present digitizng a pre-1923 image does NOT confer copyright status in any court anywhere and no one pretends otherwise. Richard Jensen 01:26, 22 May 2007 (CDT)

Shaw photo

absent any requirement by CZ lawyers the article should not be making any legal claims. We did NOT seek or get any permission from Chicago Hist Society--(of which I am a life member). Richard Jensen 01:40, 22 May 2007 (CDT)

Richard, I understand your concerns here - but as the image's upload history shows, I'm just plugging in boilerplate language that CHS suggests as a credit line for any of their images -- "courtesy of" does not imply that we sought or received permission of any kind, I hope. I am absolutely in agreement with you that this image *ought* to be entirely in the public domain, but I'm not so sure that this means it is -- or that just ignoring the CHS's request for a credit line will somehow protect us. Since you're a life member, maybe you can persuade them to change their outlook on this  :-> Russell Potter 09:08, 22 May 2007 (CDT)
Doesn't "courtesy of" imply the provision of something and not the endorsement or credit of the item in question? If someone takes a picture of a statue and provides it to me, wouldn't it be "courtesy of" that individual?--Robert W King 13:14, 22 May 2007 (CDT)
The hangup I have is "protect us" -- that is the concern of CZ lawyers not CZ editors and we should stay out ofthe legal domain. Richard Jensen 23:40, 22 May 2007 (CDT)

Lincoln Photo Adjustment

See the picture I added here; do you think this is a better photo? If so, the licensing information needs to be adjusted. --Robert W King 22:56, 22 October 2007 (CDT)