Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Lincoln Ch 2 - by E. C.

In Abraham Lincoln Chapter 2, author George McGovern writes about Lincolns early political career. In this chapter, McGovern argues that Lincolns political career varied from successful to unsuccessful. He lost many battles for a seat in public office, but also prevailed in other battles, securing a spot as the state legislator of Illinois and a Whig Party representative, taking a seat in the US House of Representatives. McGovern also shares with us the strong, supportive commitment Lincoln held with the Whig Party,  promoting the Whig agenda of development and populism.  After realizing the downward spiral the party had been thrown into, he was ready to join the Republican Party in 1856. Lincoln made it clear he opposed the expansion of slavery, but was not an abolitionist, believing that Congress had no right to interfere with the Constitution, which protected slavery.  We also learn about the political battles between himself and Stephen Douglas, a proslavery senator. The biography also mentions the conflict between the Democrats and Whigs as a result of Stephen Douglas's Kansas Nebraska Act, which divided the territory immediately west of the Missouri River in two, the north becoming Nebraska in the south become in Kansas, leaving residents to determine whether slavery would be legal or not in their territory.  Lincoln also opposed the war against Mexico, believing that it was unnecessary so he introduced the "Spot Resolutions" in 1848 demanding from President James Polk where the first American blood was shed, whether it was on American or Mexican soil, which sparked much controversy. The evidence the author uses can be found in the specific dates and places he uses to make his book historically accurate. McGovern also includes many of Lincolns quotes from his speeches such as his excepted speech at the Statehouse in Springfield, 1858. Lincoln experienced many controversial struggles in his early political life, but ultimately overcame them.
 The authors purpose and point of view, shown in this biography, is to educate his readers about some of the possibly unheard of orforgotten information about Lincolns early political life. Many are often only taught about Lincolns life after he was elected president, so it is important that we are informed about the realities Lincoln faced in his past years which shaped his presidency later in life. We mainly hear Lincoln's voice in this biography, but I would like to hear a bit more about the voices of his fellow candidates for Congress, John J. Hardin and Edward Baker, who happened to be friends with Lincoln. What were their views on slavery? Did they agree with Lincoln's political choices?  I would also like to hear the voices of some of the members of the Whig Party. What were their views on Lincoln? The main purpose of this biography is to inform us about Lincolns early political choices.
 In class, we discussed what we thought were some of the authors strong points such as his ability to describe the events in great detail and write about these events in a way that was very comprehensible. We also got into groups and arranged some of Lincolns characteristics on small cards ranking them from least prominent to most prominent, such as abolition and religion as least prominent and politics and humbleness leaning towards the more prominent side. We bounced some ideas off of each other on what we believed were Lincolns most distinguishing political characteristics and most of the class generally put the cards in the same places, because the author had gotten his point across clear enough so that we were all on the same page. We discussed how Lincolns early choices greatly affected the choices he made later in his presidency. We also shared some memorable quotes that really stood out to us, mine being part of his speech in 1858 at the statehouse in Springfield, "I do not expect the Union to be dissolved-I do not expect the house to fall-but I do expect it will cease to be divided." This really helped us to dig deeper into his political life and get a better understanding of his personal views.
 We also discussed some of the historical questions about the reading. One in particular was, "what surprised you about Abraham Lincoln?" One of the answers was they were surprised he wasn't religious, even though he believed the Scriptures to be true and often used Biblical references in his speeches.  Another answer was they were surprised that even though he opposed the expansion of slavery, he was not an abolitionist because he believed that it win against the Constitution, which protected slavery. We always assume that Lincoln wanted freedom and equal rights for the slaves, but in fact, this proved to be not entirely true. He wanted nothing more than to follow the Constitution.  Many of us were surprised about these decisions that he had made, some of which contradicted our previous assumptions about Lincolns views.
A few questions sill remain: How did the Republican Party first get started? We only hear that it was an emerging party and hear nothing about who had founded it. Also, who ultimately seemed to hold victory in the debates between Lincoln and Douglas? Were there times when one seemed more superior to the other? Did the debates vary depending on what region they were speaking in?