The political genius of Abraham Lincoln remains unequivocal. As a great leader, he saved the Union, presided over the end of slavery, and helped to pave the way for an interracial democracy. In his speeches and letters, he offered enduring wisdom about human equality, democracy, free labour, and free society. This rare combination of theory and practice in politics cemented Lincoln's legacy as one of the most talented statesmen in American history. Providing an accessible framework for understanding Lincoln's statesmanship, this thoughtful study examines Lincoln's political intellect in terms of the traditional moral vision of statecraft as understood by the political philosophers Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas. The enduring wisdom and timeless teachings of these great thinkers, author Joseph R. Fornieri shows, can lead to a deeper appreciation of statesmanship and of its embodiment in Abraham Lincoln.
Statesmanship, Fornieri posits, is a moral greatness that stems from six virtues: wisdom, prudence, duty, magnanimity, rhetoric, and patriotism. Drawing on insights from history, politics, and philosophy, Fornieri tackles the question of how Lincoln evidenced each of these virtues. Through close textual analysis of Lincoln's speeches and writings and careful consideration of relevant secondary literature, Fornieri reveals Lincoln to be a philosopher statesman in whom political thought and action were united. Lincoln's character is best understood, he contends, in terms of Aquinas's understanding of magnanimity or greatness of soul, the crowning virtue of statesmanship. True political greatness, as evidenced by Lincoln, involves both humility and sacrifice for the common good.
With the great philosophers and books of western civilisation as his guide, Fornieri demonstrates the important contribution of normative political philosophy to an understanding of our sixteenth president. Informed by political theory that draws on the classics in revealing the timelessness of Lincoln's example, his interdisciplinary study offers profound insights for anyone interested in the nature of leadership, statesmanship, political ethics, political history, and constitutional law. 20 illustrations