Northern Illinois University Press

Lincoln, Religion, and Romantic Cultural Politics

Stewart Winger

"This book may be the deepest and best penetration of Lincoln's mind and heart we have yet seen."The Journal of American History

"An informative and provocative interpretation of Abraham Lincoln's religion and politics."American Historical Review

"Winger has presented a credible argument that will prompt scholars to reconsider their views of Lincoln and his speeches and writings."The Historian

The nature of Abraham Lincoln's religious beliefs is perhaps the most perplexing enigma of his legacy. Examining the relationship between Lincoln's religious language and antebellum political culture, Winger offers a new perspective on the Great Emancipator. Lincoln's greatest speeches, Winger shows, articulate a Romantic Protestant vision of American identity and destiny.

Recent considerations of Lincoln's religion have presented conflicting views of the president as either a conventional nineteenth-century evangelical or a skeptic in the tradition of Thomas Paine. Winger offers an illuminating alternative based on the connections between Lincoln's personal piety and his public performance. Exploring Lincoln's quest for the moral basis of politics, Winger shows that Lincoln's religious language reflected a poetic, Romantic understanding of faith and its political implications.

A man who took ideas seriously, Lincoln conducted a decades-long dialogue with Stephen Douglas and George Bancroft about popular sovereignty and America's place in history. Although the Lincoln-Douglas debates became almost theological arguments about the ethics of slavery in a democracy, they were carried out in the context of intense party politics and personal ambition. Throughout, Lincoln expressed an intellectually grounded piety that placed his beloved Union under the judgment of both history and God. The crisis of war transformed and deepened Lincoln's religious politics, and the Second Inaugural Address reveals a Lincoln brought to humility by his powerlessness before God's commanding will.

Lincoln, Religion, and Romantic Cultural Politics presents a powerful vision of Lincoln, one that will challenge and intrigue everyone interested in this towering figure.

(2002) 279 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-87580-300-5
cloth $42.00

Stewart Winger received the 2001 Hay-Nicolay Dissertation Prize from the Abraham Lincoln Association and the Lincoln Institute of the Mid-Atlantic. He is Assistant Professor of History at the American University in Cairo.

Table of Contents

Part One: Lincoln and Young America
1. Debating the Meaning of America
2. Of Priests and Prophets
Part Two: The Romantic Whig Response
3. Romantic Protestantism and Whig Rhetoric
4. Law and Economics in a Romantic and Religious Age
5. The Tragedy of the Whig Response
Part Three: Lincoln's Personal Piety and Public Performance
6. From Predestinarian Baptist to Romantic Intellectual
7. Poetry and Religious Orthodoxy in the Second Inaugural

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-300-5
cloth $42.00