Friday, August 10, 2007

Did Lincoln Make a Deal With God?

This picture appears in many textbooks, tradebooks, and it also is presented online at the website Old Pictures, a repository of images from days gone by. This pictures was brought to my attention by Ed Darrell from Millard Fillmore's Bathtub sometime after I mentioned in a post I had added Old Pictures to my resource blogroll.

Here's a link to the picture as it is presented at the website.Go take a look at it and read the caption provided there.

One of the things educators often worry about is heavily biased websites that we might send students to for research purposes. Students should be shown biased websites and should be given tools to utilize in order to determine the slant or agenda a particular site might have when researching the Internet at school or independently at home. While the caption at Old Pictures is basically accurate it also leaves out important information.

I would utilize Old Pictures and the picture in particular when constructing a content laden lesson, which is a nice way to refer to the much derided but necessary teacher lecture, as well as a part of an independent project such as a webquest.

True, anytime religion is mentioned, teachers, especially in the public school arena, need to evaluate the religion component for its relevance. So, the question in this instance should be is the mention of Lincoln’s deal with God relevant to students’s understanding the content?

Head on over to American Presidents Blog to read the rest of my answer.


Ed Darrell said...

You have a German auxiliary! I'm impressed.

EHT said...

Hmmm....usually its the Chinese that reblog me. At least this time the person gave me a link back. It's when they dont' that I get riled up.

Dr. Homeslice said...

Interesting. I don't think he made a deal with God, though your invocation of Him and the resulant effects of Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation do suggest otherwise. My answer would simply be that he called on the "Almighty" as did other politicans and leaders of his day, unencumbered by the ACLU and other organized naysayers.

EHT said...

Dr. Homeslice, I'm so glad to have you visit and welcome your comment.

The word "deal" might be a little strong, I agree. However, based on the personal diary entries of Chase and Welles Lincoln timed his actions based on the outcome at Antietam much in the way that many Christian say, "Lord, if you do this, then I will do...." Welles' remembrance of the cabinet meeting specifically uses the words "vow" and "covenant"....a victory at Antietam was to be Lincoln's signal that he was to move forward with the emancipation document---something he had struggled with since becoming president.

When I mention in a post that I have written something new for American Presidents Blog I never really know for sure if people click through and this particular posting is rather long, so here are the quotes from Lincoln's cabinet members. These are from their own journals.

An entry from the diary of Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury where he writes "Lincoln said when the Rebel army was at Frederick, I determined, as soon as it should be driven out of Maryland, to issue a Proclamation of Emancipation…I said nothing to anyone, but I made a promise to myself, and (hesitating a little) to my maker."

Meachum also quotes Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Wells, who recalled, "He had he said made a vow, a covenant, that if God gave us the victory in the approaching battle [Antietam] he would consider it his duty to move forward in the cause of Emancipation Proclamation."

Dr. Homeslice, thanks for the comment regarding the ACLU and other organized naysayers. SO true! Lincoln brought up God often in his speeches and in his writing....he felt he had the freedom to do so whereas today our politicians, no matter their religion, cannot make it as public as they would like to that they call on the Lord in times of crisis.

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Neat picture website, but take the captions with a grain of salt. I found an error when looking through the Tennessee section. There's a picture labeled as being a Civil War monument found on the Battlefield at Shiloh. In reality, it's the Hazen Brigade Monumnet found at Stones' River in Murfreesboro, and was the first monument dedicated on any Civil War Battlefield. And Shiloh and Stone's River are in completely different parts of the state.

EHT said...

Thanks Mrs. Bluebird....just goes to show that every resource needs to be verified and checked before inclusion in a plan, and your found error also proves how important it is to give those tools of evaluation to our students.

The Tour Marm said...

I come across things like this on tour all the time!

While I consider myself a faithful Christian, there is a great deal of Christian context being proffered by my teachers, parents and students that have neither substantiation nor scholarship. Much of what I have heard is incorrect and it distresses me to have to correct teachers etc. (See my postings on the Myth of the Hands and the Baptism of Pocahontas.) The references cited are Christian textbooks and many of these textbooks don't cite their references.

I do believe that Lincoln was greatly affected by the War Between the States and the blood spilled by decent Americans. There is a lot of speculation that after Gettysburg, he rededicated himself and was in the process of becoming an active Christian, rather than one on paper. One source on the internet said that on the way to Ford's Theatre he told Mary Lincoln that after his presidency, he wanted to go to Jerusalem. While it is a nice story, Where did it come from?

Lincoln's speeches reflect the Christian zeitgeist and it shows he had great familiarity with scripture. (The Gettysburg Address is truly a scripturally-based speech.) But that alone does not make him a good Christian, but a good politician.

A lot of consummate politicians at the time gave lip service to their predominantly Christian constituents, just as they do today; they talk the talk, but do not walk the walk.

Before I would interpret this photo in a Christian context, I would research letters, journals, and diaries. I would find out what other social, political, and military events were occurring throughout the U.S. (including the CSA) which might have motivated him. I would seek to find out the counsel of his cabinet and other advisers (many of whom were indeed faithful Christians).

There was so much that could have motivated the Emancipation Proclamation (which was only limited to the rebellious states).

It is unfortunate that his life ended so abruptly so we cannot know for sure the turning point in his life. Epiphanies are deeply personal; only Lincoln and G-d know what was in his heart.

But until we find out otherwise, this photo should be interpreted in an historic context. People should not jump to conclusions. Both history and scripture demand scholarship and discernment.

P.S. In my opinion, making any deal with G-d is theologically abhorrent. The attribution of such a deal to Lincoln, cheapens him and his relationship to G-d.

EHT said...

Tour Marm, you refer to journals and the journal entries of Welles and Stanton have no value especially since the entries are so similar in nature?

Unknown said...


(Sorry. I was trying to catch up with work and correspondence and left out a paragraph which tied in the mention in the journals. What I meant to add was that there was some reference, but I would also like to see it in context (I never take quotes at face value; many people can interpret the same thing in various ways, like Supreme Court Justices!).

I certainly think that he was a man in transition and on the right path spiritually. I really want to think that his agenda was divinely inspired, but I'm a natural cynic when it comes to politicians and lawyers!

I don't quite understand your statement that the Emancipation Proclamation was, 'the one action which eventually could unite the Union, "as it was before"'. The Union wasn't really ever united because the issue of slavery had been with us from the Declaration of Independence on.

And not all slaves joined the army.

There was no strategy in concert with the Proclamation to accommodate all the former enslaved and free blacks fleeing the devastated South, save for army service. These unfortunate pawns were expected to fend for themselves without benefit of skills, money, education, or full civil rights.

The Proclamation also contributed to chaos in the North. New York City, for instance, was a divided city. Almost immediately after Gettysburg and Vicksburg, it was the scene of terrible draft riots and racial violence. There was panic concerning the economy and fear about jobs fueled by Copperheads and immigrants. My eighth graders are surprised about this.

But to get back to your point about biased sites, I wholeheartedly agree with you that all sides and biases should be presented and explored. How else does one learn to discern? How else can one support one's position? How else can one understand other perspectives? How else can one recognize lies?

Amongst all these references, is the truth; We're supposed to be teaching our students to seek it out.

Religion and faith influence individuals and society. It is the major impetus of our history and culture. It needs to be part of the curriculum.

Anonymous said...

This is such an important discussion. When I first started teaching, it struck me that these students grew up with the internet, but never learned the proper tools to work with it in a critical way. IMO every high school student should get such a course. Now that it is still lacking, I see it as my duty as a history and social science teacher to point it out to them.

Anonymous said...
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EHT said...
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The Tour Marm said...


Thank you for furnishing the primary sources and books for further reading.

I'm sorry to be so pedantic, but this is such a sensitive area and I am often challenged by teachers, administrators, and parents.

I mentioned the word 'cynical' since much of the Victorian era (which affected America as well) was steeped in sentimentality. The elevation of President Lincoln and Robert E. Lee after their respective deaths into the realm of sainthood has made me wary. There is a great deal of apophryca (now known as Urban Legends) attached to these two individuals by well-meaning individuals. (Boy! I've heard whoppers!)

Please be assured that I shall include this new (to me) revelation concerning Lincoln during my tour commentary, especially when I am discussing leadership in the midst of the Lincoln Memorial.

It is important for our students to understand that some decisions are made by deep personal convictions through Judeo-Christian faith and values rather than expedience, practicality, and worldly gain.

Principled decision is the mark of a true leadership.

Anonymous said...

Let's not reserve an undue proportion of the slavery issue to the South when slavery existed in the North. After all, it was Rhode Island that provided a point in the Triangle of Trade.

Economic trades also influenced the distribution of slavery in America: Forest products and furs from the North and Agricultural products from the South.

England herself, responsible for more slave trafficking than any other nation, did not legally restrict slavery until 1833, which is long after the American Revolution.

Lastly, Lincoln's Proclamation began as a punitive war strategy towards the South rather than purely out of taking a moral high road. This combined with the fact that it took another century before minorities had equal rights reveals the moral parity of northern and southern whites toward blacks.

EHT said...

Please understand that my focus was on the Proclamation only, and not the history of slavery during exploration and colonization... nor was my focus the issue of slavery and civil rights as it was treated in the North.

There are always more causes, more motivating factors, more places to lay blame, however, I chose to write about the moral issue in this particular post.

At this point of learning about the Civil War in my classroom many of the things you mentioned would have already been brought up...students would have those details as prior knowledge to lean on. Please remember that a blog post cannot become a chapter in a book and I cannot always address every issue. Not including something does not mean I'm ignorant to the facts, or that I don't hold them important. Many of my posts tend to be wordy and I try to stick to one thing at time.

I believe that by the time Lincoln met with his cabinet in Spetember the issue of morality was the final thing that tipped Lincoln into finally issuing the proclamation, and I wrote my post around Meachum's explanation which was based on many primary sources.

True, Lincoln would have sold his own mother to bring the Union together....freeing the slaves wasn't his guiding force and was not his prime concern, but he didn't run from the morality issue and put it out there where it should have been.

My reasearch indicates it was other cabinet members....not the President who voiced various ways the proclamation would be seen and could be used.