5/24/13

Lincoln to Remember

The hype surrounding Lincoln and America's 16th president is gone. What Abraham Lincoln's legacy will  now take on is left for speculation.

It seems largely that Lincoln will be best remembered as a savvy head of political office, tactically buying votes for an amendment, or constructing and maintaining a politically virulent cabinet composed of geniuses in his former rivals. After all, this legacy had been foretold: Management firms and business leaders rushed early after Lincoln's premiere to read Doris Goodwin's Team of Rivals, the basis for Lincoln. And in the process by which these firms, leaders, and others began to extol Lincoln's qualities as a head of state, Lincoln's other qualities, perhaps the more important and relevant ones, were forgotten.

In a sense we cannot remember Lincoln for his administrative qualities. The times and circumstances that led to the success of his team of rivals may well be different from our times today. And if they were not, the overarching qualities that allowed for Lincoln's management success may tell more.

The more applicable lesson concerns the character of Lincoln. In the midst of war, where divisions arose beyond slavery and the war's projection, Lincoln stood out as a calm voice of reason. He was a "moral philosopher", unafraid to handle the slavery question.

The calm character which allowed him to assess a situation plaguing the entire United States can be seen in the relationships he had with others. Before appointing Edwin Stanton as Secretary of War, Lincoln came close to temporarily taking the genius lawyer's position in his early years riding on the Illinois law circuit. Stanton had been working with another lawyer to defend the owner of an agricultural patent, who had been accused of stealing designs. When Stanton fell ill, his co-counsel decided to find a replacement should Stanton be unable to work, the replacement whom he found, as the co-counsel noted, an "ape" in the form of Lincoln. Later when Stanton recovered, he and his co-counsel abandoned Lincoln, leaving him to travel to Ohio where he assumed he would take part in the trial, only to find there that both trial lawyers left him. But by Lincoln's logical and calm character, seeing that Stanton's capabilities were urgently required, the same Stanton who abandoned him later became the 27th Secretary of War. It is this character, more important than office dynamics, that we might remember.

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