Civil War: Lincoln 'would be shocked' todayBy W. WINSTON SKINNER
Abraham Lincoln “would be shocked” at much of what is happening in the United States if he could see it today.
He also, however, would see echoes of his vision of expanding liberty. Dr. Gordon Jones, senior military historian at the Atlanta History Center, talked about how Lincoln would see modern day America in response to a question following his Saturday lecture at Newnan’s Wadsworth Auditorium.
Lincoln would, however, “recognize in the debate his identity,” Jones said. “He would recognize those echoes.”
Jones noted politicians of all stripes quote Lincoln and refer to his leadership. “Most presidents have to get right with Lincoln. You have to compare something you’re doing with something Lincoln did,” he said.
Asked how Lincoln would see today’s Republican Party, Jones said the parties have swapped positions in some ways. The Republicans in Lincoln’s time were liberals pushing for more rights for the disenfranchised, and the Democrats were the bastion of the status quo.
Jones said Lincoln would likely compare some Republican positions today to opposition he experienced from Democrats during his presidency. Still, Jones said, the Republican Party of today is “far, far to the left” of any prominent politicians from Lincoln’s day.
“Nobody is questioning – at least overtly – the right of equality of the races,” Jones said.
Jones talked about the 14th Amendment and how it allows women from Mexico to have children in the United States and those children be U.S. citizens. Often, families hope those children will give the rest of the family the opportunity to come to America.
That circumstance is one “the framers... could not conceive of when they wrote it,” Jones said. “It’s all a case of expanding liberties.”
Reflecting on the political unrest in America today, Jones also said Lincoln would tell President Barack Obama and Congress, “Your worst day would have been my best day during the war.”
Jones predicted the emotional feelings that still surround the Civil War will eventually fade and that the Civil War will come to be seen much like the Revolution – important and pivotal but less personal. There should “always be at least an intellectual tie to what happened,” Jones said, and a realization that the Civil War and Lincoln resolved “some very important issues that were not resolved by the founding fathers.”
What was believed by “the most radical thinkers of that time” is now the general thinking of most Americans, Jones observed.