Rawley dies, Lincoln consensus hardens

Lincoln specialist James A. Rawley has died.

Rawley (to the left in photo at right) admired J.G. Randall, and like Randall upheld a view of the president as a conservative - in Rawley's case, an "organic nationalist" - who fought for Union straight through to 1865. This contrasts with Trefousse's view of Lincoln as a dissimulating Radical with emancipation in mind from day one (I may have gone too far with that characterization, but not by much); and with the prevailing Centennial idea that AL was a pragmatist who reached a point where he could no longer disentangle war aims - slavery from Union.

This article states his case nicely and awards Mark Neely and Gabor Boritt a few slaps to the sides of their heads. I find especially interesting his suggestion that writers have mixed up Lincoln the Whig with Lincoln the Republican.

It is also worth noting that a term count done by Rawley produces no Lincolnian references to the Declaration after 1862. There is Lincoln's ever-burgeoning rhetoric of Declaration that approaches crescendo and then is suddenly turned off in the second year of the war. Quite a bit to chew on there.

Rawley's reasonable, mainstream, scholarly view of Lincoln has been marginalized and he will soon have his name on some dirty doghouse as does Randall.

We seem to have a public that wants one single interpretation for anything; we have Lincoln salons competing to deliver these monochrome images; and we have publishers committed to flattening the landscape for the historically challenged. Poor Rawley and poor us.