Tag Archives: Seward

What We Can Learn From Lincoln: Introduction

Abe Lincoln Daily Show
Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals

Everyone who is interested in the man and the era should read Team of Rivals. Doris K. Goodwin’s style, succinct analysis and humour are infectious. The subject matter may have helped her somewhat. After all, the Civil War is one of the most dramatic examples of state secession in human history. At its centre are the Republican Party leaders particularly Abraham Lincoln, Seward, Chase, Hamlin. Lincoln’s legacy as America’s 11th President however, turns mostly to the Emancipation Proclamation. Taking the philosophy of all men is created equally, Lincoln believed in a stealth and compromise imposition of North morality on all US states. He became the president of the US in a democratic election against those who failed to consolidate their political objectives into a cohesive alternative: is there ever any other way? With that power, he triggered secessionist outrage in the Southern States that had been mobilizing for over 40 years for a Confederation of United States. What you didn’t know lies in the details of this great statesman. His rise to power was unexpected; he was a moderate that succeeded in avoiding deterring Republican Radicals and Moderates from supporting his candidacy. He became the leader of a broad movement in new hybrid Whig Party and anti-slave activists in the Known Nothings (etc) that produced the Republican Party. A major rift had formed in America over the economically entrench slavery and those who were not economically bound to slavery who had liberal values of the freedom of persons and equality rights. Fredrick Douglass said he was a prejudicial jerk when meeting blacks at the White House but Douglass also praised Lincoln because he was their emancipator. His values, his courage have been made legendary. Perhaps the reason he is so revered most is that he kept America whole and basically he knew how to WIN. I figure we could learn a thing or two from his behaviour.

Never Admit Your Worst Fears:

Honest Lincoln was able to win because he convinced people that the South would not secede under his leadership but would have to accept the implications in his nomination. The Republicans didn’t even have slates in most Southern states. The Democrats were positioning that Lincoln would destroy the US. In response, Lincoln promised that the south would never seperate from the union. Lincoln claimed that they were trying to bargain for a better position. In truth, Lincoln had received many death threats. He was aware of the dangers of his being elected. He won with 39.9% of the vote over Douglas’ 29.5%. Ultimately, he came to Washington under a cloak for fear of being killed before inauguration. He hired a sizable garrison of federal troops to protect him. Most Republicans were surprised by the secession winter of 1860-1861. Some historians contend that he miscalculated the gravity of the crisis OR he knew that if he wasn’t elected then major societal change would not have been possible.

Never say more than is necessary:

Lincoln did not campaign with issues discussion that might create gaffes in 1860. He had other Republicans campaign on his platform & Lincoln’s life story: boyhood poverty, pioneer background, native genius and his rise from obscurity. Free labour was the undercurrent: any young boy could work to rise to the top. The Democratic campaign had to dig around for speeches he had written while a prairie lawyer particularly the Lincoln-Douglas debates, in order to disparage Lincoln’s anti-slavery bias. Lincoln simply stood for the Republican Platform in 1860 with local campaigns doing all the talking. He never campaigned explicitly on slavery because he would not have won an election that way. Most people knew where he leaned but as long as he didn’t make his views explicit he could be inoffensive. This is a tight rope because if you don’t indicate some direction, no one will care to vote for an unknown sum. Obfuscation is a great tactic for gaining tacit consent for the people whose views you are supposed to represent.

Bring Those You have Defeated On Side (Sooth Their Egos):

Lincoln was able to create a Team of Rivals by drawing the self-interest of other politicians Seward, Bates, Stanton, Chase into his new cabinet. They all wanted his job and believed they could easily do the job better than Lincoln. He appealed to each of their desire for power to create this team. They did not feel defeated because they were part of the team. Seward had brought 2/3rd the votes from the Whig Party, he felt that Lincoln should give him what he wanted, Secretary of State. Lincoln was invited by Weed and Seward to discuss the cabinet. Hilariously, Lincoln refused to meet them. Lincoln wanted it known that decisions would unlimitedly be his alone. He gave Seward the job Seward wanted.

If A Mistake Is Made, Save Face:

Cameron was going to be in Lincoln’s cabinet but Lincoln received a massive backlash. He resolved to make it known that the appointment had been made but tell Cameron that he should not accept it thus saving face. This worked perfectly.

Never cause people to hate you deeply:

Be Moderate: he won at the Republican convention because he was able to avoid angering large portions of his party and come up from the middle of the convention spectrum of supporters. Seward was the front-runner but his candidacy was divisive. Lincoln was not considered a serious contender for the leadership until approaching the convention itself in Chicago. Lincoln’s position on slavery evolved from being personally opposed to calling on government to impose federal law to abolish slavery. Lincoln married into a Kentucky slave owning family for example. He remained moderate during courtship. In 1859, Lincoln said blacks should have citizenship and the vote.

Don’t Follow the Rules: Limits to State Autonomy in Federalism:

By the time Lincoln was officially president, the Confederacy was a fact. His inauguration in 1860 spoke of the United States Constitution being designed to “form a more perfect union”. Lincoln tried to appeal to the border slave state with the Corwin Amendment to the Constitution, which had already passed congress. Abraham Lincoln ignored the constitutionality of secessionism: The Southern states began to succeed from the union because Lincoln gained the presidency. Lincoln was adamant about stopping these states from such action at any cost thus leading to war. First of all, there was a great deal of autonomy between these states. Federalism is designed to maintain the cultural integrity of separate states within a united country. There are limits to a cultural group’s rights with respect to those of the greater whole: the United States was greater than the sum of its parts. The South disagreed; they were motivated by economic concerns. The problem with federalism is not that individuals were not terribly well connected and so micro-cultures emerged. The problem is that a broader slave culture dominated the southern states. A Northerner who believed that Republican Party policy was morally superior trampled their culture on.

Never Trust a Lazy Ditherer:

Lincoln wanted to help with war strategy but McClellan misled Lincoln for most of the early part of the Civil War. McClellan had the opportunity to crush Robert E. Lee’s army at several early stages of the war but hesitated using the excuses that he needed more resources or that Lee’s forces were massing. The Army of the Potomac was wasting away because of McClellan’s dithering. Some historians believe that McClellan’s objective was to delay victory until he could reap the benefits that would springboard himself into the presidency of the United States as the Democratic Party’s war candidate. Lincoln was being played by a scumbag, but he could not really know for sure if McClellan was telling the truth or not because McClellan was using plausible deniability to get the results he was seeking: inaction. McClellan was demoted but even then McClellan was trying to tell Lincoln how to do his job. McClellan ran against Lincoln in 1864. Fortunately for Lincoln, McClellan lost handily.

Again, Always Save Face with those You Defeat:

Abraham Lincoln created a Team of Rivals who all thought they could do his job better than him. The only problem was that they had not been elected president. He was respectful to them and gracious enough to give them cabinet posts in his new government. He took their advice. A) When there was pressure to remove Seward from his position as Secretary of State (1862), Seward sent a letter of resignation to Lincoln. Lincoln first denied that Seward was behind the Presidency’s weak performance on the war. Lincoln had Chase send a letter of resignation over Seward’s resignation. Lincoln then public ally rejected those resignations thereby reaffirming both Seward’s and Chase’s value to his team and the country. The strength of the Team of Rivals was that each of those people would be peeing outside of the tent and not inside the tent, as LBJ would later explain. B) The more obvious saving of face occurred at the war’s end. Reconstruction required that all the southern states be brought back into the union as long as those citizens swore to take an oath accepting emancipation. State would be reestablished with a 10% voter agreement. Confederate officials wee punished however. The South was helped in reconstruction in every means possible. There were no reparations; their punishment had been already allotted in defeat. Radical Republicans felt that Lincoln had gone soft after victory; they wanted to effectively seriously damage southern reconstruction efforts. When a union general asked what to do about defeated Confederates, Lincoln said, “Let ‘em up easy.”

Practice Writing Speeches, Speaking and Rhetoric:

Lincoln redefined republicanism; he defined the issues of the war for the nation, the world and posterity. He was wrong to claim that “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here” at Gettysburg. His philosophy was based on the Declaration of Independence as a foundation of American political values: the ‘sheet anchor’ or republicanism. That declaration believed in the equality and freedom for all men, rather than the Constitution’s tolerance of slavery. More importantly, he used words to captivate a wide range of supporters. He was vague enough to fill each listeners ear with what it was they wanted to hear. Each person then interprets what he or she hear from him in terms of his or her own experiences and decide to support his cause.

Don’t Deal with Racism Directly:

Even if its all everyone is talking about: indirect discussions of the slavery issue were at the centre of the dispute between north and south. Racism is an unpleasant and complicated fact of the 1860s and 2000s. Just ask Obama. Slavery was a legally entrenched manifestation of the Aristotelian philosophy and American equality before the Civil War. Since the Civil War, Lincoln’s lesson has been that you should try not to talk about the elephant in the living room because it is too complicated for most human brain: because racism is so complicated: misinterpreting language to mean something racist, misinterpreting pride for ones culture as racist, treating others prejudicially due to race etc etc. Lincoln didn’t labour on these implications of his actions. If you focus a head on what you can do to solve the problem of racism then you have tackled racism. Don’t try to tackle racism head on, it is a human behaviour, tackle the symptoms of racism that are tangible.

Moral Imperatives Should be Spun for Their Short-Term Benefits:

The Emancipation Proclaimation was surpising for Lincoln’s cabinet but he was able to sell it successfully. Emancipating the slaves would have several foreseeable consequences on the war. A) Confederacy would fight more zealously to protect their sovereignty because the slavery rights now had legally tender. B) Northern Black would fight in the army for their fellow black’s legal freedom within the United States of America. C) Lincoln’s colleagues would argue that Blacks be deported from the United States. D) Lincoln could claim the full implications of what was already at the centre of the dispute over state legal sovereignty: slavery. Lincoln did not mention the long-term benefits of abolish such as a more equal society where the opportunity towards advancement is possible. Lincoln’s reasoning must have been that the human mind, the electorate cannot think in the long-term unless the benefits are so much greater than the costs in the short-term. Short-term consequences also included the New York Draft Riots in 1863.

The Truth is Rarely Appealing:

People don’t want to know that their livelihood is not worth saving, that they are ugly, or their town stinks. Some people are completely screwed and cannot be helped out of their false consciousness even if you tell them the truth. To complicate this point immensely, the truth does not even exist: there may not be an objective God controlling truths in the universe. Even if you profess to know the harsh truth about something, you might actually be lying anyway, because you are wrong. So do what Lincoln did: Lincoln didn’t become president by telling people what he felt was the truth, he told people what they wanted to hear while be perceived as being truthful. Being able to say what people want to hear is the key to rising to power. Reading people’s desires is absolutely essential. Don’t think about what you are thinking, think what they are thinking. The Republican’s wanted to hear that his was moderate candidate who did not offend anyone. Lincoln has probably been mythologized by those who won the Civil War to the extent that all his faults have been stricken from the record. Some historians believe he was a homosexual, his wife Mary Todd was a giant jerk, slavery was not the reason he ran for president etc.

People Will Gather Around Their Leader:

Once you have attained high office, you are given tremendous power over society. You have control over the institutions of legal authority. You have control over the public policy of your country. Your cabinet colleagues are all indebted to you for the graft distributed. If there is a war, the public will go so far as to claim that you cannot be attacked for your policies because it is question of national security. Lincoln was given the benefit of the doubt during the first few years of the war, but as the war progressed without end after four years, Lincoln’s political future was in question. As the election approach, decent magnified into McClellan and Chase. Once you’re the leader, crisis will galvanize the people around your leadership. Chase’s nomination attempt completely failed in the end because the war was far too serious for the party to change horses in mid-stream. If you can re win an election, you will regain that early support of the people. If you can win a war, then your political success will be assured and history will look upon you positively. But if you lose a war, then your political success will be greatly diminished like George W. Bush’s has been.

Lincoln with Captain Kirk/Spock

Winning is Everything:

National crisis must be defeated. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address states that the Copperheads would have made that battle meaningless, that those soldiers would have died for nothing. If the war fails then their campaign is meaningless. Lincoln thought that those dead soldiers would have wanted the Union to continue the fight in order to legitimize their deaths. Bush uses the same argument. Copperheads were greatly influence by the rhetoric in his argument. Lincoln was able to successfully win the 1864 election with the same call to arms. George Bush won in 2004 on the same principles. Winning is everything and is the most powerful driver in people getting involved. Lincoln told Grant that is was appropriate to attack civilians and infrastructure. If people see that you cannot win then they will not ‘waste’ their time helping you. Simple economics, then is that Winning is everything.

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold:

Mr. Chase challenged Lincoln for the Republican nomination in 1864. Chase pretended that he had accidentally promoted himself in a small magazine. Chase made politically damaging criticisms – although mild and subtle compared to modern standards – of Lincoln’s handling of the war effort and his leadership. Rather than immediately fire Chase for embarrassing him, Lincoln waited some time. Chase had written a letter of resignation, which Lincoln held onto until sometime after the presidency was secured. Lincoln then pulled it out and responded to that particular letter.

Claim to Appointments based on Merit Not Loyalty:

Lincoln claimed to reward positions to people who have the merit to achieve public service ends. He did not believe in distributing graft to his friends and supporters to a great extent. He did have a lot of graft to distribute but he did not want to be seen as a leader of a patronage fiefdom. Chase attacked him when he planned to run for president by claiming that that Lincoln rewarded only his friends: those people who could close rifts within the party and not the qualified. This, in effect, meant that Lincoln was only interested in rising to power for the perks of distributing graft to his friends. This disparaged Chase’s character. If you can claim that a person’s political behaviour is based on advancement then you will be successful. You can also make this claim anyway despite the fact that the person has no real intentions in that direction. Everyone is cynical of politicians because they act partly to keep themselves in power.

The Costs of Being Leader Can Sometimes Overwhelm:

Lincoln’s health was severely impacted by the war. The stress of the office, the most labour intensive job in the world, had severally inspired him but also severely tired him out. The success of the war was a massive relief on the country and the man. He claims that public life is difficult and full of carping envy and malignant criticism. Most presidential candidates live shortened lives relative to life expectancy. This is despite having the best doctors in the country. The emotional pain can be unbearable for most people that is why running for the presidency is so incredibly difficult. If you’re politicians who want fame and fortune, quit and form a rock band. Public service is extremely taxing on individuals. They all have to be Alpha people, who tend to be both hyper-ambitious and full of anger, pain, suffering which drive them to the heights of high office. The cost was abundantly clear in Lincoln’s case when – on April 14th, 1865 – he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at the Ford Theater in Washington DC.