Lincoln on Leadership for Today: Abraham Lincoln's Approach to Twenty-First-Century Issues

Lincoln on Leadership for Today: Abraham Lincoln's Approach to Twenty-First-Century Issues

by Donald T. Phillips


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781328745699
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 02/06/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 126,266
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

A best-selling author of major works of nonfiction, DON T. PHILLIPS is known for his ability to tell stories and bring history alive with crisp, compelling prose. His trilogy on American leadership (Lincoln on Leadership, The Founding Fathers on Leadership, Martin Luther King, Jr. on Leadership) has won worldwide acclaim. His first book, Lincoln on Leadership, helped pave the way toward the creation of an entire new genre of books on historical leadership. Phillips has also collaborated on books with Mike Krzyzewski, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman, Cal Ripken, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, and ESPN’s George Bodenheimer.

Read an Excerpt

A Just and Generous and Prosperous System
“I am humble Abraham Lincoln,” he said. “I have been [asked] by many friends to become a candidate for the legislature. I have no wealthy or popular relations to recommend me. I have no other [ambition than] that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men ​— ​by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. If elected, I shall be thankful. If not, it will be all the same.”
That’s what Abraham Lincoln said, in part, when first introducing himself to the people. It was March 1832. He was 23 years old.
The next month, Lincoln enlisted in the frontier militia organized to push Chief Black Hawk of the Sauk Native American tribe back across the Mississippi River into Iowa. Young Lincoln was promptly elected captain of his company ​— ​a success, he said in later years, “which gave me more pleasure than any I have had since.” When an elderly Indian wandered into camp one night with a safe conduct pass, some of the men feared he was a spy and threatened to kill him. Lincoln quickly pushed the others away and stepped in front of the old man. “If anyone wants to hurt this fella, he’s going to have to come through me!” he essentially said. “And if any one of you doubt it, let him try!” One contemporary remembered that the “Lincoln Company was the hardest set of men he ever saw and that they would fight to the death for [their leader].” Lincoln and most of his men mustered out of the service not long before the Battle of Bad Axe ended the short-lived Black Hawk War. They took part in no real military action, and Lincoln used to joke that the only bloody battles he had were with mosquitoes. The men of the Lincoln Company were reported to have walked all the way home from the Wisconsin Territory.
By mid-July, our “military hero” was attending a political rally in the small town of Pappsville, Illinois. It was only a few weeks before the general election, and Lincoln, who had not planned to speak, was encouraged to say a few words. As he mounted the platform, a fight broke out in the crowd. Seeing one of his friends attacked, Lincoln jumped down and, as a witness described it, grabbed the attacker by the scruff of his neck and the seat of his trousers and threw him 12 feet away. Then he calmly walked back up to the stage and made his speech. “My politics are short and sweet, like the old woman’s dance,” he said. “I am in favor of a national bank . . . , the internal improvement system . . . , and a high protective tariff.”
Abraham Lincoln lost that election. He finished 8th out of 13 candidates. [Only the top 4 were elected.] As he would say later, it was the only time he “was ever beaten by a direct vote of the
Over the next couple of years, Lincoln was appointed postmaster of New Salem, Illinois, and worked as a deputy for the Sangamon County surveyor. Then, in 1834, he tried again for the state legislature. This time he won, finishing second in the field of candidates.
When Abraham Lincoln was first elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, the United States of America was still very young. George Washington had taken office as the first president only 45 years earlier. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had died 8 years before (in 1826, both on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence). John Marshall was still chief justice of the Supreme Court, Illinois had only been a state for 16 years, and Chicago had a population of barely 3,000 and had not yet been incorporated as a city.
There were two major political parties on the national scene back then ​— ​the Democrats and Whigs. Illinois was dominated by the Democrats, who were led by Andrew Jackson (one year into his second term as president). Jackson’s supporters were made up mostly of farmers and uneducated city laborers, reflecting America’s largely agricultural society. The Democrats were the conservative party back then. They believed in non–government intervention for almost everything, were against establishing a public education system, and, although somewhat divided on the big issue of the day, were mostly pro-slavery. On the other side, the fledgling Whig Party, having been founded by Kentucky senator Henry Clay less than two years earlier, was in the minority nearly everywhere. Whigs were liberal and progressive. Their supporters included businessmen, bankers, intellectuals, and artists. They favored government involvement to promote economic growth and expansion, supported public education, and were mostly anti-slavery.
The striking contrast between today’s Democratic Party and the Democratic Party of Lincoln’s day is interesting for its almost 180-degree turn in political positions. However, Abraham Lincoln, himself, once noted that such change was not new but, rather, typically American. After once hearing a comment that the two leading political parties so frequently reversed their platforms that they began sounding like their rivals, Lincoln responded with an anecdote:
I remember once being much amused at seeing two partially intoxicated men engage in a fight . . . which . . . after a long, and rather harmless contest, ended in each having fought himself out of his own coat, and into that of the other. If the two leading parties of this day are really identical with the two in the days of Jefferson and Adams, they have performed about the same feat as the two drunken men.
Abraham Lincoln did not hunt, fish, smoke, swear, or drink. His leisure time was spent reading books and newspapers. In New Salem, Illinois, he was surrounded by farmers, family, and friends who were passionate Democrats and ardent supporters of Andrew Jackson. Lincoln went against the grain and joined the Whig Party.
Abe Lincoln spent four 2-year terms in the Illinois House of Representatives. During those years, he served on 14 committees (including the powerful House Finance Committee), was elected Whig floor leader, and was defeated twice for Speaker of the House (mainly because the Whigs were always in the minority). Nearly his entire career in the state legislature was devoted to championing economic development. In 1834, there was no real transportation infrastructure in Illinois that could help foster commerce and trade. In fact, there was not a single railroad anywhere in the state. Lincoln’s position was simple: Build an infrastructure that will aid commerce, and the associated businesses will follow. Essentially, it was an “If you build it, they will come” strategy.
Early on, Lincoln threw his support toward funding construction of a nearly 100-mile-long canal that would connect the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River (from the shores of Lake Michigan near Chicago via the Illinois River). And during his second term, he both co-sponsored and vigorously lobbied for passage of a $10 million bill to fund a wide range of internal improvements, including the construction of a 1,300-mile network of railroads across Illinois. A young state representative from the Springfield area led the Democrats in support of the new legislation. His name was Stephen A. Douglas.

Table of Contents

Prelude 1

1 A Just and Generous and Prosperous System 8

2 Nonintervention in Other Countries as a Sacred Principle of International Law 24

3 To Emancipate the Mind 40

4 Rising with the Occasion 52

5 The Eternal Struggle Between Right and Wrong 66

6 The Tendency of Prosperity to Breed Tyrants 81

7 The Better Angels of Our Nature 97

8 With Firmness in the Right 112

9 The Middle Ground 128

10 No Less Than National 141

11 The Fiery Trial 159

12 The Thunderbolt 176

13 A More Elevated Position 192

14 A Fair Chance in the Race of Life 209

15 This Terrible, Bloody War 226

16 With Malice Toward None 243

17 Peace with All Nations 262

Finale 277

Acknowledgments 281

Notes 283

Bibliography 305

Index 309

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