Young Abraham Lincoln came of political age during the administration of Andrew Jackson. And this aspiring frontier politician did not cotton to Democrats and their blind, cult-like dedication to that one man. Residing first in New Salem, Illinois, then migrating to Springfield, Lincoln frequently spoke on the subject of Jackson’s messianic autocratic version of America.
Senator Henry Clay, a National Republican, later turned Whig, was Lincoln’s man. Mr. Lincoln admired Senator Clay due to Clay’s rational, stable vision of a growing America. Pivotal to Clay’s program included a central bank to financed internal improvements, such as road construction, canals, and railroads. Senator Clay viewed the function of government meant practical projects to built up America’s infrastructure.
Lincoln, residing in an emerging western state, was persuaded that improvement construction would bring jobs and prosperity to the region. Young Lincoln shared an additional belief with Clay that slavery did not belong in new territories, and that argument provided a basis for a modern nation-state.
President Jackson did not share in that opinion. In point of order, the president vetoed many such bills arguing one state benefiting from federal funds was unfair to other states, (though Jackson did approve many others). Furthermore, Henry Clay appeared at the top of Jackson’s adversary list, and for Clay, the feeling was mutual.
Lincoln believed excessive emotion in the political realm fell far short of statesmanship. Referring to religion Lincoln joked he didn’t much like evangelists unless they looked like they were “fighting bees.” To Lincoln, such emotional public displays had no use in politics.
What did Lincoln believe? The ideals of the United States of America, of course. The frenzy of viewing presidents as religious manifestations had no logical end game for a such a logical man. Later in his political career Lincoln likened our tenets of American faith by describing the Declaration of Independence as a golden apple, set in the silver frame of the Constitution. In other words certain inalienable rights, protected by We the People.
Overwrought political passion had the potential to destroy the peoples government, obstructing a practical “reign of reason.”
President Obama exemplified Lincoln’s America, relying on his advisors, or his own formidable intellect to govern. And Lincoln’s Jackson nightmare repeated when a dumber version proclaimed we “grow tired of all of the winning.” As I write another reasonable man is attempting, again, to put the country back on track.
In a country full of Jackson’s, be a Lincoln.
Gail Chumbley is the author of “River of January,” and “River of January: Figure Eight.” Chumbley also penned two stage plays, “Clay,” examining the life of Senator Henry Clay, and “Wolf By The Ears,” a study of racism and slavery in America.