John Locke Scripps, who had convinced Lincoln to write his first campaign autobiography, asserted that the 16th president had become the Great American Man-the grand central figure in American (perhaps the World's) History. Historians still find it hard to quibble with this opinion of Lincoln's place in the story of America. Lincoln was the central figure in the nation's greatest crisis, the Civil War. His achievements in office make as good a case as any that he was the greatest president in U.S. history.What made Lincoln great? What was it about him that struck those who knew him? This course explores those questions with the help of an authority who, in his own words, has spent many years trying to get to know this man from afar, and in doing so has become one of the country's most distinguished Lincoln scholars and an award-winning author for his books about Lincoln. Professor Allen C. Guelzo will lead you on a great adventure, a tour of Lincoln's life, from his forebears' arrival in America through an evaluation of how his legacy lives on for us today. You will come to know Lincoln through the eyes of those who knew, lived with, and worked with him. For Lincoln buffs and those simply wishing to know him much better, this course opens a compelling view into his thinking and career. In addition to asking what it was like to know Lincoln, Professor Guelzo explores three themes: What ideas were at the core of his understanding of American politics? Why did he oppose slavery, and what propelled him, in the 1850s, into the open opposition to slavery that led to his election to the presidency in 1860? What particular gifts equipped Lincoln to lead the nation through the fiery trial of the Civil War? Lincoln as Man and President Just think of such a sucker as me as President. -Abraham Lincoln, commenting to a newspaper editor on his presidential chances With Professor Guelzo, you will explore Lincoln's pre-presidential life for clues to his most significant personality traits. You will find a man who possessed perhaps the most complex inner life of any American public figure. You will meet a Lincoln who: Was an unusual combination of both introvert and extrovert. Never joined a church, professed no formal religion, and was even known to have been critical of Christianity before he entered politics. Yet he may have been more moral, ethical, and Christian than any other U.S. president. Held a profoundly fatalistic view of life, rooted in the Calvinist teaching of his youth, that human will was essentially nothing, and everything was predestined by an immensely powerful God. However, Lincoln was anything but passive in life. Largely self-taught, he was a quietly confident man who, regardless of the task-learning to be a surveyor, a lawyer, or President of the United States- went at it with good earnest. This aspect of the course will enable you to connect Lincoln the man with Lincoln the president. How was it that someone with limited prior political experience and no administrative background, who was considered homely, unsophisticated, and self-deprecating, could have achieved such monumental success as the nation's chief executive? In fact, as you will see, folksy Abraham Lincoln was about nothing if not ambition: his own personal burning ambition ( a little engine that knew no rest, his law partner described it) and his firm conviction that the unfettered opportunity to fulfill one's ambitions- that every man can make himself -was what made America great. A House Divided A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free... It will become all one thing, or all the other. -acceptance speech as 1858 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Illinois Professor Guelzo does a remarkable job of shedding light on Lincoln's relationship to the issue that defined his presidency and place in history: slavery. You will trace the circumstances that spurred Lincoln, in the 1850s, to join the Republican Party and take the stand on slavery that won him prominence as a national politician. These events include the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, and Lincoln's famous debates with Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas. As part of this discussion, Professor Guelzo covers an aspect of Lincoln's opposition to slavery that is not always emphasized: his pro-business, free-market philosophy. As a Whig Party member of the Illinois legislature, Lincoln had favored projects-the creation of a state bank, sale of public lands, transportation improvements-that promoted business and economic development. In the 1850s, political and economic trends made it clear that slavery, far from slowly dying out as the Founding Fathers had anticipated, was poised to expand to new U.S. states and territories. This alarmed Lincoln, who viewed an expanding supply of inexpensive slave labor as a dire threat to the survival of the free market. The Work We Are In With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan. -Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address Lincoln transformed himself from an insecure manager into a confident and competent chief executive. The old man sits here and wields like a backwoods Jupiter the bolts of war and the machinery of government with a hand equally steady and firm, marveled Lincoln's young secretary, John Hay. You will consider Lincoln's skill in directing not only the war against the Confederacy, but in dealing with difficult members of his own federal government, including General George McClellan, Secretary of State William Seward, and Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase-each of whom thought he could run the government better than Lincoln-and Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney, who tried to issue legal decisions to cripple Lincoln's war effort. Among the most memorable parts of this course are those in which Professor Guelzo examines Lincoln's nearly unrivaled powers as a writer and communicator. Only Thomas Jefferson spoke and wrote as eloquently and persuasively about American democracy as Lincoln. The Great American Man We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. -Conclusion to the Gettysburg Address This course is an absorbing opportunity to increase your knowledge of a man whose words and life embodied the nature of democracy. Abraham Lincoln understood and envisioned the U.S. as a nation of self-governing equals who were wise enough to be guided not just by self-interest or popular enthusiasm, but by an abiding sense of right and wrong. Ultimately, he gave that nation, in his words, a new birth of freedom.