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Abraham Lincoln, Manhood, and Nineteenth-Century American Political Culture

Abraham Lincoln, Manhood, and Nineteenth-Century American Political Culture

Chapter:
(p.29) Abraham Lincoln, Manhood, and Nineteenth-Century American Political Culture
Source:
This Distracted and Anarchical People
Author(s):
Michael Thomas Smith
Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823245680.003.0003

The struggle over interpreting Abraham Lincoln's image and character during his long political career reveals much about the contested terrain of appropriate male behavior in mid-nineteenth century America. Lincoln impressed many observers as being quite masculine, with his physical size, strength, endurance and image as a rugged “rail splitter” playing a pivotal and underappreciated role in his popularity. He further won acclaim as a steady leader with outstanding integrity, in keeping with the Victorian conception of manliness as being fundamentally defined by morality and restraint. By combining elements of both of these aspects of idealized manhood—aggressive masculinity and restrained manliness—Lincoln reached Americans of different social classes and ideologies. Lincoln's critics attacked him along gendered lines as well, reflecting the centrality of concepts of manhood to the era's political culture.

Keywords:   Abraham Lincoln, Gender, Masculinity, Political culture, U.S. Civil War

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