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Constitutionalism in the Approach and Aftermath of the Civil War$
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Paul D. Moreno and Jonathan O'Neill

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823251940

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823251940.001.0001

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Woodrow Wilson and the Meaning of the Lincoln Legacy

Woodrow Wilson and the Meaning of the Lincoln Legacy

(p.183) 7 Woodrow Wilson and the Meaning of the Lincoln Legacy
Constitutionalism in the Approach and Aftermath of the Civil War

Ronald J. Pestritto

Fordham University Press

One of the things that unites many intellectuals on the Left and the Right is the belief that Abraham Lincoln was, in some important ways, a father of modern liberalism - that he marked a critical departure from the limited-government constitutionalism of the American founders and paved the way, with his emphasis on equality and energetic use of national power, for the kind of government we have today. This chapter seeks to refute such an argument, and to do so by focusing on the principles of the Progressive Era - especially those espoused by Woodrow Wilson. While Wilson himself pointed to Lincoln as a source for his own political ideas, the chapter will show that Wilson deeply misunderstood Lincoln, much as his heirs among contemporary liberals continue to do. The chapter will argue that both Lincoln's political ideas and his actions sought not to depart from the founding, but to defend the principles of the founding from the fate they ultimately suffered at the hands of Wilson and his fellow Progressives.

Keywords:   Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Edmund Burke, conservatism, liberalism, Progressivism

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