Bronze casting of the life mask of Abraham Lincoln, Library of Congress
Happy Presidents Day! An essay I wrote is now up on History News Network, the first paragraph of which appears below.
We expect too much of our presidents. Especially at this season, when we honor the two chiefs universally acknowledged as our finest. The mistake is understandable, for it’s human nature to embrace Thomas Carlyle’s assertion that “the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here.” Great men and women there have been; and surely Lincoln stands among them. But he understood all too well the limits of “our poor powers to add or detract,” to borrow a phrase from the fields of Gettysburg. For that reason a certain modesty about his achievements should be our wisdom as well as his. And it may also suggest a way forward in the shadow of one of our worst chiefs of state.
For the full essay:
James West Davidson
Occasional thoughts on history, teaching, paddling and the outdoors