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Scott Mc Nealey’s glib admonition about the loss of privacy – “Get over it!” – is no longer the flip realism of a Silicon Valley seer but a sinister warning.
Perhaps the main theme is that Lincoln was an adept practitioner of the “politics of self-restraint,” meaning that he often had to express himself on issues “where frank speech was not prudently possible and where much greater harm than good would have come from it” (4).
This restrained politician is actually revolutionary, or at least disruptive, for he challenges “dearly held beliefs” all the while preserving “a conventional surface” (3).
When Lincoln states that the temperance revolution is in some ways even greater than the political revolution of 1776, he is being disingenuous.
When Lincoln welcomes the reign of reason and mind over appetite and intemperance, he is being ironic.
The “House Divided” speech of 1858 elicits a two-page essay, as does the 1863 letter to Conkling.
As the author admits, some of the essays tend toward summary (5).
The selections lean heavily to the political, especially in the last two sections, as is perhaps appropriate, but it is illustrative that some of the more self-revelatory writings such as the Springfield Farewell are not included.
Lowenthal here is above all interested in Lincoln’s mind, not in his personality or life.
In the meantime, though, we’re in for a bumpy ride. Make no mistake, these are perilous times, and the stakes are high.
There are legitimate needs for intelligence and secrecy but that’s not what we’re talking about.