A Great Man A Better President Analysis

Submitted By ethanpope513
Words: 664
Pages: 3

Ethan Pope
Mr. Gooden
Survey of History to 1877
2 December 2014
A Great Man, a Better President James McPherson’s We Cannot Escape History: Lincoln and the Last Best Hope of Earth is an excellent narrative about the difficult situation when Abraham Lincoln became president. No president of the United States has ever taken office under harder circumstances than Abraham Lincoln. By the time of his inauguration day, a majority of the South had already seceded. And, he had neither the support nor the confidence of the North. To most Americans, Lincoln was relatively unknown. His unsophisticated image caused him to be misunderstood by his opponents and staff. General McClellan described Lincoln as “looking like a buffoon” and the abolitionist Wendall Phillips described Lincoln as a “first-rate, second-rate man waiting like any other servant for the people to come and send him on any errand they wish.” These people would soon realize how much they underestimated Lincoln. On the surface, Lincoln appeared to be a man of contradiction. For example, he was against slavery, but was hesitant to free slaves. He was a loyal supporter of the Constitution, yet he suspended the habeas corpus. These contradictions are part of Lincoln’s personality. He maintained high ideals yet kept practical goals. For instance, when there were a large number of spies and secessionists living in Maryland, Lincoln responded by extending the habeas corpus. He also delayed issuing the Emancipation Proclamation until the time was right to aid him politically and in the war effort. Lincoln’s cautious way of handling political affairs was viewed as passive. Rather than acting on events, he preferred to respond, declaring that “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.” One of Lincoln’s best abilities was to assess the situation before taking action. This was difficult since he was constantly pressured to take control. Alexander McClure, one of Lincoln’s friends, said it well, “Lincoln possessed the quality of good judgment to wait the fullness of time for all things.” This cautious approach became one of Lincoln’s greatest strengths, but also one of his greatest weaknesses. When he issued the Emancipation Proclamation at the most effective moment, this careful policy was essential. On the other hand, when Lincoln was patient, he held off on dismissing unskilled commanders. When Lincoln came to Washington, he had one other disadvantage. He had to assume the role as commander in chief with very little knowledge of military affairs. At the start of the Civil War, he relied on a counsel