Newswise — Differing from today's politicians in two ways, President Abraham Lincoln neither boasted of his humble roots nor allowed himself to become out of touch with political realities, according to Allen Guelzo, who is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era Studies program at Gettysburg College.
"The image of Lincoln as a pioneer, growing up in a log cabin, is an image that Lincoln did not particularly like," Guelzo said. "He did not want people to think of him as crude or unlettered."
Guelzo explained that it was his political advisors who wanted to portray Lincoln as "a man of the people," a phrase that many contemporary politicians use to appeal to voters even when it may not be true. Lincoln was an intellectual who became an accomplished lawyer before running for political office and he wanted that to be known, Guelzo said.
Lincoln also had a strong belief in democracy, like many politicians today, but he brought to the position of president a certain "political prudence," Guelzo said.
"Lincoln possessed the real ability to read the signs of the times and understand where they were going," Guelzo said. "He would still have had a landmark presidency without the Civil War because of the successfulness of his domestic policy initiatives. He was the essence of prudence as a political virtue."
Guelzo is a two-time winner of the $50,000 Lincoln Prize for his books "Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America" and "Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President." He is the director of Gettysburg College's Civil War Era Studies program. Prior to coming to the College, he was the Grace F. Kea Professor of American History and Dean of the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Pennsylvania.
Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences. With approximately 2,600 students, it is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania. The college was founded in 1832.