The sesquicentennial of the Gettysburg Address on November 19 requires us to ponder the legacy of the Civil War and Lincoln. This is not some nostalgic romp reenacting Pickett’s charge, but perhaps the decisive political moment of our times. For the best, President Obama will not participate in the official celebration.
This uncharacteristic modesty is appropriate, for Franklin Roosevelt already delivered the Progressive interpretation of Gettysburg and Lincoln’s remarks on the 75th anniversary of the battle, July 3, 1938. FDR’s interpretation of the Address and of the meaning of liberty, equality, and constitutionalism generally have so permeated contemporary thinking that we must confront the original source of these errors in order to free ourselves to understand Lincoln as he thought and acted.