His 226. Abraham Lincoln and the American Dream

Matthew N. Vosmeier

Spring 2016

866-7211          vosmeier@hanover.edu

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Course description and required texts:

The popular appeal of Abraham Lincoln is strong evidence that the historical and mythical Lincolns are indelibly recorded in America's collective memory. In this course, we will study the sixteenth president in historical context Ė as a product of the cultural and intellectual currents of nineteenth-century America Ė and as a continuing symbol of national values and ideals. Through biography, Lincoln's own words, and popular culture, we will follow the Lincoln image through his own time and over the course of the past 151 years.

The required books are:
David Herbert Donald, Lincoln
Merrill D. Peterson, Lincoln in American Memory
Andrew Delbanco, ed., The Portable Abraham Lincoln

Other materials are online or on reserve at Duggan Library.

The final course grade will be calculated from the following:

Two exams. There are midterm (25%) and final (25%) exams. Students are expected to take the exams on the days scheduled. In cases of necessity, requests for make-ups should be made before the day of the exam.

A movie review(12%). This is a two-page review on one of the films shown in this class. It will consider popular portrayals of Lincoln and the shaping of the Lincoln image in public memory.

A paper, about 5 pages in length (23%). This paper centers on an analysis of a primary source (a Lincoln document) to consider a topic chosen by the student and approved by the instructor.

Class participation (15%) includes attendance, being prepared for class, and collegial involvement in discussions.

Topics and Reading Assignments:


Week 1

May 2 (Mon.): Introduction to the Course; The Lincoln Legend

May 3 (Tues.): Lincoln's West: The Old Northwest, Southern Culture, and Lincolnís Coming of Age
David Donald, Lincoln, 13-65
Brief Autobiography, [15?] June 1858, in Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 2: 459
Letter to Jesse W. Fell, 20 December 1859, in Collected Works, 3: 511-512

May 4 (Wed.): Lincoln the Whig Legislator and Lawyer; Jacksonian Politics
Donald, Lincoln, 66-118
"To the People of Sangamo County," 9 March 1832, in Portable Abraham Lincoln, 5
"Lincolnís Plan of Campaign in 1840," in Collected Works, 1: 180-181
Notes on the Practice of Law (1850?), in Portable Abraham Lincoln, 33

May 5 (Thurs.): Lincoln and his "Economics of the American Dream"
Gabor S. Boritt, "Lincoln and the Economics of the American Dream," in The Historianís Lincoln: Pseudohistory, Psychohistory, and History, 87-106 (on reserve)
A Speech in the Illinois Legislature, 11 January 1837, in Collected Works, 1: 61-69

May 6 (Fri.): Middle-Class Culture: Respectability and Separate Spheres in Antebellum America
Donald, Lincoln, 151-154, 158-161
"Address to the Young Menís Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois," 27 January 1838, Portable Abraham Lincoln, 17
Letter to Mrs. Orville H. Browning, 1 April 1838, in Portable Abraham Lincoln, 17
"Handbill Replying to Charges of Infidelity," 31 July 1846, in Portable Abraham Lincoln, 27
Letter to Mary Todd Lincoln, 16 April 1848, in Portable Abraham Lincoln, 30


Week 2

May 9 (Mon.): Crises of the 1850s; The Lincoln-Douglas Debates
Donald, Lincoln, 162-173, 196-229
Letter to Joshua F. Speed, 24 August 1855, in Portable Abraham Lincoln, 83
"ĎHouse Dividedí Speech at Springfield, Illinois" 16 June 1858, in Portable Abraham Lincoln, 100

May 10 (Tues.): The 1860 Presidential Election; Secession and Civil War
Donald, Lincoln, 241-256, 257-304
First Inaugural Address, in Portable Abraham Lincoln, 226
"Proclamation Suspending the Writ of Habeas Corpus," 24 September 1862, in Portable Abraham Lincoln, 271

May 11 (Wed.): Toward Emancipation
Donald, Lincoln, 328-348, 362-380, 395-406
Letter to Horace Greeley, 22 August 1862, in Portable Abraham Lincoln, 270
"Final Emancipation Proclamation," 1 January 1863, in Portable Abraham Lincoln, 300

May 12 (Thurs.): Lincoln the War President
Donald, Lincoln, 407-408, 416-423, 429-448
Letter to Joseph Hooker, 26 January 1863, Portable Abraham Lincoln, 302
Letter to George G. Meade, 14 July 1863, Portable Abraham Lincoln, 313

May 13 (Fri.): Exam


Week 3

May 16 (Mon.): Lincolnís Gettysburg Address: Cultural Origins and Political Legacy
Donald, Lincoln, 459-492
Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg, 63-89 (on reserve)
"Address at Gettysburg," 19 November 1863, Portable Abraham Lincoln, 323

May 17 (Tues.): Reelection
Donald, Lincoln, 493-507, 512-516, 520-545
Letter to Charles D. Robinson, 17 August 1864, in Portable Abraham Lincoln, 336
"Memorandum on Probable Failure of Re-election," 23 August 1864, in Portable Abraham Lincoln, 343

May 18 (Wed.): The Warís End; Assassination
Donald, Lincoln/, 546-599
Second Inaugural Address, 4 March 1865, Portable Abraham Lincoln, 348

May 19 (Thurs.): Apotheosis; Lincolnís first biographers
Merrill D. Peterson, Lincoln and American Memory, 3-8, 26-35, 45-81, 116-135

May 20 (Fri.): Lincoln in the Progressive Era
Peterson, Lincoln and American Memory, 144-194

Paper due


Week 4

May 23 (Mon.): Lincoln Scholarship, 1920-1950
Peterson, Lincoln and American Memory, 256-310

May 24 (Tues.): Lincoln in Memory and Commemoration
Peterson, Lincoln in American Memory, 311-338, 344-347

May 25 (Wed.): Lincoln and Civil Rights
Peterson, Lincoln in American Memory, 348-362

May 26 (Thurs.): Conclusion and Final Review
Peterson, Lincoln in American Memory, 374-397
Richard Wightman Fox, Lincolnís Body: A Cultural History, 300-327(on reserve)

May 27 (Fri.): Final Exam