W&L Politics Professor Lucas Morel Releases New Book, ‘Lincoln and the American Founding’ In his latest book, Morel explores how Lincoln’s most vital ideas are traced back to the country’s founders.
Abraham Lincoln scholar and Washington and Lee University professor Lucas Morel’s latest book, “Lincoln and the American Founding,” was released June 20, 2020. The book, which was published by Southern Illinois University Press, earned advance praise for effectively exploring Lincoln’s political philosophy and its roots in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
James M. McPherson, noted American Civil War historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, offered this praise for “Lincoln and the American Founding”: “With admirable clarity and conciseness, Morel explores Lincoln’s political philosophy and its roots in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The discussion of how Lincoln used these iconic documents in his treatment of the issue of slavery is particularly incisive and valuable. This is an important contribution to the literature on the sixteenth president.”
In “Lincoln and the American Founding,” Morel contends that the most important influence on Abraham Lincoln’s political thought and practice was what he learned from the leading figures of and documents from the birth of the United States. With each chapter describing a particular influence, Morel leads readers from George Washington to the country’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; to the Founding Fathers’ compromise over slavery; and, finally, to a consideration of how the original intentions of the Founding Fathers should be respected in light of experience, progress and improvements over time.
Within these key discussions, Morel shows that without the ideals of the American Revolution, Lincoln’s most famous speeches would be unrecognizable, and the character of the nation would have lost its foundation on the universal principles of human equality, individual liberty and government by the consent of the governed.
“In understanding Lincoln, we understand the essential principles and structures of American self-government, as well as what is required of a free people to maintain their republican way of life,” said Morel. “To address the growing division of the country over the future of slavery and freedom, Lincoln looked back to the founding of America, which he identified with the principles of human equality and the rights of the individual proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence. By reminding the nation of its noblest ideals, he hoped that ‘the better angels of our nature’ would heal the divided country and preserve ‘the last best hope of earth.’”
“Given our current cultural and political polarization,” Morel said, “I can think of no more important American to speak to our contemporary ills than Abraham Lincoln.”
Morel is a trustee of the Supreme Court Historical Society. His previous publications include “Lincoln and Liberty: Wisdom for the Ages” and “Lincoln’s Sacred Effort: Defining Religion’s Role in American Self-Government.” He is a past president of the Abraham Lincoln Institute and a member of the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, which will plan activities in 2026 to commemorate the founding of the United States.
Morel is the head of the Politics Department at Washington and Lee University, where he has been a faculty member since 1999. He is the university’s preeminent Lincoln scholar, and he teaches American government, political philosophy and Black American politics.