75 years ago today, Reinhold Niebuhr’s Christianity & Crisis journal published the theologian Robert Hastings Nichols’ essay “Lincoln’s Leadership in War”. In it Nichols expounds the moral and deliberative character of Abraham Lincoln’s wartime presidency. The occasion of Nichols’ reflection was the American entry into WWII, which had occurred just two months previously. Lincoln, like Roosevelt, had not entered the nation’s highest office with a desire to be a wartime president. But when war was forced upon him, Lincoln’s resolve, moral clarity, and resilience would not be found wanting. Most strikingly, Nichols gestures to Lincoln’s humble confidence that God remained in charge of history, that peace and justice could be enjoyed again–by all parties–after the smoke of necessary combat had cleared, and that, in the meanwhile, hatred did not need to attend the performance of martial duty. To the American nation now at war, Nichols commended Lincoln’s just example:


Photo Credit: Maj. Gen. Michael S. Linnington, commanding general of the Military District of Washington, lays a wreath at the foot of the President Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. By Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office, via Flickr.