I've been reading Richard Carwardine's Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power with great interest and enjoyment. First, the book is very readable and focuses on Lincoln's public life as an Illinois politician through his rise as a national figure and his ascension to the Presidency.
I would strongly recommend it for open-minded fans of American history (I say open minded for this reason: if you think Lincoln was a tyrant, or responsible for 600,000 deaths, or trampled on the Constitution, you're probably not in the right place to appreciate the work). It paints a very compelling portrait of a man who at once desires to avoid war and fighting, and yet takes the opportunity whenever he can to inspire people to recognize that "peculiar institution" as inconsistent with the intention of the founders (frequently quoting the Declaration) and also to recognize the decision before the citizenry: either a nation that progresses under the spirit of '76 or back-slides into tyranny.
The author provides an insight into the time, and the challenges facing the loose affiliation that would become the Republican party. It was a party that was created to accomplish minimally one end: arrest the spread of slavery into the Western territories. Most Republicans were content to let slavery run its course in slave-holding states (for they were convinced, as Lincoln himself said in his many speeches, that "right makes might," and that it was an institution that wasn't long for this world).
But here's the important point: this was a clearly defined moment in history, when a moral decision between Liberty and Tyranny had to be made, and the world is clearly better for our 16th President. There are moments like this throughout history, but they are only evident with the clarity of hindsight.
What will be our generation's defining moment of moral decision making? Will the threat of fascism once again awaken free people everywhere to stand united and fight against a back-sliding of civilization? More sinister an enemy is the atrophy of our collective morality and disregard for Christian virtue - manifested in a noticeably more dependent and less self-governing citizenry. These are the two enemies of Liberty as I see them in the summer of 2006, and although I fear that things will get worse before they get better, I pray I am wrong.
But if I am right, may the Author of Liberty help us and grant us the courage to dedicate ourselves to His work; bless us and protect us until we accomplish our purposes as He sees fit; and send us His Holy Spirit that we may communicate the danger and rally good people everywhere to the cause of righteousness and Freedom.