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Lincoln: A Weberian Politician Meets the Constitution

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Abstract

The central question addressed is how Lincoln as president resolved the potential conflicts among the competing values to which he was committed. Certain of Lincoln's experiences before becoming president are examined, as those experiences shed light on his character and his attitude toward the Constitution and toward slavery. Weber's essay, “Politics as a Vocation,” is employed as a framework for description and analysis. Lincoln's words and actions demonstrate that competing values must almost always give way to what he regarded as transcendent values: the specific duties and limits embodied in the Constitution and what he saw as its implied demand that the Union be preserved. Within the limits of his commitment to the Constitution as embodying transcendent values, Lincoln resembles Weber's “politician with a calling.”

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