The logic of Lincoln

From Daniel Tammet’s book Thinking by Numbers, the chapter on Shapes of Speech:

“In the mid-nineteenth century, more than two millenia after Euclid, a copy of his Elements traveled in the carpetbag of a circuit lawyer from Illinois…

“The pages and their propositions made a deep impression on Lincoln’s mind, following him into his subsequent career in politics. In a speech given to an Ohio crowd in 1859 in opposition to a pro-slavery rival…

“‘Now if Judge [Stephen] Douglas will demonstrate somehow that this is popular sovereignty – the right to make a slave out of another, without any right of that other, or anyone else to object; demonstrate it as Euclid demonstrated propositions – there is no objection. But when he comes forward, seeking to carry a principle by bringing it to the authority of men who themselves utterly repudiate that principle, I ask that he shall not be permitted to do it.’

“Definitions and axioms would shape President Lincoln’s most famous addresses. His powers of rhetoric, persuasion, deduction and logic were all subjected to the severest tests.”

His defense of the Union, and the requirement to keep it together, was that based on universal law and the Constitution. The “Union of the States” is perpetual, because no proper government ever had a provision for its own termination.

5 thoughts on “The logic of Lincoln”

  1. good that it is perpetual, as a person I tend to worry about my own termination as all life is limited but for a government to contemplate its termination would be doubting its survival. I wonder how many of our current writings are based on such ancient writers such as Euclid. Some ancient wisdom seems more clear to me than what I see on tv.


  2. To my shame I have to confess I never heard about Euclid, now I know why because he was a mathematician, and I hate math. But I don’t really get the link between him, Lincoln and slavery.


  3. What struck me most when I watched the recent movie about Lincoln is that politics hasn’t changed that much…except that the office of president was much more respected during Lincoln’s time. And he had the respect of both parties, despite their differences.


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