Scott Yenor is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Boise State University where he teaches American political thought and the history of political thought. He received his Ph.D. form Loyola University in Chicago and now lives in Boise with wife and five children. He has been instrumental in gaining nearly $3 million in grants for teaching American history to Idaho's high school teachers.
Today’s concerns about the Patriot Act and the status of our combatants in the War on Terrorism raise perennial issues of democratic governance in a liberal society. No president faced these issues more clearly and stridently than Abraham Lincoln. Responding to arguments from Erastus Corning and other New York Democrats, Lincoln defended his decisions with respect to civil rights as being humane and respectful of the goals of union. In this talk, Dr. Yenor discusses Lincoln’s arguments and then transfers the principles of his arguments to contemporary issues. Today’s issues may be as complicated as, or even more complicated than, those faced by Lincoln, but our resolution of those issues favors civil rights much more than the Great Emancipator’s view.
The national debate in the years leading up to the Civil War concerned the question of whether the United States should expand beyond its borders, and, if so, how should it expand. This question opened up when Abraham Lincoln was a Whig Congressman and he opposed the Mexican-American War; Lincoln opposed Stephen Douglas’s attempt to provide territorial governments for Kansas and Nebraska on the principle of popular sovereignty; and Lincoln provided a strident and seemingly pessimistic critique of “Manifest Destiny,” seeing the expansion of manifest destiny as linked to the expansion of slavery. Western Expansion was a problem for Lincoln, one that could be solved on terms other than those of Douglas’s platform. This talk helps us to see Lincoln’s establishment of the Idaho territory as part of his vision for how Western Expansion would proceed, and it explores the conditions that made it possible for his policy to become the national policy.