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A Pledge to be Part of the Temperance Movement.

While the Democrats had held up Andrew Jackson as the ideal man, the Whigs began to view Abraham Lincoln in the 1840s as the ideal man, even though his personality was “artificial—that is, self-constructed.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 598.

This is best captured in Lincoln’s address in the local chapter of the Washingtonian Temperance Society in Springfield, Illinois’ Second Presbyterian Church. Id. citing “Temperance Address” (Feb. 22, 1842), Collected Works of AL, I, 271-79. He declared: “The world would be vastly benefited by a total and final banishment from it of all intoxicating drinks.” “Temperance Address” (Feb. 22, 1842), Collected Works of AL, I, 271-79. However, he spent the first portion of his speech “criticizing temperance advocates for their self-righteous denunciations.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 598.

Lincoln called for a “temperance revolution,” one that would live up to the American Revolution and he proclaimed, “we shall find a stronger bondage broken, a viler slavery manumitted, a greater tyrant deposed.” “Temperance Address” (Feb. 22, 1842), Collected Works of AL, I, 271-79. He hoped for a day where rationality reigned supreme over “impulse and passion.” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 598.

Of victory, Lincoln said: “When the victory shall be complete—when there shall be neither a slave nor a drunkard on the earth—how proud the title of that Land, which may truly claim to be the birth-place and the cradle of both those revolutions.” “Temperance Address” (Feb. 22, 1842), Collected Works of AL, I, 271-79.

In this speech, Lincoln had connected temperance and antislavery. While these two principles may appear to be unrelated, in fact, they both lead to a kind of freedom. Not only was Lincoln making a compelling argument about antislavery and temperance, he was rallying the Whig Party to accomplish its objectives.

Perhaps one of Lincoln’s best virtues was that even when he was making the most persuasive of arguments, that did not prevent him from criticizing his own supporters. This criticism can only help a party become stronger, more united, and able to achieve progress.

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