If the final polls are to be believed, the 2012 election will be decided by a narrow margin. But despite a seemingly endless string of negative ads, this year’s contest is nowhere near as contentious as the one that ended 152 years ago today.
On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States. He received 40 percent of the popular vote, enough to carry 18 states in the Electoral College and defeat the three other candidates in the race. And Lincoln, of course, went on to become one of our most consequential Presidents.
“He established constitutional government on a more comprehensive republican basis by fulfilling the principles of the Declaration of Independence,” explained Professor Herman Belz. “When the time came for Lincoln as Chief Executive to preserve and protect the Constitution, his great and essential contribution was to make moral and philosophic distinctions concerning the meaning of liberty, equality, and republican government that restored the authority of the Founding.”
It’s also worth noting that, while Lincoln greatly expanded federal power to fight the Civil War, he was not a proponent of big government. “Whether we consider it in terms of budget, size, or reach, Abraham Lincoln’s presidency undertook no permanent reconstitution of the federal government on Leviathan-like proportions, and this was largely because it had never intended to do so,” noted Gettysburg College Professor Allen Guelzo. “Lincoln is not, and nor was his Administration, any model for what today seems so objectionable in the modern welfare state.”
If you haven’t done so yet, please go vote today. It’s a great way to honor Lincoln, who correctly pointed out in his first inaugural address that as long as Americans “[c]ontinue to execute all the express provisions of our national Constitution, and the Union will endure forever—it being impossible to destroy it, except by some action not provide[d] for in the instrument itself.”