Sunday, February 01, 2009

Abraham Lincoln, Universalist?

Recently over at Boys In the Band, Abraham Lincoln and his religious views came up.
Lincoln never claimed an affiliation, and everybody from Roman Catholics to Presbyterian to atheists claim him as their own. So do Universalists...

Here are some notes I made a few years back
Manford's New Monthly Magazine - January 1877 (cover misdated 1876)
- quoted from the original

" The Faith of Abraham Lincoln" by Rev. L. C. Marvin.

"In the Winter of 1857, I held a four day's debate in Springfield with
Rev. Mr. Johnson of the Christian Church, and Mr. Lincoln heard a
part, at least, of that debate. It fell to my lot, one evening to
make the closing speech. It was the conclusion of the first
proposition, and I summed up the arguments which I had advanced in
favor of the reconciliation of all things to God. Mr Lincoln was
pleased, and gave his undivided attention to what was spoken. At the
close he turned to the friend at the side, and in a very emphatic
manner said, "There sir, that speech will do." Now does anyone
supposed that he had come to that debate simply to find out which
disputant was the better speaker?"

and discussing another earlier incident from 1853....
"As soon as Elder C. (Rev Peter Cartwright of the Methodist Church)
had taken his seat, he turned to Mr. (Eli) Thornburg and made this
characteristic speech: "Thornburg, I thought you were too sensible a
man to believe such stuff as Marvin preaches." Mr. Lincoln, without
waiting for Mr. T. to reply, immediately took up the gauntlet himself.
"Elder Cartwright," said he, "I used to think that it took the
smartest kind of man to preach and defend Universalism; I now think
entirely different. It is the easiest faith to preach that I have ever
heard. There is more proof in its favor, than in any other doctrine I
have ever heard. I have a suit in court here to-morrow and if I had
as much proof in its favor as there is in Universalism, I would go
home, and leave my student to take charge of it, and I should feel
perfectly certain that he would gain it." Such were his words. "

now, in 1832 Cartwright had defeated Lincoln for public office, and in
1846 Cartwright had called Lincoln an infidel. Lincoln stated he had never denied
the truth of the Scriptures and defeated Cartwright in that election. Cartwright
wrote his autobiography in 1857, and doesn't mention this discussion with Lincoln
or Marvin. He doesn't mention Lincoln at all. He also doesn't seem to mention
Marvin. (He has an unnamed Illinois Universalist minister he accuses of adultery.
So no confirming source of this quote.

Erasmus Manford - Twenty Five Years in the West (1875 revised edition)
p 225/6 "I had been invited to visit that region and hold a
discussion in Springfield with a Methodist clergyman. ... We debated
four days in the Representatives' Hall of the capitol, in the
presence of large assemblies. The discussion caused much excitement
in Springfield, and all parties attended. I remember seeing Mr.
Lincoln there punctually every day and every night. He often nodded
assent when I made a strong point. Little did I think, or he, what
was to be his future position in the world."

Hard to know if Lincoln nodded because he liked the doctrine or if he liked
the debate.
Having read alot of Manford 's Magazine; I feel sure If Manford had
had any reason to think Lincoln was an Universalist, he would have
said so....


Anonymous said...

Hey, I am checking this blog using the phone and this appears to be kind of odd. Thought you'd wish to know. This is a great write-up nevertheless, did not mess that up.

- David

Steven Rowe said...

Thanks, this should be better.