The True Lincoln

We don't outright invent history, but often it is made by the questions we ask. Few figures have provoked more questions than Abraham Lincoln, both because of his broad importance and his fantastic complexity. And few figures have proved so malleable. At times, the bearded man in the stovepipe hat seems much like a hologram, a medium for our fears and fantasies. Recent claims that Lincoln was gay--based on a tortured misreading of conventional 19th century sleeping arrangements--resemble the long-standing efforts to draft the famously nonsectarian man for one Christian denomination or another. Over the years, he has been trotted out to support everything from communism and feminism to prohibitionism and vegetarianism. But if a figure can be made to stand for everything, does he really mean anything?

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