Black Easter and Other Lincolns
Just after the Supreme Court fight, the New Republic observed that it was "obvious that the New Deal is cracking up pretty fast."1 After the 1938 elections one columnist concluded that the president could not run for a third term even if he so wished. The New Republic had even begun analyzing the potential of presidential aspirants in 1940. But FDR had not yet explored the use of a remaining presidential exemplar. He had available to him the Lincolnian model in the crisis of 1932-33. As I have attempted to show, while the president made some use of the war analogy in these years, for the most part he pursued his own reading of Jefferson. Events in the Pacific and in Europe made the Lincoln exemplar again a possibility. This time FDR seized the opportunity.
But imitating Lincoln was no simple task, for there were many Lincolns to draw from and some to avoid. One aspect of the Lincoln exemplar was developed immediately after his death. This is the "Black Easter" Lincoln, the man who, through his vision of America as an indissoluble union, suffered and died for the cause that many did not understand as fully as he. Lincoln was the "savior" of America as Washington had been its founder. The biblical rhetoric that the Civil War president had employed to justify the conflict was now used to describe the fallen leader. One Northern minister, noting that the assassination had taken place on Good Friday, concluded that "it is no blasphemy against the Son of God that we declare the fitness of the slaying of the second Father of our Republic on the anniversary of the day on which he was slain. Jesus Christ died for the world, Abraham Lincoln died for his country."2
There was also another use of the Lincoln exemplar that emphasizes