The Lincoln Sesquicentennial and Civil War Centennial brought both closure to the commemorations of the 1950s and a shift in thematic content. Again, Robert N. Bellah's distinction is apt. Earlier observances mostly paid homage to discoverers or liberators of the promised land, to America's Old Testament or Mosaic age, while Lincoln and the Civil War evoked New Testament trials--"death, sacrifice, and rebirth." Like the earlier celebrations, these two anniversaries expressed the nation's sense of its Cold War mission and its appointment with destiny.
At the Civil War Centennial's close, however, certainty was ebbing. A country nostalgic for moments of historic consequence would soon be battered by them. The civil rights movement had begun to veer from the style that once admitted it to the national consensus. On college campuses, blotches of disorder were erupting. The war in Vietnam stirred dissent. By 1967, two years after the second "stillness at Appomatox," Bellah would term the troubled present the nation's "third time of trial." 1
Although the Lincoln Sesquicentennial took place in the seemingly still tranquil 1950s, even so, there were signs of disquiet. The political debate filled up with expressions of doubt as to the "national purpose" and intimations of America's decline. Sometimes the discourses of the