John O'Brien Pens Review Essay for JALA

By David J. Kent

Washington D.C.

Friday, October 29, 2021



The Lincoln Group's Immediate Past-President John O'Brien has had a busy week, culminating with publication of his review essay for JALA, the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association.


Now residing in "the other DC' (aka, Denver, Colorado), John presented "The Lincoln Legacy" as the final session of a four-session course the Lincoln Group of DC put on for Encore Learning. Called "Lincoln: The Savior of the Nation," the course also featured Ed Steers talking about Lincoln's early years (through age twenty-eight) and David Kent talking about "Lincoln as Politician" and then "Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief." John's session wrapped up the course with an examination of how Lincoln became the Great Emancipator and Savior of the Union. Initial feedback from the course was positive and encouraging. One participant said that he had been taking Encore courses for seven years and that our course was the best he had ever taken.


But John wasn't finished. Those of us who are also members of the Springfield Illinois-based Abraham Lincoln Association (ALA) this week received the Fall 2021 issue of JALA. Among the many great articles is John's review essay evaluating two recent books that examine Lincoln's interactions with the wartime Congress. William C. Harris's Lincoln in Congress was published in 2017 as a part of Southern Illinois Press's Concise Lincoln Library. In 2020, Fergus Bordewich published Congress at War: How Republican Reformers Fought the Civil War, Defied Lincoln, Ended Slavery, and Remade America.


John points out that the titles give a hint as to the perspectives taken by both authors. Harris is a long-time Lincoln scholar and presents the case that Lincoln and the post-secession, Republican-led Congress collaborated on legislation, working together toward their common goals. Bordewich is a popular independent historian whose previous work has focused on the role of Congress. As his subtitle suggests, he gives more credit to Congress's role in passing key legislation and supporting the war effort. He goes as far to suggest that Congress, in particular the Radical Republicans, were at war with Lincoln himself. John's insightful analysis teases out the strengths and weaknesses of both authors' arguments. It's well worth the read.


[Note: We are happy to feature the work of all members of the Lincoln Group of DC. If you have a Lincoln-related paper or event you've been involved with, please reach out to John O'Brien, Wendy Swanson, and/or David J. Kent and we'll consider highlighting it hear on Lincolnian.org.]