Comparing the Views of Plato and Abraham Lincoln on the Civil War

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Comparing the Views of Plato and Abraham Lincoln on the Civil War

Lincoln believed that a system of government divided among itself was doomed for collapse; "a house divided cannot stand." This philosophy earliest roots are evident in Plato's masterpiece, The Republic. Socrates states that perfection, which he refers to as justice, in a governed body is harmony among all classes of people-"The rebellious part is by nature the whole of vice."1 In order for the United States to survive as a nation, the government had to remain Federal. The southern establishment had to be brought back into the Union, or it had to be destroyed.2Although Socrates would agree with Lincoln's motives for preserving the Union, he would not believe his means
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At this point Lincoln and Plato would have both openly advocated declaring war upon the C.S.A. Plato would have fought the war with the attitude in mind that both sides will "one day be reconciled?and won't always be at war."9 Lincoln on the other hand wanted to win the war in "the shortest way under the Constitution."10 even if it meant laying waste to the entire southern civilization. War among civil factions, Plato believed, is only moderation among friends, continued only to "the point at which those who caused it are forced to pay the penalty by those who were its innocent victims."11 As Civil War Historian Mark Grimsley concludes, Lincoln, backed by military leaders such as General William T. Sherman and General Sheridan, began to see the war as a cleansing of impurity, hidden behind a rhetoric of practicality.12

The President's military and domestic policies

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