A Lion To Frighten Wolves: Applying Machiavelli’S Rhetoric To President Lincoln’s Policies
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Since its initial publication in 1532, Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince has earned both the admiration and scorn of political thinkers and layperson alike for suggesting a pragmatic method of governance that weighs political expediency over morality. These criticisms have been overwhelmingly targeted at Machiavelli’s controversial rhetoric, which instructs princes to “not deviate from what is good, but learn how to be evil.” Nearly three centuries later, President Abraham Lincoln would accept the Presidency, etching his name in the history books as perhaps one of the most admirable American Presidents in memory. However, while he is remembered for his monumental achievements, like the 13th Amendment or the Homestead Act, his methods of deception and sometimes even political abuse, found in his suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and his true feelings on slavery, illuminate a man who was distinctly Machiavellian. The objective of this thesis is to apply Machiavelli’s rhetoric in The Prince to the policies and methods of President Lincoln. By using Machiavelli as a framework, this thesis would like to inquire how political leaders like Lincoln are able to market deception, and how to reconcile the teachings of a man characterized by scholars like Harvey Mansfield to be a “spokesperson for the Devil,” with one of the most respected political leaders in American history.