Graduation Date


Document Type

Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Department or Program Chair

Jordan Lieser, PhD

First Reader

Jordan Lieser, PhD


Abraham Lincoln’s legacy has been in a near-constant state of flux since his death. Despite his status as one of the most notable presidents of American history, modern day historians have been unable to develop a complete understanding of Lincoln’s character. In various biographies of Lincoln throughout history, he has been portrayed in every way from a melancholic, faithless, and depressed nobody who fumbled his way into crisis after crisis, to a puritan driven by God to abolish an evil institution. Public views of Lincoln have varied dramatically from veneration to disgust, and everywhere in between. In this essay, I will argue how public views of Lincoln have changed over time and how the modern image of Lincoln has been created by “rediscovering” Lincoln as a man rather than a caricature. I studied biographies of Lincoln, the significance of monuments to Lincoln in the public sphere, and other manifestations of Lincoln's “public memory” to define three major views of Lincoln that have manifested. The views are as follows: the “Divine Mandate,” which presents Lincoln as driven by faith in God and acting as God’s divine servant, the “Lonely Tyrant,” which portrays Lincoln as being a melancholic and faithless man who was woefully unqualified and used heavy-handed tyranny to brutalize his opposition, and the “Complex Figure” which focuses on the unknowable and difficult to define nature of Lincoln.

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