Skip to main content

The Party Of Lincoln

July 2022
1min read


I enjoyed the interview with Jack Kemp. He is an adroit and intelligent spokesman for a conservative view of the role government ought to play in the economic sector.

But a person who adopts Kemp’s view of restoring the Republican party to reflect the view of Abraham Lincoln misses or ignores an important truth. The Republican party of Lincoln’s time believed and acted as if the federal government had the power and ability to solve many issues of the time. Politically it was in opposition to the main-line thinking of the Democratic party, which thought that governmental economic activity should be left to the states.

It ought not be necessary to remind Mr. Kemp that slavery was ended by a presidential proclamation followed by a constitutional amendment. How long would that immoral system have remained with us if the issue had been left to the states? Mr. Kemp should also be aware that during the Civil War, Congress (under Republican leadership) authorized the construction of a transcontinental railroad by offering huge cash and land subsidies to the private sector; that it subsidized higher education by giving states land grants to establish and support universities; and that it encouraged the settlement of open lands by passing the Homestead Act, which gave 160 acres of public land to any one willing to stay and work on it for at least five years.

Like most Republicans of his day Lincoln realized that such major economic policies were beyond the ability of state and local governments to influence. While he supported capitalism he was not afraid to use the power of the federal government to offer opportunity to those who may not have had it previously. It would seem that if Jack Kemp were looking for a political party that reflected the nationalism of Lincoln’s thinking he might be advised to look at the national political party in which he does not presently hold an interest or membership.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 70-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.

Donate