How Would Lincoln Respond to Trump’s Name-Calling?

Lincoln-Douglas Debates
By Mort Kuntzler

The name-calling events of the past several days between the leaders of two major countries – and one of those being the United States – are reminiscent of a grade-school playground.

And it appears to be without precedent in our political history.

As such, I was curious to see Abraham Lincoln’s opinion of such behavior.

In his fouth debate with Stephen Douglas for the U.S Senate in 1858, Lincoln addressed just this point:

If I cannot stand on my own public record, on my own private and public character as history will record it, I will not attempt to rise by traducing [slandering] the character of other men. [1]

I thought it telling that he mentioned ‘private‘ as well as ‘public.’ In 1858, the candidates knew that their private lives, as well as their public lives were open AND subject to scrutiny.

But Lincoln didn’t stop. He went on to declare his unqualified opinion of even doing so:

I will not make a blackguard of myself by imitating the course they have pursued against me. I have no charges to make against them. [1]

“Blackguard” means a person, particularly a man, who behaves in a dishonorable or contemptible way.

In his rejoinder to Douglas’s remarks at the end of this debate, Lincoln again displays his distaste for personal attacks. [Bolding is mine for your attention.]

Judge Douglas complains, at considerable length, about a disposition on the part of Trumbull and myself to attack him personally. I want to attend to that suggestion a moment. I don’t want to be unjustly accused of dealing illiberally or unfairly with an adversary, either in court, or in a political canvass, or anywhere else. I would despise myself if I supposed myself ready to deal less liberally with an adversary than I was willing to be treated myself. [1]

“Do unto others..” eh?

Rocket Man and Dotard are beneath a REAL statesman’s dignity.

Food for thought.


Works Cited

[1] “Fourth Debate with Stephen A. Douglas at Charleston, Illinois – September 18, 1858″ Collected Works of Abraham Lincolnv.3:p.188.

[2] Painting above by Mort Kuntzler @

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