When Barack Obama took to the stage in Chicago’s Grant Park in November 2008 to make his presidential acceptance speech, it was no great surprise when he turned to the words of Abraham Lincoln as he sought to emphasise his desire for bipartisanship. ‘We are not enemies, but friends,’ he told his Republican opponents; ‘though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection’. The quote was written into the speech on the advice of Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, who told the speechwriters to ‘figure out a good Lincoln quote to bring it all together’.
The fact that, over 140 years after Lincoln’s death, Obama and his advisers have regularly sought to draw subtle parallels between the sixteenth president and the forty-fourth demonstrates Lincoln’s enduring place in the American national consciousness. Despite numerous assaults down the years on his reputation, he remains the