Wall Street Journal, February 17, 2009.
Abraham Lincoln did great things, greater than anything done by Woodrow Wilson or Franklin Roosevelt. He freed the slaves and saved the Union, and because he saved the Union he was able to free the slaves. Beyond this, however, our extraordinary interest in him, and esteem for him, has to do with what he said and how he said it. And much of this had to do with the Union — what it was and why it was worth the saving.
He saved it by fighting and winning the war, of course. But his initial step in this was the decision to go to war. Not a popular decision, and certainly not an easy one. His predecessor, the incompetent fool James Buchanan, believed that the states had no right to secede from the Union, but that there was nothing he could do about it if they did. Thus, by the time Lincoln took office, seven Southern states had seceded, and nothing had been done about it. Led by South Carolina, they claimed to be doing only what they and the other colonies had done in 1776. To oppose them might bring on the war, and Buchanan had no stomach for this.