Lincoln never was a doctrinaire; he rose from very low estate to very high estate, and he knew the savagery which lies so close beneath the skin of man, and he knew that most men are good only out of obedience to routine and convention. The Tire-eater and the Abolitionist were abhorrent to him; yet he took the middle path between them not out of any misapplication of the doctrine of the golden mean, but because he held by the principle that the unity and security of the United States transcended any fanatic scheme of uniformity. As Mr. Weaver observes, “he is astonishingly free from tendency to assume that ‘the truth lies somewhere in between.’” Here he was very like Burke; yet it is improbable that he ever read Burke, or any other political philosopher except Blackstone; his wisdom came from the close observation of human nature, and from the Bible and Shakespeare. The Radical Republicans detested him as much as the Southern zealots did. In his great conservative end, the preservation of the Union, he succeeded; and he might have succeeded in a conservative labour equally vast, the restoration of order and honesty, had not Booth’s pistol put an end to the charity and fortitude of this uncouth, homely, melancholy, lovable man.As Kirk goes on to write, Lincoln was committed to the old Whig principles of the rule of law, of individual liberty, and that "[h]is greatness came from his recognition of enduring moral principle." A man of prudence and insight, Lincoln understood the conservative concept that there is a transcendent Providence that governs in the affairs of men. As Kirk concludes his essay, Lincoln's beliefs were far from radical:
This a long way from the big battalions; it is also a long way from Jacobin abstraction. Lincoln’s strength, and his conservatism, did not arise from an affection for the excluded middle, which he called a “sophistical contrivance.” He knew that what moved him was a power from without himself; and, having served God’s will according to the light that was given him, he received the reward of the last full measure of devotion.Amen, Russell Kirk. Amen.