Abraham Lincoln, 1860

John Henry Brown
Watercolor on ivory

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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There’s a divinity that shapes our ends.”

Lincoln was unusual in his religious beliefs, since unlike most Americans, he never belonged to a church and rarely attended services.


Instead, he evolved his own theology, consisting of an extremely deterministic Calvinist view of predestination, which freed Lincoln to act according to his own will. Having handed over his fate to God, he could act according to his evolving conception of what was right.

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