How President Lincoln Constructed the Great American Economy
Lincolnomics puts The Great Emancipator in his other rightful place as The Great Builder of American infrastructure, revealing Lincoln’s untold legacy as the developer of an economic ladder to democracy through national transportation, public education, and market access.
The only biography of its kind, Lincolnomics freshly explores the foundational ideas and policies on infrastructure rooted in society and government by America’s sixteenth president.
Lincoln’s view of the right to fulfill one’s economic destiny was at the core of his governing philosophy—but he knew no one could climb that ladder without strong federal support. Some of his most enduring policies came to him before the Civil War, visions of a country linked by railroads running ocean to ocean, canals turning small towns into bustling cities, public works bridging farmers to market.
Author John F. Wasik tracks Lincoln from his time in the 1830s as a young Illinois state legislator pushing for internal improvements; through his work as a lawyer representing the Illinois Central Railroad in the 1840s; to his presidential fight for the Transcontinental Railroad; and his support of land-grant colleges that educated a nation. To Lincoln, infrastructure meant not only the roads, bridges, and canals he shepherded as a lawyer and a public servant, but also much more.
These brick-and-mortar developments were essential to how the nation could lift citizens above poverty and its isolating origins. Lincolnomics revives the disremembered history of how Lincoln paved the way for Eisenhower’s interstate highways and FDR’s social amenities. With an afterword addressing the failure of American infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how Lincoln’s policies provide a guide to the future, Lincolnomics makes the case for the man nicknamed “The Rail Splitter” as the Presidency’s greatest builder.