Among other reasons Ron Paul would make an unlikely standard-bearer for the Republican Party is the fact that he, apparently, doesn’t think much of his party’s sainted first president. Paul famously accused Abraham Lincoln of waging a “senseless” war and ruling with an “iron fist.” Coming from a guy whose eponymous newsletters spent chunks of the ’80s and ’90s demonizing African-Americans, the first of those assertions makes it sound as if Paul wishes the Great Emancipator had never gotten into the slave-freeing business. But what about the second? In fact, you don’t have to believe the Constitution was translated from its original Austrian to know that Honest Abe took some liberties: He suspended habeas corpus, arrested dissenting editors, and otherwise appeared more interested in preserving the union than its Constitution. It worked, which may well be why Lincoln, especially outside the modern GOP’s Dixie-bred base, remains a hero no matter how much scholarly ink is spilled over his very real failings. Paul’s acolytes, of course, would say the real goal was a dastardly protosocialist scheme to nationalize all political power, and that his legend is today burnished by ivory-tower types who share that vision. Come see for yourself as a quartet of historians gather at the Library of Congress to ponder the 16th president’s problematic relationship with the Constitution.
“Lincoln and the Constitution,” with guests Mark E. Neely Jr., Brian McGinty, Frank J. Williams, and Harold Holzer, begins at 7 p.m. at the National Archives’ William G. McGowan Theater, 700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Free. archives.gov. (866) 272-6272.