Lincoln was a conservative statesman on the intellectual model of Cicero. In his dignity there was no hubris, no presumption; much, he knew, must be left to Providence.In the fever-swamps of the militant far-right, amidst the ideological fervor of the lost-cause fanatics and libertarian dogmatists, there is much caterwauling against Lincoln. As with virtually any intellectual disorder of the modern period, a solid reading of Kirk provides good remedy to such ideological distortions. This is nowhere more true as when discussing Abraham Lincoln, defender of Union and liberty, of the Constitution and natural law.
Update: a fuller and earlier version of Kirk's analysis of Lincoln, upon which the 1970 address is based, is available over at the Russell Kirk Center: The Measure of Abraham Lincoln. In that text, Kirk points out that one of the great modern Southern scholars, Richard M. Weaver, saw Lincoln as a conservative, quoting Weaver's statement that "It is no accident that Lincoln became the founder of the greatest American conservative party, even if that party was debauched soon after his career ended. He did so because his method was that of the conservative."
In the earlier text, Kirk also includes a very interesting interpretation of Lincoln's religious views:
Once I heard a popular speaker declare that what modern America needs is “old-fashioned religion, the sort of religion that Washington and Lincoln had.” Now that would be a most imperfect sort of religion: for Washington’s eighteenth-century conformity was scarcely more than moralism, and Lincoln was a Christian only in the vaguest of senses, if a Christian at all. Every American president employs the phrases of Christian piety; but very few presidents have been conspicuously devout. Lincoln began as a naive sceptic; he received next to no religious instruction of any description; solitary reading of the Bible gave majesty to his mind and his style, but never brought to him any faith less cloudy and austere than a solemn theism. Yet there have been few Americans more thoroughly graced with the theological virtues, charity most of all. The New Testament shines out from his acts of mercy, and the Old from his direction of the war.