One's life potentially evolves over time. (That it either does or does not is significant, of course, but most of us do evolve.)
I can't pretend to general expertise, but I can affirm that in my own life moral and ethical principles have remained pretty consistent through six decades. What's changed has been knowledge, experience and understanding.
To know me, one must identify my defining principles and parse the way those principles have manifested themselves through the decades. I'm definitely no Lincoln, but I think the same principles apply.
You want to know what Lincoln was about? Then don't snatch a single frame from the long narrative film of his life. Look at the whole narrative.
You like the overall pattern? Cool. You don't like it? Equally cool. But you cherry-pick particular moments and try to use them to characterize the whole? Anything but cool. It's dishonest on a personal level, and indefensible on a scholarly level.
Mar 17 2009 - 7:15pm