In this landmark work of deep scholarship and insight, Eric Foner gives us the definitive history of Abraham Lincoln and the end of slavery in America. Foner begins with Lincoln's youth in Indiana and Illinois and follows the trajectory of his career across an increasingly tense and shifting political terrain from Illinois to Washington, D.C.
Although "naturally anti-slavery" for as long as he can remember, Lincoln scrupulously holds to the position that the Constitution protects the institution in the original slave states. But the political landscape is transformed in 1854 when the Kansas-Nebraska Act makes the expansion of slavery a national issue.
A man of considered words and deliberate actions, Lincoln navigates the dynamic politics deftly, taking measured steps, often along a path forged by abolitionists and radicals in his party. Lincoln rises to leadership in the new Republican Party by calibrating his politics to the broadest possible antislavery coalition. As president of a divided nation and commander in chief at war, displaying a similar compound of pragmatism and principle, Lincoln finally embraces what he calls the Civil War's "fundamental and astounding" result: the immediate, uncompensated abolition of slavery and recognition of blacks as American citizens. Foner's Lincoln emerges as a leader, one whose greatness lies in his capacity for moral and political growth through real engagement with allies and critics alike. This powerful work will transform our understanding of the nation's greatest president and the issue that mattered most.
©2010 Eric Foner (P)2010 Tantor
"[A] searching portrait." (Publishers Weekly)
You would be justified if you thought there are too many books about the Civil War & about Lincoln. I believe there are more books about Lincoln than there are about any figure in the western canon. So I looked askance at yet another one. Since I had read 2 other excellent volumes by Foner, including one I highly recommend about reconstruction, I took the dive.
Foner has produced something unique here. He has followed the line of the history of antebellum racism and thought about slavery, in general, and Lincoln's thoughts and actions about it in particular. There may not be anything 100% new in the book, but the way it is all put in one place, chronologically and with ample evidence, is what makes it a valuable addition to history.
Lincoln was both a man of his time and a professional politician. That has to be the starting point for any discussion of his views and actions about slavery in the United States. As Foner makes clear, Lincoln always had an abhorrence of slavery and unpaid servitude in general. Which does not mean he was not a racist by our 21st century standards. Lincoln was not the most anti-slavery man, or politician of his time ... had he been so, we would not know his name today, because he never could have become so prominent in politics nor become president.
Foner's accomplishment is to show how Lincoln's views changed over his career. From someone not terribly concern about slavery (in the 1840s, for instance) but still against it, to someone increasing concerned about it (in the 1850s) but mainly in the context of territorial expansion, to someone who gradually recognized it as the central cause of the war between the states. Along the way, Lincoln did drag along some of his cherished (and now repudiated) ideas, like the idea of colonization (which he held until late in his presidency in some fashion). And a habit of demeaning blacks in his manner of talking (like using the n-word and telling jokes). Highly recommended.
The author not only traces the significant historical events surrounding Lincoln and slavery, but he deftly provides historical perspective to help the reader understand Lincoln's struggle. The issue of slavery is so easy for us to condemn today, but Lincoln had to deal with the issue in the context of a civil war, the racism of his day, and his own developing ideas on slavery and race. Tracing Lincoln's struggle helps us trace America's struggle with this cruel practice that nearly tore the nation apart. It is a very good book.
The reader mispronounced many words. He did not seem like a learned man. His Abraham Lincoln voice was awful.
I recommend this title to history teachers, history fans, civil rights advocates and lawmakers. This is a candid account of how brilliant people with good intentions struggle to implement liberty in an imperfect world.
There were some awkward pronunciations. I was distracted by the narrator's pronunciation of the
At 18 hours, there was no way I could listen to this in one sitting. As a high school History teacher, it was helpful to take breaks and reflect on the content.
This is a very good book, written with an elegant prose. The basic facts of this topic aren't much of a mystery, but there is a nuance to Lincoln's views that developed over the course of his life. It is this that helps shed light on what made Lincoln great. It is also a window into a particular aspect of the decades that ended in the Civil War that is not easy to find elsewhere. My only complaint is that some of the details seem to be repeated several times, which makes the book a little longer than it needs to be.
A nit picker
I just couldn''t listen to it. I'm sorry that I selected it.
This is not an easy read but I'm really glad I stuck with it . I learned so much about Lincoln and his journey through the events leading up to the emancipation of the slaves and his conclusion that all men are created equal. What seems obvious to us was not obvious to people in the 1850s. Lincoln did a lot of growing, something that made him so dear to so many people. Listening to this book not only gave me great insight into the problems of the time and their arrempted solution that still affects our country today, but it also made me love Abe Lincoln more than I already did.
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