• Ways and Means

  • Lincoln and His Cabinet and the Financing of the Civil War
  • By: Roger Lowenstein
  • Narrated by: Kaleo Griffith
  • Length: 13 hrs and 31 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (158 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

“Captivating . . . [Lowenstein] makes what subsequently occurred at Treasury and on Wall Street during the early 1860s seem as enthralling as what transpired on the battlefield or at the White House.” —Harold Holzer, Wall Street Journal

Ways and Means, an account of the Union’s financial policies, examines a subject long overshadowed by military narratives . . .  Lowenstein is a lucid stylist, able to explain financial matters to readers who lack specialized knowledge.” —Eric Foner, New York Times Book Review 

From renowned journalist and master storyteller Roger Lowenstein, a revelatory financial investigation into how Lincoln and his administration used the funding of the Civil War as the catalyst to centralize the government and accomplish the most far-reaching reform in the country’s history

Upon his election to the presidency, Abraham Lincoln inherited a country in crisis. Even before the Confederacy’s secession, the United States Treasury had run out of money. The government had no authority to raise taxes, no federal bank, no currency. But amid unprecedented troubles Lincoln saw opportunity—the chance to legislate in the centralizing spirit of the “more perfect union” that had first drawn him to politics. With Lincoln at the helm, the United States would now govern “for” its people: it would enact laws, establish a currency, raise armies, underwrite transportation and higher education, assist farmers, and impose taxes for them. Lincoln believed this agenda would foster the economic opportunity he had always sought for upwardly striving Americans, and which he would seek in particular for enslaved Black Americans.

Salmon Chase, Lincoln’s vanquished rival and his new secretary of the Treasury, waged war on the financial front, levying taxes and marketing bonds while desperately battling to contain wartime inflation. And while the Union and Rebel armies fought increasingly savage battles, the Republican-led Congress enacted a blizzard of legislation that made the government, for the first time, a powerful presence in the lives of ordinary Americans. The impact was revolutionary. The activist 37th Congress legislated for homesteads and a transcontinental railroad and involved the federal government in education, agriculture, and eventually immigration policy. It established a progressive income tax and created the greenback—paper money. While the Union became self-sustaining, the South plunged into financial free fall, having failed to leverage its cotton wealth to finance the war. Founded in a crucible of anticentralism, the Confederacy was trapped in a static (and slave-based) agrarian economy without federal taxing power or other means of government financing, save for its overworked printing presses. This led to an epic collapse. Though Confederate troops continued to hold their own, the North’s financial advantage over the South, where citizens increasingly went hungry, proved decisive; the war was won as much (or more) in the respective treasuries as on the battlefields.

Roger Lowenstein reveals the largely untold story of how Lincoln used the urgency of the Civil War to transform a union of states into a nation. Through a financial lens, he explores how this second American revolution, led by Lincoln, his cabinet, and a Congress studded with towering statesmen, changed the direction of the country and established a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

©2022 Roger Lowenstein (P)2022 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

“Lowenstein’s book is a compelling account of how the United States acquired and exploited the stunning power that modern statehood delivers.”—The Washington Post

Ways and Means represents nonfiction writing at its best, using an easy prose to enlighten with thought provoking, sometimes controversial, ideas from the very beginning.”New York Journal of Books

Ways and Means, an account of the Union’s financial policies, examines a subject long overshadowed by military narratives . . .  Lowenstein is a lucid stylist, able to explain financial matters to readers who lack specialized knowledge.”—Eric Foner, New York Times Book Review

What listeners say about Ways and Means

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Perspective that matters - financing the Civil War

Excellent description of real actions and the people pursuing or opposing them for very understandable money reasons. Excellent reading that should be part of every US undergraduate curriculum,

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Great history

Reminds us all again that it is organization - people, ideas, and capital that improves the world. By using slaves the South hurt slaves and themselves. Terrible.

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Wonderful fun

So interesting in so many ways. We even find out where the term Dixie came from

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outstanding

Recommend to every student of American history., finance, sociology, government and anyone who wants to know.

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If you're a civil war buff.

If you're a civil War buff it's and interesting view of how the war was won.

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Good book, great narration.

A good addition to tge overall story of our civil war. Somethings missing in my opinion, specifically more in depth writing on the mistakes of the southern economy, though much of this is addressed culturally at the end.
Takes the veil off the idea that the Unions victory was inevitable.
A little too much ink spent on Chase.
All in all, a good story, wonderfully narrated, and a good addition of information on the a different aspect of the Civil War.

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Depth of information

Shows economics of war and sanctions of Civil War but has relevance to current times. Personalities involved are fascinating.

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Very pleased, after waiting years for this info

This is Roger Lowenstein's masterpiece. The facts are here, and the drama, in a fantastic weaving.

This is such crucial US history, right at a vast turning point, yet solid explanations from a financial and economic perspective are rare (or found in huge books). If you like serious economic, financial, and business history, look no further. It is strong on substance, and well-paced. I was long curious about the nuts and bolts of these times, from this perspective. There is much insight into the individuals as well. The renderings of personalities, ideas, and events are exceptional. This book makes the whole panoramic story open to understanding.

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A Facinating and Insightful History!

This book is a fascinating and insightfuil history into so much I really didn't know. The book is well presented, very chronological, accurate and detailed. It might bore some but not me. WOW! Any modern person that thinks FDR was the purveyer of big government has no idea what the Civl War and LIncoln and the Republican/National Union party did. Folks, it was for the better! Excellent!

As for the Audible rendition. It was wonderful too. Excellent.

Thank you!

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Very Interesting

Both narrator and story are excellent. The author is very objective in his assessment of the topic, which is appreciated. The narrative moves along at a good pace and sticks to its topic quite well.