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In "Founders Son," celebrated historian Richard Brookhiser presents a compelling new biography of Abraham Lincoln that highlights his lifelong struggle to carry on the work of the Founding Fathers. Following Lincoln from his humble origins in Kentucky to his assassination in Washington, D.C., Brookhiser shows us every side of the man: laborer, lawyer, congressman, president; storyteller, wit, lover of ribald jokes; depressive, poet, friend, visionary. And he shows that despite his many roles and his varied life, Lincoln returned time and time again to the Founders. They were rhetorical and political touchstones, the basis of his interest in politics, and the lodestars guiding him as he navigated first Illinois politics and then the national scene.
But their legacy with not sufficient. As the Civil War lengthened and the casualties mounted Lincoln wrestled with one more paternal figureGod the Fatherto explain to himself, and to the nation, why ending slavery had come at such a terrible price.
Bridging the rich and tumultuous period from the founding of the United States to the Civil War, "Founders Son" is unlike any Lincoln biography to date. Penetrating in its insight, elegant in its prose, and gripping in its vivid recreation of Lincoln s roving mind at work, this book allows us to think anew about the first hundred years of American history, and shows how we can, like Lincoln, apply the legacy of the Founding Fathers to our times.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-09-22
- Reviewer: Staff
Historian Brookhiser (James Madison) argues that, with an ungainly, backwoods persona for which he endured ridicule and depression throughout his life, Abraham Lincoln sought refuge in the words and actions of the country's Founding Fathers, especially the duty-bound, multi-faceted George Washington. Brookhiser excels in describing Lincoln's political fights over government banks and in parsing his presidency in wartime—specifically, his detailed account of the complex evolution of the president's views on slavery. The infamous Lincoln-Douglas rivalry adds levity to this historical work, especially as each man positioned himself as the "Revolution's legitimate heir" in an attempt to reach the national political stage. Unfortunately, in aiming for casual readers, Brookhiser avoids nuances in favor of modern simplifications—for instance, in his brief background on Federalists and Republicans—and errs in playing psychologist to the young Abe. He demonstrates that the founders' struggles over slavery not only inspired the 16th president in navigating his own philosophical evolution, but also served as a crucial point of reference for Lincoln's history-altering oratory and leadership . Brookhiser's approach to examining this great American president is certainly a novel one, yet his research does not go far enough in proving Lincoln's close ties to the nation's founders. (Oct.)