"Illuminating... an] instant classic." -- The Daily Beast
"Engrossing" -- Library Journal
The first of a multi-volume history of Lincoln as a political genius--from his obscure beginnings to his presidency, assassination, and the overthrow of his post-Civil War dreams of Reconstruction. Read more...
"Illuminating... an] instant classic." --The Daily Beast
"Engrossing" --Library Journal
The first of a multi-volume history of Lincoln as a political genius--from his obscure beginnings to his presidency, assassination, and the overthrow of his post-Civil War dreams of Reconstruction. This first volume traces Lincoln from his painful youth, describing himself as "a slave," to his emergence as the man we recognize as Abraham Lincoln.
From his youth as a "newsboy," a voracious newspaper reader, Lincoln became a free thinker, reading Tom Paine, as well as Shakespeare and the Bible, and studying Euclid to sharpen his arguments as a lawyer.
Lincoln's anti-slavery thinking began in his childhood amidst the Primitive Baptist antislavery dissidents in backwoods Kentucky and Indiana, the roots of his repudiation of Southern Christian pro-slavery theology. Intensely ambitious, he held political aspirations from his earliest years. Obsessed with Stephen Douglas, his political rival, he battled him for decades. Successful as a circuit lawyer, Lincoln built his team of loyalists. Blumenthal reveals how Douglas and Jefferson Davis acting together made possible Lincoln's rise.
Blumenthal describes a socially awkward suitor who had a nervous breakdown over his inability to deal with the opposite sex. His marriage to the upper class Mary Todd was crucial to his social aspirations and his political career. Blumenthal portrays Mary as an asset to her husband, a rare woman of her day with strong political opinions.
Blumenthal's robust portrayal is based on prodigious research of Lincoln's record and of the period and its main players. It reflects both Lincoln's time and the struggle that consumes our own political debate.
- ISBN-13: 9781476777252
- ISBN-10: 147677725X
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publish Date: May 2016
- Page Count: 576
Series: Political Life of Abraham Lincoln #1
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-03-21
- Reviewer: Staff
In this first book of a multivolume reexamination of the 16th president’s life, Blumenthal (The Strange Death of Republican America), a longtime Clinton adviser and former Washington Post reporter, asserts that Lincoln saw politics as vital and even beneficial, not as a necessary evil. He stresses that “Lincoln the politician and Lincoln the Great Emancipator were not antithetical sides of the same person, or antithetical stages in the same lie, but one man.” This central thesis is not original, but Blumenthal explores the details more thoroughly than most others have before. Nonscholars are also likely to be surprised by some of the facts he presents, including that the frequently vilified Mary Todd was instrumental in advancing her husband’s career and prevented him from taking the job of Secretary of the Oregon Territory, which would have marginalized him as a political figure. The dry text is occasionally enlivened by sharp remarks: a comment about an 1837 speech on Lincoln by Edmund Wilson was “the sort of brilliantly intuitive literary insight that only lacks political comprehension, historical reference, and facts, and inspired a school of psychobabble.” Blumenthal’s argument that Lincoln’s self-education in politics “developed for the task he could not imagine” will make lay readers eager to read the next volume. (May)