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So vividly written I learned about this biography from the bibliography of John Keegan s fine history The American Civil War It s quite a find The story of Lincoln s frontier upbringing in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois reads at moments like a fable out of Aesop, perhaps principally because of its rustic setting Abraham Lincoln had virtually no education He learned to read relatively late, which you would think would be a handicap Not at all He was completely self taught He read voraciou So vividly written I learned about this biography from the bibliography of John Keegan s fine history The American Civil War It s quite a find The story of Lincoln s frontier upbringing in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois reads at moments like a fable out of Aesop, perhaps principally because of its rustic setting Abraham Lincoln had virtually no education He learned to read relatively late, which you would think would be a handicap Not at all He was completely self taught He read voraciously All so he could eventually establish himself over decades as the finest lawyer in the State of Illinois He learned how to mezmerize juries and political crowds oratorically, even though his voice could at times be high and scratchy The story of his 1858 debates with Stephen Douglas is fascinating The point of view seeks to mimic Lincoln s own We only read about what he knew at the time It s a bold strategy What overwhelms the reader is the recounting of the dysfunction in the army in the early years of the Civil War pre Vicksburg, which was the turning point The author communicates the absurdity of General McClellend s chronic stalling he refused to engage the enemy this was in part because McClelland was largely an engineer and a planner with little experience of battle The effect this had on Lincoln was demoralizing He couldn t get his generals to engage the rebels They would routinely ignore his orders McClelland in a letter to his wife called the president a gorilla I am six foot four, Lincoln s height, which is not so unusual in the 21st century But Lincoln was 6 4 in the mid 19th century At that time such height was regarded as positively freakish Perhaps the most satisfying element of the story is the way the author put on record many who sneered at Lincoln, those who thought him as a dumb hayseed because of his unprecedented appearance I love the high dudgeon of the press which raked Lincoln s administration over the coals in the first two terrible years of war failure And then came final Vicksburg and everything turned around Now Lincoln was the wisest of all men But the war was long and deadly 620,000 men would be killed by it Lincoln s re election looked dubious But then the Democrats shot themselves in their political foot by advancing a Peace platform which their candidate, George McClelland yes, the inept former Union general said he could not support It was roundly pilloried as the Chicago surrender platform This helped Lincoln immensely who, as always, stood for the restoration of the Union Almost immediately thereafter General Sherman telegraphed to report Atlanta is ours, and fairly won Then Admiral Farragut captured Mobile, the last Gulf port in Confederate hands Throughout one marvels at Lincoln s adroit handling of countless political and military crises What an astonishing figure he was Ever since historians have been polled to rank United States Presidents, Abraham Lincoln has consistently landed in the top three many consider him our greatest president Which is not to say Lincoln doesn t have strong detractors Many of my politically inclined friends have attacked him left and right For his appalling record on civil liberties and violation of constitutional principles and some claim that Lincoln should not be seen as a champion of equal rights and racial justice I ve eve Ever since historians have been polled to rank United States Presidents, Abraham Lincoln has consistently landed in the top three many consider him our greatest president Which is not to say Lincoln doesn t have strong detractors Many of my politically inclined friends have attacked him left and right For his appalling record on civil liberties and violation of constitutional principles and some claim that Lincoln should not be seen as a champion of equal rights and racial justice I ve even known some to claim the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery at all I d say this book and every other reputable work of scholarship I ve read makes it idiotic to believe the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery The South seceded precisely because of the election of Lincoln who had made clear his opposition to the further expansion of slavery One could, at least if one quoted very selectively and out of context, find plenty of ammunition in this biography for that negative assessment Lincoln s record on civil liberties is appalling Suspension of habeas corpus leading to the arrest and imprisonment of political dissenters, opening of private mails, military tribunals trying civilians, censorship, even complete suppression of unfriendly newspapers, institution of the draft even use of troops to suppress Democratic votes and threaten uncooperative state legislatures Even Donald admits that Lincoln was responsible for greater infringements on individual liberties than in any other period in American history As for criticism of his racial policies, it s true that Lincoln famously wrote in a letter that the purpose of the war was to save the Union and, If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that Despite that Donald doesn t omit any of that, his portrait of Lincoln still comes across as sympathetic and admiring As Donald drew Lincoln, he was, above all, a pragmatist and canny politician who knowing the racist views of his fellow citizens tacked and maneuvered and steered a course towards emancipation as far and fast as the winds of public opinion would allow Donald does well in giving you the context to understand why Lincoln would say the things he did and act the way he did Indeed, that s the very purpose of the biography In the Prologue Donald related that the one time he met President John F Kennedy, the president told him that, No one has a right to grade a President not even poor James Buchanan who has not sat in his chair, examined the mail and information that came across his desk, and learned why he made his decisions That s what Donald set out to do in this Lincoln biography and it hews close to Lincoln s point of view It s a biography widely considered to be the best one volume biography of Lincoln in print It s exhaustive certainly, and sometimes exhausting It s 600 pages in trade paperback in small font and, especially in those parts dealing with the minutia of Lincoln s law practice, I found myself less than riveted but I had to admire Donald s research and scholarship throughout About a third of the biography dealt with Lincoln s life before coming to national prominence in the Lincoln Douglas debates, another third takes you through his campaign for president to the eve of the Emancipation Proclamation and the lowest point of the war, and the last third takes you through the rest of the war and Lincoln s assassination No man up to that time of Lincoln s election had been less prepared to be president according to Donald and maybe no man since Lincoln had less than a year of formal schooling, no administrative experience upon taking office, and his political experience had been limited to 8 years as an Illinois State legislator and one very undistinguished term as a congressman The personal and political challenge on his taking office were thus immense but Donald believes he grew greatly in that office and Donald certainly makes a strong case for that and makes you appreciate the crushing decisions Lincoln faced This was a brilliant biography of one of the greatest Presidents in US history It dispels quite a few myths about Lincoln while diving into his psychological makeup and his complex decision making process A deeply involved person, Lincoln assumed total control of the US in 1860 just after the start of the Civil War and faced an enormous amount of challenges He was far from perfect, but his skills at self analysis and self confidence saved both himself and the country Unfortunately, he was mu This was a brilliant biography of one of the greatest Presidents in US history It dispels quite a few myths about Lincoln while diving into his psychological makeup and his complex decision making process A deeply involved person, Lincoln assumed total control of the US in 1860 just after the start of the Civil War and faced an enormous amount of challenges He was far from perfect, but his skills at self analysis and self confidence saved both himself and the country Unfortunately, he was murdered by a Confederate terrorist before he could fully promulgate his ideas on Reconstruction and the black population in the United States still had a massively long and violent road to full Emancipation A fantastic read, especially now that the US administration has been a chaotic joke for nearly two years It was refreshing to read about what a true self made leader looked like The myths of history serve the cause of political expediency The founding fathers were canonized in order to legitimize the young United States A war over taxes suddenly became a war of freedom Patrick Henry evidently determined that Give me lower taxes without a resulting decline in services, or give me death did not work as well as Give me liberty, or give me death Out of this mythmaking we were given George Washington, the father of our Country, a man who still comes to us across t The myths of history serve the cause of political expediency The founding fathers were canonized in order to legitimize the young United States A war over taxes suddenly became a war of freedom Patrick Henry evidently determined that Give me lower taxes without a resulting decline in services, or give me death did not work as well as Give me liberty, or give me death Out of this mythmaking we were given George Washington, the father of our Country, a man who still comes to us across the centuries assymbol than human In this, he is mostly himself to blame, as he cultivated an above ness that allowed him to fulfill all his political ambitions without seeming, you know, ambitious He was also helped by his followers There is the great story of Washington cursing Charles Lee at Monmouth, though none of the men who heard the Great Washington swear would ever relay his imprecations Above even Washington in the hierarchy of American folk tradition is Honest Abe Lincoln Lincoln, and his myth, served a much different purpose than Washington The Washington myth helped birth a nation the Lincoln myth helped a country forgive itself for hundreds of years of race based slavery Lincoln literally embodied his own idea that every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword His martyrdom at Ford s Theater forever changed the People s contest into something far nobler an actual war for freedom David Herbert Donald s one volum history of Lincoln s life is said to be the best one volume biography ever written on the subject This being the first one volume biography of Lincoln I ve read, I have no evidence to contradict This is one of those books where it s impossible to critique the writing, other than to say it is unobtrusive There are no flourishes, no rhetorical heights, no looping narratives The prose is simple and informative The narrative is strictly chronological birth to death If you want to know what happened one second after Stanton gave Lincoln his famous epitaph, you will have to look elsewhere The history is top notch Donald is an eminent historian and a top notch researcher The book is well sourced and fully noted Donald s Lincoln is fully human and incredibly complex He is shown in all his humanity, awkwardness, and frailty Lincoln is given credit, where credit is due, and criticized, where the criticism is due He is at times shrewd his dealings with the cabinet He is at times impulsive goodbye, habeus corpus He is at times slow Donald recounts how Lincoln s administration backed into war And he is at times infuriatingly vaccilating I love McClellan I hate McClellan I love McClellan Perhaps no other statesman has everembodied the contradictions and conflicts of his time than Lincoln The larger portion of the book deals with Lincoln s White House years Information on his childhood is scant While Donald covers Lincoln s famous early setbacks failed store owner, lackluster term in the US House, and two failed Senate bids , he isn t able to spend too much time on them Indeed, this is going to be the problem in any one volume telling of a life as big as Lincoln s What I found interesting is what Donald decided to cover thoroughly, and where he only scratched the surface Lincoln s social and familial life is under emphasized Lincoln s early romantic failures he was engaged twice and broke off his engagement to Mary Todd are only just mentioned Mary disappears for huge portions of the book, and only emerges as an evil precursor to the heroine of Confesssions of a Shopaholic The other characters orbiting Lincoln are never given any life or context On the other hand, Donald spends a good amount of space talking about Lincoln s law practice As a lawyer, I found the anectdotes about Lincoln s appearances before the Illinois Supreme Court quite fascinating for non lawyers, it s probably a drag, and you ll probably be wishing for a good Mary screaming at the maid story.Of course, a great deal of time is spent pondering Lincoln s ever evolving view of slavery, from his earliest writings on the subject to his last words regarding Reconstruction shortly before his death Donald does a great job contextualizing this evolution It s not enough to say that Lincoln was the Moses of his people, or to the contrary, that his colonization schemes made him just another of the 19th century ignorati Rather, Donald shows him as a man in full, possessed of powerful intellect and compassionate humanity.Lincoln faced a lot of criticism because he was pragmatic He carefully moderated his views to get things done It s easy to get on a high horse and say, with righteousness, Lincoln should have been against slavery from the beginning, fighting tooth and nail Of course, Lincoln would ve gotten nothing done It s easy to have firm beliefs it s much harder to translate those beliefs into effective political action It will always take a William Lloyd Garrison to bring moral issues to the fore and it will always take a Lincoln to cleverly manipulate the levers of power that get things accomplished in a balky, Senate dominated democracy such as ours There is a lot to learn from Lincoln, and Donald s ability to synthesize and streamline Lincoln s life make those lessons plain I m very much a fan of Lincoln s way of decision making to first come to a conclusion, then let others challenge it This book provides a great jumping off point for any future reading about Lincoln It is not the end all of the subject, because no single book can possibly engage all the many fascinating aspects of Lincoln s life as the countless micro histories about Lincoln his cabinet, his depression, his alleged homosexuality attest I did think that it was weird how Donald kept taking potshots at Winfield Scott, perhaps the greatest general in US history For some reason, Donald just hates Scott The only nice thing he says is that Scott s Anaconda plan had some merit Some merit If by some you mean it was the plan eventually used to win the Civil War after the bumbling incompetence of McDowell, McClellan, Burnside, McClellan again, and Hooker not to mention Pope s ill fated Army of Virginia , then yes, I suppose it had some little bit of merit to it Donald s Lincoln struck me in two ways First, Lincoln was a man elevated by his friends From his earliest days in New Salem, he was supported and backed by influential men These men, though they quarreled with each other, were uniformly loyal to Lincoln Which means that either Lincoln was truly an exceptional man, or the greatest puppeteer in history I guess probably a little bit of both He had admirable qualities, as well as that ability to make anyone who met him feel like they were the most important person in the world The second thing that struck me pertains to the current landscape of the United States Throughout Donald s Lincoln there are dozens and dozens of eminent men criticizing, rebuking, and insulting Lincoln It s amazing how many men and women thought Lincoln was a disaster Every step in his presidency, there was another person writing to say that he d just nailed the coffin closed on America And I m not just talking about Democratic muckrackers or closet traitors like Clement Vallandigham I m talking about men like Charles Sumner and Horace Greeley Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for them, they put their thoughts into writing The benefit of hindsight allows us to see that these brilliant men were wrong, wrong, wrong, and at times, dead wrong They weren t stupid Rather, they shared that American trait of wanting it all, and wanting it all at once Our insistence on instant gratification actually predated the iPod and On Demand television It was actually thriving during the mid 19th century For these impatient men, every battle that was lost meant total and utter ruin For these impatient men, it was better to sue for peace than stay the course Of course, Lincoln didn t listen to these men And that s an important lesson We don t live in a direct democracy We don t have referendums on every single issue We elect people to represent us As Lincoln himself noted, he was made president, which gives him some discretion to act in the way he saw fit Lincoln was singular in his vision that the Union remain one Everything he did, including his grievous blunders and unconstitutional usurpations see Ex Parte Milligan, where Lincoln s old friend David Davis gives a posthumous slapdown to military tribunals , he did in pursuit of this vision While his critics complained day to day, Lincoln took the long view He was the center, and the center held I ve owned this book for years, and finally read it It was grand, just unfortnuate for Donald I read this after Caro, so 4 stars and not 5 I ll reviewin a few. As I am not a Civil War buff it was with some trepidation that I read this almost 600 page biography on Lincoln However I was delightfully surprised and found it very readable Mr Donald gives a good portrait of the era and Lincoln s background The focus is on Lincoln there are very little details on Civil War battles or persons who had no personal influence on Lincoln such as Robert E Lee Perhaps there is too much on internecine rivalries, such as that between Lincoln and Chase Also t As I am not a Civil War buff it was with some trepidation that I read this almost 600 page biography on Lincoln However I was delightfully surprised and found it very readable Mr Donald gives a good portrait of the era and Lincoln s background The focus is on Lincoln there are very little details on Civil War battles or persons who had no personal influence on Lincoln such as Robert E Lee Perhaps there is too much on internecine rivalries, such as that between Lincoln and Chase Also the book ends abruptly after Lincoln s assassination, with no rounding up of his later impact on the Reconstruction period.We get a full fledged depiction of a man who was little prepared to be a President during this turbulent epoch Seldom has there been an individual taking on the mantle of the Presidency who had so little experience in federal affairs Mr Donald removes the halo around Lincoln he was very indecisive and meandered before forming a position Initially for Lincoln the war was for re unification, not for the emancipation of the slaves Even after 1863 he was undecided as to what emancipation meant For instance did it mean universal suffrage for African American males in the South We are presented with Lincoln s agony of being unable to satisfy the Radical abolitionists and themoderate Unionists in the North, while fighting a war, where for the first three years everything was going wrong for the Northern Armies One also realizes that Lincoln, during his Presidency, was open to change and never had a pre set opinion In some ways he reminds me of Roosevelt, for he was a very garrulous person and was constantly meeting a wide assortment of people and absorbing their concerns.More than half of the book is devoted to the Civil War years It gives a vivid picture of a man who struggled and learned and then successfully re unified the country and ended the abomination of slavery .EPUB ⚆ Lincoln ☰ A masterful work by Pulitzer Prize winning author David Herbert Donald, Lincoln is a stunning portrait of Abraham Lincoln s life and presidencyDonald brilliantly depicts Lincoln s gradual ascent from humble beginnings in rural Kentucky to the ever expanding political circles in Illinois, and finally to the presidency of a country divided by civil war Donald goes beyond biography, illuminating the gradual development of Lincoln s character, chronicling his tremendous capacity for evolution and growth, thus illustrating what made it possible for a man so inexperienced and so unprepared for the presidency to become a great moral leader In the most troubled of times, here was a man who led the country out of slavery and preserved a shattered Union in short, one of the greatest presidents this country has ever seen Wellit s a historian s biography Nobody could write ascrupulous single volume account of the passage of a 19th century human being s day So I learned a lot about Lincoln but never quite felt I knew Lincoln It doesn t approach him through anything but his story I m not looking for wild leaps, but the best biographers Caro, obviously make cautions forays into the mind and character of their subjects that illuminate them This book, beyond reiterating Lincoln s fondness for his chi Wellit s a historian s biography Nobody could write ascrupulous single volume account of the passage of a 19th century human being s day So I learned a lot about Lincoln but never quite felt I knew Lincoln It doesn t approach him through anything but his story I m not looking for wild leaps, but the best biographers Caro, obviously make cautions forays into the mind and character of their subjects that illuminate them This book, beyond reiterating Lincoln s fondness for his children and tall tales, doesn t really give himcontour, I guess.So if you want to know the facts, it s ideal if you want , keep searching, probably Excellent, outstanding book The man, the Presidency, the legend His life was cut far too short by a cowardly act Would that the US have learned it s lesson from this tragedy but alas we have not What does this say about us as a nation My heart grieves for all those senselessly lost. What a difference Last week I read Jon Meacham s ponderous and extremely boring American Lion I picked up this book because I had a feeling it was going to be great I needed to read an example of a great biography Lincoln did not disappoint.While Donald used as many quotes as Meacham used in American Lion , the difference was in execution Donald used the quotes to advance the history while Meacham just tried to fit as much information as possible into in each paragraph.While the first What a difference Last week I read Jon Meacham s ponderous and extremely boring American Lion I picked up this book because I had a feeling it was going to be great I needed to read an example of a great biography Lincoln did not disappoint.While Donald used as many quotes as Meacham used in American Lion , the difference was in execution Donald used the quotes to advance the history while Meacham just tried to fit as much information as possible into in each paragraph.While the first 25 pages seemed to drag a bit, the narrative picked up once Lincoln made it to New Salem.I really appreciated how Donald was able to express the political implications of every decision Lincoln made not only in his presidency but also during his time in Springfield.So much political intrigue Lincoln while given the moniker Honest Abe was a master politician It was eye opening to see how he was able to stroke egos and yet get his way, time and time again I learned that Lincoln was definitely not a humble man He wasn t arrogant but he was sure of his abilities even though he did suffer from bouts of depression and melancholy Despite that, he soldiered on He always believed that God had a higher purpose for him that he could not control It was this fatalism, I think, that gave him comfort when he made decisions that would reverberate through the ages.I always thought I knew everything about the Civil War period and Lincoln, but I learned so much from this book I have not read Team of Rivals yet, but this book has definitely piqued my interest.Very inspiring