A. Lincoln

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2010-05-04
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
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In this magnificent book, White offers a fresh and compelling definition of Lincoln as a man of integrity--what today's commentators would call "authenticity"--whose moral compass holds the key to understanding his life.

Author Biography

Ronald C. White, Jr., is the author of two bestselling books on Abraham Lincoln: The Eloquent President and Lincoln’s Greatest Speech, a New York Times Notable Book. White earned his Ph.D. at Princeton and has lectured on Lincoln at hundreds of universities and organizations, and at Gettysburg and the White House. He is a Fellow at the Huntington Library and a Visiting Professor of History at UCLA. He lives with his wife, Cynthia, in La Cañada, California.

From the Hardcover edition.

Table of Contents

List of Mapsp. ix
Cast of Charactersp. xi
A. Lincoln and the Promise of Americap. 3
Undistinguished Families 1809–16p. 7
Persistent in Learning 1816–30p. 23
Rendering Myself Worthy of Their Esteem 1831–34p. 43
The Whole People of Sangamon 1834–37p. 61
Without Contemplating Consequences 1837–42p. 79
A Matter of Profound Wonder 1831–42p. 99
The Truth Is, I Would Like to Go Very Much 1843–46p. 119
My Best Impression of the Truth 1847–49p. 139
As a Peacemaker the Lawyer Has a Superior Opportunity 1849–52p. 167
Let No One Be Deceived 1852–56p. 187
A House Divided 1856–58p. 223
The Eternal Struggle Between These Two Principles 1858p. 257
The Taste Is in My Mouth a Little 1858–60p. 291
Justice and Fairness to All May 1860–November–1860p. 331
An Humble Instrument in the Hands of the Almighty November 1860–February 1861p. 349
We Must Not Be Enemies February 1861–April 1861p. 381
A People's Contest April 1861–July 1861p. 411
The Bottom Is Out of the Tub July 1861–January 1862p. 437
We Are Coming, Father Abraham: January 1862–July 1862p. 467
We Must Think Anew July 1862–December 1862p. 495
What Will the Country Say? January 1863–May 1863p. 531
You Say You Will Not Fight to Free Negroes May 1863–September 1863p. 563
A New Birth of Freedom September 1863–March 1864p. 591
The Will of God Prevails March 1864–November 1864p. 617
With Malice Toward None, with Charity for All December 1864–April 1865p. 647
Acknowledgmentsp. 677
Notesp. 681
Selected Bibliographyp. 745
Illustration Creditsp. 765
Indexp. 769
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.


Chapter 1

A. Lincoln and the Promise of America

He signed his name "a. lincoln." a visitor to abraham lincoln's Springfield, Illinois, home at Eighth and Jackson would find "A. Lincoln" in silvered Roman characters affixed to an octagonal black plate on the front door. All through his life, people sought to complete the A-to define Lincoln, to label or libel him. Immediately after his death and continuing to the present, Americans have tried to explain the nation's most revered president. A. Lincoln continues to fascinate us because he eludes simple definitions and final judgments.

Tall, raw boned, and with an unruly shock of black hair, his appearance could not have been more different from that of George Washington and the other founding fathers. Walt Whitman, who saw the president regularly in Washington, D.C., wrote that Lincoln's face was "so awful ugly it becomes beautiful." But when Lincoln spoke, audiences forgot his appearance as they listened to his inspiring words.

He is one of the few Americans whose life and words bridge time. Illinois senator Everett Dirksen said fifty years ago, "The first task of every politician is to get right with Lincoln." At critical moments in our nation's history, his eloquent words become contemporary.

As a young man, he won the nickname "Honest Abe" when his store in New Salem, Illinois, "winked out." Rather than cut and run from his debts in the middle of the night, as was common on the frontier, he stayed and paid back what he called his "National Debt." His political opponents invented a long list of denunciations, ranging from "the Black Republican" to "the original gorilla" to "the dictator." His supporters crafted monikers of admiration: "Old Abe," affectionately attached to him while he was still a relatively young man, and the "Rail Splitter," to remind voters in the 1860 presidential campaign of his roots in what was then the Western frontier. During the Civil War, admiration became endearment when the soldiers he led as commander in chief called him "Father Abraham." After his controversial decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year's Day 1863, grateful Americans, black and white, honored him with the title "the Great Emancipator."

Each name became a signpost pointing to the ways Lincoln grew and changed through critical episodes in his life. Each was an attempt to define him, whether by characterization or caricature.

Yet how did Lincoln define himself? He never kept a diary. He wrote three brief autobiographical statements, one pointedly in the third person. As the Lincolns prepared to leave for Washington in the winter of 1861, Mary Lincoln, to protect her privacy, burned her correspondence with her husband in the alley behind their Springfield home. In an age when one did not tell all, Lincoln seldom shared his innermost feelings in public. Lincoln's law partner, William Herndon, summed it up "He was the most shut-mouthed man that ever existed." Yet when Lincoln spoke, he offered some of the most inspiring words ever uttered on the meaning of America.

Each generation of Americans rightfully demands a new engagement with the past. Fresh questions are raised out of contemporary experiences. Does he deserve the title "the Great Emancipator"? Was Lincoln a racist? Did he invent, as some have charged, the authoritarian, imperial presidency? How did Lincoln reshape the modern role of commander in chief? How are we to understand Mary Lincoln and their marriage? What were Lincoln's religious beliefs? How did he connect religion to politics? As we peel back each layer of Lincoln's life, these questions foster only more questions.

Actually, Lincoln did keep a journal, but he never wrote in a single record book. What I call Lincoln's "diary&qu

Excerpted from A. Lincoln: A Biography by Ronald C. White
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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