As a defender of national unity, a leader in war, and the emancipator of slaves, Abraham Lincoln lays ample claim to being the greatest of our presidents. But the story of his rise to greatness is as complex as it is compelling. In this superb, prize-winning biography, acclaimed historian Richard Carwardine examines Lincoln’s dramatic political journey, from his early years in the Illinois legislature to his nation-shaping years in the White House. Here, Carwardine combines a new perspective with a compelling narrative to deliver a fresh look at one of the pillars of American politics. He probes the sources of Lincoln’s moral and political philosophy and uses his groundbreaking research to cut through the myth and expose the man behind it.
The heart of this powerful book details Lincoln's election to and years in the White House. In describing his campaign for president, Oxford historian Carwardine (Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America) recreates the intense party politics of the mid-19th century. The newly formed Republican Party was home to Americans with many different political agendas, and Lincoln's "blend of constitutional conservatism and high-minded... moralism" was a good basis for coalition. Carwardine pays careful attention to Lincoln's religious views, arguing that war brought him into close contact with evangelicals, who argued that the president would only succeed in reuniting the country if he obeyed God's word. Carwardine also traces the evolution of Lincoln's thinking about slavery though he embraced emancipation first because winning the war required it, by the time he was killed Lincoln had edged toward black men's suffrage. One closes this powerful biography wondering how postbellum politics might have been different were it not for that fateful gunshot on April 14, 1865. Cawardine's Lincoln Prize winning study is not only analytical and smart, it's also delightfully readable and it will surely emerge as one of the most important Lincoln books to be published this decade. 74 b&w photos, 3 maps.