- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
— William C. Harris
“Judging Lincoln contains many fresh and provocative insights on the life and times of our sixteenth president. [Williams] judges Lincoln with scrupulous and impartial empathy, not overlooking his mistakes but in the end making it clear why the architect of Union and freedom was our greatest president.”—James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
“Though thousands of studies have already attempted to describe, explain, applaud, or criticize Abraham Lincoln. . . . [Judging Lincoln] offers fresh insights. . . . . These nine essays examine topics of interest to the modern reader, from Lincoln’s attitude toward women, civil liberties, and the 13th Amendment to a unique article written with Pulitzer Prizewinning author Mark E. Neely Jr. on collecting Lincoln memorabilia. Based on a variety of primary and secondary sources and adorned with rare historic illustrations not published elsewhere, this work is recommended for libraries that wish to have a truly comprehensive collection of materials on this President.”—Library Journal
“Williams is plainly a cut above unrefined Lincoln enthusiasm because he recognizes the difficulty of pinning Lincoln down. . . . Like the work of Harold Holzer, Williams’ book will be popular with fellow Lincoln fans.” —Booklist
“Many of Judge Williams’s lectures have appeared in print before, both in journals and in important collections of the papers and proceedings of scholarly conferences. What has been lacking—until now—is a single volume of his best work. Its arrival promises to reveal, to a wider audience than ever, his highly original perspective, his gift for comprehensive analysis of complex legal and political issues, and his relentless curiosity about the deepest, often least studied, aspects of Abraham Lincoln’s life and career. Lincoln scholars used to be referred to as ‘authorities.’ It is a title one cannot help but feel rests comfortably on Frank J. Williams’s shoulders: he is an authoritative figure in every sense of the phrase.”
—Harold Holzer, from the Foreword
“Both historians and general readers will welcome this treasury from one of the wisest and most original students of Abraham Lincoln and his times. This elegant and fascinating book confirms Frank Williams’s important place in the firmament of Lincoln scholars and does a brilliant job of showing us why Lincoln’s ideals and methods of leadership are so necessary for Americans to understand almost a century and a half after his passing.”—Michael Beschloss, presidential historian
Frank J. Williams wears several hats. Professionally, he is a distinguished lawyer and judge; he currently serves as chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court. He is also an eminent Lincoln scholar, dedicated collector of Lincolniana, and energetic organizer of Lincoln conferences. Judging Lincoln is a collection of nine essays that Williams has written during the past quarter century. The book includes 47 illustrations from his marvelous collection.
While the topics of the essays differ, Judge Williams ties most of them to the influence of the discipline and rules that Lincoln learned as a lawyer. Williams reminds us that the law was a means to politics for Lincoln. The law provided Lincoln with the kind of broad background that enabled him to achieve his potential as a political leader. In the process of his growth, Lincoln blended "the traditional differences between the law and politics into a singular democratic vision” that he followed into the presidency (35). His twenty-four years as a lawyer-politician taught Lincoln valuable lessons that benefited him when he faced the unparalleled challenges of the Civil War. Lincoln's acute sense of timing as president owed its origins to the fact that as a lawyer he learned when to act in behalf of his clients, a point that has escaped the attention of historians. Lincoln became a masterful juggler in handling cases as a lawyer while attending to political issues and campaigns, a trait that would later prove essential in as president. His long career as a lawyer-politician in the emerging West (today's Midwest) also taught Lincoln about human nature and the hopeful purpose of democratic life. Williams admits that the problems Lincoln confronted as president differed from those as a lawyer. Still, "the incisive logic used in their solution [was] much the same" (54).
Judge Williams in his essay on civil liberties defends Lincoln's controversial action in suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus during the early period of the war. From Lincoln's perspective, this action was necessary to prevent secessionists from isolating Washington and taking Maryland out of the Union. Lincoln also made other far-reaching decisions and commitments at this time when Congress was not in session, but, Williams writes, he knew that he had the support of the majority of the lawmakers. Though some historians have claimed otherwise, "the verdict of history is that Lincoln's use of power did not constitute abuse" (62).
The essays in this book also provide other important insights on Lincoln and the constitutional issues involved in the war. Williams' account of the military arrest, trial, ,and sentencing of congressman Clement Vallandigham, the leading "Copperhead" critic of the war, followed by Lincoln's action in the case, should be of interest to anyone interested in the issue of freedom of speech during wartime. In his famous Erastus Corning letter, Lincoln defended the suppression of Vallandigham on the grounds of the effects that such seditious speech had on the war effort. Williams concludes that Lincoln in matters of civil liberties bent "the Constitution within the framework of its intent without breaking it" (77). Lincoln's purpose was to preserve the Constitution, not undermine it.