Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union


Adopting a new approach to an American icon, an award-winning scholar reexamines the life of Abraham Lincoln to demonstrate how his remarkable political acumen and leadership skills evolved during the intense partisan conflict in pre-Civil War Illinois. By describing Lincoln's rise from obscurity to the presidency, William Harris shows that Lincoln's road to political success was far from easy—and that his reaction to events wasn't always wise or his racial attitudes free of ...
See more details below
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (13) from $17.04   
  • New (7) from $31.54   
  • Used (6) from $17.04   
Sending request ...


Adopting a new approach to an American icon, an award-winning scholar reexamines the life of Abraham Lincoln to demonstrate how his remarkable political acumen and leadership skills evolved during the intense partisan conflict in pre-Civil War Illinois. By describing Lincoln's rise from obscurity to the presidency, William Harris shows that Lincoln's road to political success was far from easy—and that his reaction to events wasn't always wise or his racial attitudes free of prejudice.

Although most scholars have labeled Lincoln a moderate, Harris reveals that he was by his own admission a conservative who revered the Founders and advocated "adherence to the old and tried." By emphasizing the conservative bent that guided Lincoln's political evolution—his background as a Henry Clay Whig, his rural ties, his cautious nature, and the racial and political realities of central Illinois—Harris provides fresh insight into Lincoln's political ideas and activities and portrays him as morally opposed to slavery but fundamentally conservative in his political strategy against it.

Interweaving aspects of Lincoln's life and character that were an integral part of his rise to prominence, Harris provides in-depth coverage of Lincoln's controversial term in Congress, his re-emergence as the leader of the antislavery coalition in Illinois, and his Senate campaign against Stephen A.Douglas. He particularly describes how Lincoln organized the antislavery coalition into the Republican Party while retaining the support of its diverse elements, and sheds new light on Lincoln's ongoing efforts to bring Know Nothing nativists into the coalition without alienating ethnic groups. He also provides new information and analysis regarding Lincoln's nomination and election to the presidency, the selection of his cabinet, and his important role as president-elect during the secession crisis of 1860-1861.

Challenging prevailing views, Harris portrays Lincoln as increasingly driven not so much by his own ambitions as by his antislavery sentiments and his fear for the republic in the hands of Douglas Democrats, and he shows how the unique political skills Lincoln developed in Illinois shaped his wartime leadership abilities. By doing so, he opens a window on his political ideas and influences and offers a fresh understanding of this complex figure.

Co-winner of the 2012 Lincoln Prize

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Lincoln can be forgiven if he had trouble telling friend from foe in the border states; the citizens of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri were far more divided on issues such as slavery, secession, and the suspension of habeas corpus than those in the northern states. A Kentucky native whose wife's family included slaveholders, Lincoln was intimately familiar with the regions' conflicted loyalties, and understood the importance of preserving their places in the Union. These contested areas witnessed guerrilla activities and vitriolic political and journalistic offensives that threatened to rend the masses into hostile poles. Harris (Lincoln's Last Month) takes us through the complicated decisions Lincoln had to make in order to secure the loyalty of his putative allies. Drawing on extensive research and scholarship, Harris also profiles lesser-known individuals who nevertheless played a crucial role in the unfolding of the Civil War, including Thomas Hicks, the Know-Nothing governor of Maryland, and George Prentice, the editor of the Louisville Journal. Quoting extensively from newspapers, letters, and government sources, Harris' book is a valuable resource for academics and amateur war-historians alike. 10 photographs, 1 map. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

"After reading Harris's account, it is impossible not to sympathize with Lincoln's comment that the turmoil in Missouri had 'tormented' him 'beyond endurance.' Harris distinguishes his work with sound judgment, thorough research, and a readable style. Though he finds fault with Lincoln's course of action in some instances--after rioting in Baltimore, for example, Harris asserts the new president was not careful enough to distinguish states' rights supporters from secessionists--all in all Harris regards Lincoln's border state policies as impressively successful. It is hard to disagree."

--Indiana Magazine of History

Library Journal
Henry Adams Prize winner Harris (history, emeritus, North Carolina State Univ.; Lincoln's Rise to the Presidency) has done something new in Lincoln and Civil War studies; he has written a cogent argument on the ways the politics of keeping the crucial border states in the Union informed, and almost transformed, policies on civil-military relations, emancipation, arming black troops, civil liberties, and more. Lincoln supposedly once said that he "hoped to have God on his side but must have Kentucky." Harris pinpoints the military and political reasons such a priority weighed on Lincoln. He goes deep inside the state politics especially of Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri to discover the machinations of pro-Union and pro-Southern interests to keep their states in or take them out of the Union, protect or repeal slavery, and prevent the war from degenerating into a social revolution and outlawry. Harris argues that Lincoln's broad perspective on how to win the war, his patience and forbearance, and his keen sense of political necessities and personalities saved the border states for the Union and thus did much to preserve the Union. VERDICT Harris's probing work brings the border states back to center stage and demonstrates how and why Lincoln mastered the art of balancing competing interests without yielding on the essential priority—an insightful lesson on leadership that speaks to our own day. Highly recommended.—Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700618040
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 8/23/2011
  • Pages: 430
  • Sales rank: 971,618
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

William C. Harris, professor emeritus of history at North Carolina State University and recipient of the Lincoln Diploma of Honor, is author of nine other books, including Day of the Carpetbagger: Republican Reconstruction in Mississippi, With Charity for All: Lincoln and the Restoration of the Union, and most recently Lincoln's Last Months.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations



1. The Border States and Lincoln's Election

2. After Fort Sumter: Crisis in Maryland

3. Kentucky: Experiment in Neutrality

4. Missouri: A State in Turmoil

5. Lincoln's Emancipation Initiatives and the Border States

6. The Struggle over Emancipation

7. Resistance in Kentucky, 1863-1865

8. Union and Emancipation Triumphant: Maryland

9. Union and Emancipation Triumphant: Missouri



Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)