Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream--and How We Can Do It Again

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Overview

In this thoughtful mix of history and politics, the New York Times bestselling author and editor of National Review—the conservative bible founded by William F. Buckley, Jr.—traces Abraham Lincoln's ambitious climb from provincial upstart to political powerhouse and calls for a renewal of the Lincoln ethic of relentless striving.

Revered today across the political spectrum, Abraham Lincoln believed in a small but active government in a nation defined by aspiration. Fired by an ...

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Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream---And How We Can Do It Again

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Overview

In this thoughtful mix of history and politics, the New York Times bestselling author and editor of National Review—the conservative bible founded by William F. Buckley, Jr.—traces Abraham Lincoln's ambitious climb from provincial upstart to political powerhouse and calls for a renewal of the Lincoln ethic of relentless striving.

Revered today across the political spectrum, Abraham Lincoln believed in a small but active government in a nation defined by aspiration. Fired by an indomitable ambition from a young age, the man who would be immortalized as the "railsplitter" never wanted to earn his living with an ax. He educated himself in a frontier environment characterized by mind-numbing labor and then turned his back on that world. All his life, he preached a gospel of work and discipline toward the all-important ends of self-improvement and individual advancement. As a Whig and then a Republican, he worked to smash the rural backwardness in which he was raised and the Southern plantation economy that depended on human bondage.

Both were unacceptably stultifying of human potential. In short, Lincoln lived the American Dream and succeeded in opening a way to it for others. He saw in the nation's founding documents the unchanging foundation of an endlessly dynamic society. He embraced the market and the amazing transportation and communications revolutions beginning to take hold. He helped give birth to the modern industrial economy that arose before the Civil War and that took off after it.

His vision of an upwardly mobile society that rewards and supports individual striving was wondrously realized. Now it is under threat. Economic stagnation and social breakdown are undermining mobility and the American way. To meet these challenges, Rich Lowry draws us back to the lessons of Lincoln. It is imperative, he argues, to preserve a fluid economy and the bourgeois virtues that make it possible for individuals to thrive within it.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this agenda-heavy history, Lowry examines the 16th president's life and political career in an effort to mobilize his story in service of furthering modern conservative values. The bulk of the book is light biography, told through potent and inspirational chapters of Lincoln's life: as a self-educated frontiersman, then a traveling lawyer, and finally superlative leader of the United States. Then comes Lowry's interpretation, which, while critical of both ends of the political spectrum, is generally right-leaning—unsurprising given his credentials as editor of the National Review and commentator for Fox News. Lowry's Lincoln is interested in maintaining an infrastructure that best allows the individual to pursue personal betterment via industriousness and self-motivation. His Honest Abe would be "delighted by the rise of Silicon Valley," would welcome immigrants, "probably favor drilling, mining, and fracking to the utmost," and vote "aye" for the disbanding of teachers' unions. This is a patriotic call to arms, one man's political beliefs aided by a dead president. Only problem is, Honest Abe can't contest. Agent: Keith Korman, Raines & Raines. (June)
Charles Krauthammer
“A gem: powerfully argued, beautifully written, and both politically and historically illuminating. Lowry makes an impassioned case for a contemporary Republican renewal on truly Lincolnian lines.”
Paul Ryan
“In this important book, Rich Lowry explains how the president’s opposition to slavery was closely intertwined with his belief in economic freedom. Lowry’s book reminds us that the ultimate basis for economic freedom is moral: It honors the dignity owed to every person, regardless of skin color or social condition.”
William KristolEditor
“We live today, Rich Lowry writes, in a “Lincolnian republic.” Lowry explains what that means through a fascinating exploration of some of the less well known aspects of LIncoln's life and thought. In recapturing the “essential Lincoln,” Lowry helps us think about what's essential to the promise of America.”
Michael Burlingame
“In this briskly written, persuasive study, Rich Lowry rescues Lincoln from misguided attempts to portray him as a proto-progressive.”
Allen C. Guelzo
“We live today, Rich Lowry writes, in a “Lincolnian republic.” Lowry explains what that means through a fascinating exploration of some of the less well known aspects of LIncoln's life and thought. In recapturing the “essential Lincoln,” Lowry helps us think about what's essential to the promise of America.”
Bill Bennett
“This book is essential for understanding why Lincoln’s convictions and ambitions are vitally relevant for conservatives today.”
William Kristol
“We live today, Rich Lowry writes, in a ‘Lincolnian republic.’ Lowry explains what that means through a fascinating exploration of some of the less well known aspects of LIncoln’s life and thought. In recapturing the ‘essential Lincoln,’ Lowry helps us think about what’s essential to the promise of America.”
Paul Ryan
“In this important book, Rich Lowry explains how the president’s opposition to slavery was closely intertwined with his belief in economic freedom. Lowry’s book reminds us that the ultimate basis for economic freedom is moral: It honors the dignity owed to every person, regardless of skin color or social condition.”
Kirkus Reviews
The editor of the National Review sketches the political character of our 16th president. Ever since his assassination and swift elevation to the pantheon of our greatest presidents, "getting right with Lincoln," in the memorable phrase of one historian, has been the business of our mainstream politicians. As they grope to align themselves with Lincoln's legacy, unembarrassed by any "ideological body snatching," much mischief ensues. To discover what Lincoln truly believed, Lowry (Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years, 2009, etc.) confines himself largely to Lincoln's pre-presidential career, explaining how the backwoods boy of little schooling and negligible property early on identified with the Whigs rather than the Jacksonian Democrats who captured so many of his similarly situated peers. The Rail-Splitter, he argues, is best understood not as a man of the axe but of the book, not so much by his origins as by his aspirations. For the deeply ambitious Lincoln, enhancing opportunity was the animating principle of his politics, and he committed himself to a program of uplift and improvement that offered the best chance for his fellow citizens to transcend their upbringings. Personally, Lincoln avoided most vices, and he preached and exemplified the habits of self-control, rationality and industriousness. Politically, he elevated the value of work, held property sacrosanct and looked to the Founding Fathers as a guide for renewing an American spirit gone flabby. Lowry sets out Lincoln's platform: enthusiastic support for economic growth, internal improvements, new technologies, education and a sound national banking system; a profound respect for our constitutional system and free institutions; and a refusal to engage in class warfare, to sentimentalize agrarianism or to denigrate achievement. Some readers are bound to accuse Lowry of nudging Lincoln into the author's own preferred categories of belief, but they'll be hard-pressed to find any violation of the historical record. A quick, smoothly readable account of Lincoln the political striver, the embodiment of the Declaration's "central idea…that every man can make himself."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062123787
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/11/2013
  • Pages: 271
  • Sales rank: 418,672
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Rich Lowry was named editor of National Review in 1997. He is a syndicated columnist and a commentator for the Fox News Channel. He writes for Politico and Time magazine, and often appears on such public affairs programs as Meet the Press and Face the Nation. His previous book, Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years, was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 22, 2013

    Excellent Book!

    Loved this book; it was very well-written. Appreciated his portrayal of Lincoln, but I personally don't think we can bring back the American dream like Lowry thinks. The citizenry is too ignorant about what Obama has done and is doing. Wish we could reverse what the president has done but that would require informed voters.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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