With Malice Toward None: A Biography of Abraham Lincoln

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Overview

The definitive life of Abraham Lincoln, With Malice Toward None is historian Stephen B. Oates's acclaimed and enthralling portrait of America's greatest leader. Oates masterfully charts, with the pacing of a novel, Lincoln's rise from bitter poverty in America's midwestern frontier to become a self-made success in business, law, and regional politics. The second half of the book examines his legendary leadership on the national stage as president during one of the country's most tumultuous and bloody periods, the...

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With Malice Toward None: A Biography of Abraham Lincoln

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Overview

The definitive life of Abraham Lincoln, With Malice Toward None is historian Stephen B. Oates's acclaimed and enthralling portrait of America's greatest leader. Oates masterfully charts, with the pacing of a novel, Lincoln's rise from bitter poverty in America's midwestern frontier to become a self-made success in business, law, and regional politics. The second half of the book examines his legendary leadership on the national stage as president during one of the country's most tumultuous and bloody periods, the Civil War years, which concluded tragically with Lincoln's assassination. In this award-winning biography, Lincoln steps forward out of the shadow of myth as a recognizable, fully drawn American whose remarkable life continues to inspire and inform us today.

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Editorial Reviews

Boston Globe
“Hailed as the best one-volume biography of Lincoln”
Chicago Tribune
“A superb biography”
Washington Post
“The standard one-volume biography of Lincoln”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060924713
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/28/2011
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 203,448
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen B. Oates is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. His books include Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln. Oates has been awarded numerous honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, and Nevins-Freeman Award of the Civil War Round Table of Chicago for lifetime achievement in the field of Civil War studies.

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Read an Excerpt

With Malice Toward None

Outside of Illinois, People knew little about him. Even newspapers were conspicuously reticent about his life and background. All most could say was that he hailed from Illinois, that he had served a single term in Congress and had lost a bitter Senate contest to Stephen A. Douglas a couple of years before. And now, in the summer of 1860, he was the Republican candidate for President of the United States in what promised to be the most combustible election the Union had ever known. In the South, Democrats who understood nothing about the candidate as a man, nothing at all, castigated him as a symbol of "Black Republicanism"—a "sooty and scoundrelly" abolitionist who wanted to free the slaves and mongrelize the white race. In the North, Democratic papersdisparaged him as a party hack and a political unknown who lacked the ability to serve as President. Even many Republicans were hard-pressed to talk specifically about their candidate, to sell voters on his appeal and his talents. Some party bosses mistakenly thought his first name was "Abram," and various newspapers persisted in calling him that.

"There are thousands who do not yet know Abraham Lincoln," observed Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune, and he called for the publication of an inexpensive biography that Republicans could read and circulate across the North. As several writers set about compiling their own profiles (one inevitably called him "Abram" Lincoln), Joseph Medill out in Chicago decided that a terse campaign biography should be prepared under the auspices of the Chicago Press & Tribune, Medill's influential Republican newspaper. Medill assigned senioreditor John Locke Scripps to write the portrait, and Scripps caught a train for Springfield, where Lincoln lived and practiced law.

Scripps called on Lincoln in his Springfield office and found him besieged with Republican bigwigs, office seekers, and reporters (Mr. Lincoln, what are your plans? policies? Cabinet choices? Mr. Lincoln, what will you do if you are elected and the slave states secede?). It was sometime early in June, and the air was scented with summer smells; outside, hogs rooted in the dirt streets, wagons jingled by, and people strolled about the public square.Lincoln shooed people out of his office and closed the door so that Scripps could interview him in private. The candidate was tall and melancholy, with coarse black hair, large ears, a hawkish face, and long and bony limbs. As he commented on his rise to prominence and the impending campaign, Scripps took notes and urged Lincoln to talk more about himself. "The chief difficulty I had," Scripps reported later, "was to induce him to communicate the homely facts of his youth." "Why, Scripps," Lincoln protested, "it is a great piece of folly to attempt to make anything out of my early life. It can be all condensed into a simple sentence, and that sentence you will find in Gray's Elegy, 'The short and simple annals of the poor.' That's my life, and that's all you or any one else can make out of it."

The truth was that Lincoln felt embarrassed about his log-cabin origins and never liked to talk about them. In fact, he had worked all his adult life to overcome the limitations of his frontier background, to make himself into a literate and professional man who commanded the respect of his colleagues. So if he ever discussed his boyhood or his parents, said William Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, "it was with great reluctance and significant reserve. There was something about his origin he never cared to dwell on."

Still, Lincoln conceded that it might be well for Scripps to write a brief, authorized biography, so that the public might know the essential facts of his life ... like the fact that his first name was Abraham, not Abram, as he was tired of pointing out. To ensure factual accuracy, Lincoln even agreed to furnish a summary of his early life and career. As he spoke, Scripps noted, Lincoln "seemed to be painfully impressed with the extreme poverty of his early surroundings, and the utter absence of all romantic and heroic elements." At least that was how Lincoln remembered things now, as a selfmade lawyer reaching for the highest office in the land. He told Scripps a few details about his ancestry, but warned that he did not want them published.

Later, after Scripps had gone, Lincoln toiled over an autobiographical sketch in which he referred to himself as "A." It was little more than an outline—as lucid, exact, and careful as he could make it, but an outline all the same. Because he could not bring himself to compose a full record of his life—that lay in uncertain fragments in a thousand letters, speeches, and newspaper clippings, in family trunks with their photographs and memorabilia, and in the diaries and recollections of his family, friends, colleagues, and adversaries. No, not a complete record of his life, because there was much about himself he would never reveal ... much about his parents and their backgrounds and deficiencies he refused to make public for the opposition to exaggerate and use against him. No, not a complete record of his life—not so much as a glimpse of who he was, of how he had suffered and what he had come to know in the decades since he had romped and roamed andbrooded and labored in the fields and creek bottoms of his youth. Still, he must have paused from time to time in his composition and thought back over those faded years, recalling some half-forgotten episode of his boyhood (a storm, a dream) and listening to the echoes of his past.

With Malice Toward None. Copyright (c) by Stephen B. Oates . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 20 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2007

    Fantastic!

    I wanted to read a bio on Lincoln that was as basic, thourough, and enjoyable as possible. For anybody, who has yet to read anything about Lincoln, start here. Oats traces the life and career of Lincoln in a narrative that is easy to read while conveying the most important facts about his life and career, and those who surrounded him who shaped his presidency and influence on slavery and the Civil War. A must read, for anybody wanting to get a picture of his leadership qualities and how he saved the union and ended slavery, standing behind his principles that make him one of the most admired figures in American history.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2005

    Lincoln: Warts and all

    Mr. Oates does an excellent job of presenting Abraham Lincoln in his entirety. Lincoln has been lifted to such a high place in American history it is easy to forget he was a real person with faults and eccentricities just like everyone else. Mr. Oates brings Lincoln down to our level where we can understand and appreciate him.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    With Malice Toward None

    Abraham Lincoln is my favorite President. Just wish they could change the ending :(
    Can't write anything about him that I'm not interested it.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2000

    Historically Detailed and Personable As Well

    Oates details the life of this fascinating and inspiring man. He gives details to bring out the personality and truggles of Lincoln while at the same time writing in a style that is easy to follow and comfortable to read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2013

    One of the very best books I've ever read.

    One of the very best books I've ever read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2013

    This is a very well written book about Lincoln's life before and

    This is a very well written book about Lincoln's life before and after he took office. It was easy to understand and enjoyable at the same time. From reading this book, I received a different perspective of Lincoln. I saw the man he really was, almost as if I were standing in his shoes. Overall, a great book and for anyone that wants to learn about Lincoln's, a man of rich humanity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2012

    Great book

    I loved this book but I hated the ending. After the death of Lincoln, I felt as though the author was sprinting to the end. The story felt unfinished to me.

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  • Posted May 28, 2010

    Great overview of Lincoln

    I'm guessing that there are books that give a lot more detail on Lincoln, but to me, this book gave a perfect overview - just enough detail while not overwhelming. It helped me start to come to grips with Lincoln as a real-life person as opposed to the icon I have in my mind. The part that intrigued me the most was his lawyering days in Springfield and his died-in-the-wool Whig days. Rather than being a saint, it made me realize that he played partisan politics just like everybody else.

    The other thing that struck me was how little faith people had in him and how uncertain everything was. Today we just take it for granted that he was one of the greatest, if not the greatest President of all time, but that sure wasn't people's view back then. And now it's easy to look back on the Civil War and see what seemed like an inevitability, that the North would win, but it sure wasn't a sure thing back then.

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    Posted April 25, 2010

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