Pulitzer Prize-winning historian McPherson (Battle Cry of Freedom) contributes to the slew of Lincoln biennial books with this succinct biography, weighing in at a lean 70 pages (plus notes), that delivers gracefully on McPherson's promise to capture "the essential events and meaning of Lincoln's life without oversimplification or overgeneralization." McPherson is a precise writer with a masterful command of the subject, guiding readers through the evolution of Lincoln's thinking on race, his lifelong struggle with depression, his improbable rise to political power, his anguish over the breakup of the union and his determination to see it made whole again. For anyone wanting to fill the gaps in their understanding of the Great Emancipator by the end of President's Day, this efficient account from a noted Civil War scholar is a near-perfect solution.
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Former U.S. senator McGovern-who is also a Ph.D. historian-knows something about presidential leadership and the potential and actual abuses of power that come especially during wartime. In this compact but convincing portrait, he assesses Lincoln's greatness in terms of his ability to use his humble origins, empathy, keen sense of justice, uncommon skill in seeing the essence of an issue, faith in American democracy, gifts of language, and personal self-confidence-all to become a masterly lawyer, a party leader, commander in chief, and a heroic figure with both the vision and the practicality to realize his purposes. McGovern breaks no new interpretive ground here, but he knows the recent scholarship well enough and kneads it into his book. Given his own politics, McGovern not surprisingly examines Lincoln's use of war powers in suspending habeas corpus, suppressing dissent, and freeing the slaves, finally conceding that the great crisis of secession and the prospect of ending slavery justified Lincoln's overstepping constitutional bounds-for the moment. This biography warrants reading to catch the sense of Lincoln's greatness, both for his own day and ours. Recommended for public and university libraries.
McPherson, America's leading authority on Lincoln and his times, demonstrates his complete command of his subject in this concise but remarkably rich and perceptive biography. With deft strokes, McPherson draws his Lincoln as a man moved always by the double lodestar of Union and freedom, with each contingent upon the other. McPherson's Lincoln has his priorities right, never confusing means and ends and ever mindful of his own limitations even as he acted confidently on hisown good judgment. Readers of McPherson's many books on Lincoln will not find any surprises here, though McPherson does add a few new insights into Lincoln's character, but all will appreciate how the author reveals Lincoln's genius in leading people to the better angels of their nature and the nation to a new birth of freedom. This little book is bigger than its pages and should be in every library, schoolhouse, and home as a bicentennial birthday present to ourselves to remind us why Lincoln does indeed "belong to the ages."
Randall M. Miller
"I think the world of Jim McPherson. When people ask me which historians' writing today they should read, I always recommend Jim, as a writer and as an historian." --David McCullough, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 1776 and John Adams
"A gem. Beautifully written, it is clear, concise, and correct. This is the best, very brief, biography of our sixteenth president ever written." --David Herbert Donald, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lincoln
"Abraham Lincoln at last has found his best short biography. Jim McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War historian, brings his vast knowledge and lucid writing to an illumination of the life of America's most revered President. McPherson touches more Lincoln bases than any reader might reasonably expect, winning a well-deserved accolade that less is truly more." --Ronald C. White, Jr., author of A. Lincoln: A Biography
"James McPherson's Abraham Lincoln should be read by every American, indeed by every person the world over, who wants to understand the preeminent American president. McPherson's biography--brief, analytical, beautifully written--encompasses the whole of Lincoln's life. In but a few hours, every reader of this remarkable, short book can know the major moments in the rise of Lincoln-- from a poor boy on the western frontier to one of the world's greatest statesmen."--Lewis Lehrman, author of Lincoln at Peoria: A Turning Point and founder of the Lincoln Institute
"This little book is bigger than its pages and should be in every library, schoolhouse, and home as a bicentennial birthday present to ourselves to remind us why Lincoln does indeed 'belong to the ages."--Library Journal
"Crisply written and judiciously compact, James M. McPherson's new book is an invaluable contribution--an authoritative biography of Abraham Lincoln that can be read at a single sitting."--Douglas L. Wilson, Lincoln Prize-winning author of Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words
"McPherson knows how to cut to the heart of a man and his times." --Journal of Southern History