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Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder and the Making of a Great President
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Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder and the Making of a Great President

4.0 3
by Julie M. Fenster, Douglas Brinkley (Foreword by)
 

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The year 1856 was a pivotal one for this country, witnessing the birth of the Republican Party as we know it. But it was also a critical year in the troubled political life of Abraham Lincoln. As a lawyer, he tried his most scandalous murder case. At the same time, he made a decision which unleashed his soaring abilities for the first time, a decision which

Overview

The year 1856 was a pivotal one for this country, witnessing the birth of the Republican Party as we know it. But it was also a critical year in the troubled political life of Abraham Lincoln. As a lawyer, he tried his most scandalous murder case. At the same time, he made a decision which unleashed his soaring abilities for the first time, a decision which reverberates to this day: whether or not to join the new Republican Party. The Case of Abraham Lincoln offers the first-ever account of the suspenseful Anderson Murder Case, and Lincoln’s role in it. Bestselling historian Fenster not only examines the case that changed Lincoln’s fate, but portrays his day-to-day life as a circuit lawyer and how it shaped him as a politician. In a book that draws a picture of Lincoln in court and at home during that memorable season of 1856, Fenster also offers a close-up look at Lincoln’s political work, much of it masterful, some of it adventurous, in building the party that would change his fate – and that of the nation.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[The Case of Abraham Lincoln is a beautifully nuanced portrait of Lincoln in the turning-point year of 1856 when the former Whig joined the new Republican party, gave what many considered to be his greatest speech and suddenly found himself a national figure." - Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune

"The microview Fenster offers of both Lincoln's life and the daily experience in mid-19th century Springfield is fascinating...Fenster does an excellent job of allowing us to watch [Lincoln] grow, almost as if by time-lapse photography...a gem indeed." - Marjorie Kehe, Christian Science Monitor

"Through the lens of a sensational 1856 Springfield, Ill., murder case, a historian focuses on Abraham Lincoln the lawyer and politician, four years before his election to the presidency… An unexpected, odd-angle approach to Lincoln that proves marvelously insightful."—Kirkus (Starred review)

"what The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder and the Making of a Great President achieves is something few college history courses — and certainly accompanying textbooks — are able to: great storytelling." — Chicago Sun-Times

"In [The Case of Abraham Lincoln] we learn how Abraham Lincoln averted one looming if by comparison rather small injustice, and also how he began the business of ending a much vaster and more terrible one." - Fredeic Smoler, AmericanHeritage.com

"The Case of Abraham Lincoln provides an intense view of Lincoln's life shortly before he ran for President of the United States. It is an interesting take on well-trod biographical territory." - Salem Press

"Biographies of Lincoln usually portray him as a civilian lawyer or political president, with a clear divide between his careers. Fenster bridges Lincoln's two professional worlds in her book, which centers around Lincoln's role as defense counsel in an 1856 murder trial in Springfield, Illinois...reveals the origins of Lincoln's political greatness." - Choice

Booklist
Fenster's absorbing chronicle follows two tracks: Lincoln's reentry into the tumultuous political wars in Illinois, as Democrats, Know-Nothings, and the newly formed Republican Party vied for power; and how the death of a Springfield blacksmith evolved into a sensational murder trial. When the two tracks merge, Fenster illustrates Lincoln's emergence as a cagey politician and eloquent antislavery voice with an enhanced national reputation. This is a worthy addition to our ever-expanding knowledge concerning America's secular saint.

Library Journal

Fenster uses the new complete edition of Lincoln's legal papers, as well as newspapers, letters, and memoirs, to weave a spellbinding tale of alleged adultery, murder, legal practices, personal rivalries, and political ambitions in the mid-1850s-and of Lincoln's emergence as a national political figure. In doing so, she brings us as close to the social and political culture of the day as possible. Although she relies too much on memoirs to depict a Lincoln much admired as a lawyer of ready wit, unimpeachable integrity, and astute judgment, she also mines the sources deeply to discover a small-town America unsure about male-female relationships, strangers in town, and "truth." As in Brian Dirck's Lincoln the Lawyer, among other recent works, she shows how Lincoln's studying of human nature, reading, and time on the legal circuit prepared him for public life. More important, she makes the most persuasive case yet that Lincoln's argument on the need to face down Southern threats of disunion was essential to holding together the disparate elements of the rickety new Republican Party and gave Lincoln national prominence before the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Her analysis of Lincoln's "lost speech" of 1856 is simply brilliant. The verdict: a captivating and compelling book that's highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
—Randall M. Miller

Kirkus Reviews
Through the lens of a sensational 1856 Springfield, Ill., murder case, a historian focuses on Abraham Lincoln the lawyer and politician, four years before his election to the presidency. Was blacksmith George Anderson slowly poisoned by his adulterous wife before her lover, Anderson's own impatient nephew, finally finished him off with a bloody hammer? The local citizenry certainly thought so. After declining an offer to aid the beleaguered state's attorney, Lincoln joined the defense and devised the crucial strategy that kept questions about possible adultery out of the trial, destroying the prosecution's theory about motive and ultimately freeing the defendants. This lurid case was one of many in the prairie lawyer's crowded practice, and Fenster (Race of the Century: The Heroic True Story of the 1908 New York to Paris Automobile Race, 2005, etc.) follows Lincoln and other colorful members of the Illinois Bar as they trail after the traveling Circuit Court. Simultaneously, the author charts a second, more fateful, track: the speech-making tour that resuscitated Lincoln's political career. Following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act-which nullified the Missouri Compromise and destroyed the Whig Party-and beginning with his stirring "Lost Speech" at the state's Anti-Nebraska Bloomington Convention, Lincoln traveled throughout Illinois on behalf of John C. Fremont, candidate of the nascent Republican Party, attempting to thread the needle among outright abolitionists, pro-slavery Buchanan Democrats and the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant Know-Nothing Party headed by former President Millard Fillmore. He couldn't persuade the critical swing state to go for his candidate, but this tourturned him into the Party's premier Western spokesman, put him first in line to challenge popular Senator Stephen A. Douglas and ultimately led to his nomination for president. Already a successful, mature attorney whose talent and insight tipped the balance in People v. Anderson and Anderson, Lincoln began in 1856 his transformation into a master politician whose deep understanding of our founding documents and whose genius at translating their meaning for his fellow countrymen would make an even greater difference for the nation. An unexpected, odd-angle approach to Lincoln that proves marvelously insightful. First printing of 75,000

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781403976352
Publisher:
Palgrave Macmillan
Publication date:
10/30/2007
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.87(d)

What People are Saying About This

Richard Carwardine
"As a leading lawyer and an architect of the new Republican party in Illinois, Abraham Lincoln rarely felt the twin demands of electoral politics and the law more forcefully than in 1856, or met them with more purpose. Julie Fenster tells the interwoven story of that year's election campaign and the lurid case of a murdered Springfield blacksmith with compelling verve."--(Richard Carwardine, award-winning author of Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power)
Richard E. Hart
"A real page-turner, bringing alive Lincoln's world before his national fame. Fenster transports us to 1856 Illinois, describing the colorful life of Lincoln and his fraternity of circuit riding lawyers as they try cases and help birth the Republican Party. The suspense and storytelling are remarkable. Interwoven is a murder mystery -- the story of an adulterous wife, the murder of her blacksmith husband and Lincoln's defense. Looking for the emergence of Lincoln? Look here."--(Richard E. Hart, President, Abraham Lincoln Association)

Meet the Author

Julie M. Fenster is the co-author (with Douglas Brinkley) of The New York Times bestseller Parish Priest. Her books include the award-winning Ether Day and Race of the Century. A regular contributor to American Heritage, Fenster has also written for The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in Syracuse, New York.

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Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
wordalone More than 1 year ago
The best part of this book is the rich detail about Abraham Lincoln's political life around 1856 and the life and times he experienced then. The negative part is that the title and subtitle hardly match what is inside. In fact, it is difficult to find a central theme to the book within its pages, except that it is about Lincoln in about 1856. The author tells us it is about THE Case of Lincoln? THE Case? Then, the subtitle tells us it is about adultery and murder, as if to somehow suggest, by ommission, that Lincoln is involved in both. The adultery and murder in this case is not about Lincoln, but about a family that lived in Springfield when he did. The author weaves this story in and out of seemingly unrelated information about Lincoln, except it was what he was doing at the same time. The only real link between Lincoln and this case is that he was acquaintance or relative to people involved in the legal aspects of it. It is almost like the author is searching for something new and different about Lincoln to sell and happened on this murder case and tried, in vain, to link Lincoln in some kind of meaningful way. It failed. It was also billed as the case that brought Lincoln to the public's attention. Hardly. The writing and research are good, but the book is misbilled and, after reading a dozen books about Lincoln by more known Lincoln scholars, I would say read the other first.
Lincroftmac More than 1 year ago
I enjoy reading about Lincoln. The author did her homework and gave a different perspective of the man. I would recommend this book to all. It is sensative, enlighting and deals more with the man than with his relations to his family, etc.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Still though if you are looking for things related to Abraham Lincoln this is a book for you. If you are looking for a book about Lincoln himself I suggest 101 facts about Lincoln.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having just finished this book, I am filled with disappointment. While it purports to be a steamy tale of intrigue and murder closely involved with the life of Lincoln, the book is instead 90% boring political diatribe and 10% inadequately-reported murder mystery. The author switches subjects and locations from one paragraph to another in a dizzying display of poor writing. As for the case itself, Lincoln was only tangentially involved in the trial, and it is not until the last 40 pages or so that we get any good reading. The book is also filled with typographical errors which spellcheck could have fixed if anyone had cared enough to employ it. All in all a pathetic book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Case of Abraham Lincoln is a fascinating glimpse into the political world and the criminal justice system of 1850s Illinois. In 1856 George Anderson is found murdered in his own back yard the prime suspects are Anderson's wife and nephew at the same time Abraham Lincoln is at the center of the forming of the Republican party and the rebirth of his political career. Julie M. Fenster sheds light on the two careers of Lincoln: lawyer and politican and the difficulties that Lincoln faced being both on the same time. Great details on how trails were conducted in the mid-nineteenth century and how political campigns were run.