Lincoln and the Abolitionists: John Quincy Adams, Slavery, and the Civil War

Lincoln and the Abolitionists: John Quincy Adams, Slavery, and the Civil War

by Fred Kaplan

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Overview

Lincoln and the Abolitionists: John Quincy Adams, Slavery, and the Civil War by Fred Kaplan

“[Kaplan] tells this story with precision and eloquence.” Seattle Times

“An eye-opening biography from a trusted source on the topic.” Kirkus Review

“Elegantly written and thoroughly researched.” Publishers Weekly

The acclaimed biographer, with a thought-provoking exploration of how Abraham Lincoln’s and John Quincy Adams’ experiences with slavery and race shaped their differing viewpoints, provides both perceptive insights into these two great presidents and a revealing perspective on race relations in modern America.

Lincoln, who in afterlife became mythologized as the Great Emancipator, was shaped by the values of the white America into which he was born. While he viewed slavery as a moral crime abhorrent to American principles, he disapproved of anti-slavery activists. Until the last year of his life, he advocated "voluntary deportation," concerned that free blacks in a white society would result in centuries of conflict. In 1861, he had reluctantly taken the nation to war to save it. While this devastating struggle would preserve the Union, it would also abolish slavery—creating the biracial democracy Lincoln feared. John Quincy Adams, forty years earlier, was convinced that only a civil war would end slavery and preserve the Union. An antislavery activist, he had concluded that a multiracial America was inevitable.

Lincoln and the Abolitionists, a frank look at Lincoln, "warts and all," provides an in-depth look at how these two presidents came to see the issues of slavery and race, and how that understanding shaped their perspectives. In a far-reaching historical narrative, Fred Kaplan offers a nuanced appreciation of both these great men and the events that have characterized race relations in America for more than a century—a legacy that continues to haunt us all.

The book has a colorful supporting cast from the relatively obscure Dorcas Allen, Moses Parsons, Violet Parsons, Theophilus Parsons, Phoebe Adams, John King, Charles Fenton Mercer, Phillip Doddridge, David Walker, Usher F. Linder, and H. Ford Douglas to Elijah Lovejoy, Francis Scott Key, William Channing, Wendell Phillips, and Rufus King. The cast includes Hannibal Hamlin, Lincoln’s first vice president, and James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson, the two presidents on either side of Lincoln. And it includes Abigail Adams, John Adams, Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and Frederick Douglass, who hold honored places in the American historical memory.

The subject of this book is slavery and racism, the paradox of Lincoln, our greatest president, as an antislavery moralist who believed in an exclusively white America; and Adams, our most brilliant statesman, as an antislavery activist who had no doubt that the United States would become a multiracial nation. It is as much about the present as the past.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062440020
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/12/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 776,136
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Fred Kaplan is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, which was named a Best Book of the Year by the New York Times and Washington Post, among other publications. His biography of Thomas Carlyle was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Maine.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

1 A Continual Torment 1

2 The First American Martyr 27

3 A Difficult Year 46

4 A Field of Blood 76

5 The Distant Goal 116

6 The African Mirage 153

7 The Constitutional Rag 199

8 The Ameliorative President 240

9 Soft Inducement 275

10 The Ultimate Gradualists 306

Acknowledgments 337

Notes 341

Index 367

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