This impressive work is a splendid history of the genesis, issuance and aftermath of Lincoln's epoch-making Emancipation Proclamation. Not surprisingly, it focuses on the president, whom Guelzo (whose Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President won the 2000 Lincoln Prize) presents in all his prudent, acute genius. As is well known, the recovery of the Union, not emancipation, was always uppermost in Lincoln's aims. Therefore, he had to convince himself that options other than emancipation-principally treating escaping slaves as contraband of war or compensating slaveholders for their freed slaves-were unworkable and likely to retard Northern victory before concluding that the slaves' emancipation would advance the cause of war as well as end an evil. The history of how Lincoln convinced himself is Guelzo's main subject. The political and legal reasoning behind Lincoln's series of hugely difficult decisions has never been presented so well before nor in such authoritative detail. And rarely has Lincoln's cautious approach seemed, paradoxically, so fit and so bold. His ability both to listen to others and to explain with clarity and eloquence why he had taken the decision he did stands out, as does his firmness of resolve in the face of violent criticism. In this fast-paced and riveting work, whose details propel rather than retard it, the president stands forth not so much as the deeply compassionate and thoughtful man he was but rather as a man of inordinate understanding of his fellow citizens and of the needs of his fractured nation. It's hard to imagine that this book will soon be surpassed as the definitive work on its subject. Agent, Michele Rubin, Writer's House. (Feb.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
It has been almost a half century since John Hope Franklin's classic book on the Emancipation Proclamation-the last full study of that crucial document and moment in American history-and thinking has changed significantly on the means and ends of emancipation, Lincoln's ideas on slavery and race, and the politics of liberation. No longer is Lincoln the "great emancipator"; no longer are blacks passive objects of concern waiting for freedom. Here Guelzo (history, Eastern Univ.) restores Lincoln to center stage in the drama. He casts him as an Enlightenment man committed to "prudent progress" in ending slavery by working steadily to make the idea of emancipation politically possible-at the risk of his own party's political fortunes-and using presidential powers to make emancipation policy. Guelzo also finds moral grandeur in the carefully crafted document, which a generation of historians had dismissed as a dull legal instrument. In its promise, the Emancipation Proclamation was the new birth of freedom that saved and remade the Union. A book of great import to anyone who wants to recover the central meaning of the Civil War and America and needs to understand the contingencies of freedom; for all libraries.-Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A fluent study of a transformative document in American history. Guelzo (History/Eastern Univ.) views Abraham Lincoln as the last politician of the Enlightenment-that revolutionary school of thought that favored reason over religion, argued for the natural rights of humankind, and prized the little-remembered virtue of prudence, which, "unlike mere moderation, has a sense of purposeful motion and declines to be paralyzed by a preoccupation with process, even while it remains aware that there is no goal so easily attained or so fully attained that it rationalizes dispensing with process altogether." So it was, Guelzo continues, when Lincoln declared that slaves in the rebellious territories of the US were henceforth free. Lincoln's order, as many historians have observed, was written in uncharacteristically uninspired language; but, Guelzo notes, whereas the Gettysburg Address was plainly meant to thrill its audience, the Emancipation Proclamation "is a legal document, and legal documents cannot afford much in the way of flourishes. They have work to do." True enough, and Guelzo does a fine job of linking the legal complexities hidden within the document to other contemporary legal issues, such as Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Controversies surrounding the Proclamation developed not just in the courtroom, but everywhere on the Northern street; though Lincoln, asked whether he were an abolitionist, had once admitted, "I am mighty near one," most of his compatriots were more concerned with preserving the Union than with freeing slaves and indeed actively opposed the latter. Yet Lincoln braved the act, despite fears that the federal army might rise up against him in acoup and certainty that he would court plenty of enemies in the bargain. Of particular interest to legal-minded readers are the various drafts of the Proclamation that Guelzo includes as appendixes, which tell a story all their own. Thoughtful and readable: a valuable contribution to Civil War-era history. Agent: Michele Rubin/Writers House
"A brisk and elegant narrative that is likely to stand for some time as the definitive account of Lincoln's noblest achievement. . . . Guelzo's book succeeds in restoring emancipation to its historical context. . . . He has provided the best account to date of the political virtuosity and unswerving idealism that gave Lincoln his victory in the difficult battle to destroy slavery." Los Angeles Times
"Immediately takes its place not only as the newest study of emancipation, but far and away, the very best." Harold Holzer, Civil War Book Review
"Most if not all of the preceding works [on the Emancipation Proclamation] will now pale with the publication of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation by [this] highly respected Lincoln scholar . . . With this volume, decades of misunderstanding about Lincoln's most controversial action now give way to exactly what Lincoln's proclamation was, for then and for all times." Richmond Times-Dispatch
"The complex story of how the war to preserve the Union evolved into a war to give that Union 'a new birth of freedom' has been told many times but never so well." James M. McPherson