Chicago Tribune It's unlikely that anyone today knows more about Lincoln than David Herbert Donald...."We Are Lincoln Men" bristles with erudition....This book contains much to entertain a broad popular audience.
Civil War Times A wise, provocative, and scrupulously judicious book that...probes insightfully into Lincoln's complex personality and ponders its impact on the Civil War era.
The New York Times Book Review Engaging...David Herbert Donald writes about Lincoln with unmatched authority....In short, he has given us a good book to read. He has also given us a good book to argue with.
The Washington Post Book World Enlightening...insightful...The portrait of Lincoln that emerges from the observations of those who knew him best....Donald writes with clarity and grace.
We define ourselves by our choice of friends. Lincoln biographer David Herbert Donald, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, demonstrates the validity of that old saw in a unique biography that presents Abraham Lincoln through the perceptions of his closest friends. In a sense, though, We Are Lincoln Men is a group portrait, a close-up of Honest Abe's most trusted inner circle. Donald focuses on six associates: Joshua Speed, William H. Herndon, Orville H. Browning, William H. Seward, John Nicolay, and John Hay. The depth of these friendships is perhaps indicated by the strength of their responses to the president's assassination: Three of the six friends profiled wrote extensive Lincoln biographies.
According to We Are Lincoln Men, the insightful new work by Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer David Herbert Donald, the Civil War president found little sanctuary in the company of friends. Raised in rural isolation and suffering the loss of his mother at a young age, Lincoln had difficulty forming intimate friendships. The author rightly notes that Lincoln's reserve kept all but a very few from drawing close to him. Basing his analysis on both traditional historical sources and the psychological literature on friendship, Donald concludes that the president was deprived of the advice and support that might have helped him avoid some of his administration's early missteps.
Michael F. Bishop
Donald writes about Lincoln with unmatched authority … David Herbert Donald has given us a good book to read. He has also given us a good book to argue with.
William Lee Miller
Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Donald delivers a highly readable portrait of Lincoln's closest friendships in a volume that nicely complements his preeminent biography of our 16th president. Donald's focus is on six key players: Joshua Speed, William H. Herndon, Orville H. Browning, William H. Seward and the president's private secretaries, John Nicolay and John Hay. With regard to the young Springfield entrepreneur Speed, Donald astutely dismantles the so-called "evidence" for a homoerotic relationship, pointing out that during the four years Speed and Lincoln shared a room and a bed (then a common practice among budget-conscious young men) both were quite energetically involved in quests for wives. Interestingly, no less than three of the six friends delineated by Donald also became Lincoln's biographers. William H. Herndon-about whom Donald has previously written a book-started out as Lincoln's law partner in the fall of 1844 and wound up doing vital, sometimes scandalous, sometimes spurious research culminating in a seminal biography published in 1889. The work of Nicolay and Hay was primarily intended to refute much of Herndon's scandalous accounts regarding Lincoln's lineage, frontier romances and unhappy marriage. Perhaps the most complex and informative of Donald's portraits is that of Orville Browning, a longtime Springfield associate and fellow attorney who served briefly as senator from Illinois during Lincoln's first term and whom Lincoln passed over no less than three times when given the opportunity to nominate him to the Supreme Court. Friendship had its limits. Agent, John Taylor Williams. (Nov. 10) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This short and tasty book casts new light on the country's enigmatic 16th president and introduces readers to the range and wealth of Lincoln scholarship, one of the great accomplishments of American historical studies. The central concept of the book that Lincoln can be better understood by studying his friendships is sound. Unfortunately, Donald tries to gussy things up with references to pedestrian "scientific" models of friendship and attempts to see whether Lincoln's friendships match the models an enterprise of dubious value. Donald is at his best when he uses his formidable learning and sharp judgment to sift a century and a half of scholarship and memoir to give us new appreciation of Lincoln's character and achievement.
Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Donald (emeritus, Harvard) casts a fascinating portrait of Lincoln and his friends and reconsiders much Lincoln lore in this wholly original study. Borrowing from Aristotle's typology of friendship, the author discovers that Lincoln had many "enjoyable" and "useful" friendships but few "complete" ones wherein he might share hopes, wishes, ideas, fears, and intimacies. By Donald's reckoning, Lincoln was an intensely private man, almost unknowable to his friends and still elusive to biographers. Donald looks closely at six friendships from Lincoln's early days as a lawyer to his last days as President and concludes that in almost all cases Lincoln adopted a mentoring relationship. Donald also explores issues of homosexuality, love and marriage, wartime policy, and more and concludes that Lincoln's lack of close friendships before his presidency hampered his ability to manage the secession crisis, rely on his cabinet, or pick his vice president in 1864. The self-assured Lincoln acted on his own ideas, instincts, and interests in deciding policy, which sometimes led to tactical errors in politics and war but in the end saved the Union and pointed the nation to a new birth of freedom. A book of rare clarity, intelligence, and relevance for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/03.]-Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"How could a man who had no friends be also a man who had nothing but friends?" asks Lincoln scholar Donald as he ponders the Great Emancipator's essential loneliness. After Lincoln was assassinated, writes Donald (American History & American Civilization/Harvard; Lincoln, 1995, etc.), plenty of people stepped forward to claim that they had been among his closest friends, and indeed Lincoln had a gift for making just about anyone who did not really know him feel right at home. Yet just about everyone who truly did know him sensed that Lincoln drew from a deep well of reserve and apartness; as his former law partner William Herndon, who shared an office with Lincoln for 16 years, remarked, "He was the most reticent and mostly secretive man that ever existed; he never opened his whole soul to any man; he never touched the history or quality of his own nature in the presence of his friends." Several events formed and reinforced Lincoln's solitude. Growing up on the frontier, with few agemates or playmates, Lincoln lacked intimate friends in his childhood; Donald writes that "boys who do not have chums often have difficulty in establishing close, warm friendships, and there is some evidence that such boys are more likely to suffer from depression in later years"as Lincoln surely did. Add to this the loss of his mother at an early age and what the evidence suggests was an essentially loveless marriage to Mary Todd (whom Donald treats with some sympathy, but who nevertheless emerges as a basically disagreeable person), and Lincoln's melancholic loneliness seemed all but foreordained. Yet he did have friends of a fashion, and he relied on six in particularJoshua F. Speed, Herndon,Orville H. Browning, William H. Seward, John Hay, and John G. Nicolayfor advice, solace, and even love. (Of a kind: Donald disputes current theories that Lincoln was gay.) His interactions with those six, revealed through a blend of anecdote and hard-won documentary evidence, form the heart of Donald's well-paced narrative. A rare psychobiography that does not strain the bounds of credulity. First printing of 150,000. Agent: John Taylor Williams