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Lincolnby David Herbert Donald
Synopses & Reviews
David Herbert Donald's Lincoln is a
stunningly original portrait of Lincoln's life
and presidency. Donald brilliantly
depicts Lincoln's gradual ascent from humble
beginnings in rural Kentucky to the ever- expanding
political circles in Illinois, and finally to the
presidency of a country divided by civil war.
Donald goes beyond biography, illuminating the
gradual development of Lincoln's character,
chronicling his tremendous capacity for evolution
and growth, thus illustrating what made it possible
for a man so inexperienced and so unprepared
for the presidency to become a great moral leader.
In the most troubled of times, here was a man
who led the country out of slavery and preserved
a shattered Union — in short, one of the greatest
presidents this country has ever seen.
The phenomenal national bestseller that is "the Lincoln biography for this generation" (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.)--now in paperback. Drawing on resources not available until recently--including Lincoln's personal papers, archives, and newspaper reports--two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Herbert Donald presents a masterful account of Lincoln's rise to the presidency and the political and personal challenges he faced while in office.
A masterful work by Pulitzer Prize–winning author David Herbert Donald, Lincoln is a stunning portrait of Abraham Lincoln’s life and presidency.
Donald brilliantly depicts Lincoln’s gradual ascent from humble beginnings in rural Kentucky to the ever-expanding political circles in Illinois, and finally to the presidency of a country divided by civil war. Donald goes beyond biography, illuminating the gradual development of Lincoln’s character, chronicling his tremendous capacity for evolution and growth, thus illustrating what made it possible for a man so inexperienced and so unprepared for the presidency to become a great moral leader. In the most troubled of times, here was a man who led the country out of slavery and preserved a shattered Union—in short, one of the greatest presidents this country has ever seen.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -686) and index.
About the Author
A Note to Readers:
I hesitated for a long time before deciding to write a
biography of Abraham Lincoln. There were already
thousands of books on the subject, and many of them
were excellent. Some were monumental, like the
ten-volume Abraham Lincoln: A History (1890), by John G.
Nicolay and John Hay. A few, like Lincoln the President
(4 vols. 1945-55), by J. G. Randall and Richard N.
Current, were masterworks of historical research.
But most of these books were written before the
publication of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln,
edited by Roy P. Basler (9 vols.; 1953-55), which provided
the first authentic texts of all of Lincoln's voluminous
personal papers, long sealed in the vaults of
the Library of Congress. These manuscripts included
thousands of letters that came across the desk of the
Civil War president, from other members of the
government, from soldiers in thearmies, and from private
citizens. The opening of these papers in 1947
made it possible to understand just how Lincoln functioned
in the White House. Now, for the first time, a
historian could learn (to borrow a phrase from a later,
unhappy administration) just what the president knew
and when he knew it.
Even more recently it has become possible to
reconstruct Lincoln's career at the bar, which was the
basis both of his income and of his political success.
The Lincoln Legal Papers (an organization of expert
legal researchers) has collected thousands of documents
relating to every legal case in which Lincoln was
involved, and we can now trace the growth of Lincoln's
skill as a lawyer and the evolution of his distinctive
Finding the new sources so plentiful, I concluded
that a new biography was called for. I wanted to write
a narrative account of Lincoln's life, one almost novelistic
in form, though every statement would be buttressed
by fact. My intention was to tell the story of
Lincoln's life as he saw it, making use only of the
information and ideas that were available to him at
the time. My purpose was to explain rather than to
In telling the story from Lincoln's perspective, I
became increasingly impressed by Lincoln's fatalism.
Lincoln believed, along with Shakespeare, that "there's
a divinity that shapes our ends,/Rough-hew them as we
will." Again and again, he felt that his major decisions
were forced upon him. Late in the Civil War, he
explained to a Kentucky friend: "I claim not to have
controlled events, but confess plainly that events have
controlled me." This does not mean, of course, that
Abraham Lincoln was inactive or inert, nor does it
imply that he was incapable of taking decisive action.
But this view — which is something that began to
emerge from his own words, and not a thesis that I
originally started out with — emphasizes the importance
of Lincoln's deeply held religious beliefs and his
reliance on a Higher Power.
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