David Herbert Donald
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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.
existed if labor had not first existed.” But capital, though derivative, performed a valuable service in a free society, because those who had it could offer employment to “the prudent, penniless beginner in the world” who owned “nothing save two strong hands that God has given him, [and] a heart willing to labor.” If this novice worked industriously and behaved soberly, he could in a year or two save enough to buy land for himself, to settle, marry, and beget sons and daughters, and presently
on the part of the President. Lincoln’s low-key announcement that he regretted the arrest of Vallandigham—or, as he carefully phrased it, that he was “pained that there should have seemed to be a necessity for arresting him”—and his promise to discharge the congressman “so soon as... the public safety will not suffer by it” undercut charges of presidential tyranny and gave credence to his statement to a White House visitor that he was more of a “Chief Clerk” than a “Despot.” If Lincoln’s letter
leaders suddenly realized that they were about to adjourn without having passed any significant legislation concerning slavery, the freedmen, or reconstruction. Hastily they turned to a bill that Henry Winter Davis called “the only practical measure of emancipation proposed in this Congress.” Called the Wade-Davis bill, after the chairmen of the House and Senate committees that sponsored it, the measure asserted congressional, rather than executive control over the reconstruction process. It
concluded—without any real justification—that he was in love with Matilda Edwards. She wrote Lincoln a letter releasing him from his engagement, yet letting him know “that she would hold the question an open one—that is that she had not changed her mind, but felt as always.” Instead of feeling relieved, Lincoln was devastated. Just as Mary Owens’s refusal had caused him to suspect that he really loved her, so Mary’s letter made him realize what he had lost. He became deeply depressed. During the
more by Douglas, nobody wanted to attend another political rally. But the next day there was a meeting of respectable size, and the delegates, mostly from the northern counties, adopted a party platform. The real excitement at the convention, however, was over Lincoln’s speech. “Ichabod [Codding] raved, and Lovejoy swelled,” the Register reported, and all pronounced it “a glorious abolition speech, worthy of Ichabod himself,... [which] ought to be reiterated all over the country.” Although