Lincoln: A President for the Ages
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The First American. Frontiersman and backwoods attorney. Teller of bawdy tales and a spellbinding orator. A champion of liberty some called a would-be tyrant. Savior of the Union and the Great Emancipator. All these are Abraham Lincoln—in his time America’s most admired and reviled leader, and still our nation’s most enigmatic and captivating hero.
Timed to complement the new motion picture Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg, Lincoln: A President for the Ages introduces a new Lincoln grappling with some of history’s greatest challenges. Would Lincoln have dropped the bomb on Hiroshima? How would he conduct the War on Terror? Would he favor women’s suffrage or gay rights? Would today’s Lincoln be a star on Facebook and Twitter? Would he embrace the religious right—or denounce it?
The answers come from an all-star array of historians and scholars, including Jean Baker, Richard Carwardine, Dan Farber, Andrew Ferguson, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Allen C. Guelzo, Harold Holzer, James Malanowski, James Tackach, Frank J. Williams, and Douglas L. Wilson. Lincoln also features actor/activist Gloria Reuben describing how she played Elizabeth Keckley, the former-slave-turned-confidante of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln; and a selection of speeches and letters that explore little-known sides of Lincoln; “The Faces of Lincoln,” exploring his complex contemporary legacy.
Whether you’re a lifetime admirer of Lincoln or newly intrigued by his story, Lincoln: A President for the Ages offers a fascinating glimpse of his many-sided legacy.
white abolitionists hated more than slavery was the slave. While this was meant to criticize their white associates for unconscious forms of racism, it is certainly true that many white abolitionists treated black people paternalistically. But at least they advocated emancipation, both immediate and gradual, and in theory called for racial equality, even if they often had a difficult time realizing it in their personal relations with actual former slaves. What’s more, many of the abolitionists
on the penny and the five-dollar bill, the disembodied granite head on Mount Rushmore, the nineteen-foot-tall figure of Georgia white marble grandly enthroned in Washington, and the filmed embodiments by actors from Walter Huston and Raymond Massey to Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, and Sam Waterston—and now, of course, Daniel Day-Lewis in the new film, scripted by Tony Kushner and directed by Steven Spielberg, that is the occasion for the publication of this book. And let’s not exclude such
next six years, by invoking the principles of the Declaration of Independence and setting them within a framework of right and wrong, he delighted those antislavery Christians who brought to the infant Republican party a mix of the Enlightenment idealism of the Founding Fathers with New Testament theology. Lincoln’s religious correspondents in 1858, when he ran against Douglas for the US Senate seat, encouraged him to hold on to “high ground . . . up to the standard of the Christianity of the
legal and political rivals, at ease. He was everybody’s favorite colleague at the Illinois bar. He told the best stories, took the worst clients, and made the fewest demands of any of the lawyers who crowded together in the same awful country inns, sometimes several in a bed, in pursuit of business on the judicial circuit in and around Sangamon County. Although professional colleagues like William Herndon tut-tutted over Lincoln’s lack of interest in legal research and study (a fact that only
1950–1975), 240–241. For a different perspective, see James Oakes, The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007). 10 Eric Foner, ed., Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World, (New York: W. W. Norton, 2008), 156. 11 Douglass, “Abraham Lincoln,” December 1865 [holograph], Frederick Douglass Papers, Library of Congress, reel 19; Guelzo, correspondence, October 3, 2008. 12 Stauffer, Giants,