Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Lincoln Talk and Books

Here is my talk on Mr. Lincoln at the Ashbrook Lunch on the 12th. This is the local paper’s account of the talk.

My friends and neighbors--including students--willing to give me a hearing were gracious and many good private conversations have happened as a result, from taverns to supermarkets. Even though the bias--for which I am grateful--in this Whig area of the country (the town is named after Henry Clay’s estate in Kentucky) is in favor of Lincoln--both his mind and ways--it is fair to say many are surprised by Lincoln’s facility of expression and lucidity of thought. I meant to use his characterization of Douglas’ popular sovereignty, but forgot: "as thin as homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pidgeon that had starved to death."

A number of folks have asked me to list a few history books about Lincoln that are accessible to the general reader. So here are a few:

Allen Guelzo’s Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President has to rank as one of the best biographies, along with Charnwood’s Biography, which might be a bit off-putting to some because the prose is less familiar today (originally published in 1916); yet he captures the essence of his statesmanship and character as well as anyone. I think Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals is very good for the period of presidency; it is never misleading, and reads like a novel. This very short biography James McPherson is quite good. I didn’t think it possible to be able to do it in under seventy pages! Allen Guelzo’s Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction is almost as short, and is also excellent. Another just published biography, well written and not short, is by Ronald C. White.

Discussions - 3 Comments

Thanks for a thought-provoking presentation. We enjoyed it in person and will enjoy listening again.

Unfortunately, the link does not work to your talk, Pete.

I finished White's new book last week, and I enjoyed it very much. I also have Donald's full biography and the one-volume Sandburg, both of which I've read in the past few years. I learned some things from White's book, though whether he provided information the others didn't or I just forgot reading about those things before, I couldn't say. :)

I've now started the first of the two books of Lincoln's Speeches and Writings in the Library of America series. Funny, how he was railing against Democratic corruption in Washington back in the 1830s. Well, not funny.

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