Father Abraham: Lincoln's Relentless Struggle to End Slavery

Richard Striner, Author . Oxford Univ. $28 (308p) ISBN 978-0-19-518306-1

An influential interpretation regards Lincoln as a cautious moderate, encumbered by the bigotries of his day, whose lukewarm antislavery principles took a backseat to the mission of preserving the Union. Passionately rejecting this view, historian Striner (The Civic Deal: Re-Empowering Our Great Republic ) extols Lincoln as a "moral visionary" and "Machiavellian" genius who advanced the abolitionist cause as fast as political realities allowed. Close readings of Lincoln's speeches and writings, he contends, reveal a steadfast defense of blacks' humanity and fundamental rights; once in office, Lincoln seized every opening afforded by the Civil War to push for emancipation and an increasingly expansive agenda of black political rights. Inverting the conventional wisdom, Striner insists that Lincoln considered the cause of the Union a vehicle for furthering emancipation. Striner confronts some awkward facts, like Lincoln's disavowal of social equality for blacks, his flirtation with schemes to ship free blacks overseas and his public statements that emancipation was less important than saving the Union, but pegs these as purely tactical concessions to white racial animosities. Such resolutions sometimes seem too pat, but Striner's nuanced exploration of Lincoln's words and deeds makes a stimulating case for the greatness of his conscience—resolutely practical, but ever attuned to the better angels of his nature. Photos. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 12/05/2005
Release date: 02/01/2006
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Paperback - 308 pages - 978-0-19-532539-3
Open Ebook - 308 pages - 978-1-280-53311-2
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