A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War

Harry V. Jaffa, Author
Harry V. Jaffa, Author Rowman & Littlefield Publishers $39.95 (608p) ISBN 978-0-8476-9952-0
Reviewed on: 09/11/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 576 pages - 978-0-8476-9953-7
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At last Jaffa, professor emeritus of political philosophy at Claremont McKenna College, delivers the long-promised and very worthy sequel to his classic, Crisis of the House Divided (1958), which brilliantly synthesized the content and meaning of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. In his new work for the serious student of the 16th president's Jeffersonian interpretation of Constitutional law, Jaffa sees Lincoln's utterances in the debates as summarizing his political thinking from the time of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise (1854) up until his message to Congress on July 4, 1861. Starting with the July 4th address, Lincoln began to wrangle politically and intellectually with the legacy of John C. Calhoun andDmore specificallyDwith Calhoun's arguments for states' rights and secession. Calhoun had built a rhetoric separating states' rights from natural rights; he claimed that his new political science superseded the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist thinking and that of the Founding Fathers in general. In this book's penultimate chapterDa fascinating critique of Calhoun's paradigmDJaffa accomplishes what he set out to do and vindicates, in his own words, ""not only Lincoln's rejection of the Southern states' rights dogma but also the intrinsic validity of the natural rights of the Declaration of Independence, encompassing the proposition that all men are created equal."" This title, which features a stark and striking photo of Lincoln on its jacket, should sell on Jaffa's reputationDRowman & Littlefield is planning a substantial first printing of 10,000 copies, and the author will do promotion in California, where he lives, and in Washington, D.C. (Nov.)
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