Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power

Richard Carwardine, Author . Knopf $27.50 (416p) ISBN 978-1-4000-4456-6

The heart of this powerful book details Lincoln's election to and years in the White House. In describing his campaign for president, Oxford historian Carwardine (Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America ) recreates the intense party politics of the mid-19th century. The newly formed Republican Party was home to Americans with many different political agendas, and Lincoln's "blend of constitutional conservatism and high-minded... moralism" was a good basis for coalition. Carwardine pays careful attention to Lincoln's religious views, arguing that war brought him into close contact with evangelicals, who argued that the president would only succeed in reuniting the country if he obeyed God's word. Carwardine also traces the evolution of Lincoln's thinking about slavery—though he embraced emancipation first because winning the war required it, by the time he was killed Lincoln had edged toward black men's suffrage. One closes this powerful biography wondering how postbellum politics might have been different were it not for that fateful gunshot on April 14, 1865. Cawardine's Lincoln Prize–winning study is not only analytical and smart, it's also delightfully readable—and it will surely emerge as one of the most important Lincoln books to be published this decade. 74 b&w photos, 3 maps. (Jan. 13)

Reviewed on: 11/21/2005
Release date: 01/01/2006
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