Allen C. Guelzo, Author . Simon & Schuster $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7432-2182-5

This impressive work is a splendid history of the genesis, issuance and aftermath of Lincoln's epoch-making Emancipation Proclamation. Not surprisingly, it focuses on the president, whom Guelzo (whose Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President won the 2000 Lincoln Prize) presents in all his prudent, acute genius. As is well known, the recovery of the Union, not emancipation, was always uppermost in Lincoln's aims. Therefore, he had to convince himself that options other than emancipation—principally treating escaping slaves as contraband of war or compensating slaveholders for their freed slaves—were unworkable and likely to retard Northern victory before concluding that the slaves' emancipation would advance the cause of war as well as end an evil. The history of how Lincoln convinced himself is Guelzo's main subject. The political and legal reasoning behind Lincoln's series of hugely difficult decisions has never been presented so well before nor in such authoritative detail. And rarely has Lincoln's cautious approach seemed, paradoxically, so fit and so bold. His ability both to listen to others and to explain with clarity and eloquence why he had taken the decision he did stands out, as does his firmness of resolve in the face of violent criticism. In this fast-paced and riveting work, whose details propel rather than retard it, the president stands forth not so much as the deeply compassionate and thoughtful man he was but rather as a man of inordinate understanding of his fellow citizens and of the needs of his fractured nation. It's hard to imagine that this book will soon be surpassed as the definitive work on its subject. Agent, Michele Rubin, Writer's House. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/24/2003
Release date: 02/01/2004
Open Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-4165-4795-2
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-7432-6297-2
Paperback - 377 pages - 978-0-7432-9965-7
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