Lincoln’s Mentors: The Education of a Leader

Michael J. Gerhardt. Custom House, $29.99 (496p) ISBN 978-0-06-287719-2
University of North Carolina law professor Gerhardt (The Forgotten Presidents) profiles the politicians and lawyers who influenced Abraham Lincoln in this well-researched yet unfocused history. Contending that Lincoln “was not born to greatness but earned his way, his map drawn by the men, books, plays, and poetry that he took inspiration and instruction from,” Gerhardt identifies five key mentors: President Andrew Jackson, Whig Party leader Henry Clay, President Zachary Taylor, and Illinois lawyers and politicians John Todd Stuart (cousin of Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Stuart) and Orville Browning. Jackson, Clay, and Taylor were strong supporters of the Union and men “always planning their next move,” Gerhardt writes, while Stuart and Browning encouraged Lincoln to study law and helped to launch his political career. Gerhardt also finds similarities between Lincoln’s rhetorical style and those of Jackson and Clay, and contends that “Lincoln’s awed recognition of Clay’s fortitude would help him again and again and again.” Close looks at Whig politics and legislative battles over slavery and secession provide genuine insights, but the selection of mentors seems somewhat arbitrary and the personal dynamics between them and Lincoln are undeveloped. The result is a solid history in search of a more coherent theme. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 10/01/2020
Release date: 02/02/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 496 pages - 978-0-06-287720-8
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