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A Presidential Life by James M. McPherson

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A Presidential Life by James M. McPherson

 

 

America’s leading Civil War historian offers a compact, insightful biography of Abraham Lincoln.

FEBRUARY 2009
Biography/American History
128 pp.
ISBN:  978-0-19-537452-0
$14.95

Marking the two-hundredth anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, this marvelous short biography by a leading historian offers an illuminating portrait of one of the giants in the American story. Pulitzer Prize-winning author James M. McPherson follows the son of Thomas Lincoln and Nancy Hanks from his early years in Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois, to his highly successful law career and his marriage to Mary Todd, to his one term in Congress. We witness the dramatic impact the Kansan-Nebraska Act had on Lincoln, arousing him “as he had never been before,” leading him to plunge back into politics as a leader of the Republican anti-slavery movement. In 1858, Lincoln ran for Senator in Illinois as a Republican, challenging Stephen A. Douglas (a long acquaintance and former rival for the hand of Mary Todd) to a series of famous debates. Lincoln lost the election, but politically his star rose even higher, and he became a candidate for president in 1860, winning the presidency despite garnering less than 40% of the popular vote, and no votes at all in ten southern states. McPherson describes Lincoln’s masterful role as Commander-in-Chief during the Civil War, the writing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and his assassination by John Wilkes Booth.

A final section discusses his lasting legacy and why he remains a quintessential American hero two hundred years after his birth, while a bibliography and a list of online resources permit easy access to further scholarship. McPherson here provides an ideal short account of Lincoln—a compelling biography of a man of humble origins who preserved our nation during its greatest catastrophe and ended the scourge of slavery.

James M. McPherson is the George Henry Davis ‘86 Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University. He has published numerous volumes on the Civil War, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom, Crossroads of Freedom (which was a New York Times bestseller), Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, and For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, which won the Lincoln Prize.