Once upon a time, while driving to Chicago to meet some Goodreaders in the real-life, honest-to-goodness, corporeal flesh for the very first time, I happened upon Diane Rehm's interview with George McGovern on NPR (regarding this, his slender biography of Abraham Lincoln). The point is that hearing this interview made me want to read McGovern's book, so I stored it away in my mental filing system -- which is already hopelessly cluttered with porn site passwords and Brady Bunch trivia -- and I finally retrieved it now that I am embarking upon my American presidents reading project. This is the second book in that project (the first being Roy Jenkins' execrable Franklin Delano Roosevelt from the same New York Times-published presidential biography series as this one), and it is a dramatic improvement in writing ability. He certainly addresses (and problematizes) Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, his censorship of the press, and his exceptional use of wartime powers, but this does little to diminish the overall portrait of Lincoln, a man whose perseverance, intellect, and (yes) wisdom ensured that the U.S. would survive its most difficult challenge thus far (and, it is hoped, for all time). Or a mitigated defense of the Confederate South on the basis that the Civil War was a (continuing) struggle for states rights and an attack on the Southern way of life? Yes, but the states right in question, let's never forget, was the right to maintain the legality of slavery (which was not even threatened at the time).
This may be the best book in the Times Books American Presidents Series, and surprisingly it was written by a politician, presidential candidate George McGovern. Still, George McGoverns Abraham Lincoln beats the odds. McGovern was eighty-six years old in 2008, when he completed Abraham Lincoln. Faced with the task of presenting such a large subject in within the confines of a short biography, McGovern chose the option of organizing Lincolns presidency into thematic chapters which are also vaguely chronological: Lincoln and the Union, Lincoln and Emancipation, Lincoln and Total War, and Politics in Wartime.
This short history gives us a view of Lincoln from his days in New Salem Illinois through his days as an attorney in Springfield, his traveling on the circuit court in rural Illinois, his first experiences in politics, his election to US President, his times as Commander in Chief of the US Army during the civil war, and lastly his contribution to the passage of the 13th amendment.
This book offers many of the same insights as Lincoln, but its comprehensive view on Lincoln's life puts the last 6 months (the time the movie looks at) into perspective.
Abraham Lincoln is the sixteenth book in The American Presidents series a biographical series chronicling the Presidents of the United States. Abraham Lincoln was an American statesman, politician, and lawyer who served as the sixteenth president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. After serving in the Illinois state legislature, he won election to the U.S. Congress in 1846, but lost support by challenging President James Polk on the origins of the Mexican War and lasted only one term. Still McGoverns overall depiction is one of a complex, tolerant and extraordinary man who simultaneously preserved the Union and transformed the nation.
Abraham Lincoln In The American Presidents Series Note: This review was originally posted on January 19, 2009. I am writing this review of George McGovern's new short biography of Abraham Lincoln on the eve of the upcoming presidential inauguration. At this time of transition and difficulty, it is fitting to consider our greatest president and the qualities he displayed in uniting and shaping our nation and in bringing about a "new birth of freedom." McGovern's book is part of the American Presidents series of short biographies of each of our nation's presidents. The series offers a way to consider each president, whether famous or little-known, and to reflect upon his accomplishments and on the nature of leadership. For a short book, McGovern gives substantial attention to Lincoln's early years up to his return to politics in 1854 following Congressional enactment of Stephen Douglas's Kansas-Nebraska Act. McGovern also describes succinctly the outbreak of the Civil War following Lincoln's election, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the change in character of the Civil War from a restrained conflict with limited goals to a near "total war". McGovern properly credits Lincoln and the country for holding a presidential election in the midst of the civil war and its turmoil. In short studies of Lincoln, McGovern's book will be compared to a new biography "Abraham Lincoln" (2009) by James McPherson. With our nation in the midst of economic and political difficulties, it is inspiring to return to our history and to consider anew Lincoln, leadership, and American ideals.
This book seemed to focus on Lincoln as a writer and speaker and I came to appreciate how he used words concisely to move an idea forward in our country.
After working to build a voter list for the party, McGovern ran for the House of Representatives in 1956, successfully defeating the Republican incumbent. Running again in 1972, he succeeded in winning the Democratic Party presidential nomination, only to be defeated by Republican President Richard Nixon in a landslide.