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Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President (Library of Religious Biography) Paperback – December 20, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Guelzo's Abraham Lincoln tackles the president's moral and religious beliefs and focuses on the emancipation of slaves. It's a curious, even fascinating book because Lincoln, a 19th-century liberal, did not adhere to an organized religion, although he frequently used biblical language to express himself. Guelzo believes Lincoln's freeing of the slaves was an act that had economic roots and superseded morality to lay down the foundations of modern capitalism as well as the Republican Party. Except for an awkward introduction, the work is easy listening a narrative of Lincoln's life that spells out his beliefs in the context of the times. Narrator Edward Lewis tries hard but is held back by the author's turgid prose. For large libraries with big budgets. James L. Dudley, Westhampton, NY
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


The Historical Journal
"Guelzo's is a satisfying portrait, perhaps because he has been a scholar of Jonathan Edwards, so is more conscious of the intellectual and political contexts that preceded and made Lincoln, but less concerned with the retrospective usefulness of Lincoln as a national icon."

Times Literary Supplement
"Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President is the best study of Lincoln's religious thought, and all the better because it situates that thought in the context of Lincoln's whole career. Guelzo's purpose is to take Lincoln seriously 'as a man of ideas.' He succeeds admirably. . . .But it is in his analysis of Lincoln's religious ideas that Guelzo makes his most important contribution."

"Guelzo's book, the first true intellectual biography of the man the author calls America's 'redeemer president,' ranks among the most significant half-dozen studies of Lincoln during a remarkable decade of scholarship. . . . Especially perceptive is Guelzo's portrayal of Lincoln's odyssey from youthful scoffer to perhaps most religious of US presidents, ever rejecting the ritual and denominational dogma of public worship but increasingly taken with a personal form of Calvinist spirituality culminating in his immortal Second Inaugural Address, arguably the most profound exploration of religious values ever penned by an American author. . . Recommended for literate readers at all levels."

>Publishers Weekly
"Is it possible that amid the voluminous literature on Abraham Lincoln, there is room for yet another study? Allen Guelzo's Abraham Lincoln eloquently proves that there is, since religion has been sorely neglected by historians of Lincoln and the Civil War."

The Wall Street Journal
"The number of books about Abraham Lincoln is almost beyond counting. . . Unique among this outpouring is Allen C. Guelzo's 'Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President,' an intellectual biography of a president who was, at bottom, a man of ideas. . . Interestingly, for Lincoln the mixing of moralism and politics came rather late. . . With the approach of the Civil War, he began to make use of religious imagery in his public statements, while the war itself seemed to provoke in him something close to a religious quest to discover its meaning. Dissecting this quest forms the core of 'Redeemer President,' and the job Mr. Guelzo does of it is masterly. . . It is a testament to the strength of 'Redeemer President' that the matters it addresses resist easy summary. The value of the book itself, however, is easy enough to state: Out of the countless volumes written about our 16th president, it ranks quite simply among the best."

The Weekly Standard
"One of the subtlest and deepest studies of Lincoln's faith and thought in many years. . . Seldom has the complex connection between Lincoln's predispositions and Lincoln's achievements been more insightfully studied than in Allen Guelzo's superb book."

Wilson Quarterly
"This rich and subtle study of Lincoln's intellectual life well deserves to have received the prestigious Lincoln Prize; it is superb."

The Historian
"With the freshness of insight often afforded scholars who cross disciplinary boundaries, the author, a student of intellectual and religious history, makes an important contribution to the field of Lincoln studies. . . This is a thoughtful, engaging, and provocative book that will enlighten both Civil War specialists and students of American history."

>The Filson Club History Quarterly
"This co-winner of the 1999 Lincoln Prize is a subtle, insightful, and convincing analysis of Abraham Lincoln. . . .Guelzo's analysis is sound and generally convincing. . . This is one of the most important books in a decade rich in Lincoln scholarship."

The Journal of Southern History
"Is there really a place for yet another work on Abraham Lincoln? Allen C. Guelzo has superbly demonstrated that there is. . . Not only does the reader of this volume learn much about Lincoln but also about those intertwining economic, intellectual, political, and religious aspects of American life that so influenced the thought of Abraham Lincoln and others in the nineteenth century. This book deserves its rightful place among other exemplary Lincoln biographies."

Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
"Solid, well-reasearched, and thought provoking. A welcome addition to our ceaseless national fascination with Kentucky's most famous citizen. . . The millennial scholarship on Lincoln is off to an excellent start."

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Product Details

  • Series: Library of Religious Biography
  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (December 20, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802842933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802842930
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #291,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 126 people found the following review helpful By Sean Winnie on December 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I've never written one of these reviews before but having just finished this book I feel compelled to sing its praises. I have also never been a big fan of biographies as a genre, but given this book as an unexpected gift I thought I'd make a go of it.
I made the mistake of reading one of the appendices of this book before starting it. This appendix detailed the many prior attempts to put Lincoln's life into one or two volumes and the consequent warping of the details and ideas of his life by these biographers. It was enough to plant a seed of doubt in anyone's mind that justice could be done to Lincoln's life as a biography.
But after the introduction to this book, the reader is easily reassured that this is no ordinary biography - it focuses in a very analytical way on the culture and community philosophy of 19th century America and brings the details of Lincoln's life into play only within that context. It never sinks into outright eulogies or worship of Lincoln, but rather takes pains to emphasize his conflicting priorities, and above all his humanity. It is an approach that makes one appreciate Lincoln much more than if he were simply praised for 400 pages.
I was infatuated with this book from beginning to end, and am already planning on reading it again.
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Allen Guelzo has written a masterly and long-overdue intellectual biography of a leader whose political, moral and religious thought shaped and guided our nation at the time of its greatest crisis. Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President traces every important thread in the formation of Lincoln's intellectual development, and sets each in the context of historical events and the main currents of American thought. Guelzo's remarkable and important book should be read by all students of American history, period, and by anyone with any pretension to understand the intellectual history of this country.
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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Scott E. Rosenau on May 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Thousands of books have been written about Abraham Lincoln. These books have ranged from general biographies, multi-volume biographies, examinations of his political career, his presidency, and his views on slavery. Allen Guelzo, in this excellent book, gives us an ideological look at the 16th president. Most historians have ignored Lincoln as a philosophical thinker and Guelzo tries to open up this aspect of Lincoln's character and thought. Examining Lincoln's moral and religious beliefs and how they evolved, Guelzo portrays Lincoln, not as a religious skeptic or as a Christian Redeemer as other biographers have, but as a seeker. Throughout his life, according to Guelzo, Lincoln is looking for a religious structure that he can believe in, but never finds one that meets his needs. Lincoln continues to sense a feeling of inadequacy as the beliefs from his predestinarian Calvinist background give him a sense that he was not one of the elect. This predestinarian background also makes Lincoln feel that, in Lincoln's words, "events have controlled me." During the Civil War, it is this sense of inevitability and predetermination that guides Lincoln in many of his anti-slavery and reconstruction policies. Lincoln sees himself as a tool in bringing about God's will, even though he doubts that he will achieve salvation.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
Biographies of Abraham Lincoln have tended to fall into two broad categories. The first category consists of biographies of the "subjective" Lincoln. These biographies are based largely on the many anecdotes and stories people told about Lincoln's life, typically during the early years in Illinois and concentrate on trying to explore Lincoln as a man (He remains an enigma.)The second category of Lincoln biography is the political. This biography focuses on Lincoln's public actions, typically during or shortly before his Presidency and draws on the lengthy public record available during the Civil War years. This type of biographical approach tends to give short shrift to the personal approach.
In his "Abraham Lincoln, Redeemer President" Allen Guelzo points out these two approaches to Lincoln studies (p.472) and says that his book is an attempt to combine the personal and public approaches to Lincoln. Professor Guelzo, Dean of Templeton Honors Colledge and Professor of History at Eastern Universtiy, writes a primarily intellectual biography; but he tries to explore the degree to which Lincoln's thought formed his political actions.
Professor Guelzo devotes a great deal of attention to establishing Lincoln's political identity as a whig -- an admirer of both Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. From his early days in public life, Lincoln was interested in promoting economic opportunity by encouraging the free market. He supported ambitious programs of public works and public education, to develop transportation infrastructure, (canals, roads, and railroads) and to promote the growth of industry and of a middle class. The whig approach emphasized public virtue, public morality, the value of hard work, and a unified United States.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Fascinating portrait and analysis of the sixteenth president through the lens of the religious, political, economic and social issues of his day. Though a scholarly work, I found the book to be thoroughly entertaining as well. The book is a unique study of Lincoln that focuses on the development of his religious and political beliefs and how those in turn influenced his character and actions. The author's writing style and choice of vocabulary seemed to me at times a bit peculiar, but in an almost endearing sort of way.
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