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Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 50th Anniversary Edition [Paperback]

by Harry V. Jaffa
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 15, 2009 0226391183 978-0226391182 Enlarged

Crisis of the House Divided is the standard historiography of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Harry Jaffa provides the definitive analysis of the political principles that guided Lincoln from his reentry into politics in 1854 through his Senate campaign against Douglas in 1858. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the original publication, Jaffa has provided a new introduction.

"Crisis of the House Divided has shaped the thought of a generation of Abraham Lincoln and Civil War scholars."—Mark E. Needly, Jr., Civil War History

"An important book about one of the great episodes in the history of the sectional controversy. It breaks new ground and opens a new view of Lincoln's significance as a political thinker."—T. Harry Williams, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences

"A searching and provocative analysis of the issues confronted and the ideas expounded in the great debates. . . . A book which displays such learning and insight that it cannot fail to excite the admiration even of scholars who disagree with its major arguments and conclusions."—D. E. Fehrenbacher, American Historical Review


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Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 50th Anniversary Edition + Lincoln's Tragic Pragmatism: Lincoln, Douglas, and Moral Conflict
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Four hundred pages of close textual analysis, biography and political philosophy, the book transformed the scholarly understanding of Lincoln, placing the prairie lawyer on a level with Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, and the other founders.”

(Forbes 2009-07-17)

"A book that will never die--a genuine landmark in American thought. It's the greatest Lincoln book ever. No foolin'."
(Andrew Ferguson)

"One of the most influential works of American history and political philosophy ever published."
(National Review)

About the Author

Harry Jaffa is Henry Salvatori Research Professor of Political Philosophy Emeritus at Claremont McKenna College.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Enlarged edition (April 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226391183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226391182
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 3.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #333,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book That Could Change Your Life September 9, 2009
Format:Paperback
Harry Jaffa's Crisis of the House Divided is a tour de force in Lincoln scholarship. Indeed, it is the best tome on Lincoln that has ever been written -- except, perhaps, for Jaffa's sequel to Crisis, A New Birth of Freedom. Crisis is more than an interpretation of an event in American political history, however, and readers should be forewarned that this is a book that could fundamentally change their way of thinking about politics and ethics. It could even create a kind of crisis of perspective for those readers who accept the predominant easy going relativism of our time, for it is difficult to be easy going about the most important human questions after a confrontation with the author's supreme skill in argumentation, not to mention lucidity and elegance of written expression.
Let me offer one example: It is not uncommon today to hear someone in a debate say, "Well, you have your opinion and I have mine, and who's to say what is right or wrong." As Jaffa shows via Lincoln's responses to Douglas in their debates (which were perhaps a bit more elevated than most contemporary debates), the "who's to say" attempt at concluding an argument is at best vacuous (that is, if it's not even worse -- mere cowardice). When Douglas refused to say what -- human slavery or human freedom -- is right or wrong, Lincoln took him to task, demonstrating that the very meaning of America is grounded in the principles of the Declaration of Independence, which teaches that all men (and women) are created equal, and thus slavery is by nature wrong. Lincoln further taught his fellow citizens that if they were really to take rights seriously, the first thing they had to recognize is that there is no right to do wrong.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Harry V. Jaffa's "Crisis of the House Divided" is an extremely important book. It is a tour de force in Lincoln scholarship. Indeed, it is the best tome on Lincoln and his views that have ever been written apart from, possibly, Jaffa's sequel to "Crisis of the House Divided", "A New Birth of Freedom."

In it, he succeeds in turning back the pragmatic historians of the mid-twentieth century who sought to undervalue Abraham Lincoln's commitment to the proposal that "All men are created equal." This tide of revisionism took two general forms. One of them were the supporters for the South who placed the full blame on Mr. Lincoln for sparking the "War of Northern Aggression"; and the other were the modern historians who claimed that there were really no substantial policy differences between Mr. Lincoln and Senator Stephen A. Douglas. If the latter class of historian could prove that Lincoln didn't really believe in freedom for slaves and that his rhetoric against slavery was irresponsible, knowing how it offended Southern sensibilities while Douglas' "Popular Sovereignty" policy would have eventually led to the limitation and elimination of slavery, then Lincoln's legacy as President could be shown to be the largely accidental.

Fortunately, Jaffa's work annihilates the eroding contentions of the revisionists and showing, beyond any doubt, that Mr. Lincoln believed America was founded on the principle of human equality as much as it was founded on the idea of democracy. That democracy and equality were the twin pillars of the American Republic and were in tension was something Mr. Lincoln well understood while Judge Douglas honored only democracy. Hence, Douglas' "Popular Sovereignty" led to the concept that the majority could decide slavery was not only legal, but also moral.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Professor Harry V. Jaffa's "Crisis of the House Divided" is an extremely important book. In it, he succeeds in turning back the revisionist historians of the mid-Twentieth Century who sought to devalue Abraham Lincoln's commitment to the proposition that "All men are created equal."

This tide of revisionism took two general forms; partisans for the South who placed the full blame on Mr. Lincoln for sparking the "War of Northern Aggression"; and modern historians, skeptical of any higher motives and virtues in statesmen of the past, who claimed that there were really no substantial policy differences between Mr. Lincoln and Senator Stephen A. Douglas. If the latter class of historian could prove that Lincoln didn't really believe in freedom for slaves and that his rhetoric against slavery was irresponsible (knowing how it offended Southern sensibilities) while Douglas' "Popular Sovereignty" policy would have eventually led to the limitation and elimination of slavery, then Lincoln's legacy as President could be shown to be the largely accidental.

Fortunately, Professor Jaffa's work demolishes the corrosive contentions of the revisionists, showing, beyond any doubt, that Mr. Lincoln believed America was founded on the principle of human equality as much as it was founded on the idea of democracy. That democracy and equality were the twin pillars of the American Republic and were in tension was something Mr. Lincoln well understood while Judge Douglas honored only democracy. Hence, Douglas' "Popular Sovereignty" led to the concept that the majority could decide slavery was not only legal, but also moral. In opposition, Mr.
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