From Publishers Weekly
Few people know more about Abraham Lincoln than Holzer (editor of Lincoln the Writer
; Lincoln Seen and Heard
; etc.). This fine new work focuses on a widely known but little studied address that Lincoln delivered early in 1860 in New York City, which Holzer believes made Lincoln the Republican candidate and therefore president. While one has to credit other political and historical factors, Holzer is probably right. Surely no one will again overlook this masterful speech, even if it never rose to the eloquence of the Gettysburg Address. That's precisely one of Holzer's main arguments: that the speech was intended as a learned, historically grounded, legally powerful rebuttal to claims of Lincoln's great Democratic opponent, Stephen Douglas, about the constitutionality of slavery's spread into the territories. But how, Holzer asks, did a long speech hold its audience at Cooper Union and then infuse tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of newspaper readers with enthusiasm for the man? The answer lies in large part with the nature of American cultureâ"a highly politicized one of readersâ"in the 1860s. But as Holzer also makes clear, Lincoln conceived of the speech as part of an astute strategy to win his party's nomination. While his political wizardry will surprise few readers, they'll learn again how it was combined with intellectual power and a fierce determination to clarify his moral convictions. It was on this visit to New York that Matthew Brady shot his most celebrated portrait of Lincoln (which appears on the book jacket). Holzer devotes a fascinating chapter to this episode.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A prolific Lincoln editor (The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: The First Complete, Unexpurgated Text
, 1993), Holzer here steps forward as a full-fledged Lincoln author. The oration he scrutinizes, the February 1860 address to a Republican Party audience in New York, gave wings to Lincoln's presidential aspirations, and its historical stature makes the humble details of its arrangement and delivery interesting in their own right. So much so that, after Lincoln's death, all sorts of apocrypha have risen around the speech, which Holzer studiously analyzes. Yet Holzer's is not a dry exercise in scholarly exactitude but a vivid narration of the episode, from Lincoln's purposes in consenting to speak to the physical appearances of his surroundings on trains and in New York. Holzer's prose conjures the figure Lincoln cut onstage and the aural impact of his words, which identified the Republicans as the genuine upholders of the Founders' position on slavery, that is, against its extension and for its extinction. An excellent contribution to Lincolnalia. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved