From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this careful, balanced look at Abraham Lincoln's stirring 1854 Peoria, Ill., speech, writer and historian Lehrman finds a "prelude to greatness" that put the little-known lawyer and politician on the path to national prominence while laying the intellectual groundwork for his presidency. The subject was slavery, already the great question of 19th century America, recently reignited with the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act that repealed earlier anti-slavery laws for certain new territories. Arguing that the fundamental principles of the Declaration of Independence extended to African-Americans, Lincoln took an abolitionist position daring for any politician with national ambitions (though he did not go so far as to advocate for full social or political equality). Lehrman also considers Lincoln's Illinois nemesis, Sen. Stephen A. Douglas, sponsor of the new Kansas-Nebraska Act who spoke at Peoria before Lincoln as a stalwart booster of "the rights of whites to enslave blacks." Ably building on the drama of Lincoln's anti-slavery efforts through subsequent years, culminating in his ascent to the presidency, Lehrman's detailed chronicle, rich in first-person accounts, lays out the case that from his earliest public forays, Lincoln was no ordinary leader.
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About the Author
Lewis E. Lehrman is dedicated to reviving the teaching of American history in its schools and colleges. Mr. Lehrman has written and lectured widely on American history and economics and has written for publications such as Harper's, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, National Review, the New York Sun, and Policy Review. He also writes for the Lincoln Institute, which has created award-winning websites on the sixteenth president. With Richard Gilder, Mr. Lehrman built the Gilder Lehrman Collection of original historical manuscripts and documents to teach American history from primary sources, now on deposit for public access at the New-York Historical Society. He was presented the National Humanities Medal at the White House in 2005 for his work in American history and is a member of the Advisory Committee of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and the Lincoln Forum.