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Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861 Paperback – Bargain Price, October 20, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Even the most committed of Lincoln's fans have sometimes questioned his actions in the four months between his 1860 election and his inauguration: a period when seven states seceded from the Union. In an engrossing narrative, Holzer (Lincoln at Cooper Union), chairman of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, painstakingly retraces Lincoln's few public statements and numerous private initiatives during this key period, revealing an astute political operator assessing the situation, organizing his government, reaching out to the South and most of all, [drawing] a line in the sand to prevent the spread of human slavery. Holzer shows Lincoln shrewdly and methodically manipulating friend and foe alike, while also taking the first cautious steps toward preparing both himself and his country for a grim trial by fire. 16 pages of b&w photos. BOMC and History Book Club main selection, first serial to Civil War Times and Smithsonian magazines. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Even some of Lincoln’s most ardent admirers find fault with his behavior between his election in November 1860 and his inauguration the following March. Lincoln is criticized by some for his reticence as secession conventions convened in Southern states, while others find some of his few public utterances too provocative to Southern sensibilities. Holzer, one of our greatest Lincoln scholars, strongly and convincingly rejects those assertions. Holzer begins with a description of the unprecedented litany of problems facing the president-elect. Lincoln, elected with less than 40 percent of the popular vote, had no electoral mandate and was feared and despised in the South. His rivals within the Republican Party constantly schemed against him and viewed him as a bumbler. Holzer maintains that Lincoln faced these obstacles with skill and strong political instincts. What some have termed as reticence, Holzer sees as the wisdom of keeping one’s mouth shut. His “provocative” statements were simply a firm assertion of his deeply held beliefs. Holzer deals effectively with a lingering controversy in a work that will be an excellent addition to Lincoln collections. --Jay Freeman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (October 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 074328948X
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,959,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Harold Holzer, one of the country's leading authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the political culture of the Civil War era, serves as chairman of the Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. He has authored, coauthored, and edited forty-two books, including Emancipating Lincoln, Lincoln at Cooper Union, and three award-winning books for young readers: Father Abraham: Lincoln and His Sons, The President Is Shot!, and Abraham Lincoln, the Writer. His awards include the Lincoln Prize and the National Humanities Medal. He lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Scott Mingus on October 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Harold Holzer is one of America's finest historians -- a man celebrated for both his vast knowledge of Civil War-era events, as well as his fluid and readable writing style. His latest effort, Lincoln, President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-61, is perhaps his finest work of recent vintage. He focuses on the crucial four-month period between the Election of 1860 and the inauguration of the 16th President -- four months that forever changed the fundamental fabric of America. Lincoln's controversial decision to take a hard line with the Southern states, refusing to compromise on key issues such as states' rights, secession, and the right to maintain the institution of slavery.

Holzer paints Lincoln as a strong-willed, decisive politician who has a clear vision of what he wants to accomplish and shrewdly manuevers support for his ambitions and objectives. Written in a fast-paced style that keeps the reader both informed and anticipating Lincoln's next move, this is a book that both presents the facts as they are known from the historical record and, more importantly, interprets the decisions, deals, and moves Lincoln made as he prepared for his presidency during perhaps the most turbulent four-month period in U.S. history.

Divided into two major sections, Holzer's book first deals with "the promise of something better," a phrase that caught fire after the disappointments of the nearly impotent Buchanan Administration. Interspersed with Lincoln's wry humor and stories are details of the political and social issues facing the President-Elect, issues that may have overwhelmed a weaker man.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By John C. Nagle on December 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I liked this book, but I did not love it. Holzer reports the results of his vast research in this account of Lincoln's activities during the four months from his election until his inauguration. The book contains innumerable details about Lincoln's daily activities: besieged by office seekers, crafting a cabinet, cleverly navigating the climactic political struggle between the states, and carefully writing and editing his every word. Lincoln emerges as keenly attentive and actively involved in political affairs even though his status as president-elect denied him any official power. Perhaps the best part of the book follows Lincoln's efforts to write his first inaugural address, which Holzer justly praises as one of Lincoln's underappreciated masterpieces. As usual, one finishes the book with a greater regard for Lincoln, though Holzer recounts Lincoln's errors as well (including the fall-out from his rushed trip to Washington to avoid an assassination threat in Baltimore).

Yet the whole of the book does not quite rise to the level of the sum of its detailed parts. The detail obscures the fact that Lincoln did not have much that he could do during the lame-duck period. Indeed, Holzer quotes Lincoln's assertion that he "would willingly take out of my life a period in years equal to the two months which intervene between now and my inauguration to take the oath of office now." The disintegration of the United States that occurred while Lincoln was president-elect and his inability to do anything about it is more damning of our lengthy lame-duck periods than it is of Lincoln himself. But Lincoln's absence of power strips his activities as president-elect of much meaning.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on October 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A close review of the months in Abraham Lincoln's life starting with the presidential election of 1860 and ending with his swearing into office on March 4 of 1861.

Harold Holzer knows his subject both wide and deep. Here he delivers a fresh and accurate account of such matters as the lack of much comment by the newly-elected president on the pending political issues of the day; the long train ride to Washington, D.C. from Springfield (this area of coverage is detailed to a fault); the incessant but necessary handling of patronage; the deft formation of the first cabinet; and the inspired drafting of the First Inaugural Address.

This is not a general biography or history but a very focused look at the period when Mr. Lincoln changed from being a mere candidate for office to one who would lead the United States through its greatest trial.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By SWAMP FOX on November 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Harold Holzer has produced a wonderful biography of Abraham Lincoln, probably our greatest President, during the critical months between his November 1860 election and his March 1861 inauguration.

Using many new sources, Holzer paints a picture of Lincoln as a strong determined leader, who, while remaining quiet publicly as the South seceded amid vitriol and threats towards Lincoln far greater than that any other President has faced. Lincoln wrote letters to his allies, which they circulated, and powerful letters to the newspapers, which purported to be anonymous but which many recognized as coming from his pen.

Of course, the cornpone Lincoln, who loved to stand back to back with other tall men for measurement, and who relished corny old fashioned dialect stories and jokes, is also here.

Holzer proves that Lincoln was also not only a great writer, but an even greater editor, as with the last paragraph of his brilliant First Inaugural Address, which William Seward first wrote and Lincoln then polished into a gem.

Holzer also tells about Lincoln's sojourn on his way from Springfield to Washington, D.C., by train, through the Northern cities and villages, where people turned out in huge enthusiastic crowds, in order to see and hear a President-elect for the first time in American history.
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