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Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit Hardcover – October 26, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press; 1st Edition edition (October 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809332019
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809332014
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #799,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Guy Fraker’s superb book about Abraham Lincoln and the Illinois Eighth Judicial Circuit provides an effective lesson on the importance of political networking. For more than twenty years, Mr. Lincoln rode the Circuit with other lawyers and judges. These were smart, influential and ambitious men. Lincoln made them his friends and, in time, they would help Mr. Lincoln climb the ladder to the presidency. Fraker’s book is great history but it is also an excellent primer for aspiring politicians.”—Jim Edgar, Illinois governor, 1991–1999

“It is obvious that attorney Guy Fraker has spent a lifetime examining Abraham Lincoln’s extensive legal practice on the Eighth Judicial Circuit. The results are an edifying, microscopic view of Lincoln the man, politician, and lawyer. If you want to understand why and how President Lincoln became the ‘lawyer in the White House,’ read this book. If you want to know how Lincoln was able to maintain the support of the people, read this book. And if you wish to see and feel Lincoln’s evolution to greatness, enjoy this book. No one has described the tedium of the Lincoln law practice as well as the author; his friends, enemies and associates, as well as the people they represented are all here.”—Frank J. Williams, retired chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and founding chair of The Lincoln Forum




“Guy Fraker’s Lincoln’s Ladder to the Presidency is a refreshing and revisioning portrait of Lincoln the Illinois lawyer. As a central Illinois lawyer himself, Fraker knows the Eighth Judicial Circuit better than anyone. As a Lincoln scholar, he has an eye for the revealing legal story and an ear for the interplay of Lincoln’s legal and political ideas and language.”—Ronald C. White Jr., author of A. Lincoln: A Biography

“Guy Fraker traverses the ‘Lincoln Country’ of central Illinois in this richly detailed account of Abraham Lincoln’s life on the Eighth Judicial Circuit. Here he introduces the lawyers with whom Lincoln traveled or met on the circuit for over twenty years during his ever-growing practice of law, a pursuit that simultaneously gave him a network of friends who supported his political career. Drawing together both contemporary and reminiscent sources, and bringing a sense of place to each locale on the circuit, Fraker provides a comprehensive view of Lincoln’s life in law and politics on the Illinois prairie.”—John Hoffmann, Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, University of Illinois Library at Urbana-Champaign 

About the Author

Guy C. Fraker, an attorney in Bloomington, Illinois, has written extensively and lectures frequently on the Eighth Circuit.  He was the consultant on the award-winning PBS documentary, “Lincoln, Prelude to the Presidency,” and co-curated “Prologue to the Presidency: Abraham Lincoln on the Illinois Eighth Judicial Circuit,” a traveling exhibit also on permanent display at the David Davis Mansion, a state historic site in Bloomington.  He served as an advisor to the National Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.  A graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law, he is a past president of the McLean County Bar Association.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Make Book on November 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A must read not only for Lincoln scholars and lawyers with an interest in the history of the profession but also for anyone with an interest in the final chapter of the making of our nation. This book is far more than another Lincoln biography. Mr. Fraker skilfully weaves an in depth study of the lawyer Lincoln with the essential roles of Lincoln's many circuit riding friends and the monumental political, social and economic tidal waves of 1830-1860 to provide a unique insight into his rise to the presidency.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jay C. Smith on November 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I should disclose that I probably would not have read Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency were it not written by my friend's cousin. I had known for several years via my friend that Guy Fraker, a practicing attorney, was pursuing a serious avocation as a Lincoln historian. I thought that admirable and I was curious to see the result.

The book is a fine piece of scholarship which will naturally appeal to both professional historians and amateur Lincoln buffs (a large and now likely growing group). I fit neither of these categories, but I was rewarded by the reading. Booklovers with more than a passing interest in nineteenth-century American social, economic, political, and/or legal history will find much here to engage them. So will persons with roots in Central Illinois.

One would not think that spending more than twenty years as a backwater lawyer handling mostly mundane cases would be an especially good route to the presidency, but Fraker contends that in Lincoln's case it was. Lincoln traveled the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Illinois for most of the 1839-1860 segment of his legal career. The circuit included at one time or another seventeen counties that were then more significant in Illinois politics than they became subsequently. The circuit population was greater than Cook County's (Chicago) in that period.

Riding the tall-grass prairie district by horse, buggy, and later sometimes by train, Lincoln made personal connections with influential men in each community and many of them became his political supporters. The residents' political views were diverse, with proslavery settlers from southern states dominant in the southern tier of counties, and antislavery Yankees and (later) German immigrants more numerous in the northern sections.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Richard N. Hargraves on February 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Guy Fraker has spent years studying and promoting Lincoln's life on the legal circuit -- something many people seem overlook. But the men who won him the 1860 nomination all were "fellow travelers" on the 8th Circuit - lawyers who spent several months twice a year moving from county seat to county seat following the court schedule. Lincoln also spent considerable time meeting and greeting and building relationships among the citizens who would come in from the farms for the "entertainment". If you wonder how this unknown lawyer from central Illinois suddenly wins the presidential nomination from far better known individuals, this book demonstrates how he built his base. Read a good one on the convention and you'll see that Lincoln's rise wasn't as sudden and unplanned as it appears on first glance. But it started here - as described in this insightful book, full of names, places and key events. Thank you, Mr. Fraker.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Tyler Resch on November 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Author Guy Fraker has the knack of maintaining one's interest in what might otherwise be a mundane recitation of legal issues, personalities, anecdotes, and venues as he traces Lincoln's pre-presidential route through the counties of central Illinois and climbs the rungs of political friendship toward nomination in 1860. It's a thoroughly enjoyable read, especially because it's Lincoln.
J. Tyler Resch, research librarian, Bennington Museum (Vermont)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on November 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Readers desiring to know more about Abraham Lincoln's days pounding the legal track known as the Eighth Judicial Circuit will benefit from this book by a local lawyer and careful historian, Guy C. Fraker.

Mr. Fraker writes in solid, but not lyrical, prose on the days that set the foundation for Mr. Lincoln's run for the presidency. He makes a good case that his close friends, especially fellow lawyers and small town journalists, in central Illinois gave Mr. Lincoln the depth and breadth of political support that propelled him in 1860 at the Chicago convention to the Republican nomination.

I think this is a volume that will be enjoyed more by (1) attorneys (in terms of how law was practiced--and quick justice obtained--on the frontier before the advent of easy transportation, comfortable accommodations, and rapid communications), and (2) those already having significantly more than basic knowledge about the story of our greatest president, than by the common reader.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By screen writer on November 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a must for anyone interested in learning about the forces and circumstances that shaped Abraham Lincoln into the 16th President of the United States. Fraker's book takes the reader on a journey through the circuit Lincoln rode, showing us how Lincoln's skills as a lawyer and a politician grew during those years. The author makes a strong case for the claim that the friendships and contacts Lincoln made during this time enabled him to enter the Republican National Convention as a dark horse for the party's nod for President and through a brilliantly executed strategy he won out over his more powerful opponents. We see Lincoln grow from a rough-hewn country lawyer riding through a circuit little more civilized than the wild west into a well-connected, politically savvy leader of the newly formed Republican Party. Fraker's use of true anecdotes and his descriptions of the towns and countryside make for a vivid picture of the world that created Abraham Lincoln.
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