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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Climbing the ladder
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...
Published on November 23, 2012 by Make Book

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stepladder
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...
Published on November 12, 2012 by Christian Schlect


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Climbing the ladder, November 23, 2012
This review is from: Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit (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
4.0 out of 5 stars All politics is local, November 28, 2012
By 
Jay C. Smith (Portland, OR USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit (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. Fraker proposes that because of Lincoln's sustained exposure to the divergent views he developed as a political moderate.

His law practice helped prepare Lincoln for the presidency, Fraker believes, by honing his skills for dealing with a variety of people and problems, listening to others, mediating, grasping new issues in minimal time, and matching wits with top lawyers. Much of the book consists of digests of a selected sample of the more than 5,000 cases in which Lincoln and his partners participated (the author acknowledges his extensive reliance on The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis and now searchable online).

The volume is organized into four principal parts. The first presents a sketch of Lincoln's practice and an overview of the circuit. The second takes a geographical approach, following Lincoln on "a `trip' around the circuit to examine its geography, its towns, and its people and how they played a significant role in Lincoln's life." The third section proceeds more chronologically, tracking Lincoln's political ascendency as his antislavery views gelled and he gained statewide and national exposure through the 1850s. The fourth covers his nomination and election as President.

Even though we know the outcome, there is narrative tension in this final section as Fraker describes how the underdog Lincoln gets nominated and then elected, boosted substantially by the skillful machinations of Judge David Davis and his lieutenants and troops of operatives who were friends of Lincoln from the Eighth Circuit.

Fraker writes like one would expect from a good attorney or historian. He presents a strong theme supported by considerable evidence. The prose is clear and to the point. He is obviously schooled in his subject and demonstrates a broad familiarity with relevant primary and secondary sources. A modest number of maps and well-captioned photographs enhance the text. The completeness and quality of the notes and bibliography reflect university press standards.

The amount of detail may present a barrier for some readers. Notably, nearly three hundred persons (a rough count) connected to Lincoln are introduced. If there had been a summary short-list in the beginning, including only those who end-up being the most significant supporters, it might have assisted me and other readers. Current or former residents of the area are likely to encounter at least a few family surnames that remain familiar, locally prominent for 150 years or more.

On the other hand, the copious details also provide grist for some reading pleasures. I got into the mode of making "then-versus-now" contrasts, fed by Fraker's material. Here are some selected 1840s and 1850s customs and practices that now seem to have mostly disappeared: lawyers continually traveling and fraternizing with the circuit judge that hears their cases; male attorneys (presumably heterosexual) sharing the same bed while traveling; legal cases resolving quickly on the scheduled days, not drawn-out by numerous motions and delays; excusing a murderer from prosecution because the fatally-wounded victim forgave him before expiring; politicians of one party maintaining good friendships with those from the other; one Senate candidate asking the other to escort the first candidate's wife by train to a joint speaking engagement; anyone traveling by train between small towns in Illinois; crowds listening to three-hour speeches by politicians; and presidential candidates not attending the nominating convention and not publicly campaigning in the general election.

Potential readers should be aware that certain major aspects of Lincoln's life reside mostly outside the scope of this study and receive only limited summary attention. These include his tenure as President and his family life. But for those interested in how his law practice and locality shaped and aided him, this book is an excellent choice.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great look at an overlooked portion of Lincoln's life a political success, February 10, 2013
By 
Richard N. Hargraves (Waterloo, Illinois United States) - See all my reviews
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln's Ladder fo the Presidency, November 12, 2012
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This review is from: Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit (Hardcover)
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
3.0 out of 5 stars Stepladder, November 12, 2012
By 
Christian Schlect (Yakima, Washington/USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit (Hardcover)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln was made not born a President, November 21, 2012
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This review is from: Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit (Hardcover)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid contribution to Lincoln scholarship, February 18, 2013
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This review is from: Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit (Hardcover)
Illinois lawyer Guy Fraker had added to historical scholarship in a meaningful way with this look at the trial practice of our Sixteenth President. Probably the best modern look at Lincoln the lawyer, it is a fine companion to Herndon's contemporary look at the practice of law in frontier America. Worth a look by both historians and lawyers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read for anyone wanting to know more about Lincoln., December 15, 2012
By 
John J. Petry (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit (Hardcover)
Mr. Fraker is a well respected attorney and scholar concerning President Lincoln. This book is well written and gives a real sense of how the character of our 16th president was shaped in his early days as a lawyer in Illinois. The language is easily understood by any casual reader curious to know more as well as someone of a more academic bent. This is a talent hard to find among writers and one of the things that makes this book a good read. I recommend it without reservation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars This book is true to its title!!, July 10, 2014
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This review is from: Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit (Hardcover)
Excellent history book explaining in detail the successful repetitive behavior in a growing diverse political area and the creation of a network by Lincoln that built the ladder to the Presidency
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful treatment of an essential element in Lincoln's career, December 5, 2013
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This review is from: Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit (Hardcover)
Fraker has done meticulous research here, as befitting a man with a lifelong passion for Lincoln. This book is clearly written and is delightful read. Regardless of how mucy Lincoln you know, I'm sure you'll learn something new from reading this book
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Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit
Lincoln's Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit by Guy C. Fraker (Hardcover - October 26, 2012)
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