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President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 5, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400041031
  • ASIN: B004JZWYZQ
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #678,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Subtle and nuanced, this study is something of a sequel to Miller's Lincoln's Virtues. Here he examines Honest Abe's moral and intellectual life while in the White House, prosecuting a bloody war. Miller finds that early in his presidency, Lincoln balanced two strong ethical imperatives—his duty to preserve the union and his determination not to fire the first shots. Of course, Miller also addresses that other great moral challenge: slavery. In short, says Miller, Lincoln believed slavery was not only profoundly wrong but profoundly wrong specifically as measured by this nation's moral essence, and he used a terrific amount of political savvy to push through emancipation. But more original is Miller's discussion of what Lincoln thought was at stake in the war. Through a close reading of the president's papers, Miller persuasively argues that Lincoln believed secession would not merely diminish or damage the United States but would destroy it. That, in turn, was an issue of global import, for if the American experiment failed, free government would not be secure anywhere. Miller has given us one of the most insightful accounts of Lincoln published in recent years. (Feb. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Miller’s Lincoln’s Virtues (2002) extolled the qualities of the future president; this companion volume considers Lincoln’s character in exercising the powers of the presidency. Largely laudatory, Miller treats illustrative Lincoln decisions in the context of Lincoln’s frequent reference to his duties under the oath of office to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” One set of decisions pertains to the pardon power, Lincoln’s application of which was usually lenient (sparing army deserters) but on occasion stern (hanging a slave trader). But the presidency can be more powerful than its enumerated powers, and in areas where Lincoln dipped into constitutionally murky waters, such as the suspension of habeas corpus or his issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, Miller shows Lincoln’s dedication to his oath, that is, to preserve the Union against the Confederacy. Historically, this lodestar for Lincoln stokes criticism for his slow pace toward abolishing slavery, but Miller stints no plaudits in defending Lincoln for politically practical rectitude. Also praiseworthy of Lincoln as diplomat and commander-in-chief, Miller’s examination will hearten Lincoln admirers everywhere. --Gilbert Taylor

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Customer Reviews

Yet I savored this book, and dreaded finishing it.
Jonathan Lupton
This great and good man shows us that morality in high office can be practiced by a skillful politician.
C. M Mills
These books are written in the same conversational, very readable style as Duty of a Statesman.
E. Cardinal

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By JMB1014 on March 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
William Lee Miller is one of the most readable and thoughtful of modern American historians. His utterly captivating "Arguing About Slavery," concerning John Quincy Adams' battle against the Gag Rule in Congress, made me a committed fan of both Adams and Miller. Miller followed with "Lincoln's Virtues," a penetrating meditation on the decency and moral character of Lincoln that focussed mainly on his life before 1861.

"President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman," is a delight. As the title reflects, this volume deals with Lincoln's years as President. Miller is well-versed in the vast reaches of Lincoln scholarship. Unlike the best-selling "Team of Rivals" by Doris Kerns Goodwin, however, Miller actually provides new and revelatory insights that further enhance Lincoln's reputation. Of the current coterie of authors on Lincoln, I have yet to find one who has spent the time Miller does on addressing the substance of Lincoln's critical July 4, 1861 message to Congress, where Lincoln denounced the "farcical" pretence of secession and demolished the myth of state sovereignty as he asked Congress for money and men to fight a war that had become much fiercer than almost anyone had imagined. Douglas Wilson, in "Lincoln's Sword," provides an excellent and in-depth discussion of the drafting of this document but he skirts much of the real substance - which remains controversial in some quarters. Miller shows how Lincoln carefully maneuvered between Union and emancipation. He does not avoid controversy. The message to Congress emerges as a central document in Lincoln's development and in the ongoing debate over "states' rights."

One intriguing episode Miller describes concerns the cashiering of Major John J. Key, who was the brother of one of General McClellan's top aides.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By C. M Mills on March 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Wlliam Lee Miller's new book on US President Abraham Lincoln focuses entirely on the 1861-1865 period when Lincoln was chief executive and the nation suffered through a horrendous Civil War. Miller is an eloquent author and an expert on Lincoln. His book is a combination of narrative laced with a detailed study of several of the moral issues the Kentucky railsplitter faced in office. Among these Gordian Knot problems upon which Lincoln had to decide were:
1. Whether to supply Fort Sumter by sea or allow the Charleston SC.fort to be surrendered to the new Confederate government without a shot being fired? Lincoln had promised to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution in his inaugural address on March 4, 1861. He believed the President of the United States should defend our territory so refused to give up on Sumter. The Confederates fired on the fort leading to a declaration of war with the United States. The Civil War would cost over
600,000 lives-2/3 of them because of disease and insanitary conditions.
2. Lincoln made the decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in Confederate controlled areas as of January 1, 1863. As a wily politician this act did not apply to slaves held in Union held but slave states. All African-Americans in bondage would be freed by the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution following the great emancipator's death
by assassination on April 15, 1865.
3. Miller cites several examples of Lincoln's mercy to soldiers convicted by court martial. He could be tough refusing to save the life of Nathaniel Gordon a slave ship owner and a man who shot a white officer leading a parade of black soldiers in Norfolk, Va. Lincoln was a kind and merciful man who was without hubris or self-glorification.
4.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on February 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Will be enjoyed by anyone with an interest in our greatest president and his time in office. Professor Miller is a wonderful master of his subject.

Abraham Lincoln is rightfully remembered here for the actions he took during the short time he actually served in the White House. This is not a book about Mr. Lincoln's youth, his career in Illinois, or his family life. How this statesman balanced power, people, and ethics in reaching his twin noble objectives is laid out in a most compelling way by William Lee Miller.

(I especially found interesting the material presented on President Lincoln's use of the pardoning power.)

Purchase this book for yourself, or a friend who may question why the world still celebrates a politician who was born almost two hundred years ago.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brian Lewis on January 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book, as I have two previous efforts by William Lee Miller, but I would suggest it is probably not the place to start if you are just now getting to know President Lincoln.

Miller has written previously about the topic of slavery, in Arguing about Slavery: John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congressand the person of Abraham Lincoln, in [[ASIN:0375701737 Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography]. Lincoln's Virtues is basically this book's predecessor, examining the development of Lincoln's moral philosophy as he grew as a politcal leader, before becoming president. This book focuses on his entirely on his presidential term, however, it stands by itself, you don't need to have read the first to enjoy this.

Miller writes well, in a conversational tone, and is at his best when he is analyzing the moral issues of a problem confronted by Lincoln. Miller's understanding of the slavery question is especially astute. I thought he was less good on military issues, which was not a glaring problem in his earlier Lincoln volume, but hurts here. His interest and focus is on the debating halls, not the battlefields.

The book generally praises Lincoln, and notes the difficult choices he confronted. He is particularly strong on showing how Lincoln was able, after initially feeling he had to choose saving the Union over abolishing slavery, to achieve a solution that used emanicipation as a means to save the Union and end the war.

Anyone who is already a student of Lincoln or the Civil War will enjoy this book.
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