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President Lincoln [Kindle Edition]

William Lee Miller
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.95
Kindle Price: $11.84
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In his acclaimed book Lincoln's Virtues, William Lee Miller explored Abraham Lincoln's intellectual and moral development. Now he completes his "ethical biography," showing how the amiable and inexperienced backcountry politician was transformed by constitutional alchemy into an oath-bound head of state. Faced with a radical moral contradiction left by the nation's Founders, Lincoln struggled to find a balance between the universal ideals of Equality and Liberty and the monstrous injustice of human slavery.

With wit and penetrating sensitivity, Miller brings together the great themes that have become Lincoln's legacy—preserving the United States of America while ending the odious institution that corrupted the nation's meaning—and illuminates his remarkable presidential combination: indomitable resolve and supreme magnanimity.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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

Product Details

  • File Size: 571 KB
  • Print Length: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0011UJM8Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #705,363 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New Insights Elegantly Presented March 3, 2008
By JMB1014
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
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.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Presidential Honor 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
4.0 out of 5 stars Nuanced Analysis of Lincoln as President January 28, 2010
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great service!
Fast shipping...great service!
Published 3 months ago by Kevin B. Hurst
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book about Abraham Lincoln
Our personal library consists of several books about President Lincoln, including those by Carl Sandburg. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Susan
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lincolnian Tour de Force
A full five years after publication, it's doubtful anything further needs to be said about this great book, but here goes anyway. Read more
Published 21 months ago by E. Cardinal
1.0 out of 5 stars Good read, three stars.
It was a great read about Lincoln's initial election as pres of the u.s and the tribulations he encountered with the civil war. It conveyed his virtues as a man. Read more
Published 24 months ago by Big Steve the iron roughneck.
5.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln
Heard this book being read on NPR radio. Knew I had to have it in hand. It is excellent,,,and could be primer for politicians of this day. I love Mr. Read more
Published on January 11, 2012 by Betty A. Scherrman
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful scholarship and extraordinary insights
I have read and reread this book three times; each reading brings me a larger understanding of how extraordinary Lincoln, the President, was. Read more
Published on April 3, 2011 by Mollynash
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I am by no means a Lincoln scholar, but like almost all Americans I have great respect for the man based on what I know of him. Read more
Published on August 30, 2010 by tennisfan
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a very interesting book for the non-historically minded
I wanted to like this book. I really did - I wanted to learn more about Lincoln and what transpired during the american civil war. Read more
Published on November 18, 2009 by Tom Sawyer
2.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln
This was sent as a present to someone - have not read it myself.
Linda Sheean
Published on May 18, 2009 by Linda Sheean
5.0 out of 5 stars A Complex Man
Lincoln was undoubtedly a sensitive Intellectual without whose leadership did much to re-unite the Union and abolish slavery. Read more
Published on January 29, 2009 by Erich H. Loewy
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