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The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President Paperback – December 23, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In excruciating detail, author Fenster chronicles the 1856 case of murdered blacksmith George Anderson, and the role of young Illinois attorney and former congressman Abraham Lincoln. As the early days of the murder investigation unfold, a parallel narrative documents Lincoln's stalled career; at the time, he "described himself as a flat failure," watching other politicos "moving effortlessly into a life of luxury" while Lincoln "came home from his speaking tours... and went right back to buying groceries and mucking out the stall of his horse." When Lincoln decides to take on the defense of George's wife, the main suspect (for less than $100), it proves a brilliant and pivotal career move. The case became a phenomenon: "For infamy, Springfield had never seen anything like it...for complexity, it was far more interesting than the average property case." Cannily, Lincoln figured it would become "a lawyer's showcase," and rose to the opportunity. Serving as "the backdrop for a year of sweeping transition for Abraham Lincoln," the case is also entangled with the establishment of the Republican party that Lincoln would champion. Unfortunately, the changing winds of politics and the specifics of the murder case don't make a perfect union; the story moves in fits and starts, making this meticulous and intimate look at the legendary Lincoln a worthwhile but labored read.
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

By 1856, Abraham Lincoln was one of the most successful attorneys in Illinois. He had served a term in the U.S. Congress, but it appeared that he had abandoned a political career. However, as was observed, Lincoln's ambition was an engine that would not quit. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 had intensified the national debate over slavery, and it drew Lincoln back into political activism. At the same time, Lincoln accepted the task of defending a young man accused of murdering the husband of his lover. Fenster's absorbing chronicle follows two tracks: Lincoln's reentry into the tumultuous political wars in Illinois, as Democrats, Know-Nothings, and the newly formed Republican Party vied for power; and how the death of a Springfield blacksmith evolved into a sensational murder trial. When the two tracks merge, Fenster illustrates Lincoln's emergence as a cagey politician and eloquent antislavery voice with an enhanced national reputation. This is a worthy addition to our ever-expanding knowledge concerning America's secular saint. Freeman, Jay --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; First Edition edition (December 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230608094
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230608092
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,537,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I would highly recommend this read to anyone interested in the man, Abraham Lincoln.
T. Carrier
"The Case of Abraham Lincoln" looks closely at a pivotal point in Lincoln's life and gives us fresh insight into how a good man achieved greatness.
just pixels
Ms. Fenster brings out quite a bit of information I'd never known and paints an engaging picture of life in Lincoln's Springfield.
S. O'Toole

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By P. M. Birchmeyer on November 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Fenster's book relates the events of Abraham Lincoln's life from March to November, 1856. It is remarkable how much of great importance happened to him or around him in that generally overlooked span. His legal career was burgeoning and the author offers accounts of cases big and small, none of which had I ever heard about before. The book leaves a clear depiction of his legal work, day in and day out. At the same time, it weaves in his growing political influence. Lincoln threw his lot in with the Republican Party in May of that year and sealed the deal in a speech at the first state convention that Fenster recreates with all the excitement of the moment. The world around Lincoln is well-rounded, including his fellow lawyers (Stuart, Edwards, Linder, etc.), fellow politicians ("dashing" William Bissell, also Browning, Koerner, etc.) the people of Springfield, his family, even his animals. The subtitle ("Adultery, Murder") refers to the Anderson murder case, a mystery worthy of "Law and Order." Lincoln had the chance to be on the prosecution side, but he turned it down and worked for the defense. THE CASE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN was recommended to me by a retired professor, a Lincoln scholar. I read it over the course of a day-and-a-half. For non-fiction, the storytelling ability is incredible and in conclusion, this is the first Lincoln book I've read in a while that's definitely not the S.O.S. (Same old s-).
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By S. A. Forsyth on November 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The key is "the making of a great president". The book shifts gears regularly in each and every chapter and you want to learn more about this amazing person who would soon become swept up on a train that could not be stopped: the presidency.

I couldn't put it down. I was enthralled by the level of research put in as well as the writing style, which at first was confusing to me, but it all began to make sense as it becomes a book within a book.

He was politically savvy, motivated, and quick to move through trial if he saw a way to do so. Julie Fenster paints this picture of the future president and you could only gain more of an understanding and respect for how he did his business. He was also a family man and although rarely home, so down home in his ways that you could almost dismiss him - until he spoke. This man had vision and was somewhat awkward but brilliant in every way possible.

The key and important speeches, the trial that is an interesting part of this book, and the life of Abraham Lincoln as he, himself worked his way around the circuit courts and made all of the important rallies.

Well written and gets one to think that the right man was being brought up and educated along the way who would eventually save this union. The making of a great President, indeed!

This is worth the time in reading.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Publius on January 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When I bought this book, I wanted so much to like it. The author is from Upstate New York (where I am from originally) and the book purports to be about Lincoln and his representation of a client charged with murder. However, come to find out that Lincoln's involvement in this homicide case was merely peripheral. In fact, as another reviewer pointed out, Mr. Lincoln first gets involved in the case around page 200. Unfortunately, the publisher's marketing department knew that a sub-title of "The Story of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President" would sell more then "Lincoln, The Know-Nothings and the Anti-Nebraska Party." When Ms. Fenster describes the details involving the murder and the subsequent legal proceedings, the narrative flow is very smooth, but without any break in the narrative, she then goes on to discuss a minor will settlement that Lincoln handled. This made for a very difficult read, especially when the reader thinks Ms. Fenster is going to write about the murder trial, but instead interminably goes on about the birth of the Republican Party in Illinois. However, overall a good micro-study of not only Mr. Lincoln, but also the burgeoning state of Illinois in mid-19th century America.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Christian Schlect VINE VOICE on November 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A view back on the trial attorney, Mr. Lincoln, during a critical year (1856), as the just emerging Republican Party takes hold in Illinois. Will be greatly enjoyed by all those interested in the pre-presidential Lincoln and the state court system within which he operated while living in Springfield.

In her compelling story, Ms. Fenster gracefully, and with nice touches of humor, interweaves and captures the day-by-day life of Mr. Lincoln and other lawyers riding circuit; the mystery of a major local murder case; and Mr. Lincoln's concurrent political spade work related to building a party to block the expansion of slavery. One better understands from reading this book the talents, drive, and personal character of Abraham Lincoln: they ultimately served to lead him to the White House and greatness.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By just pixels on November 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
( I did not buy from Amazon. Review is based on unabridged audiobook from library. )

Shakespeare observed "some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em". Abraham Lincoln, I think, had at least those last two.

"The Case of Abraham Lincoln" tells the story as Lincoln's path to greatness passed through 1856. During that year he had one foot in his law practice and was placing another in the political ring with the emerging Republican Party (the "Grand New Party" back then). It's fascinating to see Lincoln in both worlds. And knowing what was to come, fascinating to see his leadership tested so far in advance of the tragedy of the Civil War.

We know so much about Lincoln. The story of his childhood in a log cabin through to his presidency and assassination is such a powerful narrative. "The Case of Abraham Lincoln" looks closely at a pivotal point in Lincoln's life and gives us fresh insight into how a good man achieved greatness.
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