From Publishers Weekly
Author and professor Krannawitter (A Nation Under God? The ACLU and Religion in American Politics) has written a stirring, carefully considered exploration of Abraham Lincoln's principles, defending them against criticism leveled at Lincoln over the years by prominent academics and pundits. Even though Krannawitter equates opposition to Roe v. Wade with opposition to slavery (both deny the primacy of human rights), his strident personal politics don't affect the quality of his scholarship. His impressive work takes on both conservative and liberal historians who diminish Lincoln's stature by ascribing expedient motives to his decisions, asserting that Lincoln was guided, even in "the most difficult and trying times," by a commitment to natural law and the idea that all men are created equal. Especially convincing is Krannawitter's argument regarding Lincoln's seemingly paradoxical support of the fugitive slave law. He also explains Lincoln's famous 1862 interchange with Horace Greely-yes, he did say, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it," but followed up with, "and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it"-and takes on the contention that Lincoln supported big government while the South opposed it.
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Among the torrent of Lincoln books flow many that are critical of the Great Emancipator, condemning him as a racist, a tyrant, or a precursor to big government. Into this stream steps a scholar intent on rescuing Lincoln’s reputation from aspersions cast in titles such as What Lincoln Believed (2005), by Michael Lind, a critic from the Left, and Lincoln Unmasked (2006), by Thomas DiLorenzo, a critic from the Right. Perhaps what most worries Krannawitter is a viewpoint he believes prevalent among academics: Lincoln was more expedient than principled. The Lincoln-as-white-supremacist case, pressed by Lerone Bennett in Forced into Glory (2000), doesn’t pass Krannawitter’s muster, nor does Mario Cuomo’s enlistment (in Why Lincoln Matters, 2004) of the rail splitter in the pro-abortion cause (Cuomo extrapolated that the people shouldn’t be permitted a democratic vote on abortion because Lincoln opposed allowing them a vote on slavery). Also contesting authors who think there was a right to secession (Lincoln did not), the readable Krannawitter upholds Lincoln as the true upholder of rights enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. --Gilbert Taylor