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What Lincoln Believed: The Values and Convictions of America's Greatest President [Kindle Edition]

Michael Lind
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Countless books have been written about Abraham Lincoln, yet few historians and biographers have taken Lincoln seriously as a thinker or attempted to place him in the context of major intellectual traditions. In this refreshing, brilliantly argued portrait, Michael Lind examines the ideas and beliefs that guided Lincoln as a statesman and shaped the United States in its time of great crisis.In a century in which revolutions against monarchy and dictatorship in Europe and Latin America had failed, Lincoln believed that liberal democracy must be defended for the good of the world. During an age in which many argued that only whites were capable of republican government, Lincoln insisted on the universality of human rights and the potential for democracy everywhere. Yet he also held many of the prejudices of his time; his opposition to slavery was rooted in his allegiance to the ideals of the American Revolution, not support for racial equality. Challenging popular myths and capturing Lincoln’s strengths and flaws, Lind offers fascinating and revelatory insights that deepen our understanding of this great and complicated man.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

People from across the political spectrum are embracing Lincoln in the ongoing debate over our 16th president's political philosophy. Several months after Mario Cuomo's Why Lincoln Matters: Today More Than Ever, political commentator Lind (The Next American Nation) endeavors with some success to disassemble Lincoln as a liberal icon and reclaim him as a hero for American conservatives. Lind argues that a raft of biographies written by left-wingers during FDR's New Deal identified Lincoln with a progressivism he would have found abhorrent. As Lind cogently points out, Lincoln repeatedly identified himself as a Henry Clay Whig. "Henry Clay had helped organize the Whig Party in opposition to Jackson, the hero of New Deal Democrats.... Cut off from his political predecessors, Lincoln was also separated from the Republican presidents who succeeded him, such as William McKinley and Herbert Hoover." Likewise, Lind quite correctly places Lincoln in the conservative Federalist tradition of Hamilton, Jay and Adams: men who worried about the tyranny of the majority and the risk to property inherent in democracy, and therefore sought to maintain democracy by building in limitations. Thus Lincoln as shown here remains the champion of government of the people, by the people and for the people—but with a few major asterisks.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Liberal political writer Lind contributes a provocative viewpoint to the body of Lincoln commentary. Yet Lind's conclusions about the Great Emancipator's politics are not entirely novel: it's not news that Lincoln modeled himself after Henry Clay. Lind parses Lincoln's oeuvre and synthesizes his selections to shape Lincoln not as an original but as a legatee, albeit an exceptionally articulate one, of Clay's constitutional and economic vision of America. Clay's "American System" promoted protectionism, central banking, and subsidized transportation improvements. Lind maintains that dividing Lincoln from the Gilded Age that followed his death, including the imposition of racial segregation, is a misinterpretation of Lincoln's entire career. Lind's Lincoln is a white supremacist. Lind supports his theory by quoting Lincoln on colonizing American blacks abroad and, although he regards Lincoln's opposition to slavery as genuine, minimizes any sentiments indicating Lincoln was favorable toward civil rights for blacks. Ready for inevitable attacks from upholders of an "evolving" Lincoln, Lind presents his critics with evidence they must overcome. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 576 KB
  • Print Length: 370 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1400030730
  • Publisher: Anchor (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XU8EIW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #441,123 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opening Analysis of Abe's Views on Race October 2, 2005
"What Lincoln Believed" is part of a line of recent presidential biographies (Jefferson, Jackson) taking what some readers think is a hypercritical look at some of this country's leading political personalities. It's no exaggeration to say that "What Lincoln Believed" will, for many, be an eye-opener, especially those who haven't focused on our greatest president since high school.

While I had been familiar with some of Lincoln's motivations for the Emancipation Proclamation as well as his Free-Soil views, this remarkable work brought to light numerous other facets of Abe's views on slavery including the relative rights of "free" slaves (his support of the Black Laws) and various details of his support for black colonization in both Africa and the Caribbean.

While some reviewers believe author Lind went out of his way to excoriate Lincoln based on 20th Century views of race, my own belief is that he has very honestly widened the historical record on this shrewd, passionate and courageous man, ultimately paying him the highest tribute by comparing him to the leading figures of his day and explaining how Lincoln was the right man at the right time to preserve the Union and perpetuate the philosophical seeds of democratic republicanism - seeds that could easily have been cast aside as our nation continued to enter the world stage.

"What Lincoln Believed" will make you rethink some of your assumptions about a legendary figure, but you will close the book still knowing that our sixteenth president was the person America needed at its darkest hour.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Reading, Question Some of His Conclusions July 26, 2005
As I read this I found myself thinking of the old saying that you know when a politician is lying because his mouth makes noise. We like to think of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator. Mr. Lind is careful to point out that he was no slouch as a politician. You don't get elected to that office without being an accomplished professional politician. Perhaps the Great Emancipator is a title, a view that we hold of him several generations later.

Mr. Lind spends a good bit of time on the definition of the United States as a nation vs. an alliance of sovereign states. Mr. Lind shows Lincoln's vision of the United States as a model of liberty and democracy for the world. Mr. Lincoln's model seemed to be that a state had the liberty to join the Union, but did not have the liberty to leave.

I greatly enjoyed reading Mr. Lind's book. I do question some of his conclusions. They are based on the thinking of a man raised in a culture offset from Lincoln's by a hundred and fifty years.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What Did Lincoln Really Believe? (4.3 *s) February 17, 2006
Lincoln is an icon from our political past, but it seems that many groups want to claim him as exemplifying their beliefs: Democrats and Repubs, proponents of economic opportunity, civil rights advocates, etc. The author, by analyzing Lincoln's utterances and actions, demonstrates that none of them are entirely correct or wrong in their claims.

It cannot be forgotten when examining his life, that Lincoln, as any, was a man of his times. He did originate from very humble beginnings, as did many of his era, but he seemed to have an inordinate desire to make something of himself. Lincoln occasionally represented railroad interests in court, but it is quite a stretch to suggest, as the author does, that Lincoln was essentially a well-to-do lawyer for the fat-cats. If anyone can lay claim to advancing beyond log-cabin origins, it would be Lincoln.

Lincoln was first and foremost a Henry Clay Whig and adhered to his program of internal improvements, national banking, and the protection of industry by tariffs. He was not a free-trader as are the current Repubs. Furthermore, he constantly held that labor was more important than capital, hardly an idea held by modern Repubs or the slave-holding Southern oligarchs.

Lincoln had a lifelong reverence for the Declaration of Independence, especially in its advocacy of universal rights of liberty. And that fundamentally impacted his view on slavery, the burning issue of the times, yet Lincoln was essentially a racial segregationist. He was a "Free-Soiler," who advocated for the exclusion of slavery in new territories and states, as well as already freed blacks. Lincoln mostly hoped that freed blacks could form free societies outside of the US.
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful
This book is provocative only in the sense that Lincoln's politics if transferred to our current day system have continually been a subject of debate among the American people. People from all over the political spectrum are eager to claim the 16th president as one of them, and the Illinois politician has since assumed a larger-than-life persona.

Although Lincoln is the nation's first official Republican president, he earned reverence among generations of African Americans (who would vote Republican until the 1960's) for emancipation. Musician Dion even enshrined him (along with Dr. King and the Kennedy's) into a somber Parthenon of 'great Americans who fought on behalf of civil rights' for a still-catchy song.

Lind produced a general book about Lincoln, but this book contains large sections on Lincoln's views on race and ethnicity. As progressive as he was on some issues, Lincoln was still a product of his own time. Lind even goes as far to suggest that Lincoln was personally sympathetic to white supremacists. Because such an image would be at considerable odds with how the American public would like to remember him, this book raises some troubling questions about "American heroes". Can we really continue identifying with Lincoln if we do not actually know about his political ideology and issue positions?

While this book was an interesting read, Lind's research leaves something to be desired. His miscalculation of the senators and representatives during Lincoln's presidency is appalling. Lind is not aware that the figure he had given in this book was too large for the time. Finally, he appears to have his own made up version of who Lincoln really was. Lind has a demagogue's penchant for simply ignoring prior substantiated historical evidence which discredits his thesis.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Lacking the nuance of a really good Lincoln study.
This book, like so many: too many other Lincoln studies is that it really paints an incomplete picture of Lincoln. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Richard Arnold
5.0 out of 5 stars Lind Dares to Look at the Real Lincoln
The hagiographies on Lincoln pour forth by the year. He has come to be all things to all collectivists. Read more
Published on December 20, 2012 by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars History In Name Only
This book hardly qualifies as a history, only doing so by the nature of the categorization process in which any book which deals with the past is labeled "history". Read more
Published on October 27, 2008 by Kristin D. Morgan
2.0 out of 5 stars this is the pits
avoid this book. bad information. author writes the book to

fit his opinion. facts are distorted, unchecked. get it off

the shelf and into the trash.
Published on July 14, 2006 by WALTER
4.0 out of 5 stars An innovative take on Lincoln for general readers
Lind, it should be noted, is a journalist and public policy writer, not a professional historian. Nevertheless, this is an interesting and well-researched look at Abraham Lincoln... Read more
Published on March 9, 2006 by Jeffrey Bergman
5.0 out of 5 stars Lincoln As He Was
Michael Lind's masterful political biography gives us the real Lincoln. No saint, he was a man whose views on race mirrored the Social Darwinism of his times. Read more
Published on July 11, 2005 by John R. Roberts
4.0 out of 5 stars An unique view of Lincoln
I enjoyed this book. The attempt to describe the character of Lincln in the context of his era was excellent, though I thought Lind at times got on his own soap box about race and... Read more
Published on June 26, 2005 by John M. Lyons
2.0 out of 5 stars What Lind Believes
The drawing of a baleful Abraham Lincoln on the jacket of this book is a tip-off. The author emphasizes the negative about the sixteenth president at about every turn, especially... Read more
Published on June 14, 2005 by Christian Schlect
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