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Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, 50th Anniversary Edition Enlarged Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 858-0000188295
ISBN-10: 0226391183
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Four hundred pages of close textual analysis, biography and political philosophy, the book transformed the scholarly understanding of Lincoln, placing the prairie lawyer on a level with Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, and the other founders.”

(Forbes 2009-07-17)

"A book that will never die--a genuine landmark in American thought. It's the greatest Lincoln book ever. No foolin'."
(Andrew Ferguson)

"One of the most influential works of American history and political philosophy ever published."
(National Review)

About the Author

Harry Jaffa is Henry Salvatori Research Professor of Political Philosophy Emeritus at Claremont McKenna College.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Enlarged edition (April 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226391183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226391182
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #383,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Colleen A. Sheehan on September 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
Harry Jaffa's Crisis of the House Divided is a tour de force in Lincoln scholarship. Indeed, it is the best tome on Lincoln that has ever been written -- except, perhaps, for Jaffa's sequel to Crisis, A New Birth of Freedom. Crisis is more than an interpretation of an event in American political history, however, and readers should be forewarned that this is a book that could fundamentally change their way of thinking about politics and ethics. It could even create a kind of crisis of perspective for those readers who accept the predominant easy going relativism of our time, for it is difficult to be easy going about the most important human questions after a confrontation with the author's supreme skill in argumentation, not to mention lucidity and elegance of written expression.
Let me offer one example: It is not uncommon today to hear someone in a debate say, "Well, you have your opinion and I have mine, and who's to say what is right or wrong." As Jaffa shows via Lincoln's responses to Douglas in their debates (which were perhaps a bit more elevated than most contemporary debates), the "who's to say" attempt at concluding an argument is at best vacuous (that is, if it's not even worse -- mere cowardice). When Douglas refused to say what -- human slavery or human freedom -- is right or wrong, Lincoln took him to task, demonstrating that the very meaning of America is grounded in the principles of the Declaration of Independence, which teaches that all men (and women) are created equal, and thus slavery is by nature wrong. Lincoln further taught his fellow citizens that if they were really to take rights seriously, the first thing they had to recognize is that there is no right to do wrong.
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Format: Paperback
Harry V. Jaffa's "Crisis of the House Divided" is an extremely important book. It is a tour de force in Lincoln scholarship. Indeed, it is the best tome on Lincoln and his views that have ever been written apart from, possibly, Jaffa's sequel to "Crisis of the House Divided", "A New Birth of Freedom."

In it, he succeeds in turning back the pragmatic historians of the mid-twentieth century who sought to undervalue Abraham Lincoln's commitment to the proposal that "All men are created equal." This tide of revisionism took two general forms. One of them were the supporters for the South who placed the full blame on Mr. Lincoln for sparking the "War of Northern Aggression"; and the other were the modern historians who claimed that there were really no substantial policy differences between Mr. Lincoln and Senator Stephen A. Douglas. If the latter class of historian could prove that Lincoln didn't really believe in freedom for slaves and that his rhetoric against slavery was irresponsible, knowing how it offended Southern sensibilities while Douglas' "Popular Sovereignty" policy would have eventually led to the limitation and elimination of slavery, then Lincoln's legacy as President could be shown to be the largely accidental.

Fortunately, Jaffa's work annihilates the eroding contentions of the revisionists and showing, beyond any doubt, that Mr. Lincoln believed America was founded on the principle of human equality as much as it was founded on the idea of democracy. That democracy and equality were the twin pillars of the American Republic and were in tension was something Mr. Lincoln well understood while Judge Douglas honored only democracy. Hence, Douglas' "Popular Sovereignty" led to the concept that the majority could decide slavery was not only legal, but also moral.
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I purchased this book as the result of a review in a conservative magazine to which I subscribe. Even at the point of ordering, I thought I was going to read a blow-by-blow account of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, a part of the 1858 campaign for Senator from the State of Illinois. It is much different from that conception and any allied perceptions. It is, rather, a deeply considered analysis of the arguments presented by each man. The analyses of each man's arguments spans the whole of each man's public life, which in each case, began long before 1858. The author is precise in his use of the King's English to the point where, even though I think I possess a larger than average vocabulary, I kept my college dictionary nearby when I worked on this book. The read is worth the effort. You will have a much enhanced vision of the competing forces which brought the nation to the Civil War. Surprisingly, the scope of the analyses take you back to the founding fathers. If you like to give your brain a workout, buy it and read it.
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Format: Paperback
Professor Harry V. Jaffa's "Crisis of the House Divided" is an extremely important book. In it, he succeeds in turning back the revisionist historians of the mid-Twentieth Century who sought to devalue Abraham Lincoln's commitment to the proposition that "All men are created equal."

This tide of revisionism took two general forms; partisans for the South who placed the full blame on Mr. Lincoln for sparking the "War of Northern Aggression"; and modern historians, skeptical of any higher motives and virtues in statesmen of the past, who claimed that there were really no substantial policy differences between Mr. Lincoln and Senator Stephen A. Douglas. If the latter class of historian could prove that Lincoln didn't really believe in freedom for slaves and that his rhetoric against slavery was irresponsible (knowing how it offended Southern sensibilities) while Douglas' "Popular Sovereignty" policy would have eventually led to the limitation and elimination of slavery, then Lincoln's legacy as President could be shown to be the largely accidental.

Fortunately, Professor Jaffa's work demolishes the corrosive contentions of the revisionists, showing, beyond any doubt, that Mr. Lincoln believed America was founded on the principle of human equality as much as it was founded on the idea of democracy. That democracy and equality were the twin pillars of the American Republic and were in tension was something Mr. Lincoln well understood while Judge Douglas honored only democracy. Hence, Douglas' "Popular Sovereignty" led to the concept that the majority could decide slavery was not only legal, but also moral. In opposition, Mr.
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