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Lincoln President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861 Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 21, 2008

4.4 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Even the most committed of Lincoln's fans have sometimes questioned his actions in the four months between his 1860 election and his inauguration: a period when seven states seceded from the Union. In an engrossing narrative, Holzer (Lincoln at Cooper Union), chairman of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, painstakingly retraces Lincoln's few public statements and numerous private initiatives during this key period, revealing an astute political operator assessing the situation, organizing his government, reaching out to the South and most of all, [drawing] a line in the sand to prevent the spread of human slavery. Holzer shows Lincoln shrewdly and methodically manipulating friend and foe alike, while also taking the first cautious steps toward preparing both himself and his country for a grim trial by fire. 16 pages of b&w photos. BOMC and History Book Club main selection, first serial to Civil War Times and Smithsonian magazines. (Oct.)
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From Booklist

Even some of Lincoln’s most ardent admirers find fault with his behavior between his election in November 1860 and his inauguration the following March. Lincoln is criticized by some for his reticence as secession conventions convened in Southern states, while others find some of his few public utterances too provocative to Southern sensibilities. Holzer, one of our greatest Lincoln scholars, strongly and convincingly rejects those assertions. Holzer begins with a description of the unprecedented litany of problems facing the president-elect. Lincoln, elected with less than 40 percent of the popular vote, had no electoral mandate and was feared and despised in the South. His rivals within the Republican Party constantly schemed against him and viewed him as a bumbler. Holzer maintains that Lincoln faced these obstacles with skill and strong political instincts. What some have termed as reticence, Holzer sees as the wisdom of keeping one’s mouth shut. His “provocative” statements were simply a firm assertion of his deeply held beliefs. Holzer deals effectively with a lingering controversy in a work that will be an excellent addition to Lincoln collections. --Jay Freeman

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (October 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743289471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743289474
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,011,382 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Scott Mingus on October 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Harold Holzer is one of America's finest historians -- a man celebrated for both his vast knowledge of Civil War-era events, as well as his fluid and readable writing style. His latest effort, Lincoln, President-Elect: Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-61, is perhaps his finest work of recent vintage. He focuses on the crucial four-month period between the Election of 1860 and the inauguration of the 16th President -- four months that forever changed the fundamental fabric of America. Lincoln's controversial decision to take a hard line with the Southern states, refusing to compromise on key issues such as states' rights, secession, and the right to maintain the institution of slavery.

Holzer paints Lincoln as a strong-willed, decisive politician who has a clear vision of what he wants to accomplish and shrewdly manuevers support for his ambitions and objectives. Written in a fast-paced style that keeps the reader both informed and anticipating Lincoln's next move, this is a book that both presents the facts as they are known from the historical record and, more importantly, interprets the decisions, deals, and moves Lincoln made as he prepared for his presidency during perhaps the most turbulent four-month period in U.S. history.

Divided into two major sections, Holzer's book first deals with "the promise of something better," a phrase that caught fire after the disappointments of the nearly impotent Buchanan Administration. Interspersed with Lincoln's wry humor and stories are details of the political and social issues facing the President-Elect, issues that may have overwhelmed a weaker man.
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Format: Hardcover
I liked this book, but I did not love it. Holzer reports the results of his vast research in this account of Lincoln's activities during the four months from his election until his inauguration. The book contains innumerable details about Lincoln's daily activities: besieged by office seekers, crafting a cabinet, cleverly navigating the climactic political struggle between the states, and carefully writing and editing his every word. Lincoln emerges as keenly attentive and actively involved in political affairs even though his status as president-elect denied him any official power. Perhaps the best part of the book follows Lincoln's efforts to write his first inaugural address, which Holzer justly praises as one of Lincoln's underappreciated masterpieces. As usual, one finishes the book with a greater regard for Lincoln, though Holzer recounts Lincoln's errors as well (including the fall-out from his rushed trip to Washington to avoid an assassination threat in Baltimore).

Yet the whole of the book does not quite rise to the level of the sum of its detailed parts. The detail obscures the fact that Lincoln did not have much that he could do during the lame-duck period. Indeed, Holzer quotes Lincoln's assertion that he "would willingly take out of my life a period in years equal to the two months which intervene between now and my inauguration to take the oath of office now." The disintegration of the United States that occurred while Lincoln was president-elect and his inability to do anything about it is more damning of our lengthy lame-duck periods than it is of Lincoln himself. But Lincoln's absence of power strips his activities as president-elect of much meaning.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A close review of the months in Abraham Lincoln's life starting with the presidential election of 1860 and ending with his swearing into office on March 4 of 1861.

Harold Holzer knows his subject both wide and deep. Here he delivers a fresh and accurate account of such matters as the lack of much comment by the newly-elected president on the pending political issues of the day; the long train ride to Washington, D.C. from Springfield (this area of coverage is detailed to a fault); the incessant but necessary handling of patronage; the deft formation of the first cabinet; and the inspired drafting of the First Inaugural Address.

This is not a general biography or history but a very focused look at the period when Mr. Lincoln changed from being a mere candidate for office to one who would lead the United States through its greatest trial.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In spite of a (very) few redundancies, I enjoyed this book. It provides interesting insights into the process Lincoln took while writing his first inaugural. There were MANY more editors than i would have imagined.

Also, the stories related as he travelled to DC from Springfield were quite interesting as well - the political "sides" reporting their own take on the various speeches along the way... Interesting to see how he grew as a speaker when he realized the amount of weight reporters were giving the speeches he gave during the journey.

By no means can I pass myself off as a Lincoln scholar, but I am greatly interested in his life and career, on a hobbyist level.

If you enjoy stories about Lincoln's life, I think you'll enjoy this viewpoint and these perspectives.

I cannot think of any audience that wouldn't enjoy this read (assuming even passing interest in Lincoln, that is). It's long, but well worth it! Bravo, Dr. Holzler!
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