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Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words Paperback – October 9, 2007
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This excellent book can be a great contribution to your education about the real Abraham Lincoln and how he conducted himself as President. He came into office with the elite dismissing him as crude and hopelessly unsophisticated. This book shows us how carefully he worked on his public speeches and the letters and articles that were published during his time in office.
Sometimes we forget that by the time Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861 that the movement for secession was well underway and the firing on Fort Sumter was on April 12, 1861, just a few weeks later. His second inaugural address was given on March 4, 1865, Lee's Surrender at Appomattox was on April 9th, and Lincoln was shot by Booth on April 14th. He died the next day. So, his entire service as President was bounded by that terrible war.
Douglas Wilson takes several of the addresses and letters central to Lincoln's Presidency and shows us what the extant drafts reveal to us about Lincoln's purposes, approach, and the political realities he faced. He also brings in testimony by those who were involved with those documents, worked with Lincoln, and contemporaries who wrote about them.Read more ›
As a documentary scholar, Wilson cannot be surpassed: he properly acknowledges prior scholars who celebrated the high quality of Lincoln's prose--Jacques Barzun and Don Fehrenbacher, among others. Wilson examines not only Lincoln's own papers, but also relevant correspondence, news reports, and testimony. Lincoln sometimes showed drafts to colleagues, friends, and secretaries, then revised to respond to their criticisms.
Wilson takes care to distinguish Lincoln's public oratory from the printed records of it, and shows how--in case after case--Lincoln was sensitive to and took advantage of differences in media. Lincoln knew when his writing should be formal or folksy, terse or expansive, tacit or explicit, congenial or hortatory. No less important, he knew how to seize an opportunity and when to create one. Modern presidents rely on television to reach the citizenry; Lincoln wrote highly influential editorials and public letters. He wrote his own speeches. Then he rewrote them.
Wilson shows that Lincoln was a relentless reviser. No matter how well he spoke and how well a speech was received, he would guide it into print with alterations to make it work as well on the page as possible. Wilson probes whether the Gettysburg Address that millions have memorized is what Lincoln actually said.
Wilson does not ask us to take him on faith: he includes facsimile reproductions of many key documents as evidence of Lincoln's attentive labor. Readers can see the cross-outs, scribbles, and additions for themselves.Read more ›
Wilson peels back the layers of some of Lincoln's dramatic speeches, including his Springfield Farewell Address, First Inaugural, Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural. Lincoln kept fine-tuning the words for greater force and clarity.
Wilson shows how Lincoln's editing continued even after his speeches were delivered, as he carefully finalized the works for publication, translating from the spoken word to the written word.
We gain new appreciation for Lincoln's final words when we see the drafting process underlying them. This may be as close as we will ever get to reconstructing the thoughts of our greatest President.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Amazing book! Makes what could have been a dry subject so incredibly interesting!!! Definitely recommend this book!Published 9 months ago by Kevin
Excellent research material for my historical novel about the Civil War.Published 9 months ago by Kirk B.
If you enjoy Lincoln, get this book. It has all facts about Lincoln, and his time writing. Great for Lincoln lovers and those who want to know more about Lincoln. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Darrin Anderson
It had some interesting information about Lincoln and the background behind some of his most famous speeches, but it could have been about half as long. Read morePublished on December 2, 2013 by Todd Keyser
Lincoln's Sword expertly and entertainingly analyzes Lincoln's extraordinary ability to persuade his public. Read morePublished on September 2, 2013 by Philo F. Willetts Jr.
This book was a gift for our boss who is a Lincolnphile, and we were hard pressed to find a book that he had not read - this was it! Read morePublished on January 8, 2013 by Barbara L. Dean
I am a professional communicator and speechwriter, so I was excited to find this book on Lincoln as a writer. Read morePublished on May 19, 2009 by ESM517
I chose this book to read for an AP US History book critique project. I actually found myself enjoying the read which is unusual for me. I would definitely recommend this book.Published on March 22, 2009 by Heather Todd