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Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography Paperback – February 4, 2003
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William Lee Miller's Lincoln's Virtues is less an "event" chronology than the tracing of the moral and ethical core of Abraham Lincoln's beliefs, what Miller calls the man's "unintended preparation for greatness." Miller posits that Lincoln rightly deserves his nonpareil place in American history. But, he continues, Lincoln's greatness is best appreciated only when we realize he was merely mortal and therefore free to follow any number of courses of actions. Miller, through scores of eloquent exegeses of Lincoln's writings and speeches, explores the path--consistent, though evolving--this free agent took. Lincoln chose politics as his work. As a politician he was subject to the very real constraints of collective action. However, such was the man's "moral self-confidence," that the mantle of greatness alit on his shoulders alone. This is a revealing, delicate, and at times soaring work. It also presupposes its readers are much more than casually familiar with Lincoln's life and times. - -H. O'Billovitch --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In a narrative that positions a careful analysis of Lincoln's life against his popular legend and "ritual celebration," University of Virginia historian Miller (Arguing About Slavery) provides an incisive and shrewd discussion of Lincoln's development as a person and a politician. If it is assumed from the outset that Lincoln was "a spectacularly wonderful man," Miller argues, it "may diminish our appreciation of the ways in which he may actually have become one." Thus Miller's project to chronicle man rather than myth is explicitly concerned with the evolution of Lincoln's character, motivations and ideals. Chronicling his rise from an Appalachian boyhood to the corridors of power, the author makes a host of wise observations about this "ungainly westerner" that are informed as much by Miller's considerable knowledge of human nature as by his study of Lincoln's utterances over the years. According to Miller, Lincoln's life was motivated by the desire to distance himself from his humble origins; though he may have begun as a young man of the people, he quickly sought a place among the intellectual and cultural elite that Thomas Jefferson had dubbed the "natural aristocracy." He never introduced his sons to his father and stepmother. He harbored an intense dislike for all forms of menial labor, and was displeased when campaign posters positioned him as a rail-splitter. In this same spirit, he despised the simple, petty bigotries common among the working classes of his day and eschewed the Know-Nothingism popular in the United States of the 1850s as being beneath him. It is this Lincoln's studied and cultivated aloofness from the banal Miller argues, that positioned him for greatness. (Jan. 22) Forecast: This brings a fresh and refreshing perspective that Lincoln devotees will appreciate.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Miller shows that Lincoln held two principles as sacred to those virtues enunciated in the Declaration of Independence: the Union which was indissoluble and predated the formation of states; the right of every American to be free. Lincoln fought hard for the black race in a racist society beyond a 21st century person's ken. He thought slavery wrong from an early age and will live forever for his authorship of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 and support of the 13th amendment to the Constitution freeing slaves.
Lincoln as a congressman in the 1840s opposed the Mexican War as unjust. He was an enemy of the Polk administration's Manifest Destiny hubris. As a Whig politician for most of his career his great hero was Henry Clay of Ky. who managed to get the Compromise of 1850 passed. Lincoln deplored the Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854 which nullified the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The Kansas-Nebraska Act was the brainchild of Lincoln's racist 1858 opponent for the Senate in Illinois: Stephen A. Douglas. With Kansas-Nebraska it became possible for slavery to be extended into the territories entering the Union. Lincoln also opposed the Dred Scott decision and the fugitive slave act.
Miller shows how skillful a politican Mr. Lincoln was as he sought political power while at the same time moving the country forward to a more just and democratic society. His strong defense of the Constitution and the Union led to the waging and winning of the Civil War. Miller's portrait of Lincoln makes clear to this reader why he is our greatest president!
Lincoln is sometimes been attacked for racism but those critics who cast aspersions on him fail to realize the type of white supremacist society in which he was immured.Without Lincoln the United States as we know it would probably not have survived the major challenges of secession by eleven states and a horrific civil war.
Lincoln, teaches Miller, was a kind man who abhorred cruelty to animals and human beings. The sixteenth president was merciful to soldiers who fell asleep on guard duty. Had he lived, reconstruction in the southern states would no doubt have been less severe than it was. Lincoln rarely held grudges grasping the moral if not the doctrinal teaching of Christianity. He had the skills of a great author/poet. Lincoln's speeches soar higher and probe deeper into the American psyche than do those of any other American Chief Executive.
This outstanding book should be read in tandem with the author's second volume on Lincoln entitled "President Lincoln." Read these books slowly and absorb their content. One wishes their was an Abraham Lincoln to cast his stovepipe hat in the presidential ring in the current frenzied contest for the Oval Office!
One aspect of Miller's style that readers may not enjoy is that he is sometimes long-winded. He tends to enjoy exegesis of Lincoln's speeches or letters, and sometimes repeats himself with just a few different words. However, for me, this was just an attestation to Miller's admiration for his subject. I think even serious Lincoln readers will benefit from Miller's analyses, as he overturns more than a few common beliefs about Lincoln's character.
Most recent customer reviews
is truly a Bible for conscientious, moral politicians and morality in general.Read more