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Wrestling With His Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln Vol. II, 1849-1856 Hardcover – May 16, 2017
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“Sidney Blumenthal’s first volume, A Self-Made Man, wove a broad and intricate counterpoint between the young life of Abraham Lincoln and the politics of Jacksonian America. Blumenthal extends that superb counterpoint in Wrestling With His Angel, giving us the best account we have of the big-screen context of Lincoln and the explosive political events during the decade he strode to the front of the American stage. Blumenthal illuminates the path Lincoln hewed to greatness. This is the best political history we have had of Abraham Lincoln since James G. Randall and Allan Nevins.” (Allen Guelzo, author of Gettysburg, winner of the Lincoln Prize)
“Sidney Blumenthal has achieved something quite unexpected: he has rescued the Lincoln most Americans know only as an icon, and turned him back into a real human being, revealing a clever and adroit politician, a fixer of conventions, and a political operator whose ambitions are surpassed only by his searing moral vision.” (Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer)
“A timely and important book. Rather than diminishing his sympathy for the 16th President’s inner turmoil, Blumenthal’s ‘long historical view’ has yielded an exceptionally nuanced and compassionate portrait of Lincoln and the circumstances that shaped his career.” (Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War)
“Wrestling With His Angel is a raucous and epic voyage through the turbulent political waters of the age that made Abraham Lincoln. Blumenthal has crafted a Melvillian narrative of the era of secession and the men who navigated it. Completely mesmerizing, a deeply serious meditation with the keen sense of humor that Lincoln so famously had.” (John Witt, author of the Lincoln’s Code, winner of the Bancroft Prize)
"Wrestling With His Angel is dramatic narrative history, prophetic and intimate—painfully at times. Blumenthal makes our nation’s moral cleavage appear tragically ordained, perhaps insurmountable, which renders his luminous portrait of Lincoln all the more revelatory.” (Diane McWhorter, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Carry Me Home)
“In the second volume of his masterful biography, Sidney Blumenthal tells the story of Lincoln’s political self-fashioning in the 1850s, and his entrance onto the stage of history. With vigorous prose, deep knowledge, and energetic narrative momentum, Blumenthal shows how Lincoln defined himself against his rival Stephen Douglas, learned how to become a persuasive orator, fortified his intellectual opposition to slavery, and fought the anti-immigrant “Know-Nothing” party that was dominating American politics. Read it for a total immersion in pre-Civil War politics that has startling relevance to our own era.” (Elaine Showalter, author of The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe)
“Blumenthal immerses the reader in American politics in the years between Lincoln’s return to Springfield, after completing his term in the House of Representatives, and his contribute to founding the Illinois Republican Party." (Publishers Weekly)
“An ambitious old-fashioned ensemble piece, history as theater, which sets the stage for the Civil War. . . . we have two more volumes to anticipate from Blumenthal's finely etched drama of history, illuminating Lincoln's craggy character in a fuller, clearer light.” (U.S. News & World Report)
“Masterful” (The Los Angeles Times)
“Magnificent . . . Blumenthal explores in superbly researched and beautifully written detail the crucial period when “Lincoln’s public and private statements” began to reflect “a moderate politician with radical thoughts.” . . . extremely well done, and anyone interested in Lincoln’s political career will want to read it.” (Bookpage)
About the Author
Sidney Blumenthal is the former assistant and senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, and senior adviser to Hillary Clinton. He has been a national staff reporter for The Washington Post, Washington editor and staff writer for The New Yorker, senior writer for The New Republic, and contributed to numerous additional publications. His books include the bestselling The Clinton Wars, The Rise of the Counter-Establishment, and The Permanent Campaign. Among his films, he was the executive producer of the Academy and Emmy Award–winning Taxi to the Dark Side.
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Lincoln purists will perhaps find the book woefully missing its main character as Lincoln rarely appears in the first two-thirds of the book and essentially absent from 80% of it. Some may see this as a weakness of the book, but I see it as its main strength. Lincoln was, in fact, not intimately involved in the political tug of wars going on in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Washington, DC during this period. In his first book of the series, Blumenthal spends considerable time exploring the other actors and events that set the stage for the rise of Lincoln. This is especially important in this period of Lincoln's political inactivity and essential for the understanding of conditions that allowed Lincoln to become the leader he became. Blumenthal aptly documents the actions of key figures such as aging icons Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun, as well as the rise of Stephen A. Douglas and Jefferson Davis.
This deep background, using today's parlance, is absolutely necessary for a proper understanding of both the times and of Lincoln himself. Blumenthal's in-depth and highly researched scholarship brings the times to clarity for us all.
The final few chapters focus more on Lincoln as he struggles with the demise of the Whigs and the ascension of a new Republican party. After losing the Senate race as a Whig (on a technicality and deception by the Democrats in Illinois), Lincoln helped to formalize the Illinois Republican party and quickly rose to become one of its great leaders.
The book ends prior to the 1856 presidential race, the first in which a Republican candidate is put forth. The next volume, according to Blumenthal, should cover the period from that election, through the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates that gave Lincoln national exposure, past the 1860 election, and all the way up to Gettysburg. If you haven't read these first two books, start now. They are hefty in both size and scholarship, but well worth the time.
Hunter, Robert Barnwell Rhett and other southern politicians advocated the expansion of slavery into Cuba and California, New Mexico and other newly acquired areas (such as the Gadsden Purchase),
The book is not light reading as the author opens the door to the bitter battles in the US Congress over slavery. We see men like Daniel Webster who favored the Compromise of 1850; Henry Clay the author of that bill and in favor of slaves being sent to Africa for colonization and John C. Calhoun the fiery South Carolinian who hated the Declaration of Independence and was a staunch supporter of chattel slavery,
For a history buff who loves to read about Lincoln and the politics and personalities of the antebellum and Civil War era this book was a wonderfully written and researched book. I eagerly await the next volume in the series.
Most recent customer reviews
just aren't drawn into it.