Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

The Long Pursuit: Abraham Lincoln's Thirty-Year Struggle with Stephen Douglas for the Heart and Soul of America

Academic journal article Presidential Studies Quarterly

The Long Pursuit: Abraham Lincoln's Thirty-Year Struggle with Stephen Douglas for the Heart and Soul of America

Article excerpt

The Long Pursuit: Abraham Lincoln's Thirty-Year Struggle with Stephen Douglas for the Heart and Soul of America. By Roy Morris, Jr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010. 272 pp.

Roy Morris Jr.'s The Long Pursuit twines together the unexpected and astonishing political rise of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. Part straight political history and part parallel biographies, Morris places the Lincoln-Douglas rivalry at the center of the national narrative. Morris argues, in what is perhaps an overstatement, that Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas "were fated to be rivals--first on the local, then the state, and finally the national scene" and that through this rivalry the two men "debate[d] and define[d] the preeminent issues of their time" (pp. 1-2).

Nine interrelated chapters chart the rise of Lincoln and Douglas, beginning with their appearance on the national scene during Andrew Jackson's administration and ending with Douglas's death and Lincoln's ascension to the presidency. Both men, argues Morris, defined their political philosophies while in the shadow of Jackson. For Douglas, "the voice of the people spoke most loudly and clearly when it bubbled up naturally from below" (p. x). Lincoln, however, believed in the need for "a wise and enlightened federal government" to protect the people from themselves (p. xi).

The two men also differed over the issue of slavery. For Douglas, slavery emerged as a political issue, while for Lincoln, slavery emerged as a moral issue. Both struggled to find their place on the local, state, and national scenes, and both became frustrated with the mechanism of politics. Both men lived lives marred by tragedy, as Douglas endured the death of his wife and daughter and suffered from poor health, and Lincoln endured the death of his parents and struggled with his own mental health demons. Ironically, both men courted Mary Todd. …

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