Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Special Review Essay: Recent Books on Abraham Lincoln

Academic journal article Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

Special Review Essay: Recent Books on Abraham Lincoln

Article excerpt

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America. By Alien C. Guelzo. (New York, NY and other cities: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Pp. xv+333. Notes, index. $26.00).

Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington. By Daniel Mark Epstein. (New York, NY: Random House, 2005. Illus., notes, index. Paper: $14.50).

Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Him President. By John A. Corry. (Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris Corporation, 2003: www.Xlibris.com; Orders@Xlibris.com. Pp. 282. Illus.; bib.; index. Cloth, $28.79; Paper, $18.69).

Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech that Made Abraham Lincoln President. By Harold Holzer. (New York, NY and other cities: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Pp.339. Notes, illus., index. Cloth, $25. Paper: $14.00).

The Darkest Dawn: Lincoln, Booth, and the Great American Tragedy. By Thomas Goodrich. (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2005. Pp. x + 363. Notes, illus.; bib.; index. Cloth, $35.00).

What Lincoln Believed: The Values and Convictions of America's Greatest President. By Michael Lind. (New York, NY: Doubleday, 2005. tPp. viii +345. tNotes, bib., index. Cloth, $27.95).

Lincoln's Ladies: The Women in the Life of the Sixteenth President. By Donald Winkler. By Donald H. Winkler; Foreword by Frank J. Williams. (Nashville, TN: Cumberland House. Illus., notes, bib., index. Paper, $16.95).

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: The First Complete, Unexpurgated Text. Ed. Harold Holzer. (New York, NY: Fordham University Press. Pp. xxv + 394. Introductions, illus., notes, table, index. Paper, $18.00).

Why Lincoln Matters, Today More Than Ever. By Mario M. Cuomo. (Orlando, FL, and other cities: Harcourt Inc., 2004. Pp. vii + 183. Cloth: $24.00).

Jacksonian Antislavery and the Politics of Free Soil, 1824-1854. By Jonathan H. Earle. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. Pp. xiii+282. Illus., maps, tables, bib., index. Paper, $22.50).

Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810-1860. By Michael O'Brien. ( Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. 2 vols; pp. xvii + 1354. Illus., notes, bib., index. Cloth, $95.00).

For over fifty years there has been a growing tendency to criticize Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. In his recent book Alien C. Guelzo undertakes to make the case that the Proclamation deserves the fame it enjoyed for most of the following century. He patiently and thoroughly explores the evolution of Lincoln's policy from the early days of his presidency until his determination in July, 1862 to issue such a proclamation, the care he took in drafting and publishing it, and the measures he took after it went into effect to make it irreversible and permanent. From the outset of the Civil War, as Lincoln patiently and repeatedly pointed out to his abolitionist friends and critics, there was no way that the president could abolish slavery in the United States without appropriate changes in the Constitution, and appropriate legislation from Congress. Congress itself took the lead in attacking slavery, but only as a measure against those slaveholders in rebellion.

While Lincoln proved reluctant to apply the First and second Confiscation Acts, he did not doubt their constitutionality. Rather, he doubted that federal and state courts could be depended on to validate the freedom of slaves whom the government had confiscated from rebels. Lincoln hoped to end the rebellion sooner, and knit the United States together more amicably, by a gradual system of compensated emancipation, beginning with the District of Columbia and the four slave states that remained in the Union. Congressional power and the relatively small number of slaves in the District made compensated emancipation possible there, but to Lincoln's great disappointment, the border slave states repeatedly refused to entertain schemes for emancipation, even with compensation to slave owners. …

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