Cover image for Abraham Lincoln : a constitutional biography
Abraham Lincoln : a constitutional biography
Anastaplo, George, 1925-2014.
Publication Information:
Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 373 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E457.2 .A54 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This text looks at the development, impact and legacy of Lincoln's legal and constitutional thought. The author describes how the president managed to keep the USA united and demonstrates Lincoln's continuing and profound influence on modern American society, law, and politics.

Author Notes

George Anastaplo is professor of law at Loyola University of Chicago, lecturer in the liberal arts at the University of Chicago, and professor emeritus at Dominican University. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The Civil War posed a series of unique, unprecedented constitutional dilemmas for Abraham Lincoln. How does a president resist secession on legal grounds? How far can a president go in curtailing civil liberties during a time of "domestic insurrection?" At best, the Constitution is vague on such issues; at worst, it provides no guidance at all. Anastaplo, a teacher at the University of Chicago and Loyola University, illustrates in this original and stimulating work that Lincoln based his political principles on a deep abiding faith in popular government. Faced with the prospect of treading the unknown constitutional ground presented by the war, Lincoln was consistently guided by his devotion to preserving democratic values where possible. Although he was prepared to occasionally stretch the Constitution, he generally sought to preserve it. Lincoln scholars, Civil War buffs, and well-informed general readers will find much that is revealing here. --Jay Freeman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Much has been written about Lincoln the wartime leader, Lincoln the emancipator and Lincoln the orator. Anastaplo (The Amendments to the Constitution: A Commentary), who teaches at several Chicago universities, tackles Lincoln the constitutional scholar. What, wonders Anastaplo, can close study of Lincoln's presidential addresses, messages and proclamations reveal about the complex matrix of thought that provided the ethical and legal foundation for Lincoln's public actions? Drawing not just on Lincoln's statements but also on the writings of philosophers (ranging from Aristotle to Theodore Parker) whom Lincoln is known to have read and respected, Anastaplo vividly reveals the 16th president's interpretation of the values expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Covering some of the same ground traversed in Garry Wills's Lincoln at Gettysburg, Anastaplo casts a slightly wider net by giving equal interpretative attention to the Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, the two inaugural addresses, the "House Divided" speech and Lincoln's statements during his famous debates with Stephen A. Douglas. All this makes for a remarkable portrait of Lincoln as a political philosopher whose thinking was always more subtle than his back-country myth implied. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Given the number of books on Abraham Lincoln already published, is another justified? Especially when more than half its chapters have been previously published, it raises more questions than it answers, and it is initially difficult to read as it explores the common-law sources of Lincoln's jurisprudence. Despite these potential weaknesses, prolific University of Chicago law professor Anastaplo successfully carves a niche in the crowded collection of Lincolniana. Anastaplo has spent more than three decades assessing American democracy's icon by focusing on the sources, styles, and legacy of Lincoln's constitutional perspective, which might be reduced to the two words most repeated by the author: prudent equality. The chapter on the Gettysburg Address is a classic. A paperback edition is merited so that it may be widely used in constitutional law and Civil War courses. Highly recommended.ÄWilliam D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Contrary to its misleading title, this book is not a Lincoln biography but rather an anthology of Anastaplo's essays on themes often linked to Lincoln tangentially at best. Nearly all of the 19 were lectures delivered to campus or community groups; most of those later published were in third-tier law reviews. Although the majority of the essays are of relatively recent vintage, most citations of post-1960 scholarship are of the author's own publications. Nowhere in the notes does one find such names as Benjamin Thomas, David Donald, James McPherson, Mark E. Neely Jr., Michael Burlingame, or Herman Belz. Yet many of Anastaplo's philosophical musings are more than worthy of the patience required of the reader. Especially cogent is his appraisal of Lincoln's conservative legacy of preserving the integrity of constitutional restraints and the purity of American political language in an era of turmoil and social revolution. Graduate, faculty. R. A. Fischer; University of Minnesota--Duluth

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 1
1 The Declaration of Independence: An Introductionp. 11
2 The Declaration of Independence: On Rights and Dutiesp. 31
3 The Northwest Ordinancep. 39
4 Slavery and the Federal Convention of 1787p. 51
5 The Common Law and the Organization of Governmentp. 69
6 Alexis de Tocqueville on Democracy in Americap. 81
7 John C. Calhoun and Slaveryp. 113
8 Southern Illinois's Abraham Lincolnp. 123
9 The Poetry of Abraham Lincolnp. 135
10 The "House Divided" Speechp. 149
11 The Lincoln-Douglas Debatesp. 157
12 The First Inaugural Addressp. 177
13 The Fourth of July Message to Congressp. 185
14 The Emancipation Proclamationp. 197
15 The Gettysburg Addressp. 229
16 The Second Inaugural Addressp. 243
17 Abraham Lincoln's Legaciesp. 251
Epiloguep. 257
Notesp. 263
Indexp. 361
About the Authorp. 373