Cover image for This fiery trial : the speeches and writings of Abraham Lincoln
This fiery trial : the speeches and writings of Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xv11 pages, 236 pages ; 22 cm
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Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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E457.92 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The most eloquent president in our history, Abraham Lincoln's literary ability was extraordinary. Indeed, he is the one American president whose writings could be considered literature. Now, in This Fiery Trial, William Gienapp has brought together over one hundred pieces by Lincoln, ranging from his first published political statement, printed in the Sangamo Journal in1832, to his final public address, delivered just days before his assassination. Here of course are some of the greatest speeches in American history, including the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address. Other pieces include his "A House Divided" speech to the Republican State convention in 1858, excerpts from his famed debates with Stephen Douglas, and thetext of the Emancipation Proclamation. The writings provide a documentary account of Lincoln's thought and how it evolved over time. We can trace, for instance, how his thoughts on slavery and emancipation changed through the course of the war, from a rather limited view (free only slaves used formilitary purposes) to his ringing endorsement of the Thirteenth Amendment, which ended slavery forever. Gienapp has provided detailed introductory headnotes for each piece, and the book includes an extensive chronology of Lincoln's life. Often eloquent, frequently amusing, and occasionally profound, these writings offer an intimate portrait of Lincoln--in his own words.

Author Notes

William E. Gienapp is Professor of History at Harvard University. He is the author of the award-winning Origins of the Republican Party, co-author of one of the best-selling college texts for American history, Nation of Nations, and editor of The Civil War and Reconstruction: A DocumentaryCollection.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Historians studying Lincoln still manage to find original avenues of approach (see William Lee Miller's recent Lincoln's Virtues [BKL Ja 1 & 15 02]), but otherwise, the roads are deeply rutted by steady scholarly and popular traffic, which feeds the need for the synthesizing overview. Harvard professor Gienapp competently fills this need with this Lincoln biography, which he deepens by gearing its contents to an anthology of Lincoln's writings. With exceptions, these were devoted to public affairs, which reflects Lincoln's most trenchant personal trait--reticence. The scarce material that does provide a glimpse of Lincoln's personal feelings, such as his written refusal to pay a visit to his father's deathbed in 1851, are not exactly flattering to the future paragon of virtue. Eschewing any interpretation of Lincoln's interior life (which Gienapp describes as "resorting to some dubious psychological theory"), he develops the sinuous course of Lincoln's political career. Parallel to his discussion of Lincoln's political ambition, acumen, and assiduity, Gienapp accents Lincoln's oratorical maturation. "Cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason" --a phrase from an early Lincoln speech--was apparent in much of his wartime leadership. Clarifying for new Lincolnphiles the immense demands on Lincoln may be the best aspect of Gienapp's synthesis. A perceptive introduction to the sixteenth president's significance. --Gilbert Taylor

Library Journal Review

Not taking much stock in the genre, Lincoln tried to shield himself from biography by guarding his private self and carefully crafting his public words and image. Of course, so complex a man, who came to embody America in its ordeal by fire, has attracted scores of biographers hoping to solve the ultimate American enigma. Now Gienapp, author of the acclaimed Origins of the Republican Party, enters the crowded field. This biography neatly synthesizes much recent scholarship and makes Lincoln believable as a president struggling to defend the Union and define freedom. Rather than inventing a Lincoln psyche or persona, as some biographers have done, or trading in oft-recycled Lincoln myths, Giennap goes back to the primary sources to discover a Lincoln who was simultaneously principled and practical, confident of his ability to persuade (though too much so in dealing with generals) and assured in making policy (he was a loner who relied on his own judgment). He does not find the source of Lincoln's enormous ambition, but he does show why Lincoln etched his thought and character into Americans' understanding of themselves. In the public speeches Gienapp gathers in This Fiery Trail, the clarity and cadences of Lincoln's language resound. It is a most apt collection, useful to teachers and anyone wanting to know why Lincoln was our herald. These books in tandem are an excellent way to get hold of Lincoln. Highly recommended. Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.