Cover image for A. Lincoln : a biography
Title:
A. Lincoln : a biography
Author:
White, Ronald C. (Ronald Cedric), 1939-
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [2009]

©2009
Physical Description:
xvii, 796 pages : illustrations, maps, photographs ; 25 cm
Summary:
Lincoln scholar Ronald C. White, Jr., describes Lincoln as a man of integrity whose moral compass holds the key to understanding his life.
Language:
English
Personal Subject:
ISBN:
9781400064991
Format :
Book

Available:*

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Summary

Summary

"If you read one book about Lincoln, make it  A. Lincoln ."-- USA Today

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post  *  The Philadelphia Inquirer *   The Christian Science Monitor * St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
 
NEW YORK TIMES  BESTSELLER

WINNER OF THE CHRISTOPHER AWARD

Everyone wants to define the man who signed his name "A. Lincoln." In his lifetime and ever since, friend and foe have taken it upon themselves to characterize Lincoln according to their own label or libel. In this magnificent book, Ronald C. White, Jr., offers a fresh and compelling definition of Lincoln as a man of integrity-what today's commentators would call "authenticity"-whose moral compass holds the key to understanding his life.

Through meticulous research of the newly completed Lincoln Legal Papers, as well as of recently discovered letters and photographs, White provides a portrait of Lincoln's personal, political, and moral evolution. White shows us Lincoln as a man who would leave a trail of thoughts in his wake, jotting ideas on scraps of paper and filing them in his top hat or the bottom drawer of his desk; a country lawyer who asked questions in order to figure out his own thinking on an issue, as much as to argue the case; a hands-on commander in chief who, as soldiers and sailors watched in amazement, commandeered a boat and ordered an attack on Confederate shore batteries at the tip of the Virginia peninsula; a man who struggled with the immorality of slavery and as president acted publicly and privately to outlaw it forever; and finally, a president involved in a religious odyssey who wrote, for his own eyes only, a profound meditation on "the will of God" in the Civil War that would become the basis of his finest address.

Most enlightening, the Abraham Lincoln who comes into focus in this stellar narrative is a person of intellectual curiosity, comfortable with ambiguity, unafraid to "think anew and act anew."

A transcendent, sweeping, passionately written biography that greatly expands our knowledge and understanding of its subject, A. Lincoln will engage a whole new generation of Americans. It is poised to shed a profound light on our greatest president just as America commemorates the bicentennial of his birth.




From the Hardcover edition.


Author Notes

Ronald C. White, Jr. was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and grew up in California. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1961 with a B.A., received an M.Div. in 1964 from Princeton Theological Seminary, and earned a Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1972. He also studied as a World Council of Churches Scholar at Lincoln Theological College in England.

White has written several books, including three on Abraham Lincoln: The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words, Lincoln's Greatest Speech: The Second Inaugural, and A. Lincoln: A Biography. He has also been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and The Christian Science Monitor.

White is Professor of American Religious History Emeritus at San Francisco Theological Seminary, and he has taught at UCLA, Princeton Theological Seminary, Whitworth University, Colorado College, Fuller Seminary, and Rider University.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

A scholar of Lincoln's rhetoric (Lincoln's Greatest Speech, 2002), White offers the full-bodied Lincoln biography, the most recent example of which was David Herbert Donald's highly praised Lincoln (1995). Donald's intent was to craft a definitive portrait of Lincoln's enigmatic personality, while White aims for a chronological narrative of Lincoln's public activity. White adheres to a factual tone rather than trying to figure Lincoln out à la Donald. This is an important need for readers seeking the arc of Lincoln's life (rather than an interpretation of it) and is one that White ably fulfills. Recounting Lincoln's beginnings, White informs readers about the importance of Lincoln's stepmother; the rapidity with which Lincoln, once emancipated from his father, gained political standing in Sangamon County, Illinois, in the 1830s; and the rise of his reputation through descriptions of numerous election campaigns that Lincoln conducted from his power base. Capped by his account of Lincoln's Civil War presidency, White's book provides a solid informational foundation.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2009 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

In this excellent biography, veteran historian White emphasizes that Lincoln was our most likable major president, lacking Washington's aloofness and the deviousness of FDR and Jefferson. Many young men from the frontier overcame the handicaps of poverty and minimal education, but, White says, Lincoln did better than most, becoming floor leader in the Illinois legislature by age 30 and a prosperous lawyer. Contrary to the common view that Lincoln was a dark-horse for the 1860 presidential nomination after a single, undistinguished term in the House of Representatives, White stresses that Lincoln was an experienced politician, popular throughout Illinois, and known to national leaders. Few Republicans thought they had chosen badly. The author makes good use of Lincoln's voluminous private papers and those of his contemporaries to paint a vivid picture of Lincoln's thoughts as he matured and then guided the nation through the four worst years of its existence. White knows his subject cold and writes lucid prose, so readers choosing this as their Lincoln bicentennial reading will not go wrong. Illus., maps, photos. (Jan.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.


Library Journal Review

More Lincoln celebrations: Huntington Library fellow White frames his account by considering Lincoln's ethics. With a 12-city tour. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter 1 A. Lincoln and the Promise of America He signed his name "a. lincoln." a visitor to abraham lincoln's Springfield, Illinois, home at Eighth and Jackson would find "A. Lincoln" in silvered Roman characters affixed to an octagonal black plate on the front door. All through his life, people sought to complete the A-to define Lincoln, to label or libel him. Immediately after his death and continuing to the present, Americans have tried to explain the nation's most revered president. A. Lincoln continues to fascinate us because he eludes simple definitions and final judgments. Tall, raw boned, and with an unruly shock of black hair, his appearance could not have been more different from that of George Washington and the other founding fathers. Walt Whitman, who saw the president regularly in Washington, D.C., wrote that Lincoln's face was "so awful ugly it becomes beautiful." But when Lincoln spoke, audiences forgot his appearance as they listened to his inspiring words. He is one of the few Americans whose life and words bridge time. Illinois senator Everett Dirksen said fifty years ago, "The first task of every politician is to get right with Lincoln." At critical moments in our nation's history, his eloquent words become contemporary. As a young man, he won the nickname "Honest Abe" when his store in New Salem, Illinois, "winked out." Rather than cut and run from his debts in the middle of the night, as was common on the frontier, he stayed and paid back what he called his "National Debt." His political opponents invented a long list of denunciations, ranging from "the Black Republican" to "the original gorilla" to "the dictator." His supporters crafted monikers of admiration: "Old Abe," affectionately attached to him while he was still a relatively young man, and the "Rail Splitter," to remind voters in the 1860 presidential campaign of his roots in what was then the Western frontier. During the Civil War, admiration became endearment when the soldiers he led as commander in chief called him "Father Abraham." After his controversial decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year's Day 1863, grateful Americans, black and white, honored him with the title "the Great Emancipator." Each name became a signpost pointing to the ways Lincoln grew and changed through critical episodes in his life. Each was an attempt to define him, whether by characterization or caricature. Yet how did Lincoln define himself? He never kept a diary. He wrote three brief autobiographical statements, one pointedly in the third person. As the Lincolns prepared to leave for Washington in the winter of 1861, Mary Lincoln, to protect her privacy, burned her correspondence with her husband in the alley behind their Springfield home. In an age when one did not tell all, Lincoln seldom shared his innermost feelings in public. Lincoln's law partner, William Herndon, summed it up "He was the most shut-mouthed man that ever existed." Yet when Lincoln spoke, he offered some of the most inspiring words ever uttered on the meaning of America. Each generation of Americans rightfully demands a new engagement with the past. Fresh questions are raised out of contemporary experiences. Does he deserve the title "the Great Emancipator"? Was Lincoln a racist? Did he invent, as some have charged, the authoritarian, imperial presidency? How did Lincoln reshape the modern role of commander in chief? How are we to understand Mary Lincoln and their marriage? What were Lincoln's religious beliefs? How did he connect religion to politics? As we peel back each layer of Lincoln's life, these questions foster only more questions. Actually, Lincoln did keep a journal, but he never wrote in a single record book. What I call Lincoln's "diary&qu Excerpted from A. Lincoln: A Biography by Ronald C. White, Ronald C. White All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.