Tuesday, June 08, 2010

With Malice Toward None

by Stephan B. Oates

For my latest selection on my Presidential biography reading list, I chose a relatively slim one--only 436 pages. I mean, when it comes to Lincoln, there are huge biographies from which to choose. This one, however, was recommended by my wife, so i figured I'd go with it rather than opt for a longer or more recent effort. It was a pleasure to read. Mr. Oates presents his material in a quasi-narrative style, and, of course, the story of the Civil War itself is bound to entice a reader to read the proverbial "one more chapter". Two things struck me the most. One was Lincoln's inexperience and shortcomings. After reading about the one term wonders of the 1840s and 50s, I was subconsciously expecting an account of the American demigod they gave us in grade school. Instead, it seemed that Lincoln fit right in with his predecessors. (Had I been voting in 1860 (and could stomach all the racists claptrap) I might have voted for Douglas) Lincoln made some bone-headed mistakes and more than once trusted the wrong person. But--at least to hear Mr. Oates tell it--Lincoln was able to stick to his principals, weather the storms and overcome his errors. The second thing that grabbed my attention was the political turning point that the election of 1860 became. After a number of biographies about men making compromises over slavery, it was refreshing to have someone say, "Enough."

You really should check it out.
LibraryThing link

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