All the Powers of Earth: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln. Vol. 3: 1856–1860

S. & S. Sept. 2019. 784p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781476777283. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781476777313. BIOG
In this third volume of his magisterial life-and-times study of Abraham Lincoln (1809–65), Blumenthal (A Self-Made Man) again provides rich context, telling vignettes, and probing examinations of the interests and behavior of the leading men of Lincoln’s day. Although Lincoln himself does not much appear in the first part, and the supporting cast of Stephen A. Douglas and others receive their due, this is, overall, about Lincoln’s political genius. Blumenthal is especially perceptive in exegeting the speeches that filled Congress in an age when oratory was a principal means of expressing and effecting ideas and policies. The author makes a strong case for Lincoln as a political innovator, at once saving both his standing in the Republican Party and the party from conceding its principles for seeming immediate advantage. Blumenthal’s Lincoln is a man of principle and pragmatism, committed to antislavery but insistent on moving belief into policy amid convulsive politics and contesting ambitions.
VERDICT In all this, Blumenthal speaks to our own time and, through Lincoln’s life and work, asks us to consider what price expediency and ego cost democracy. Brilliant, compelling, and memorable.

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