The Flannery O'Connor Library

St. Pius X Catholic High School

A self made man

973.7 BLU

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A self made man

Blumenthal, Sidney, 1948-, author.

New York : Simon & Schuster, 2016-<2017>

volumes <1-2> : illustrations ; 25 cm.

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Traces Lincoln from his painful youth, describing himself as 'a slave,' to his emergence as the man we recognize as Abraham Lincoln. From his youth as a 'newsboy,' a voracious newspaper reader, Lincoln became a free thinker, reading Tom Paine, as well as Shakespeare and the Bible, and studying Euclid to sharpen his arguments as a lawyer. Lincoln's anti-slavery thinking began in his childhood amidst the Primitive Baptist antislavery dissidents in backwoods Kentucky and Indiana, the roots of his repudiation of Southern Christian pro-slavery theology. Intensely ambitious, he held political aspirations from his earliest years. Obsessed with Stephen Douglas, his political rival, he battled him for decades. Successful as a circuit lawyer, Lincoln built his team of loyalists. Blumenthal reveals how Douglas and Jefferson Davis acting together made possible Lincoln's rise. Blumenthal describes a socially awkward suitor who had a nervous breakdown over his inability to deal with the opposite sex. His marriage to the upper class Mary Todd was crucial to his social aspirations and his political career. Blumenthal portrays Mary as an asset to her husband, a rare woman of her day with strong political opinions. He discloses the impact on Lincoln's anti-slavery convictions when handling his wife's legal case to recover her father's fortune in which he discovered her cousin was a slave. Blumenthal's robust portrayal is based on prodigious research of Lincoln's record and of the period and its main players. It reflects both Lincoln's time and the struggle that consumes our own political debate.

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Editorial Reviews

Review by Publishers Weekly.
In this first book of a multivolume reexamination of the 16th president's life, Blumenthal (The Strange Death of Republican America), a longtime Clinton adviser and former Washington Post reporter, asserts that Lincoln saw politics as vital and even beneficial, not as a necessary evil. He stresses that "Lincoln the politician and Lincoln the Great Emancipator were not antithetical sides of the same person, or antithetical stages in the same lie, but one man." This central thesis is not original, but Blumenthal explores the details more thoroughly than most others have before. Nonscholars are also likely to be surprised by some of the facts he presents, including that the frequently vilified Mary Todd was instrumental in advancing her husband's career and prevented him from taking the job of Secretary of the Oregon Territory, which would have marginalized him as a political figure. The dry text is occasionally enlivened by sharp remarks: a comment about an 1837 speech on Lincoln by Edmund Wilson was "the sort of brilliantly intuitive literary insight that only lacks political comprehension, historical reference, and facts, and inspired a school of psychobabble." Blumenthal's argument that Lincoln's self-education in politics "developed [him] for the task he could not imagine" will make lay readers eager to read the next volume. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Review by Library Journal.
In this engrossing life-and-times study of the formative years of Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), before he became a national figure, political journalist and historian Blumenthal (The Strange Death of Republican America) takes the reader deep into Illinois and national politics to locate the character and content of Lincoln's ideas, interests, and identity, and to understand his driving ambition to succeed in law and politics. In doing so, the author makes the important point that Lincoln gained empathy and understanding of "the people" from his own self-awareness and need to escape his own origins of relative poverty and hard struggle. Lincoln not only embodied the Whig principle of "the right to rise" but believed it as the lodestar of liberty. Blumenthal also suggests that Lincoln's genius was in knowing how to temper idealism with pragmatism and thereby to realize such lifelong hopes that "all men everywhere" might be free. VERDICT If Blumenthal sometimes loses Lincoln in his detailed accounting of patronage, politicking, and personalities, great and small, he effectively shows that the president's Illinois was a proving ground for the politics of expansion, economic development, nativism, anti-Mormonism, and slavery that both reflected and affected national concerns. Lincoln, the self-made man, is revealed as tried-and-true, ready for the troubled times that came in the years leading up to the Civil War. [See Prepub Alert, 11/16/15.]-Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Booklist.
*Starred Review* Lincoln again? Not to worry. Just stand back and let this first volume of a planned two-volume treatment reveal its glowing qualities. Political insider, reporter, and author Blumenthal's particular emphasis is on Lincoln's path as a politician, which the author sees as defining his character and activities from an early age. In fact, the author calls Lincoln a professional politician, which was a new profession in America. He was extremely ambitious, and every step he took, particularly his marriage to the politically savvy Mary Todd, was undertaken to satisfy his sense of destiny. His early background of poverty and abuse at the hands of his dictatorial father was at the root of his fierce desire to rise. Blumenthal observes that Lincoln's words, as poetic as they may have been, were chosen for their political impact. In essence, Lincoln always wanted to win. A fascinating perspective during a presidential election cycle.--Hooper, Brad Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.

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