Founders' Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln

22 Nov

Founders' Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln

Founders' Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln

Language: English

Pages: 376

ISBN: 046503294X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Abraham Lincoln grew up in the long shadow of the Founding Fathers. Seeking an intellectual and emotional replacement for his own taciturn father, Lincoln turned to the great men of the founding—Washington, Paine, Jefferson—and their great documents—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution—for knowledge, guidance, inspiration, and purpose. Out of the power vacuum created by their passing, Lincoln emerged from among his peers as the true inheritor of the Founders’ mantle, bringing their vision to bear on the Civil War and the question of slavery.

In Founders’ Son, celebrated historian Richard Brookhiser presents a compelling new biography of Abraham Lincoln that highlights his lifelong struggle to carry on the work of the Founding Fathers. Following Lincoln from his humble origins in Kentucky to his assassination in Washington, D.C., Brookhiser shows us every side of the man: laborer, lawyer, congressman, president; storyteller, wit, lover of ribald jokes; depressive, poet, friend, visionary. And he shows that despite his many roles and his varied life, Lincoln returned time and time again to the Founders. They were rhetorical and political touchstones, the basis of his interest in politics, and the lodestars guiding him as he navigated first Illinois politics and then the national scene.

But their legacy with not sufficient. As the Civil War lengthened and the casualties mounted Lincoln wrestled with one more paternal figure—God the Father—to explain to himself, and to the nation, why ending slavery had come at such a terrible price.

Bridging the rich and tumultuous period from the founding of the United States to the Civil War, Founders’ Son is unlike any Lincoln biography to date. Penetrating in its insight, elegant in its prose, and gripping in its vivid recreation of Lincoln’s roving mind at work, this book allows us to think anew about the first hundred years of American history, and shows how we can, like Lincoln, apply the legacy of the Founding Fathers to our times.

















was new because it seemed to find a purpose in God’s mysterious and unknown movements. Where there had been only darkness (to Lincoln eyes, at any rate), now there might be some light. God’s newly discovered purpose superficially resembled an old hope of Lincoln’s—that the North might pay to end slavery and the war. He had floated compensation schemes for years, and he would continue to do so. Buying out slave owners would be cheaper and quicker than beating them on the battlefield. It would be

Adams, another signer, wrote him a chiding letter about his religious views: “When I heard that you had turned your mind to a defense of infidelity [i.e., irreligion] I felt myself much astonished, and more grieved.” Only Thomas Jefferson stayed loyal to him, welcoming Paine to the White House. But Paine’s works, both patriotic and anti-Christian, stayed in print. Parson Weems included The Age of Reason in the stock of books he sold, though he recommended buying it with a Christian antidote.

endorsed the nation’s fundamental law; they were the men who had “framed the government under which we live.” Then for the next forty-five minutes Lincoln walked his audience through what exactly these men thought and did. They had left a legislative trail thirty-six years long. Lincoln began with the Northwest Ordinance. Three fathers-to-be had voted in the old Congress for Jefferson’s ban on trans-Appalachian slavery in 1784, and two more for the final bill banning it in the old Northwest in

even more than fellow Illinoisan Lyman Trumbull. Trumbull, not Lincoln, had made it to the Senate, but Lincoln, not Trumbull, had fought Douglas on the same podiums, as well as refuting his arguments from Peoria to Cooper Union. Lincoln had kept Douglas and the national Republican Party apart. The marriage that eastern Republicans had fancied after Douglas denounced the Lecompton Constitution had been forestalled by the 1858 Senate race, while Douglas’s seduction of potential Republican voters

generals was the one they in fact followed, the Anaconda plan: squeeze the encircled heart of the Confederacy until it gave out. There was a setback in September 1863. A Union army, trying to push into Georgia from southeastern Tennessee, was beaten at Chickamauga and forced to retreat to Chattanooga. Ulysses Grant, summoned from his headquarters at Vicksburg to retrieve the situation, was given control of almost all the Union armies west of the Appalachians. At the battle of Chattanooga at the

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