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.

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The book that made the greatest impression on him was about the greatest of the founders, George Washington. When Americans used the term “father of his country” in the singular, it always, and only, meant Washington. He had earned it by his long and spectacular career—eight and a half years as commander in chief of the Continental Army during the Revolution, eight years as the first president—and even more by the personal qualities that wove an aura of confident masculinity around him. With a

enough for its black population. In his speech at the White House, Lincoln compared the Louisiana government to an egg, and asked whether the nation would “sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg” or “by smashing it.” One of his arguments for the Louisiana government was directed at southern whites and their role in the endgame of abolition. If the new Louisiana state government were recognized, it would provide one more vote for ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment (the state had already

Christian story of God the Father putting his son to death . . . cannot be told by a parent to a child; and to tell him that it was done to make mankind happier and better is making the story still worse, as if mankind could be improved by the example of murder.” Paine’s alternative to Christianity was a religion of reason (hence the title of his book). God’s word was to be found not in any scripture, but in creation itself; the way to read it was by using our reason—“the choicest gift of God to

almost all the best lines.” —Washington Times “A well-written and readable interpretation of Lincoln’s political philosophy.” —Choice “[An] illuminating but unconventional new biography of Abraham Lincoln. . . . [Brookhiser] succeeds brilliantly in giving us a new and original perspective on Lincoln’s statesmanship. His prose is spare and robust (the author has been schooled by Lincoln) and even readers who know little of Lincoln will find the treatment entirely readable, enjoyable, and

of the state, the North being most antislavery, the South least. In Freeport and Chicago, said Douglas, Republicans were “jet black”; in central Illinois, “a decent mulatto”; in the southern part of the state, “almost white [shouts of laughter].” Lincoln for his part insisted that he had no intention of introducing “political and social equality” between whites and blacks: “There is a physical difference between the two, which in my judgment will probably forever forbid their living together. .

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