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Lincoln marked the half-way post on the road to the sewers. He was a politician first — with devotion as a glorious afterthought… Henry Louis Mencken

Bennett Cerf once advised a writer that the three types of books that always sold were books about Lincoln, books about cooking and books about dogs. He surmised that the perfect bestseller would be a book about Lincoln’s cook’s dog. Unfortunately there is a cult of Lincoln that will neither see nor document his innumerable faults and flaws and we are left with almost nothing but hagiology – minus the saint of course. This book is no better or worse than the dozens of others on the shelf and does not have even the saving grace of having included recipes or shaggy dog stories.

The presidency of Abraham Lincoln    Lawrence, Kan. : University Press of Kansas, c 1994 Phillip Shaw Paludan United States Politics and government 1861-1865, Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xx, 384 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 363-378) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

From time to time, life as a leader can look hopeless. To help you, consider a man who lived through this: Failed in business at age 31. Defeated for the legislature at 32. Again failed in business at 34. Sweetheart died at 35. Had a nervous breakdown at 36. Defeated in election at 38. Defeated for Congress at 43. Defeated for Congress at 46. Defeated for Congress at 48. Defeated for Senate at 55. Defeated for Vice President at 56. Defeated for Senate at 58. Elected President at age 60. This man was Abraham Lincoln – his presidency was the most colossal failure of all because it destroyed the American republic although, since that was his aim it has the irony of being his greatest triumph.

Abraham Lincoln’s life and work have inspired more books than any other historical figure except Shakespeare and attracted some of America’s most renowned writers. Like Shakespeare his identity and intentions are still shrouded in mystery after his death and certainly the bard had the last word on the politician when he said, “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”

Few know him as well as Phillip Paludan who offers us Lincoln in whole – a complex, even contradictory personality who found greatness without seeking it and who felt deeply troubled about what he perceived as the nation’s intertwined triumph and tragedy. Filled with fresh insights and new interpretations, this book presents a genuinely new and compelling portrait of a president and nation at war and although it does not offer half of the known truth and whitewashes its subject with the half-truths that are the stock in trade of the cult of Lincoln it will still be read by many interested in Lincoln, the presidency, and the Civil War.

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