An important footnote in the making of the 16th president.



Solid account of the most significant case in Abraham Lincoln’s 25-year law career.

On May 6, 1856, the steamboat Effie Afton crashed into the Rock Island Bridge—the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River—damaging the span and destroying the vessel and its 350 tons of livestock, machinery and other cargo. The 200 passengers on board were unharmed. The boat operators’ ensuing suit for damages sparked an “epochal clash” between the railroads—a new, faster, more economical means of transport—and the steamboats then commanding the nation’s western waterways. With a focus on the lanky Lincoln, a lawyer for the defense who would become president four years later, historian and attorney McGinty (The Body of John Merryman: Abraham Lincoln and the Suspension of Habeas Corpus, 2011, etc.) recounts the historic 15-day Chicago trial, which involved more than 100 witnesses and ended in a hung jury, paving the way for the dominance of the railroad industry. Despite Lincoln’s low self-assessment (“I am not an accomplished lawyer,” he said), he proved a persuasive orator, sometimes whittling a piece of wood as he contested testimony and impressing jurors with his detailed knowledge of river currents and other facts in the case. Lincoln may have been awkward and ungainly, writes the author, but his courtroom skills convinced powerful backers that he had a political future. His debates two years later with Illinois Sen. Stephen A. Douglas would prove his springboard to the presidency. Besides detailing the Effie Afton case’s importance to Lincoln’s career, McGinty offers an excellent view of Mississippi steamboat traffic in the mid-19th century and the coming onrush of the railroads, which would transform how the nation moved passengers and goods.

An important footnote in the making of the 16th president.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0871407849

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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