The story of Lincoln’s two-year stint in Congress.
There might be a reason why so few books about Lincoln dwell on his brief spell as an Illinois congressman, from 1847 to 1849—the details are mostly dull. To his credit, attorney and political strategist DeRose (Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe, The Bill of Rights, and the Election that Saved a Nation, 2011) injects some energy into the political minutiae, managing to sound a few bright, telling moments within the fight over the Mexican War, slavery and Whig jockeying that portended the later, great president. Lincoln was just beginning to test the political waters as a successful Springfield lawyer and leader of the Illinois Whig party when he decided to run for Congress in his mid-30s. Already known for his good nature and entertaining storytelling, he was also deeply ambitious and committed to helping the Whigs gain power. By cannily gaining support for his county base by taking on new law partner William Herndon, as well as having married (albeit reluctantly) into “what passed for Illinois aristocracy” in the person of Mary Todd, Lincoln was learning the game of politics, handily defeating his Democratic opponent in 1846. In Washington, Lincoln and his family stayed at Sprigg’s boardinghouse, the so-called “Abolition House,” mingling with kingpins and becoming a member of the minority Whig congressional caucus. Lincoln distinguished himself by his key advocacy for the Whig candidate for president, Gen. Zachary Taylor, and by his stance against the war and against the spread of slavery in Oregon. It was an important time of making political connections and shaking out the “hayseed in his hair.”
A knowledgeable but fairly tedious assessment of the trajectory of Lincoln’s early career.