THE STATESMANSHIP OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN by Olivia Coolidge

THE STATESMANSHIP OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Coolidge effectively contrasts the reputation for statesmanship that mushroomed after Lincoln's assassination with the impression of indecisiveness that prevailed during the first months of the Civil War, when the cabinet was torn by factionalism and generals, variously unprepared or unwilling to fight, were shuffled to little apparent purpose. Her sympathetic but humanizing characterization is not a new one, but reminders of Lincoln's political finagling are still disconcerting and one episode here--in which troops were furloughed from the front in order to vote for a Republican majority in state elections (and assure Lincoln's renomination in the bargain)--drives the lesson home. Coolidge makes few outright judgments and one has to compare her narrative with less distinguished ones, say Boardman's America and the Civil War Era (p. 1176, J-388), to realize how adroitly she recreates the mood of the Union, particularly the clashes between Copperhead Democrats and radical Republicans which nearly drove Lincoln out of office after one term and the underlying popular uncertainty about how far the war should be pursued. (Was the aim to abolish slavery, punish secessionism, or merely to force the South to accept a compromise?) This background, rather than any analysis of Lincoln's policies per se, is what makes the story fresh and enlightening. A stalwart, readable companion to 1974's The Apprenticeship of Abraham Lincoln.

Pub Date: Nov. 17th, 1976
Publisher: Scribners