Sure to touch off discussion, if not controversy, in professional circles; readers with a penchant for iconoclasm will want...

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MR. LINCOLN GOES TO WAR

The Railsplitter as tyrant, warmonger and Machiavellian strategist.

Did Lincoln cause the Civil War? Historian Marvel (The Monitor Chronicles, 2000, etc.) says yes, but then adds a qualification or two. Certainly, he writes, Lincoln could have taken the advice of Cabinet members, newspaper editors and plenty of Northern voters by allowing the South to secede, in which case, Marvel ventures, slavery would have at least been a localized problem, likely to disappear in time. Lincoln, however, “eschewed diplomacy” and replied to the capture of Fort Sumter—which, Lincoln’s secret agents had already told him, was inevitably to fall to the South—by raising an army and threatening invasion. He had already hinted at such intentions in his inaugural speech, knowing that trouble was on the way; indeed, as Marvel writes, Sumter, which supposedly touched off the war, was but the latest of many federal installations that the secessionists had taken, to which then-President James Buchanan had responded by not doing anything. Any attempt to enforce federal law in the South, Lincoln’s advisors told him, “would precipitate war.” By Marvel’s account, Lincoln welcomed the prospect, for the Union needed a renewed forging of bonds and federal authority needed to be extended over states’ rights—an argument still played out in the Capitol today. In any event, Marvel argues, Lincoln willingly violated the Constitution to preserve the Union by, for one thing, suspending the writ of habeas corpus, and he came very close to establishing a dictatorship (of the Roman, not Nazi, variety). “Lincoln gradually arrogated so much authority to his office that his own dominant party dared not pass that power on to a member of the opposition,” Marvel notes, so that Republicans raced to strip away presidential powers when Democrat Andrew Johnson took office after Lincoln’s assassination.

Sure to touch off discussion, if not controversy, in professional circles; readers with a penchant for iconoclasm will want to have a look, too.

Pub Date: May 10, 2006

ISBN: 0-618-58349-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2006

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

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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