Title Reviewed:
Abraham Lincoln: Sources and Style of Leadership

Author Reviewed:
Frank J. Williams; William D. Pederson; Vincent J. Marsala

James A. Ramage


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 91, Issue 4, pp 447-448

Article Type:
Book Review

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Abraham Lincoln: Sources and Style of Leadership. Edited by Frank J. Williams, William D. Pederson, and Vincent J. Marsala. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1994. Pp. xvi, 191. Notes, select bibliography, index. $55.00.)

This book includes nine papers on President Abraham Lincoln's leadership delivered in September, 1992, at Louisiana State University in Shreveport in a conference cosponsored by the Abraham Lincoln Association. The speakers were political scientists and historians familiar with the literature and well qualified to assess current interpretations and make suggestions. Ethan Fishman declared that when Lincoln opposed the extension of slavery but realized that it could not be abolished overnight, he was practicing the classical prudence of Aristotle and acting with the highest moral virtue. Ronald D. Rietveld related how emancipation delivered on the promise of equality made by the Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence. Joseph R. Fornieri agreed that freeing the slaves restored the American creed of equality proclaimed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

James A. Stevenson demonstrated that Lincoln's poetry made his prose more precise and rhythmic. David E. Long asserted that President Lincoln's decision to stand firm for emancipation in spite of possible defeat in the election of 1864 was "an act of unsurpassed political courage and integrity" (p. 106). Brooks D. Simpson, describing Lincoln's relationship with Grant, noted that Lincoln was much relieved to learn that in 1864 Grant was not gnawed by "the Presidential grub" (p. 119). William C. Harris found that Lincoln's prudence in dealing with white Southern Unionists paid off: restored Governor Francis H. Pierpont of Virginia stumped the North for eight weeks for Lincoln in the campaign of 1864. David H. Leroy described the establishment of Idaho Territory, and Frank J. Williams compared Lincoln to other world leaders of his day.

The book mentions Lincoln's admiration for Henry Clay and, by emphasizing prudence and continuity with the Founding Fathers, challenges the thesis by Gamy Wills, James McPherson, and others that emancipation represented a revolution against the Constitution. Rietveld's three-page discussion of Lincoln's reading as a youth and information on Lincoln's friendship with William H. Wallace, who lived in Fort Wayne before moving to Idaho, relate particularly to Indiana. The chapters read like speeches, and the emphasis is more on interpretation than new evidence. But the return to a more traditional view of Lincoln is interesting and valuable.

JAMES A. RAMAGE is professor of history, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights. He is author of Rebel Raider: The Life of General John Hunt Morgan (1986) and is currently writing a biography of John Singleton Mosby.

Published by theĀ Indiana University Department of History.