Read Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President by Allen C. Guelzo Online


An enlightening "intellectual biography" of Lincoln, Allen Guelzo's peerless account of America's most celebrated president explores the role of ideas in Lincoln's life, treating him as a serious thinker deeply involved in the nineteenth-century debates over politics, religion, and culture. Written with passion and dramatic impact, Guelzo's masterful study offers a revealiAn enlightening "intellectual biography" of Lincoln, Allen Guelzo's peerless account of America's most celebrated president explores the role of ideas in Lincoln's life, treating him as a serious thinker deeply involved in the nineteenth-century debates over politics, religion, and culture. Written with passion and dramatic impact, Guelzo's masterful study offers a revealing new perspective on a man whose life was in many ways a paradox. Since its original publication in 1999, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President has garnered numerous accolades, not least the prestigious 2000 Lincoln Prize. As journalist Richard N. Ostling has noted, "Much has been written about Lincoln's belief and disbelief," but Guelzo's extraordinary account "goes deeper."...

Title : Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President
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ISBN : 9780802842930
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 528 Pages
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Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President Reviews

  • Mark Jr.
    2019-02-17 12:39

    Nothing less than a tour-de-force. I'm tempted to say that only a religious person—particularly a Christian—could understand this almost certainly unbelieving politician and thinker. Guelzo finds a theme in Lincoln's theology that he, successfully in my opinion, traces throughout his life, namely a predestinarianism shorn of belief in God's personal goodness to Lincoln himself. This fatalistic theology guided Lincoln into making the most difficult decisions of the war. This is the key insight from the book, in my judgment:Lincoln's own peculiar providentialism, his Calvinized deism, in fact played a controlling role in the outcome of the Civil War. In the most general sense, his appeal to the mysteries of providence in the fall of 1862 gave him permission to ignore the manifest signs on all hands that the Union was playing the war to no better than a draw, and that any resort to emancipation was folly. But in the most specific instance, providence was what allowed him to overrule the moral limitations of liberalism. To do liberalism's greatest deed—the emancipation of the slaves—Lincoln had to step outside liberalism and surrender himself to the direction of an overruling divine providence whose conclusions he had by no means prejudged. (447)What does Guelzo mean? He explains a little more early on in the book:[Lincoln] would come at the end ... to see that liberalism could never achieve its highest goal of liberation and mobility without appealing to a set of ethical, even theological, principles that seemed wholly beyond the expectations and allowances of liberalism itself. While he would hold organized religion at arm's length, he would come to see liberalism's preoccupation with rights needing to be confined within some public framework of virtue, a framework he would find in a mystical rehabilitation of his ancestral Calvinism and an understanding of the operations of divine providence. (20-21)Liberalism, as Stanley Fish never tires of observing (and I never tire of observing him observe), has no transcendent norms to appeal to. (And here I'm not taking a potshot at Democrats; Guelzo and Fish and I mean here "classical liberalism," the kind which encompasses nearly all significant American politicians on any side of any aisle.) Liberalism is supposed to maintain procedural neutrality among competing visions of the good. But what that means in the end is that might often makes right. And in 1861, as Lincoln took the helm of a divided nation, mighty interests on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line preferred that the slaves not be freed. Lincoln himself saw clearly that praise and blame could not be apportioned neatly to North and South, respectively. It took an appeal to the Declaration of Independence's Creator—who created all men equal—to free the slaves. Serious voices in 1860 argued that the Declaration was not law, but thankfully it remained a moral polestar.I have never dug this deep into Lincoln before, encountering him mainly through his most famous speeches, the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural, both of which Guelzo analyzes with great insight—and in both of which he easily finds Lincoln's predestinarian deism. One thing that really impressed me was how accidental Lincoln's role as sage and Great Emancipator really was. I mean that as no slight against him; when the time came, he worked with great skill and dedication. But the time was long in coming. He wasn't born with a desire to free the slaves. The conviction came on him slowly, and even very close to the last he was considering various political deals which fell short of full, lasting emancipation. If the war hadn't been so fierce, the slaves may have remained in bondage. But Southern victories forced Lincoln's hand. It was fascinating to watch what I, too, see as the hand behind that hand in freeing America's oppressed legions.I was also surprised to be taught a fact that I should have known: it was not at all obvious to anyone at the close of the Civil War what the future of the nation would be. We view Lincoln's acts through a prism of national success and even national unity under multiple trials, especially two world wars. But the prospect that legal challenges to emancipation would negate all the blood spilled in the Civil War was all to real as Lincoln lay in a deathbed "fate" chose for him. It speaks to his wisdom that I moved from South Carolina to Washington last year with no trouble.It was also fascinating to me to hear Guelzo's expert summations of previous Lincoln biographies, going back to the very first. Americans have long molded their view of Lincoln to their liking. No doubt Guelzo has done this in some way, too. But it does appear to take the passing of many decades before party loyalties and political issues fade enough to give historians a fair crack at someone like Lincoln. I'm late to the praise and should have read this years ago, but Guelzo has written a triumph.

  • Urey Patrick
    2019-02-22 15:54

    Abraham Lincoln is one of my historical heroes – perhaps my favorite historical figure. I would not have thought much new or fresh could be written about Lincoln, but Allen Guelzo proves me wrong. This book is less a biography or a history, and more a narrative Lincoln’s intellectual and spiritual evolution through the course of his life set against a background of his life and career, both antebellum and during the war. It is a subtle and deep examination of Lincoln’s moral, religious, political and philosophical beliefs, and the influences that affected the evolution in his thinking and policies, most especially as regards slavery – the great national issue of his day, and the root cause of the war.Some (but not all) of Guelzo’s digressions into theology, cultural trends and social conventions, European philosophers and the American manifestations of such trends in spiritual, political and social venues ran farther afield for more pages than my interest could support, but he always brought the narrative back to Lincoln – and when focused on Lincoln this book is impossible to put down. He explains Jeffersonian ideals and contrasts that vision for America with Lincoln’s – explaining the origins of Lincoln’s beliefs and vision for America. He offers extensive new and absorbing detail into Lincoln’s life – his early years, his legal practice, his relationship with George McClellan (that chapter alone is worth the price of the book), his marriage, his private life… and more!This may not be the one single book you need to read about Lincoln, but it is absolutely one of the three or four you must read if you want to learn about Lincoln.

  • Tim
    2019-02-07 14:32

    Guelzo's book is an excellent intellectual biography that firmly sets Lincoln within the context of his times, while not diminishing him to that context. Lincoln's Whig commitments to personal and national development are set against his subsistence farming, Democratic upbringing. His providentialial view of history and historical status (post assassination) as Redeemer President are set against his own inability to either claim faith and redemption for himself or escape the Calvinistic determinism of his upbringing. His hatred of slavery, originating in his own chafing at the severe patriarchal restraints of his childhood, slowly developed amid the political crisis that was the 1850s. Always a politician and aware of the limits that politics might demand of Northern political structures and inherent racism, he moved deliberately (yes, sometimes erratically and slowly by our modern accounts) towards a recognition of black humanity and the moral, political, and military necessity of their emancipation. Without a background in the history (political, social, intellectual and religious) of the time, I suspect this would not be an easy book to read, but I know it is rewarding, both for the background it reveals and the new insights it provides to Lincoln's intellectual life. It also only made me want to read more Lincoln biographies - Donald (again) and Carwardine here I come.

  • Spencer Cummins
    2019-02-06 16:37

    I enjoyed Guelzo's biography even more than Donald and Carwardine. In Guelzo's account we find the tension in Lincoln's mind of a war that in governed by the control of God's providential oversight. Yet, this kind of view partly taken from his hard shell Baptist upbringing does not bring much solace for Lincoln. Guelzo does well to bring out the Whig political struggles and the political setbacks that Lincoln faced in a continual basis. We also get personal insight from Lincoln's friends and public reporters on the background of his marriage to Mar Todd, her mental unhinging and the emotional toll Lincoln felt trying to care for her and their many devastating family experiences.While Carwardine does a good job on evangelicalism and antebellum politics and Donald goes into details about the political races, the great strength of Guelzo is his insistence on the moral character of Lincoln's views on slavery, his development in understanding providence and seeking to get inside the emotional turmoil inside of Lincoln because of the war and his family life.Of particular note is his alignment of Lincoln and the Princeton professor Charles Hodge concerning their similar viewpoints, both politically and on theology. (See page 418).This book was a real gem in studies on Lincoln, but not an easy read.

  • Raffi
    2019-02-18 19:50

    A very interesting book not only about Abraham Lincoln, but a more holistic approach about the world he lived in, the USA at that time, the political parties, the religious understanding of the time, etc. Mind you that the author's language is more difficult and has an in depth approach. Sometimes I read a section more than once to comprehend the author's mind.I don't recommend that you start with this book, if you want to understand Abraham Lincoln.

  • Steve
    2019-02-13 14:57“Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President” is Allen Guelzo’s 1999 biography of Abraham Lincoln which was awarded the 2000 Lincoln Prize. Guelzo is a Professor and Director of Civil War Era studies at Gettysburg College. He is the author of over a dozen books, most of which are focused on Abraham Lincoln or other aspects of the Civil War.Often described as an “intellectual biography” Guelzo’s book is certainly not a traditional review of Lincoln’s life. Rather than colorfully tracing Lincoln’s path from birth to death and examining the forces that shaped his life and character, the author sets a different tone by beginning the book with a lengthy political and philosophical treatise.Subsequent chapters walk through his life, generally chronologically, but with frequent philosophical side-trips to discuss Lincoln’s worldview (including his religious views, his perspective toward slavery, and his political tenets). Although the timeline is never as clear in “Redeemer President” as in other biographies, Guelzo does a better job providing broad political context for Lincoln’s youth and rise in Illinois (and national) politics.Unfortunately, the author’s writing style resembles that of a professor and not of a novelist; the text is filled with erudite but arduous passages which must be read twice to be fully understood. While many biographies are both entertaining and informative, Guelzo’s tends heavily toward a dry, academic and taxing style.Readers who are able to move slowly through the book and drink in sips, not gulps, will find intellectual treasures among its pages. But those determined to move at a steady pace with consistent forward progress will find the book frustrating and often inaccessible. Even the most patient reader will find the flow uneven and demanding.As might be expected of a biography of this type, there is little focus on Lincoln’s family life or his relationships with his friends or advisers. Guelzo does not tell a dramatic story of Lincoln’s self-education or his improbable political rise as do other authors, nor does he closely follow the arc of the Civil War during Lincoln’s presidency. Instead, Guelzo leaves traditional biographical principles to others and focuses on his investigation and analysis of the intellectual, philosophical and moral underpinnings of Lincoln’s character.As a result, “Redeemer President” is not helpful in following Lincoln’s day-to-day life, in understanding the fascinating backstory to his presidential nomination, or in following Lincoln’s interactions with his Cabinet. The Lincoln-Douglas debates are very interestingly probed but far too rapidly dispatched. And only two pages are required to bridge the months between Lincoln’s nomination for the presidency and his election.On the other hand, Guelzo’s epilogue is one of the very best concluding sections of any presidential biography I’ve ever read. In two-dozen beautifully written pages he distills the most valuable essence of the preceding four-hundred pages, organizing his thoughts so articulately and comprehensibly that I decided to read it twice – not for clarity, but out of contentment. If only the entire book had been similarly written.Overall, Allen Guelzo’s “Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President” is an intellectual biography of Lincoln about which I am unabashedly ambivalent. The author tackles deep philosophical issues worth exploring, but conveys them in a style that is likely to appeal only to an academic audience. Missing from the book is a seamless thread which follows Lincoln’s life from beginning to end in a rich, vibrant and entertaining manner. To be sure, Guelzo offers the tenacious and prepared reader a bounty of wisdom and insight, but “Redeemer President” is unlikely to appeal to a broad audience seeking a traditional biography of Abraham Lincoln.Overall rating: 3¾ stars

  • Steph Clayton
    2019-02-06 11:53

    Read this book for a class in college and I remember really liking it. I think the look into Lincoln’s religion and how it shaped his decisions about the civil war were beyond fascinating and helped create a picture of Lincoln that I had never seen before.

  • Fred
    2019-02-04 19:58

    Allen C Guelzo’s biography of Lincoln is a helpful addition to the study of this great President. This is an intellectual biography that charts the development of Lincoln’s philosophy of government, economics, emancipation and the Constitution from his early days working for his father to the Presidency. Guelzo, professor of history at Gettysburg College, examines Lincoln as a man of thought, a man whose philosophical convictions guided his behavior. He shows that Lincoln was never strictly a pragmatist, even as his willingness to listen to political opponents and compromise on certain issues is well known. He was driven by his vision of what America should be and it is the development of that vision which makes up the narrative spine of the book. Unlike other portraits that see Lincoln as almost a Democrat Guelzo shows convincingly that Lincoln remained a “Henry Clay Whig” all his life. His early opposition to slavery grew from his opposition the southern aristocracy which he felt limited opportunity for “wage earning” and upward mobility among small landowners. He advocated a strong central government because there had to be laws between states that expanded trade. Only through expanded trade could people advance beyond their “situation.” Eventually he came to include opportunities for blacks as well, but initially their concerns were only peripheral. Also, despite the name of the book, “Redeemer President”, Guelzo shows that Lincoln was never part of Evangelical Protestantism. His personal religion remained a mystery to almost everyone, but he certainly never professed any orthodox Christian beliefs. At the same time it would also be wrong to call Lincoln an atheist and he was never a scoffer of religion – at least not after he grew out of a prickly young adult phase. What Lincoln did posses was a strong sense of providence, and a very limited trust in the free-will of humans. As he grew older his sense that his life had a purpose grew stronger, and even beyond that, the sense that the Civil War had a purpose grew as well. His conviction that the war was really about ending slavery emerged gradually as did his belief that whatever God there might be was prolonging the war as a punishment for the peculiar institution. His abandonment to “fate” or “providence” game him the strength to hold onto his convictions despite the opinions of others and the failures of his military. It also allowed him to have compassion for the south as the war turned. He believed deeply that their desire to expand slavery caused the war, but he also believed that anyone living in the America would have done the same given the same situation. He was a man utterly devoid of spiritual pride or duplicity. This book is a fascinating examination of the ideas of our greatest president. It is not a quick read but it is accessible to the non-scholar and a reward for anyone interested in Lincoln, the civil war or 19th century thought.

  • Don
    2019-02-19 18:46

    Having another view of this great president past what I learned in school as a child and young adult lends quite a perspective of how we got to where we are in America. I think my original school-delivered knowledge of Lincoln was slightly idolized, but for good reason. He was truly a great man. I think the main thing I was missing was a good perspective of the times. We think our world is evil sometimes, I in fact heard that very assertion today. No doubt the world is evil, but it has been since paul wrote about it almost 2000 years ago. The problems or Lincoln's world contributed to the problems of our world and seeing how he and his society dealt with them helps me understand our modern world.More importantly, I gained insight into Lincoln's thoughts and feelings. I understand that much of that information in the book comes from Guelzo's interpretation, but at the same time, much of his research seems well done. He plainly states when the sources are weak and when he disagrees with other's research. I liked the way his sources seemed to be people closest and most familiar with the man. I especially appreciated his thematic concepts that he developed and supported throughout the book. The predestination ideas of his religious youth that caused him to question Christianity set the stage for ideas of providence that solidified the presidents resolve to stay the course of emancipation. I never understood the politics of Lincoln. I didn't even really understand what a Whig was as opposed to a Democrat or what I thought of as a Republican. The drift in platforms for all those parties renders my previous understanding meaningless. He was a progressive on the topics of internal improvements. He was protectionist in the terms of trade. Some things we take for granted were invented at great political risk.Long discussions on Lincoln's religious mind only proved one thing. Lincoln had his own ideas on God and the Bible and other than using them more than competently, he kept his personal feeling on them personal. For me the bottom line is a man who felt so driven by God and his will must have looked hard at that will and the ability of historians to know what he did that wasn't as momentous as the Civil War is limited.

  • Nathan
    2019-02-20 14:47

    A big chunk of a book, fun to chew through but a bit hard to digest. I mentally subtitled Guelzo's book "An Ethical Biography", as the overarching theme (at least ostensibly) is the philosophical makeup of Abraham Lincoln. The utility and relevance of such a theme is obvious: Lincoln helmed America through her greatest social and moral crisis-- what then, guided the guide? The answer, as given by Guelzo, is not a simple one. He comes to his point rather slowly, leaving aside the issues of religion and philosophy in favor of straight biography. There is the lanky railsplitter, industrious, bright and ambitious, but also desperate for independence from his father. Guelzo makes much of this filial conflict, casting it in largely religious terms. Lincoln's father was a typical God-fearing farmer, upset both by Lincoln's intellectual bent and his much more distant and mechanical conception of the divine. Guelzo's major weakness is his splitting the narrative into strands and never weaving them together, even though they are pretty strong on their own. His treatment of America's religious landscape is excellent: brief, brisk and enlightening. But he doesn't relate it strongly to Lincoln or tell how it influenced or didn't influence him. Likewise, when Lincoln makes it into office, we are treated to some really quality military history, far more substantial than I expected from this book. But much of the time,we aren't taught how exactly this related to Lincoln's faith or even that his faith had a direct impact on the war effort. The Civil War is far too large a subject to fit coherently into Guelzo's narrative trying also to handle Lincoln's religion, politics and personal life. The topic of faith is dropped for much of the middle, bookending rather than defining the narrative. It makes an appearance at several key junctures, including in a perceptive analysis of the Gettysburg Address, but often disappearing for long stretches of time. Straight history,especially of Lincoln, has been done before, and I don't think Guelzo serves himself well by neglecting his really original work. This book came so close for me to being really revelatory. I just wish I hadn't had to sift through so many tangents on the way.

  • Daniel
    2019-01-25 11:57

    The author begins by asserting that this is the first biography of Abraham Lincoln which takes him seriously as a man of ideas. There are two problems with this claim. First, it is over-egging the pudding, as previous books on Lincoln did take his political ideology seriously. Second, for a book claiming to be an intellectual history it contains comparatively little intellectual history within its 463 pages of text. What intellectual history it does contain is excellent, however. I suspect that the above problem is exacerbated by the inordinate length of the book. Other contributions to this series of religious biographies, especially the books on George Whitefield and Charles Finney, are particularly good precisely because they are concise. A book of 200 pages which focused almost exclusively on Whig politics, anti-slavery, race, religion, and the link between Lincoln's death and his image as the "Redeemer President" might have been more helpful. Instead, much of the book gives us a standard political biography in relation to the history of the American Civil War. This material is certainly good, but it is not anything particularly unique. Indeed, it would have been perfectly fine if the book had not been billed as being primarily about Lincoln as a man of ideas. In relation to Lincoln's religious views, I get the impression that the author tends to read too much into too little information. For instance, is the fact that Lincoln referred to Christ as "the Saviour" as opposed to "my Saviour" really that significant? How much do you read into the use of a definite article instead of a possessive? Conversely, the discussion of Lincoln's death and his reputation as the Redeemer President is very strong. As is the analysis of the development of Lincoln's thought on a range of issues and his interaction with more radical elements of the Republican Party. In conclusion, while it is not the best biographical study of Lincoln, this book is one that historians of the American Civil War need to read and interact with owing to both the status of the author and the good material contained within the volume itself. In the final analysis one must conclude that this is a good book, but it is not a particularly outstanding one.

  • Zena Ryder
    2019-02-09 13:33

    I very much enjoyed this biography. It focused more on the development of Lincoln's thought, including his religious beliefs (and lack of them) than the other biography I've read (A. Lincoln). According to Guelzo, Lincoln's religious beliefs became stronger during the trials of the Civil War, but he was never as devout as he wanted to be, and he never felt worthy of redemption. While he seems always to have believed in God to a greater or lesser degree, he was never much of a church-goer and he was also never drawn to a loving Jesus — Lincoln's God was more remote and judgemental.Guelzo also talks about Lincoln's political views in this book. We all know that Lincoln was anti-slavery (although he was not an abolitionist — pretty much right up until he issued the emancipation proclamation!) but he always believed very strongly that all people should have the right to work to earn their own wages, and that this was the key to a successful American republic. He approved of technological progress and was a strong supporter of the new railroads, for example.Once again, I longed for more details about his relationship with Mary, but once again they were not forthcoming. I think perhaps that history may not have passed that down to us, but I will try looking for a readable biography of Mary Todd Lincoln. (I did try one once and it was deathly dull reading.) I do get the impression from this book that their relationship was less harmonious than the impression I got from A. Lincoln. It's clear, however, that Lincoln loved his children very much and when there was a death in the family, he suffered greatly (as did Mary).Guelzo did a masterful job of describing the assassination and Lincoln's death. It was very moving and brought tears to my eyes. Lincoln is a fascinating individual, and this book is a highly worthy addition to your bookshelf.

  • Aaron Million
    2019-01-24 13:59

    Guelzo is a noted Civil War and Lincoln scholar, having won the Lincoln Prize three times. This is not a traditional biography of Lincoln. Instead, it is more of an intellectual and religious biography. Given that, the Civil War, along with most of its major players, is treated perfunctorily except in situations that specifically demanded a review of Lincoln's thought process (example: the firing of General George McClellan after repeated missed opportunities to attack the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, coupled with his insubordinate and disrespectful attitude towards Lincoln). One of the strengths of the book is the emphasis on Lincoln's political and religious thought formation from birth forward. Guelzo writes at length about Lincoln's devotion to the doomed Whig Party, and how he only reluctantly became a Republican when it was no longer feasible to cling to any hopes of the Whig Party existing. He carries this through to the final chapter, which is really a good summation of how his assassination was viewed throughout the country, culminating in the final pages with a review of Lincoln's political and intellectual growth. The religious overtones of the book made it somewhat tedious and dry to read. Ultimately, I do not think that anyone can pin Lincoln down on which religion he actually belonged to, or believed in the most. This is because he foreswore formal religious participation in lieu of a spiritual belief that God existed. Guelzo spends way too much time on this for my liking, as it caused the book to take on an even greater academic overtone. Grade: C+

  • Cody
    2019-02-03 18:44

    "Whenever the day comes for him to appear, the man who shall be the Redeemer President of These States, is to be the one that fullest realizes the rights of individuals, signified by the impregnable rights of The States, the substratum of this Union." -Abe's buddy Walt.The best part of this book is its commentary on the religious beliefs of Lincoln. The author walks a difficult line, and avoids falling to either side. His descriptions of Lincoln's struggles with the inscrutability (that word is owned by Mr. Melville more than any other English writer, I think) of God and life resonated deeply with me. "For that, Lincoln had no other answer but an appeal to the inscrutability of God, the sovereign providence whom he long before decided could not be anticipated, but only yielded to." If Lincoln had been a modern man who used that explanation, he would have been met with howls from secularists and empiricists, whose worldview is too self-sovereign to accept such a humility. But to trust someone even though they have not won you over through reason- well, isn't that he only true trust that exists in the world? My faith is not the same as this book's description of Lincoln's. I would consider myself, however, to follow his footsteps in my natural combination of skepticism and faith.

  • Greg Van Vorhis
    2019-02-02 11:59

    The author promises to look at Lincoln in a way nobody ever has...that this book is unique. And then he proceeds to write the same biography that you have read over and over and over again.

  • Naomi Blackburn
    2019-02-17 11:56

    It took me FOREVER to get into this book. First, the narrator was so irritating and robotic that I kept falling asleep listening to the book. Second, I thought Abraham Lincoln: A Life by Michael Burlingamewas thorough. I think this author took writing lessons from Burlingame. There was details in this book that I was wondering what it had to do with Lincoln's religion. Then, something snapped as it all came together and it was that the author was painting a very clear picture into what went into Lincoln's religious beliefs and the incidents of what was influencing society during the 1800's. I learned SO MUCH from this book. I am happy I listened to it vs. reading it. I think it made key critical points stand out more than if I would have read them.

  • Frederick
    2019-02-05 18:42

    This is a very good study of Lincoln's "Christianity" although not the most interesting I've read. Lincoln was an Enlightenment Christian, a believer in a far off God of judgment who did not love or offer redemption. His ways are inscrutable and mankind is helpless before him. On page 447 Guelzo calls Lincoln's religion "Calvinized Deism." This is certainly an important book for students of American religious history. Many of the threads the author draws together reveal why evangelical Christianity today is so far removed from the evangelical faith of the time before Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln was not a Christian in the Biblical sense, believing in salvation by faith in Jesus Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, in fact, believing Christ is God in the flesh. He believed in God, the cosmic judge, and man's helpless state before Him. That about sums it up.

  • Gordon Leidner
    2019-02-01 11:36

    This is the best Lincoln biography I've read (as of Dec 2016), and I've read dozens. Guelzo does an excellent analysis of Lincoln's intellectual and spiritual development. We watch him develop in social skills, politics, law, economic policy, and faith. We not only see the how, but the WHY of Lincoln. Politically, he was always a Whig at heart. He hated slavery, we know. But WHY did he hate slavery? We watch him spring from his Calvinist roots, become a skeptic, and then return to his faith as he contemplated the will of God. Guelzo not only teaches us about Lincoln, but he also teaches about the times. It is an excellent history of the United States of America from its early years through the Civil War.

  • Tako
    2019-02-02 14:35

    I read this book because I needede more information about Abraham Lincoln, for my history project, but I really liked the way Guelzo wrote biography of the president Abraham Lincoln. He also used a lot of quotes, and like many other fellow writers, he also used very provocative diction to engage the reader with the story of 16th president of the united states of america, Abraham Lincoln. Author focuses about the whole life of the president, but he also accentuated Lincoln's ideas about the Union. Anyone who is interested in the histoty od US and wants to deepen their knowledge, should read this book.

  • Phyllis
    2019-02-01 13:46

    Not your traditional biography, more of an attempt to explain Lincoln's thought processes and the events and intellectual influences that got him there. An interesting view and I learned a great deal that I hadn't known before, including Lincoln's almost total disinterest in Christianity. (Don't believe me? Read the book.) But I have to admit that the book dragged a bit from time to time and might have worked better as a dip-into-occasionally volume rather than a due-in-two-weeks library book.

  • Jeremy Touma
    2019-02-06 19:42

    This intellectual biography of Lincoln depicts much of his life and how it affects him in different ways. We see his philosophies behind religion and his presidency but the entire book seems to be too open ended. Guelzo seems to like to jump from topic to topic without ever closing something. One thing that was much more real and very well depicted in the book, however, was the military side of Lincoln. Guelzo manages to vividly show the hardships and the toll the war took on the morale of everyone at the time and what a victory truly meant to the Union.

  • Keith
    2019-01-27 17:49

    A different prespective on Lincoln than most biographies. A look at his religious background from the strict Calvinism and predestinationof his youth, the "apostasy" (by 19th century standards) of no religious beliefs in his young adulthood to his complex religious appeals in the Civil War and the eerie but majestic second inaugural in 1865. If you are interested in Lincoln from a different perspective than the usual political and biographical entries in this category (I think only Napoleon has more biographies written about him) than please read this book.

  • Alexandre
    2019-02-01 14:47

    Though it took fifty odd pages to get into it, I really liked this book because it did more than recite Abraham Lincoln's life: the author skillfully paints the details of the cultural and intellectual ideas that make up the scenery of 19th century American life. From this vivid background I better understand how Lincoln impacted his era. I also appreciated the care taken to not idolize nor radicalize the man needlessly. I look forward to reading more of Allen C. Guelzo's helpful works.

  • Donna
    2019-01-29 18:34

    This was an amazing book that explored Lincoln's intellectual and religious background. It explores his thought on many fronts and emphasizes Lincoln's place as a Whig politician with a Whig political philosophy... antithetical to both Jackson AND Jefferson. Lincoln is a model life-long learner and you can see the benefit in his evolving thought in his writing and speeches. A true intellectual biography that actually opens up new understanding of Lincoln.

  • Bauer Evans
    2019-02-22 12:35

    Dr. Guelzo is a Lincoln scholar up to the task of exploring Lincoln relationship with Christianity without slipping into either extreme of hagiography or cynicism. Best book I have read to date on Lincoln's spirituality. It is a labor of love to work through it; this is not popular 'writing' on a par with McCullough or Goodwin. But neither is not boring.

  • Kimberly Graham
    2019-01-26 11:58

    This book was absolutely fantastic in describing the life and mind of Abraham Lincoln. I had to read this in order to write a speech depicting Lincoln as honorable in mind and character. I feel as though I truly knew Lincoln and the daunting task laid before him.

  • J.
    2019-02-13 16:36

    This is a provocative new biography of Lincoln. It not only sheds new light on him by putting him in the context of Whig politics, it also makes sense of his complicated but very real spiritual life. And Guelzo's writing is terrific.

  • Jonathan
    2019-01-26 12:49


  • K.C.
    2019-02-04 11:46

    I really enjoy this book---the subject matter as well as the book itself. He really lives up to the hype. I wish there were more men, white and black like him in the world.

  • Scott Graham
    2019-02-19 13:44

    The best book on Lincoln I've read. Very insightful history on Lincoln's spiritual formation and beliefs, which I've always been fascinated and confused by.