The Very Rich Hours of the Lambrights

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What I’m Reading

June 16th, 2007 · No Comments


I’ve been working on Lincoln by David Herbert Donald for several weeks.   I first read this back in 1995 when it was originally published, but attempts to use Lincoln to justify actions by the Bush administration and it’s supporters got me thinking about the 16th President and it seemed like a good time to revisit the topic.

In researching his book, Donald went back to the primary sources and attempted to write based on what Lincoln “knew, when he knew it, and why he made his decisions.”  Therefore, there is not as much hindsight or analysis as you sometimes see in presidential bios.  His approach is instructive and you really end up with a feeling for how Lincoln thought.

You also get a feeling for how his personality affected his decisions.  According to Donald, Lincoln had a passive personality and was more comfortable reacting to events than trying to shape them proactively.   At one point in the war, Lincoln stated that “events have controlled me.”

This is a good book for those who want to get past our modern stereotypes and actually get to know the real Abraham Lincoln.  He was not as “nice” as we sometimes make him out to be and many people don’t realize what a skillful (and ruthless) political operator he was.  Despite all this, he was an essentially decent man who lead us through the greatest crisis we’ve ever faced as a country.  Donald’s book provides a better understanding of how he did it.

Tags: Books

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