Lincoln President-Elect

Abraham Lincoln and the Great Secession Winter 1860-1861

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About The Book

One of our most eminent Lincoln scholars, winner of a Lincoln Prize for his Lincoln at Cooper Union, examines the four months between Lincoln's election and inauguration, when the president-elect made the most important decision of his coming presidency -- there would be no compromise on slavery or secession of the slaveholding states, even at the cost of civil war.

Abraham Lincoln first demonstrated his determination and leadership in the Great Secession Winter -- the four months between his election in November 1860 and his inauguration in March 1861 -- when he rejected compromises urged on him by Republicans and Democrats, Northerners and Southerners, that might have preserved the Union a little longer but would have enshrined slavery for generations. Though Lincoln has been criticized by many historians for failing to appreciate the severity of the secession crisis that greeted his victory, Harold Holzer shows that the presidentelect waged a shrewd and complex campaign to prevent the expansion of slavery while vainly trying to limit secession to a few Deep South states.

During this most dangerous White House transition in American history, the country had two presidents: one powerless (the president-elect, possessing no constitutional authority), the other paralyzed (the incumbent who refused to act). Through limited, brilliantly timed and crafted public statements, determined private letters, tough political pressure, and personal persuasion, Lincoln guaranteed the integrity of the American political process of majority rule, sounded the death knell of slavery, and transformed not only his own image but that of the presidency, even while making inevitable the war that would be necessary to make these achievements permanent.

Lincoln President-Elect is the first book to concentrate on Lincoln's public stance and private agony during these months and on the momentous consequences when he first demonstrated his determination and leadership. Holzer recasts Lincoln from an isolated prairie politician yet to establish his greatness, to a skillful shaper of men and opinion and an immovable friend of freedom at a decisive moment when allegiance to the founding credo "all men are created equal" might well have been sacrificed.

About The Author

Photo © Don Pollard, Sculpture by Frank Porcu

Harold Holzer, a leading authority on Lincoln and the Civil War, is Chairman of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation and a Roger Hertog Fellow at the New York Historical Society. Widely honored for his work, Holzer earned a second-place Lincoln Prize for Lincoln at Cooper Union in 2005 and in 2008 was awarded the National Humanities Medal. Holzer is Senior Vice President of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and lives in Rye, New York.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 21, 2008)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416594406

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Raves and Reviews

"This detailed and gripping narrative of Lincoln's thoughts and actions during the four months between his election and inauguration -- perhaps more important than any four months of his actual presidency -- is another tour de force by one of our foremost Lincoln scholars. Bristling with new information and key insights, it enriches our understanding of this most fateful time in American history." -- James M. McPherson, author of Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief

"Lincoln President-Elect is Harold Holzer's best and most controversial book. Many historians, myself included, have depicted Lincoln in the months between his election and inauguration as weak and indecisive. Holzer, carefully studying the record, argues that Lincoln was a strong-minded, highly principled, and shrewd president-elect." -- David Herbert Donald, author of Lincoln

"This is a stunningly original work that casts completely new light on the most turbulent and critical presidential transition in American history. Holzer's superb narrative skill, along with his abundant use of colorful details, creates an atmosphere of such immediacy that the reader feels transported back to "the Great Secession Winter" as an eye-witness to Lincoln's gifted leadership during this dramatic period. This groundbreaking book will take its place with the most valuable and indispensable works in the Lincoln canon." -- Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

"No one has a finer intuitive understanding of Abraham Lincoln than Harold Holzer. In this fascinating book, he throws a searchlight on a crucial and surprisingly underexamined episode of Lincoln's life to show us the essential elements of Lincoln's political and moral greatness." -- Michael Beschloss, author of Presidential Courage: Brave Leaders and How They Changed America, 1789-1989

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