Steven Spielberg, Tony Kushner, and Daniel Day Lewis may have sparked a resurgence of interest in our 16th President, but there has always been plenty to read about one of the most iconic figures in American, and even world, history. Here are some highlights.
Pressed for time? The late George McGovern wrote a concise 208 page biography of Lincoln as part of the Times Books American Presidents Series. McGovern hits the high points in Lincoln’s career, each of which was marked by a famous speech. The author is not afraid to point out some of the short cuts Lincoln took with civil liberties during the Civil War, however.
Foner won a Pulitzer Prize in History for this book. He writes about Lincoln’s changing stances on slavery, one of the most hotly debated topics among historians. Was Lincoln “The Great Emancipator” or was it much more complex? The answer: it’s complicated....
If you are curious as to how faithful the film Lincoln was to the actual Congressional battles over the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment, this is the book to read. Vorenberg covers all the details and more about how Lincoln got the Congress to take what was an extraordinary step: amending the Constitution to abolish slavery. Prior to 1865, the Constitution was considered so sacred and unchangeable, some in Congress argued that amending the Constitution was unconstitutional.
The Gettysburg Address is 272 words long. Wills wrote a 317 page long book about the speech (which includes several appendices and notes). You can decide if that is too much or too little. The book is not just about one speech, but how the Gettysburg Address compares to other famous speeches in history.
Officially, the screenplay for Lincoln is adapted from this very popular work. While it does not deal very much with the battle to adopt the 13th Amendment, you can learn about how Lincoln dealt with his contentious Cabinet. Lincoln needed a strong group to help him through the crisis that awaited him.
When Lincoln was elected President in 1860, he won with just 39.8% of the vote, the lowest percentage in American history. Why did this happen? For starters, Lincoln and the Republicans were not on the ballot in the South. And there were four major candidates running. The Democrats held five different conventions and nominated two different tickets. This confusion made it easy for a relatively unknown, but extremely ambitious, lawyer from Illinois to claim the Presidency.