Read Wrestling With His Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln Vol. II, 1849-1856 by Sidney Blumenthal Online


“Magisterial...A vividly written, wide-ranging and often surprising account of the president-to-be.” —The New York Times Book Review“Masterful.” —Los Angeles TimesVolume II of Sidney Blumenthal’s acclaimed, landmark biography, The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, reveals the future president’s genius during the most decisive period of his political life when he seizes th“Magisterial...A vividly written, wide-ranging and often surprising account of the president-to-be.” —The New York Times Book Review“Masterful.” —Los Angeles TimesVolume II of Sidney Blumenthal’s acclaimed, landmark biography, The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, reveals the future president’s genius during the most decisive period of his political life when he seizes the moment, finds his voice, and helps create a new political party.In 1849, Abraham Lincoln seems condemned to political isolation and defeat. His Whig Party is broken in the 1852 election, and disintegrates. His perennial rival, Stephen Douglas, forges an alliance with the Southern senators and Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. Violent struggle breaks out on the plains of Kansas, a prelude to the Civil War.Lincoln rises to the occasion. Only he can take on Douglas in Illinois, and he finally delivers the dramatic speech that leaves observers stunned. In 1855, he makes a race for the Senate, which he loses when he throws his support to a rival to prevent the election of a proslavery candidate. Now, in Wrestling With His Angel, Sidney Blumenthal explains how Lincoln and his friends operate behind the scenes to destroy the anti-immigrant party in Illinois to clear the way for a new Republican Party. Lincoln takes command and writes its first platform and vaults onto the national stage as the leader of a party that will launch him to the presidency.The Washington Monthly hailed Blumenthal’s Volume I as, “splendid…no one can come away from reading A Self-Made Man without eagerly anticipating the ensuing volumes.” Now, in one of the greatest American success stories, Wrestling With His Angel brings Lincoln from the wilderness to the peak of his career as he takes control of the nation’s most profound spiritual crisis—slavery—and enters the battle for the nation’s soul....

Title : Wrestling With His Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln Vol. II, 1849-1856
Author :
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ISBN : 9781501153785
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 608 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Wrestling With His Angel: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln Vol. II, 1849-1856 Reviews

  • Robert
    2019-05-18 03:24

    Sidney Blumenthal’s Wrestling with His Angel — The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln is political history, covering US politics from 1849 to 1856, that places Lincoln in the context of his times. For the first 250 pages of the book, there’s not much said about Lincoln. Instead, Blumenthal recounts the North-South, Democrat-Whig, struggles seeking to find some way in which the United States could remain united with slavery in its bowels.If there is anything this book accomplishes, it puts an end to any idea that the Civil War was not about slavery (i.e., it was really about states’ rights or purely economic rivalry) and that the Civil War was avoidable and/or unnecessary. Southern selfish hypocrisy and Northern obsessive indignation are presented in detail, the chief antagonists being John Calhoun and Henry Clay succeeded by Jefferson Davis/Stephen Douglas and, eventually, Abraham Lincoln.Slavery was a crisis without end, and when it found an end, it was begun again. No compromise or measure from the Ordinance of 1787 through the Missouri Compromise and onward was a final settlement The issue as we know was extending this pernicious institution to the new territories (substantially, but not entirely, taken from Mexico). Blumenthal’s portraits of Clay, the Kentuckian who sought to constrain slavery; Davis, the Mississippian who exhibited an incredible will in supporting slavery and dreaming of its extension to Cuba, more of Mexico, and Central America (a Southern Empire); and Douglas, the political king of Illinois always in overdrive due to ambition, greed, and a lot of whiskey, are compelling.Davis’s control of the agreeable, handsome, and malleable Franklin Pierce is presented with great art and insight. Douglas, the master dealmaker and egomaniac, is Davis’s equal in guile and determination. Poor Clay served to illustrate–to Lincoln–the power of the pro-slavery factions, aided and abetted by men like Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan.Lincoln, in this volume of a multi-part study, spends many, many pages riding the Illinois judicial circuits and attempting to save the Whigs. He is a one-term congressman with a powerful mind, compassion for all other human beings, and a certain practical bent when it comes to aiding and abetting the political process in Illinois, about which we learn more, probably, than is of interest to most readers.Blumenthal’s best work on Lincoln comes not from general descriptions of party politics or the views and analyses of Lincoln’s friends but from his presentation of Lincoln in his own pre-presidential words, both as a speaker and a letter-writer. There is at one and the same time a direct firmness in Lincoln’s argumentation and an evocative gift for making use of the Bible and Shakespeare (in particular) in advancing his uncomfortable belief that slavery must come to a violent end. Remember, this is in the mid-1850s, so don’t let anyone tell you that Lincoln didn’t sense and live through the inevitability of the Civil War. He was practical and would have preferred some other end, but his forebodings were strong and accurate.What we see is a deeply, deeply political Lincoln, a man of self-discipline and self-restraint, who has a knack for inspiring trust in others and deploying them, move by move, on a complex chessboard. Chicago is one thing, Springfield is another–let’s put it that way. He does not want to give up on the Whigs and takes the longest time, years, accommodating himself to the need to forget them and move on the aligning himself with the newborn Republicans.That Lincoln was a Republican and the current president of the United States is a Republican should not be taken as meaningful. Lincoln’s thoughtfulness, his precision, his humility, his wit and humanity made him an epic of a man. No contemporary comparison is welcome.Blumenthal’s 250 pages of “setting the stage” for Lincoln’s re-entry into politics after leaving Congress (one term) probably is necessary but surely could be compressed to give this study more narrative impetus. That’s more than a quibble, but it’s still an impressive work of U.S. political history.

  • David Kent
    2019-04-27 01:14

    Another must-read book in Blumenthal's four-part series on the political life of Abraham Lincoln. This second volume covers the period between 1849 and 1856, much of which time Lincoln was essentially out of politics. Following his single term as a U.S. Congressman, Lincoln returned to Springfield to build his law practice. He was politically absent as others in the East fought the battles leading to the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. It was the latter that "aroused" Lincoln as never before and got him back into politics. Covered are Lincoln's first set of debates against Stephen A. Douglas in 1854 and the run-up to Lincoln's first failed Senate race in 1856. Lincoln purists will perhaps find the book woefully missing its main character as Lincoln rarely appears in the first two-thirds of the book and essentially absent from 80% of it. Some may see this as a weakness of the book, but I see it as its main strength. Lincoln was, in fact, not intimately involved in the political tug of wars going on in Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Washington, DC during this period. In his first book of the series, Blumenthal spends considerable time exploring the other actors and events that set the stage for the rise of Lincoln. This is especially important in this period of Lincoln's political inactivity and essential for the understanding of conditions that allowed Lincoln to become the leader he became. Blumenthal aptly documents the actions of key figures such as aging icons Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun, as well as the rise of Stephen A. Douglas and Jefferson Davis. This deep background, using today's parlance, is absolutely necessary for a proper understanding of both the times and of Lincoln himself. Blumenthal's in-depth and highly researched scholarship brings the times to clarity for us all.The final few chapters focus more on Lincoln as he struggles with the demise of the Whigs and the ascension of a new Republican party. After losing the Senate race as a Whig (on a technicality and deception by the Democrats in Illinois), Lincoln helped to formalize the Illinois Republican party and quickly rose to become one of its great leaders. The book ends prior to the 1856 presidential race, the first in which a Republican candidate is put forth. The next volume, according to Blumenthal, should cover the period from that election, through the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates that gave Lincoln national exposure, past the 1860 election, and all the way up to Gettysburg. If you haven't read these first two books, start now. They are hefty in both size and scholarship, but well worth the time.

  • Jay
    2019-05-23 21:41

    Blumenthal's second volume of a proposed trilogy, should, in the interest of strict accuracy, be entitled "Wrestling with his Angel: The Political Life AND TIMES of Abraham Lincoln Vol. II, 1849-1856. These momentous years saw the final great efforts of the Giants of the Senate, Webster, Clay and Calhoun, and their efforts at compromise to save the Union in 1850. Party politics shifted as slavery demolished the Whigs, the nativist Know-Nothings rose, and the Democrats emerged as the single remaining national party. But these years saw Lincoln in political purgatory, and resigned to his law office. Blumenthal aptly observes that "There was no plausible office for him to seek." And unfortunately, Lincoln left no diary and in these years rarely spoke on the stump, so his voice is maddeningly absent here. Blumenthal's account of these years is detailed, nuanced and interesting, but Lincoln, himself, only appears in about 20% of the narrative. I look forward to Volume III.

  • Fred Svoboda
    2019-05-05 01:25

    As with the previous volume, Blumenthal traces Lincoln's times and political self-education. Again, the only flaw is that some of the discussion of minor political figures and the ins and outs of politics sometimes week by week is so fine-grained as to become overwhelming. (The focus can move away from Lincoln for up to 150 pages at a time.) Still, this is an engrossing explication of how Lincoln became the towering figure that we know, a practical politician with a considerable moral underpinning.

  • Richard Wise
    2019-05-04 02:32

    For those who believe that the Civil War aka the War of Northern Aggression, aka The War Between The States was, first and foremost, a war fought by the South to preserve state's rights is technically correct except that the only state's right that was truly at issue was the rights of the Southern states to hold people in perpetual bondage.The issue that destroyed the Whig Party and led eventually to secession was The Fugitive Slave Act and the issue of whether states newly accepted into the union would be slave or free.Given the recent events at Charlottesville, I thought it important to understand the political machinations that led to Southern secession. Blumenthal does an excellent job of showing how those issues progressed as well as the personalities involved. Some scholars have said the Lincoln was not truly antislavery, citing the fact that he only issued his Emancipation Proclamation after the Battle of Antietam. Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd, 1862. It stipulated that if the Southern states did not cease their rebellion by January 1st, 1863, then Proclamation would go into effect. When the Confederacy did not yield, Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863. He held off not because he was ambivalent about slavery, but because his primary objective was to save the Union, something that when he took the oath of office he had sworn to preserve.

  • B. Denise
    2019-04-27 03:34

    It's extraordinary details paint a picture of the politics leading up to the Civil War with the disintegration of the Whig Party and the rise of the Republican Party and Lincoln's journey there. The overview of events is critical for understanding the nation's history. Blumenthal is weaving a story which is very readable, although he describes the history and the future of every man he mentions. the cast of characters is dizzying, but it doesn't hurt to skim the information when it becomes burdensome.

  • Lynn
    2019-04-24 23:35

    This second volume of Blumenthal's work is a fascinating and detailed walk through one of the most tumultuous periods of American history. Lincoln only shows up in the second half and then not as a major player, but the work shows us the forces that brought Lincoln back into politics and finally into the presidency. My only complaint is that the author skips around in years sometimes and doesn't often give years. A timeline would have helped.

  • Chris Carson
    2019-04-26 00:25

    Blumenthal has written two terrific chapters in the political life of Lincoln. The stories told are delivered with a comfortable retelling as if we were there, watching Lincoln's evolution unfold before us. I look forward to the (planned) last chapter in this terrific series.

  • Steve
    2019-05-18 01:31

    Contains a lot more than just biographical information. Basically provides all the needed political context to understand what lead up to Lincoln's presidency.