James McPherson has emerged as one of America's finest historians. Battle Cry of Freedom, his Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Civil War, was a national bestseller that Hugh Brogan, in The New York Times Book Review, called history writing of the highest order. In that volume, McPherson gathered in the broad sweep of events, the political, social, and cultural forces at work during the Civil War era. Now, in Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, he offers a series of thoughtful and engaging essays on aspects of Lincoln and the war that have rarely been discussed in depth.McPherson again displays his keen insight and sterling prose as he examines several critical themes in American history. He looks closely at the President's role as Commander-in-Chief of the Union forces, showing how Lincoln forged a national military strategy for victory. He explores the importance of Lincoln's great rhetorical skills, uncovering how--through parables and figurative language--he was uniquely able to communicate both the purpose of the war and a new meaning of liberty to the people of the North. In another section, McPherson examines the Civil War as a Second American Revolution, describing how the Republican Congress elected in 1860 passed an astonishing blitz of new laws (rivaling the first hundred days of the New Deal), and how the war not only destroyed the social structure of the old South, but radically altered the balance of power in America, ending 70 years of Southern power in the national government. The Civil War was the single most transforming and defining experience in American history, and Abraham Lincoln remains the most important figure in the pantheon of our mythology. These graceful essays, written by one of America's leading historians, offer fresh and unusual perspectives on both.
Anthony Summers' biography of Richard Nixon reveals a troubled figure whose criminal behavior did not begin with Watergate. Drawing on more than a thousand interviews and five years of research, Summers reveals a man driven by an addiction to intrigue and power, whose subversion of democracy during Watergate was the culmination of years of cynical political manipulation. New evidence suggests the former president had problems with alcohol and prescription drugs, was at times mentally unstable, and was abusive to his wife Pat. Summers discloses previously unrevealed facts about Nixon's role in the plots to topple Fidel Castro and Salvador Allende, his sabotage of the Vietnam peace talks in 1968, and his acceptance of funds from dubious sources. The Arrogance of Power shows how the actions of one tormented man influenced fifty years of American history, in ways still reverberating today.
Thomas Jefferson advocated a republic of small farmers--free and independent yeomen. And yet as president he presided over a massive expansion of the slaveholding plantation system--particularly with the Louisiana Purchase--squeezing the yeomanry to the fringes and to less desirable farmland. Now Roger Kennedy conducts an eye-opening examination of that gap between Jefferson's stated aspirations and what actually happened.
Kennedy reveals how the Louisiana Purchase had a major impact on land use and the growth of slavery. He examines the great financial interests (such as the powerful land companies that speculated in new territories and the British textile interests) that beat down slavery's many opponents in the South itself (Native Americans, African Americans, Appalachian farmers, and conscientious opponents of slavery). He describes how slaveholders' cash crops (first tobacco, then cotton) sickened the soil and how the planters moved from one desolated tract to the next. Soon the dominant culture of the entire region--from Maryland to Florida, from Carolina to Texas--was that of owners and slaves producing staple crops for international markets. The earth itself was impoverished, in many places beyond redemption.
None of this, Kennedy argues, was inevitable. He focuses on the character, ideas, and ambitions of Thomas Jefferson to show how he and other Southerners struggled with the moral dilemmas presented by the presence of Indian farmers on land they coveted, by the enslavement of their workforce, by the betrayal of their stated hopes, and by the manifest damage being done to the earth itself. Jefferson emerges as a tragic figure in a tragic period.
A masterful work by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Herbert Donald, Lincoln is a stunning portrait of Abraham Lincoln's life and presidency.Donald brilliantly depicts Lincoln's gradual ascent from humble beginnings in rural Kentucky to the ever-expanding political circles in Illinois, and finally to the presidency of a country divided by civil war. Donald goes beyond biography, illuminating the gradual development of Lincoln's character, chronicling his tremendous capacity for evolution and growth, thus illustrating what made it possible for a man so inexperienced and so unprepared for the presidency to become a great moral leader. In the most troubled of times, here was a man who led the country out of slavery and preserved a shattered Union--in short, one of the greatest presidents this country has ever seen.
The Three Roosevelts is the extraordinary political biography of the intertwining lives of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt, who emerged from the closed society of New York's Knickerbocker elite to become the most prominent American political family of the twentieth century. As Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author James MacGregor Burns and acclaimed historian Susan Dunn follow the evolution of the Roosevelt political philosophy, they illuminate how Theodore's example of dynamic leadership would later inspire the careers of his distant cousin Franklin and his niece Eleanor, who together forged a progressive political legacy that reverberated throughout the world. Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt led America through some of the most turbulent times in its history. The Three Roosevelts takes readers on an exhilarating voyage through these tumultuous decades of our nation's past, and these momentous events are seen through the Roosevelts' eyes, their actions, and their passions. Insightful and authoritative, this is a fascinating portrait of three of America's greatest leaders, whose legacy is as controversial today as their vigorous brand of forward-looking politics was in their own lifetimes. A remarkable example of narrative and biographical history at its best. -- Bruce Clayton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette No one has written more trenchantly about Franklin Roosevelt and American politics ... than James MacGregor Burns.... -- H. W. Brands, The Raleigh News & Observer A detailed study.... Written with impeccable scholarship. -- Malinda Nash, Houston Chronicle
No American president has enjoyed as intimate a relationship with the soldiers in his army as did the man they called Father Abraham. In Lincoln's Men, historian William C. Davis draws on thousands of unpublished letters and diaries -- the voices of the volunteers -- to tell the hidden story of how a new and untested president became Father throughout both the army and the North as a whole.
How did Lincoln inspire the faith and courage of so many shattered men, as they wandered the inferno of Shiloh or were entrenched in the siege of Vicksburg? Why did soldiers visiting Washington feel free to stroll into the White House as if it were their own home? In this through and authoritative work, Davis removes layers of mythmaking to recapture the real moods and feelings of an army facing one of history's bloodiest conflicts. Lincoln's Men casts a new light on our most famous president and on America's revolution -- on our country's father and its rebirth
In Means of Ascent, Book Two of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert A. Caro brings alive Lyndon Johnson in his wilderness years.Here, Johnson's almost mythic personality--part genius, part behemoth, at once hotly emotional and icily calculating--is seen at its most nakedly ambitious. This multifaceted book carries the President-to-be from the aftermath of his devastating defeat in his 1941 campaign for the Senate-the despair it engendered in him, and the grueling test of his spirit that followed as political doors slammed shut-through his service in World War II (and his artful embellishment of his record) to the foundation of his fortune (and the actual facts behind the myth he created about it). The culminating drama--the explosive heart of the book--is Caro's illumination, based on extraordinarily detailed investigation, of one of the great political mysteries of the century. Having immersed himself in Johnson's life and world, Caro is able to reveal the true story of the fiercely contested 1948 senatorial election, for years shrouded in rumor, which Johnson was not believed capable of winning, which he "had to" win or face certain political death, and which he did win-by 87 votes, the "87 votes that changed history." Telling that epic story "in riveting and eye-opening detail," Caro returns to the American consciousness a magnificent lost hero. He focuses closely not only on Johnson, whom we see harnessing every last particle of his strategic brilliance and energy, but on Johnson's "unbeatable" opponent, the beloved former Texas Governor Coke Stevenson, who embodied in his own life the myth of the cowboy knight and was himself a legend for his unfaltering integrity. And ultimately, as the political duel between the two men quickens--carrying with it all the confrontational and moral drama of the perfect Western--Caro makes us witness to a momentous turning point in American politics: the tragic last stand of the old politics versus the new--the politics of issue versus the politics of image, mass manipulation, money and electronic dazzle.