Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln

Course No. 8561
Professor Allen C. Guelzo, Ph.D.
Princeton University
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Course No. 8561
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Course Overview

John Locke Scripps, who had convinced Lincoln to write his first campaign autobiography, asserted that the 16th president had become "the Great American Man—the grand central figure in American (perhaps the World's) History." Historians still find it hard to quibble with this opinion of Lincoln's place in the story of America. Lincoln was the central figure in the nation's greatest crisis, the Civil War. His achievements in office make as good a case as any that he was the greatest president in U.S. history.

What made Lincoln great? What was it about him that struck those who knew him? This course explores those questions with the help of an authority who, in his own words, has "spent many years trying to get to know this man from afar," and in doing so has become one of the country's most distinguished Lincoln scholars and an award-winning author for his books about Lincoln.

Professor Allen C. Guelzo will lead you on "a great adventure," a tour of Lincoln's life, from his forebears' arrival in America through an evaluation of how his legacy lives on for us today. You will come to know Lincoln through the eyes of those who knew, lived with, and worked with him.

For Lincoln buffs and those simply wishing to know him much better, this course opens a compelling view into his thinking and career.

In addition to asking what it was like to know Lincoln, Professor Guelzo explores three themes:

  • What ideas were at the core of his understanding of American politics?
  • Why did he oppose slavery, and what propelled him, in the 1850s, into the open opposition to slavery that led to his election to the presidency in 1860?
  • What particular gifts equipped Lincoln to lead the nation through the "fiery trial" of the Civil War?

Lincoln as Man and President

"Just think of such a sucker as me as President."

—Abraham Lincoln, commenting to a newspaper editor on his presidential chances

With Professor Guelzo, you will explore Lincoln's pre-presidential life for clues to his most significant personality traits. You will find a man who possessed perhaps the most complex inner life of any American public figure. You will meet a Lincoln who:

  • Was an unusual combination of both introvert and extrovert.
  • Never joined a church, professed no formal religion, and was even known to have been critical of Christianity before he entered politics. Yet he may have been more moral, ethical, and "Christian" than any other U.S. president.
  • Held a profoundly fatalistic view of life, rooted in the Calvinist teaching of his youth, that human will was essentially nothing, and everything was predestined by an immensely powerful God.

However, Lincoln was anything but passive in life. Largely self-taught, he was a quietly confident man who, regardless of the task—learning to be a surveyor, a lawyer, or President of the United States—"went at it with good earnest."

This aspect of the course will enable you to connect Lincoln the man with Lincoln the president. How was it that someone with limited prior political experience and no administrative background, who was considered homely, unsophisticated, and self-deprecating, could have achieved such monumental success as the nation's chief executive?

In fact, as you will see, "folksy" Abraham Lincoln was about nothing if not ambition: his own personal burning ambition ("a little engine that knew no rest," his law partner described it) and his firm conviction that the unfettered opportunity to fulfill one's ambitions—"that every man can make himself"—was what made America great.

A House Divided

"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free... It will become all one thing, or all the other."

—acceptance speech as 1858 Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Illinois

Professor Guelzo does a remarkable job of shedding light on Lincoln's relationship to the issue that defined his presidency and place in history: slavery.

You will trace the circumstances that spurred Lincoln, in the 1850s, to join the Republican Party and take the stand on slavery that won him prominence as a national politician. These events include the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision, and Lincoln's famous debates with Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas.

As part of this discussion, Professor Guelzo covers an aspect of Lincoln's opposition to slavery that is not always emphasized: his pro-business, free-market philosophy. As a Whig Party member of the Illinois legislature, Lincoln had favored projects—the creation of a state bank, sale of public lands, transportation improvements—that promoted business and economic development.

In the 1850s, political and economic trends made it clear that slavery, far from slowly dying out as the Founding Fathers had anticipated, was poised to expand to new U.S. states and territories. This alarmed Lincoln, who viewed an expanding supply of inexpensive slave labor as a dire threat to the survival of the free market.

"The Work We Are In"

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan."

—Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address

Lincoln transformed himself from an insecure manager into a confident and competent chief executive. "The old man sits here and wields like a backwoods Jupiter the bolts of war and the machinery of government with a hand equally steady and firm," marveled Lincoln's young secretary, John Hay.

You will consider Lincoln's skill in directing not only the war against the Confederacy, but in dealing with difficult members of his own federal government, including General George McClellan, Secretary of State William Seward, and Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase—each of whom thought he could run the government better than Lincoln—and Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney, who tried to issue legal decisions to cripple Lincoln's war effort.

Among the most memorable parts of this course are those in which Professor Guelzo examines Lincoln's nearly unrivaled powers as a writer and communicator. Only Thomas Jefferson spoke and wrote as eloquently and persuasively about American democracy as Lincoln.

The "Great American Man"

"We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

—Conclusion to the Gettysburg Address

This course is an absorbing opportunity to increase your knowledge of a man whose words and life embodied the nature of democracy.

Abraham Lincoln understood and envisioned the U.S. as a nation of self-governing equals who were wise enough to be guided not just by self-interest or popular enthusiasm, but by an abiding sense of right and wrong. Ultimately, he gave that nation, in his words, "a new birth of freedom."

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12 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Young Man Lincoln
    Abraham Lincoln was born with little more than his own natural talents. His father, Thomas, was more than contented with the life of a classic Jeffersonian farmer in Kentucky. When the Lincolns moved from Indiana to Illinois in 1830, Abraham struck out on his own and never looked back. x
  • 2
    Whig Meteor
    Lincoln's entry into politics coincided with the emergence of a new national political party, the Whigs, founded by Henry Clay. Lincoln moved into the forefront of Whig agitation in Illinois to improve business and finance. His own business ventures, however, flopped, and in 1837 he took up the practice of law in Springfield, Illinois. x
  • 3
    Lincoln, Law, and Politics
    Through his law partner, John Todd Stuart, Lincoln met and married Mary Todd in 1842 and attached himself to the Whig elite of Springfield. He won election to Congress in 1846, but his term was undistinguished. Lincoln returned to Illinois to a life of domestic unhappiness, but substantial success as an attorney, especially in civil litigation. x
  • 4
    The Mind of Abraham Lincoln
    Lincoln's folksiness was a shield he rarely let down. Many saw him as an introverted, slightly aloof lawyer. He disliked wanna-be aristocrats and was a tremendous reader. He believed in God, but not the God of any formal religion. x
  • 5
    Lincoln and Slavery
    Lincoln expected that slavery would die out. Instead it experienced a tremendous revolution in profitability. In 1854, Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas opened the western territories to slave expansion through the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and Lincoln reentered politics in opposition. x
  • 6
    The Great Debates
    Lincoln joined the Republican Party and challenged Stephen A. Douglas for the Illinois senate seat in 1858. In seven open-air debates across Illinois, Douglas portrayed Lincoln as an abolitionist fanatic, and Lincoln condemned Douglas's indifference to the moral wrong of slavery. Lincoln narrowly lost the election but gained national attention. x
  • 7
    Lincoln and Liberty, Too
    After Lincoln impressed East Coast Republicans with a major address at New York's Cooper Institute, his backers stage-managed his nomination at the Republican convention in May 1860. He won the presidency by garnering almost all of the North's electoral votes. x
  • 8
    The Uncertain President
    When South Carolina led the Southern states in seceding from the Union, it was unclear whether Lincoln had the experience or skill to manage the situation. He responded to the South's attack on Ft. Sumter by calling out the militia, but the first battle of the Civil War, Bull Run, was a defeat for the Union army. Lincoln then turned to George McClellan as his chief strategist. x
  • 9
    The Emancipation Moment
    General McClellan was a great organizer but strategically lethargic. Lincoln concluded that he had no choice but to connect the war with the ending of slavery, over McClellan's opposition. Lincoln's original plan for emancipation had been to offer gradual buy-outs—monetary compensation to slave owners—but when these were refused by the Border States, he turned to the Emancipation Proclamation. x
  • 10
    Lincoln’s Triumph
    The Emancipation Proclamation cost Lincoln and his party dearly in the 1862 elections. He also sustained deep personal wounds in the death of his son and political tribulations from a divided cabinet, radical members of his own party, and the Democratic Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Lincoln drew on his confidence in the will of God and his shrewd powers of analyzing people and situations. x
  • 11
    The President’s Sword
    Lincoln used speeches and letters to defend his ideas, and his success was extraordinary. His gift as a communicator was matched by the gift for battlefield victory offered by Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln feared he would be defeated for reelection, but a string of Union military victories rejuvenated his fortunes. x
  • 12
    The Dream of Lincoln
    Lincoln's Second Inaugural offered a quasi theology of the war, rebuking radicals of his own party who wanted a vengeful reconstruction of the South. But Lincoln was already beginning to attach conditions to reconstruction himself, beginning with recognition of slave emancipation and voting rights for freed slaves. These plans were tragically cut short by his murder on the night of April 14, 1865. x

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Your professor

Allen C. Guelzo

About Your Professor

Allen C. Guelzo, Ph.D.
Princeton University
Dr. Allen C. Guelzo is the Senior Research Scholar in the Council of the Humanities and Director of the Initiative on Politics and Statesmanship in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania. Among garnering other honors, he has received the Medal of Honor from the Daughters of the American Revolution. He is a member of the National Council on...
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Reviews

Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 113.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Very informative about Lincoln and the Civil War. I especially enjoyed the lecturer's personal style.
Date published: 2017-09-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Marvelous! Microscopically detailed and hosted by one America's most renowned Lincoln scholars. Dr. Guelzo's erudition is simply unsurpassed as he delivers lectures in a wonderfully warm and winsome manner. His reverence for our greatest leader is obvious as Lincoln's formative years and remarkable achievements roar to life in this impeccably rendered series. Hilarity, heartbreak and humanity from the 16th president depicted in 12 compelling lessons -- highest recommendation!
Date published: 2017-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Presenter You get drawn into the lectures by Professor Guelzo's presentation. Working without notes, his material just flows so smoothly. You don't realize that the time has passed when you come to an end of a session.
Date published: 2017-06-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An excellent introduction This is an excellent introduction to the life and thinking of our sixteenth president. Professor Guelzo is always clear, well organized, and entertaining. The most interesting part to me was the discussion of Lincoln’s early life before he went into national politics, simply because this aspect of his life tends to get less attention in other courses and books on the Civil War and Lincoln’s role in it. Having said that, I do not mean to imply that Professor Guelzo’s treatment of that period is disproportionate. The course is clearly a brief introduction to a very complex life that has been the subject of vast libraries of books. In my view Dr. Guelzo apportions his time appropriately. If one wishes to learn more about the Civil War or the speeches and writings of Lincoln, the courses by Gary Gallagher and David Zarefsky cover these very well.
Date published: 2017-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful survey of Mr. Lincoln A great survey of Mr. Lincoln and a terrific presenter
Date published: 2017-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Insightful and important I have taken many, in fact all TGC courses on American history. In almost all of them, one of the most pivotal aspects is the civil war. Professor Gallagher’s course “the American Civil War” is a comprehensive analysis focusing primarily on the military aspects but covering many other themes such as the economies of both sides, the quality of their military leadership and its depth. His other course “General Lee and his high command” is a focused and in depth survey of the confederate’s military leadership resources, its succession strategy, and why this turned out to be so important in deciding the civil war. In almost all of these courses, the political aspects are mentioned but do not receive center stage attention. This course complements these courses by providing the political perspective of what went on during the war, but in fact it does much more than that: who was Abraham Lincoln? How did he end up in dominating the political scene and ascending to the presidency, in a way, against all odds? Lincoln is always credited as being one of the greatest presidents that the USA has ever had (if not the greatest), and in this course Professor Guelzo shows that this is not due simply to the fact that was the leader of the most pivotal and important event in American history; he shows compellingly that his ending up leading this revolutionary event and steering it in the direction it took can be credited to a very large part to this individual person, and that it was his agenda, skills, actions (and genius?) that brought him to this dominant position. This is a biographical history, and many in modern historical approach frown upon this kind of analysis for understanding historical events. In the case of Licoln, however, it can definitely be argued that without him history would most likely have turned out very differently indeed. I found the aspects of Lincoln’s reelection campaign while the war was in full swing particularly fascinating and to provide a lot of new insight for me As for Professor Guelzo; I have heard almost of his great courses and I found him to be a highly entertaining and talented lecturer, providing many new insights along with a balanced and fair analysis. This course was no different. His ironic humor gave the lectures a lighter touch and provided interesting perspectives. I learned a lot, and it made me understand many aspects of Abraham Lincoln’s life and pivotal ascent to the presidency that are important for understanding the civil war and later American history in general.
Date published: 2016-12-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Gets Big Issues Right This is a good course. Allen Guelzo is correct about most of the big issues even though he makes some mistakes about the details. The only big issue that he strikes out on is the important connection between foreign intervention and emancipation. There had been a good chance That Great Britain and France might intervene on behalf of the Confederacy. Lincoln timed the Emancipation Proclamation to preclude this. If you are not familiar with Lincoln, then you will learn something from this class. If you are familiar with Lincoln, then the class will be entertaining.
Date published: 2016-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Though only 12 lectures on a topic can fill libraries, this course offers good value. The presenter's voice fades in and out at times, but the audio dynamic range is not an impediment. This course offers new insights for nearly everyone, regardless of their knowledge level of this subject.
Date published: 2016-09-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course, Excellent Presenter As a serious student of Lincoln, I found this course very valuable. I knew much of the information presented, but still learned a lot. The professor's presentation style was outstanding, a kept me rapt throughout. I would definitely take more courses from him.
Date published: 2016-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent History of One of the Greatest President This course provides an excellent history of the life of one of the greatest US Presidents, Abraham Lincoln. I consider Abraham Lincoln to be one of the greatest President instead of the greatest President because it is very difficult to decide whether President is greater; George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. It depends on which was more important; creating a new nation or preserving the union. Of course, if George Washington had not succeeded, there probably would not have been a President Abraham Lincoln. In the course, it is obvious that Professor Guelzo holds Abraham Lincoln in the highest regard and gives a very enthusiastic narrations and story of Abraham Lincoln’s life. In fact, you get a sense that Professor Guelzo personally knew Abraham Lincoln and would consider him a close friend. However, Professor Guelzo realizes that Abraham Lincoln was not perfect and discusses both his successes and his faults. In this course, you will get a realization of the high degree of intelligence and political savviness that Abraham Lincoln had. Abraham Lincoln had very difficult political situations to deal with such as keeping the states on the border with the Confederacy from leaving the Union and joining the Confederacy. Abraham Lincoln also had to skillfully deal with the radicals in Congress and the difficult generals such as George B. McClellan. This course also provides sights into the thoughts and dreams of Abraham Lincoln which will help you understand why the civil war proceeded along its ultimate route to conclusion.
Date published: 2016-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic I had just a basic knowledge about Abraham Lincoln before listening to these lectures. I loved learning more about his life and his role as president. I have now jumped right into the Civil War lectures because this set of lectures inspired me to want to learn more about that time period. I will definitely be listening to this series again.
Date published: 2016-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from yet another Lincoln course What can I say about yet another history course on Lincoln. There are so many courses on Lincoln. So, why would you choose this course rather than another? Professor Geizo reminds me of my favorite history teacher Professor Fears in his passionate, oratorical style. (See "History of Freedom" and many others within the Great Courses.) Professor Geizo's passion and eloquence are meant as much to draw you in and to convince you of his perspective as to get the facts right. Some may prefer a more disconnected and "keep it to the facts" approach. The risk of the passionate approach is the potential to compromise precision for effect. For example, early on the professor states that the founders left political parties out of the constitution because they believed that everyone would agree on the foundational principles. Any student of the constitution must find that statement implausible. Yet that is a minor infraction, as were other moments that made me blink. Personally I think both approaches are worth my time and Prof. Geizo's style is loads of fun. If you like the passionate approach consider this course. Professor Fears frequently lectured about his ten lessons of history. The 8th lesson is, "Great nations rise and fall because of human decisions made by individual leaders." Prof. Geizo's passion for Lincoln drives home the force of that truth. Seldom is the fate of a nation so clearly connected to one man. Lesson 9 from Prof. Fears' list is, "The statesman is distinguished from a mere politician by four qualities: a bedrock of principles, a moral compass, a vision, and the ability to create a consensus to achieve that vision." I wish I could say that Lincoln personifies these qualities. The historical details that Prof. Geizo brings to this course show how high a bar that lesson sets and how difficult it is to measure up to it. Lincoln comes very close, perhaps as close as political reality allows. This brings me to another reason to take this course: you are a history buff that just can't get enough of Abraham Lincoln. To close: As excellent a group as The Great Courses professors are some are better than others. Sometimes I struggle to rate a professor highly because I do not think he ranks with another that I like. In this case I do recommend, within this history with a passion genre, "History of Freedom" over "Mr. Lincoln" as must be clear in my review. Nonetheless "Mr. Lincoln" is a excellent and enjoyable course. Superficially, at 12 lectures versus 36 it may fit an individual's taste or schedule better.
Date published: 2016-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Honestly Worth the Time This is a fantastic course about the life of Abraham Lincoln. The professor amazed me with the quality of his delivery and passion for the topic. He repeatedly quoted Lincoln from memory, which enlivened the course. In many ways, this course is not a traditional biography. Only a little is mentioned about Lincoln's family and only to the extent it is relevant to Lincoln's political ideology and activities. Little attention is paid to the iconic legends that have arisen around Lincoln. Instead, the professor takes the listener on a path through Lincoln's growth and development as a person, a lawyer, and a politician with the goal of understanding Lincoln better as a person. The professor assumes the listener knows the broader picture of American history during Lincoln's life, though he does discuss certain relevant events such as the Mexican-American War. My only complaint is that I wish this course was longer, but the professor made excellent use of the time. I feel like I have a much better understanding of Lincoln and his motivations. In turn, I feel that I have a better understanding of the events preceding and during the Civil War. The course gave me a far greater appreciation of Honest Abe and his enormous contributions to our country.
Date published: 2016-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Guelzo Strikes Again I'll admit an incoming bias with this course as Professor Guelzo is easily one of my top 3 favorite Great Courses professors. His demeanor, speech pattern and mannerisms combine sort of perfectly for delivering information in a way that won't allow you to stop listening. This course didn't disappoint, though it probably could have been 24 lectures easily. Possibly 48. Of course, the editor's pen has to come out at some point and I think 12 lectures was a reasonable cutoff. I did find myself wanting to learn more about the Civil War, but there is an entire other course for that (which I intend to begin shortly). In the meantime, Abraham Lincoln is one of the most fascinating figures in all of history, certainly of United States history. It was great to get to know him a little bit better, from his childhood and upbringing to his early political aspirations, then pullback to a private legal career, and finally to his successes within the upstart Republican Party. It is often thought that strong leaders must be charismatic and domineering. Abraham Lincoln was neither, yet he deserves his place in history as one of the greatest leaders this country has ever had the privilege of electing to our highest office. He broke the mold forever. This was six hours very, very well spent.
Date published: 2016-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lif of Abraham Lincoln A great course and certainly worthy of Lincoln. The professor is excellent and his presentation seems to duplicate how Lincoln would have spoken, or at least how I imagine Lincoln spoke. When I first listened to the audio there were things that I forgot. However, the course outline is a wonderful supplement and can be read either before or after listening to the audio.
Date published: 2016-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb course! This course was so very worthwhile - worth every penny and every minute spent and more. Dr. Guelzo is knowledgeable and enthusiastic. His delivery is smooth and dramatic. It is hard to imagine how anyone can deliver so much information in a seemingly extemporaneous manner.
Date published: 2015-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Make history come alive This course is interesting and the presentation is entertaining. I enjoyed it from beginning to end.
Date published: 2015-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from As always, another enlightening course Dr. Guelzo is my favorite TGC professor, and he doesn't disappoint in this brief history of Lincoln either. This course has a gift of being brief - at only 12 lectures - and yet, containing enough depth that even a serious student of Lincoln will find something new - or at least enjoy the presentation. I'd recommend it to anyone, specifically fans of Lincoln or those that want to learn more. Remember, this is about Lincoln the Man. The only historical references are there to allow Dr. Guelzo to explain how and why Lincoln reacted the way he did.
Date published: 2015-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from too quick I listened to this on one trip out and listened to it again on the way back. It was, as I generally find, well worth the time.
Date published: 2015-03-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mr Lincoln If you would like to understand the sixteenth US president, this course is a great start.
Date published: 2015-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not quite 'Rhodium' — but PURE Platinum This relatively short course is pure gold — certainly a great value at a significantly lower price than many offerings here. Not only did I learn more about the man, as opposed to simply the legend, but it took me from a two-dimensional view of Lincoln toward a 3-D depth of representation and more useful understanding. The presenter's presentation is par excellence; I have no quibble with it whatsoever [contrary to what another poster said here]. It was engrossing, wholly professional and information-dense in its delivery. The takeaway from this 6-disc lecture is that Lincoln should be regarded as the one of the best U.S. presidents, not just because of his role in the Civil War and emancipation, but because he was an unassuming but true a master national CEO: a genuine statesman.
Date published: 2015-02-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent Highlight Reel Covering Abraham Lincoln's life in 12 lectures isn't possible. Even 24 lectures would be pushing it. As a result, this course is more of a series of highlights than a comprehensive biography. That being said, the highlights are very well presented. In addition to the biographical details, a lot of American history is also presented in order to provide context. Especially interesting was the analysis of the 1860 and 1864 elections. I learned quite a bit about Lincoln and, unlike some reviewers, I don't feel that Lincoln was deified in this course. Lincoln was a man of his time - it is unreasonable to hold him to modern standards. Was he racist? Yes, and there's no hiding that. Was he more interested in saving the country than in banning slavery? Absolutely - originally, he didn't have much interest in banning slavery. These things, and others, are discussed in the course and it's hard to say he was deified when such topics were discussed. I downgraded this course to 4 stars because it's too much of a highlight reel. Far more material is required to be a complete biography. I have the DVD version and some of the maps and diagrams make that version nice to have. All the above being said, I certainly learned a lot of material and this course did fill in quite a bit of knowledge that my grade school, high school, and college courses managed to skip. A nice complement to this course is the Zarefsky course on Lincoln.
Date published: 2015-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mr. Lincoln, the man I thoroughly enjoyed hearing more about Abe Lincoln, the man, rather than the statesman and emancipator. Giving us insights into his early Calvinist upbringing Professor Guelzo shows how this affected many of his later decisions. While Lincoln was not a religious man he did believe in a God and seemed to believe in predestination, the 'will of God.' So much so that he refused to judge others. [I always wondered why he put up with McClellan's apparent inability to actually go out and fight the war -- McClellan was always 'getting ready,' but seldom quite ready enough.] The belief in a God who would turn the tide for the Union if the Union would fight for the right reasons turned Lincoln from fighting to save the Union to fighting for 'liberty for all.' While Lincoln did not necessarily believe that the Neg_o was equal to the white, he did believe they had the same natural rights to 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." NOTE: The Teaching Company's web editor took the N-word as profanity. Professor Guelzo did mention Lincoln's wife, but I would have liked more on this relationship. Her 'moodiness' and extreme, prolonged grief over the loss of their son, had to have had an effect on Lincoln. This course gave us some insights of Mr. Lincoln, and paired with Professor Zarefsky's course, one can get a fuller picture of the man.
Date published: 2015-01-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not necessarily a great course I learned a number of things I did not previously know about Lincoln, but the picture presented here remains a bit incomplete. I say that because Dr. Guelzo did not discuss Lincoln's homelife in any detail nor did he say how Lincoln's thinking and behavior might have been affected by his marriage, his children, the loss of one son while in office, and Mary Todd Lincoln's lengthy grieving. In fact, I'd like to see a course on Mary Todd because I always wonder if William Herndon, who dispised her, didn't set the tone for our received wisdom about Mrs. Lincoln and the nature of her relationship with her husband when he sold his notes on Lincoln to a biographer. But, what I largely object to is Dr. Guelzo's ponderous delivery. Although he tries to add interest to the lectures by changing tone and using an almost familiar delivery at times, I kept thinking, "I'm glad I'm not enrolled in this class as a college student." No matter what Dr. Guelzo intended here, the result is fairly lifeless.
Date published: 2014-12-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lincoln in a Nutshell Audio Review: Dr. Guelzo presents a good overview of the character, personality, values, politics and operating style of Abraham Lincoln. The lectures are balanced between Lincoln's early years as a not so enthusiastic farmhand who self-educated himself, his movement from law into politics, and of course his presidency during the time of America's greatest stress and conflict. Dr. Guelzo shows how Lincoln moved from a principled but inexperienced upstart politician into the White House, where despite his lack of preparation and naivete about the depth of the political passions between North and South, learned on the job to be one of the most effective presidents (even while invoking war time powers to suspend many democratic rights to achieve his goals.) Dr. Guelzo is a very eloquent and often profound speaker. This is the third course of his I've taken (History of the United States, and American Revolution are the others) and his style as a pure lecturer is hard to match. Clearly his experience not only as a professor and "circuit" lecturer come through, but add his early graduate school side job as a historical tour guide in Philadelphia, and he has a complete mix to captivate his audience while impressing with his depth of knowledge. His speaking skills are such that the audio version of this course is sufficient to gain a complete understanding of the course content. My only criticism of this course is that at 12 lectures it is too short to do Lincoln justice. After having read several books on Lincoln and taking the TGC courses recommended below, I was hoping for a bit more depth about Lincoln from this course. A course of 24 lectures seems more appropriate. To Dr. Guelzo's credit he did provide the highlights of all the salient facets of Lincoln's life (except perhaps the depth of Lincoln's depression). For these reasons, I rated the course a 4 vs. my fellow reviewers' consensus of 5. I would however heartily recommend this course as a first course on Lincoln and/or for anyone who has studied pieces of Lincoln's life and would like an overview of his complete life.
Date published: 2014-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Contextual Gem AUDIO DOWNLOAD I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this short, twelve lecture course. Professor Guelzo gives us a Lincoln in the context of his time, allowing us to see Lincoln as other saw him, by enlivening the narrative with quotes from contemporaries (e.g., the well-known William Herndon, his law partner, and John Hay, his presidential secretary, to the many others who came into contact with Lincoln from his years of obscurity through his time as our 16th President). It is Professor Guelzo’s contention that Abraham Lincoln is “one of the most representative men our nation has produced” (Course Guidebook, Page 1), and he succeeds in showing how this is so, in lectures built on four themes: “1. What was it like to know Abraham Lincoln? 2. What ideas were at the core of his understanding of American politics? 3. Why did he oppose slavery, and what propelled him, in the 1850s, into the open opposition to slavery that led to his election to the presidency in 1860? 4. What particular gifts equipped Lincoln to lead the nation through the ‘fiery trial’ of the Civil War?” (Page 1). Yes, Professor Guelzo deals with all the big items in Lincoln’s life, and does so extremely well. You will not get lost in the process, as all the necessary context of the Lincoln’s time is provided. For instance, early 19th century political party development and issues, the Constitution’s provisions for slavery and the role of the states in the union, the process of secession after Lincoln’s election, and the turbulent years of Civil War. The first half of the course ends with the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, a real eye-opener as dealt with by Professor Guelzo, and the remaining six lectures are given over to Lincoln’s election as president and the Civil War years. The last lecture includes a great appreciation of Lincoln and his place in American history and an exceptional discussion on why Lincoln is not as much appreciated and/or understood today. Most striking for me after listening to this course is how woefully unprepared Lincoln was for the presidency (manifested, for instance, in his early attempts at micromanaging), and how it was that he grew in office. Moreover, Professor Guelzo ably demonstrates how much Lincoln’s success depended upon his being a great communicator, not only represented in the well-known Gettysburg Address and inaugural addresses, but also in such writings as Lincoln’s public letters on emancipation and other matters. I especially enjoyed Professor Guelzo’s treatment of Lincoln’s far from straightforward views and public positions on slavery and on religion (a “…consistently secular man, who never joined a church” Audio, Lecture 12), noting especially Lincoln’s “…obsession with logic and honesty, and his belief in fatalism and scientific materialism but his distaste for the fact that slavery denied opportunities for self-betterment.” (Page 2). Along the way, Professor Guelzo notes points at which one glimpses the impact of Lincoln’s Calvinist upbringing in that “fatalism”, as well as his strong sense of right and wrong and belief in the natural bonding of politics and morality. In all of this, we also learn more about this very private public man in his marriage to Mary Todd and the loss of his young son shortly after taking office. This is a wonderful and too short course that informs and inspires. The course is exceptionally well-organized and Professor Guelzo’s delivery is top-notch, one of the best lecturers I have encountered among the TC faculty. I am definitely going to get some of his others TC courses. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2014-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mr. Lincoln: Prairie Lawyer What kind of man was Abraham Lincoln? The Russian writer Leo Tolstoy may have written the most flowery encomium ever recorded about the sixteenth president of the United States: "He was what Beethoven was in music, Dante in poetry, Raphael in painting, and Christ in the philosophy of life. If he had failed to become president, he would be no doubt just as great, but only God could appreciate it." Given the degree of reverence expressed by Count Tolstoy for the Illinois rail splitter, it is a daunting task indeed to capture the essence of Mr. Lincoln in a twelve-part lecture series. And, it turns out that the defining experience in Lincoln’s life may have been his time spent as a prairie lawyer! In this compact course, Professor Allen C. Guelzo dynamically portrays Lincoln in the context of his tumultuous era in the mid-nineteenth century. Because Professor Guelzo is one of our eminent American historians and the author of two books on Lincoln, it was a special treat to experience these lectures. With a buoyant presentational style, Professor Guelzo quotes abundantly from the speeches and writings of Lincoln, as this remarkable life unfolds around such themes as upward mobility and human equality. Professor Guelzo prepared a detailed historical timeline, biographical profiles, glossary, and an annotated bibliography for the Course Guidebook. These appendices are a superb complement to the lectures. Professor Guelzo’s approach is to draw selectively upon primary sources to illustrate the personal development of Lincoln as an unlikely president at one of the major crossroads in our nation’s history. It is difficult to imagine the pressure felt by the humble Midwesterner in 1861 when he traveled by train from Springfield to Washington to assume the mantle of chief executive at the precise moment of the secession of the Southern states. One surprising influence in shaping Lincoln’s ability to steer the nation through the crisis: his practical experience as a lawyer. Time and again in the lectures, it is clear that Lincoln drew upon the skills he had honed as an attorney to communicate with his generals, to manage the volatile personalities of a fractured Congress, to control his independently-minded “team of rivals” in the cabinet, and to persuade others that his vision of equality was the key to healing and renewal in our nation’s greatest internal crisis. During the Civil War, it took Lincoln a long time to come around to the vital importance of emancipation. As implied by Professor Guelzo, this may be the story of a brilliant politician and visionary, but it is also one of the decency and remarkable intelligence of a highly principled and seasoned country lawyer, who relied on his communication skills acquired from addressing ordinary juries of citizens on the prairie. Lincoln assumed personal responsibility for the tragic consequences of the Civil War. But he also accepted his role as an agent of social change during the crisis. This course might aptly be titled “Mr. Lincoln’s Principles and Commitment to Human Equality.” With Lincoln’s moral compass as the focal point, Professor Guelzo presents a detailed biographical profile in the context of the history of the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. The scholarship is exemplary, and the lecturer offers a thoughtful interpretation that is buttressed by the timeless words of Lincoln himself. His speeches still resonate from the Cooper Union address in 1860, wherein Lincoln referred to the coming storm as a “house divided” to the second inaugural address in 1865, when he was already proposing the humane treatment of his adversaries “with malice toward none, with charity for all.” In his succinct speeches and writing, Lincoln continues to speak to us across time. In the story of a meteoric rise to the presidency, Lincoln’s biography is uniquely American, as we follow the journey of a self-educated and highly motivated lawyer from the Midwest. But as he embraced the responsibility implied in the high office of president, the soul of Lincoln begins to emerge, and we discover how he believed that he was “an accidental instrument” of history. For Professor Guelzo, Lincoln may have been the central figure in the central event of our nation’s history. In this carefully prepared set of lectures, it is difficult to disagree with the words of Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, when he stated of Mr. Lincoln that “he belongs to the ages.” COURSE GRADE: A
Date published: 2014-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a presentation Professor Guelzo gives a truly dramatic performance that is matched by the content of the course and the insights into Lincoln and his life. Well worth listening to.
Date published: 2014-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great content and presentation style Of the eight to ten courses we've purchased, this may be the best balance between lecture style and novelty (& complexity) of content balanced with emotional appeal. Very likeable presenter who deftly covers a very familiar figure, making him fresh again. One small caveat: if he mentions the Homestead Act or Lincoln's role with Native American dramas on the high plains, I missed it totally. I guess there are limits to what can be included in 6 hours. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2014-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great This was a great course on Lincoln. Well presented. What I enjoyed most of all about this course was how the information was presented in historical context. The information wasn't presented in a vacum. An example was how Lincoln became a Republican which include a history of the how the political parties in power at the time came to be.
Date published: 2013-12-06
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