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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  • 72-page printed course guidebook
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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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Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 117.
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
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous Lecturer Professor Guelzo is very entertaining with his animated lectures. His knowledge of the subject matter is beyond question. I had more fun watching this series than any other, and, I learned a lot. I have read Carl Sandburg's Lincoln and thought I had a good insight into the man. Professor Guelzo gives a more personal view of Mr. Lincoln, the man.
Date published: 2013-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 6 Stars This is the best course I have purchased, and I have a number of them. Superb lecturer, great story teller--as good as Greenberg but without the corny jokes. Only negative is that civil war battles are somewhat glossed over (understandable, given that this is about Lincoln and not the civil war, and time constraints) which can give an incomplete picture of how certain battles played out and why if you don't know any better. Still, I'd give it six stars if I could.
Date published: 2013-09-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from More of a Tour Guide than a Scholar's Lecture As an overview to the life and work of Lincoln, this course is fine. However, Professor Guelzo champions Lincoln far too much to provide a reliable understanding of this President. For example, a good argument can be made that Lincoln undermined the role of the U.S. Constitution in American politics, and that he amassed too much power into the executive branch -- two of his legacies that continue to this day. Guelzo's presentation glosses over these criticisms and all too often falls back on "tour-guide" rhetoric to whitewash and over-simplify a complex man in a complex time. If you need a refresher on Lincoln, this will get you started. But this would be an unfortunate place to end your study of the 16th president.
Date published: 2013-06-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Detailed and Thought Provoking With all the recent interest in Lincoln, here's a course that fills in all the details of of his entire life. From birth, to his rise in politics and the struggles of the Civil War, much info is packed in 12 lectures. If your knowledge of Lincoln amounts to the public education system of Abe living in a cabin, saying the Gettysburg Address and being assassinated, this course will show you much more than a 2D figure on the penny. A lot in here is said of Lincoln's struggles. Early on he didn't fight slavery vigorously because he felt it would die out, but didn't object to his state's racist laws. He didn't feel he could emancipate slaves because it was a state issue, but obviously didn't agree with their right to secede (regardless their reasons). The professor does touch on a lot of these controversies, but doesn't seem to think that Lincoln's violations of the Constitution were a very big deal. He implies later presidents were much worse, but those presidents didn't prolong a war among Americans. And that is the hard question no one asks. Was it worth 600,000 lives? Years of Americans killing Americans? In light of all the death and destruction, couldn't slavery been purged otherwise as it had elsewhere? The professor, at the end of the course, said something to the effect of Lincoln's legacy being that of preserving democracy, but when do democracies force other people to join them at the end of a barrel?
Date published: 2013-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Good Course Having read a great deal about Lincoln, I hesitated to buy this short course fearing it might be too "elementary." Boy was I wrong. It was intriguing from beginning to end and my commute seemed quite empty when it ended. Whether you are new to Lincoln or a Lincoln scholar, I predict you'll enjoy this course.
Date published: 2013-05-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Difficult to hear the CD Professor Guelzo begins his sentences high in volume and frequency then many times drifts down to a whisper at the end. I like to listen while driving or on my treadmill but with any background noise I have missed many conclusions to his thoughts.
Date published: 2013-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course! Professor Guelzo provides a great deal of detail and enthusiasm in this course. There is no question that Professor Guelzo is very knowledgeable about this topic. This course provided a considerable amount of information on Lincoln and also the state of the Country at the time Lincoln was a part of it. It is a fascinating journey through history and a great course!
Date published: 2013-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Overview of Lincoln's Life As a history major and student of political science, I have read many books about Lincoln, American history, and even books on oratory and political strategy that highlight Lincoln and his legacy. I bought and listened to this course several years ago, and listened to it a second time recently as a "refresher" after seeing this year's movie by Steven Spielberg that focused on the last six months of Lincoln's life. I truly enjoyed this lecture series both times, and would highly recommend it to anyone who is at all interested in the man or his role in American history. Prof. Guelzo's lectures are lively, well researched, well paced, and engaging. The course does a great job of setting the context for Lincoln and his times, which is important for understanding the audacity of his accomplishments. There's only so much you can cover in 12 short lectures, but Prof. Guelzo does a fantastic job of covering a great deal of territory in such a short course, without feeling rushed. I chose the audio version of the course, and was very happy with it. Highly recommended, both for content and delivery.
Date published: 2012-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A New Birth of Freedom I took this course at the same time the Steven Spielberg movie “Lincoln” was playing in theaters. This course is far superior to the movie, revealing many more nuances of political thought and philosophy, (though the movie was also stirring.) Over and above this, one also gains an insight into the principles and procedures of democratic government – never tidy, never simple, an experiment at the time of Washington and Lincoln to be sure, but the best way, a legal way, a moral way, to have a government derive its powers “from the consent of the governed.” Professor Guelzo, who teaches at Gettysberg College, is an excellent orator, passionate about Lincoln and very knowledgeable about the material. He spoke about Lincoln’s background, his personality, his thought and the course of action during his life, paying close attention to Lincoln’s policies during his tenure as President, demonstrating how he dealt with personalities and opponents during his administration, and bringing to light the moral principles which guided Lincoln’s thoughts and leadership. A good starting point for understanding Lincoln and the issue of slavery is the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858. Lincoln said that the original intentions of the Founding Fathers had been not to further slavery (referring to Jefferson’s Ordinance of 1787,) but to allow for the dying out of that institution by gradual methods, such as compensation to slave-owners or by the repopulation of slaves overseas. Douglas argued that the allowing of plebiscite vote in territories was a democratic method which had worked as an excellent compromise in averting civil war. Lincoln stated that “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” and “this government cannot endure permanently half Slave and half Free.” Furthermore, Lincoln alleged that 1) the South used its “Cotton Money” to buy farms and influence votes in other territories,) 2) it was over-represented in the House of Representatives due to the three-fifths slave representation clause in the Constitution (which did not after all represent the vote of the slaves!) and 3) that the political appointments to the Judiciary had rendered decisions favorable to the spread of slavery (e.g. the Dred Scott decision,) which worked to created a conspiratorial movement establishing slavery throughout the entire land. At its root, said Lincoln, slavery was wrong, unfair, and it deprived the black man of the right to enjoy the fruit of his own labors and to improve his own human condition (a basic human right.) Retaliating, Douglas played the “race card” and accused Lincoln of being a radical abolitionist, favoring complete equality and enfranchisement of the Black race, with voting rights and miscegenation. It seems that Lincoln ended up espousing a supremacist view: “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races... I agree with Judge Douglas he [the black man] is not my equal in many respects—certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without the leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man.” [Debate at Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858; Debate at Ottawa, Illinois, August 21, 1858] In the atmosphere of popular racism, Lincoln argued for the natural, self-evident, human dignity of the black man – (a noble argument in itself) -- but not for his social equality --(in the necessary scheme of things, morally reprehensible but politically expedient.) Frederick Douglass, speaking after Lincoln’s death, at the Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln in 1876, seems to affirm Lincoln’s racism, "Though Mr. Lincoln shared the prejudices of his white fellow-countrymen against the [black man,] it is hardly necessary to say that in his heart of hearts he loathed and hated slavery...." Guelzo’s presentation differentiates between natural rights, which, the one hand, were inalienable to all men – and civil rights, on the other hand, which are determined by society at large (and also susceptible to prejudices and prevailing attitudes.) Lincoln’s “centrist” political position was the viable working alternative amongst many factions, (Whigs, moderate abolitionists, conservative Republicans and War Democrats,) and it helped Lincoln to win the presidency in 1860 against the more radical and opposing views of that time (e.g. “radical” abolitionists and pro-slavery groups.) The South would not accept a political doctrine which provided that slavery was to be earmarked for obsolescence, however. They seceded from the Union and the Civil War began shortly thereafter. After his inauguration, Lincoln did not believe that he had the legal or moral right or the political power to declare emancipation unilaterally. In response to Horace Greeley in 1862 he reiterated, “My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. . . . I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.” As the war went on, the mood of the country changed, and Lincoln’ used his war powers as Commander-in-Chief to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, (a war measure,) which induced slaves to desert their masters and fight for the Union, proclaiming that henceforth they would be “forever free.” Later that fall, in Gettysburg, Lincoln clearly enumerated two principles for which the war was being fought: “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.” At the beginning of 1865, with renewed vigor and through extraordinary measures, Lincoln succeeded in having the House and Senate approve the proposed 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The States would ratify this proposed amendment before the year’s end. The theme of the movie “Lincoln” concentrates on this passage of the 13th Amendment as Lincoln’s lasting legacy to succeeding generations. Towards the end 1864, Lincoln began to believe that the long war (and the deaths of 620,000 men) was a purgation for the nation’s sins of slavery. In his second Inaugural Address he said, “Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said, ‘the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’" This remark, says Guelzo, exhibits Lincoln’s belief that human history was determined by God’s will (though humans still acted within the framework of God’s Providence.) This view also supplied great strength of character to Lincoln’s presidency during immense stress, personal tragedy (Lincoln’s son Willie died while he was in office,) his wife’s emotional instability, the conflicts and stress of engaging personalities in prosecution of the war and the enormous responsibilities and difficulties of his office. Despite all of the tremendous trials of his presidency, Lincoln suffered an undeserved and tragic assassination. Yet, Lincoln still believed that we ought to have attitudes of “malice towards none and charity to all.” -- an incredible testament to Lincoln’s magnanimous soul, enduring character, and a testament to the fact that he “belongs to the ages.”. One hundred years after Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, in Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King, Jr. would refer, with great effect, to Lincoln’s “new birth of freedom” in his “I Have A Dream” speech. In the span of forty-five years, a black representative from Lincoln’s home state of Illinois would become President of the United States. To see American history from the perspective of Black civil rights, we can understand the great emotional response that this occasioned for many Americans, and we can also see the great arc of freedom and democracy which has passed from the Founding Fathers, through Lincoln, through King, up to the present time. Guelzo says that we ought to “speak back the words” of Lincoln to remember the enormous sacrifice of Lincoln and the generation of Civil War veterans for us here today. For 21st century Americans, to do so seems “altogether fitting and proper.”
Date published: 2012-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Consummate storytelling (Audio CD) In my youth history was one of my least favorite subjects. Had Professor Guelzo been a teacher of mine, that certainly would have changed. This material is presented in an enthusiastic, vibrant and passionate manner. Historical context is presented almost seamlessly and without distraction from the primary topic. As a former instructor, I appreciate the deftness at which sources for material are cited. For example, he may read a quote followed by something like " Lincoln said in his second inaugural speech." This lends credence to the content. I had this course on my shelf for a few months and was prompted to listen to it before a new movie about Lincoln was released. My hope was that it would give me a greater understanding the man, the times and other key players in the events that unfolded around the Civil War. It succeeded in spectacular fashion, and is a course I could easily listen to again.
Date published: 2012-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant course by superb teacher ! Yes, Abraham Lincoln achieved "the American dream" of rising to the top, but it was not only through sheer hard work as some reviewers aver. Lincoln saw his opportunities and took them; he created opportunities such as via his marriage; he also enjoyed a run of good fortune. Professor Guelzo proves again what a master teacher he is, in these 12 half-hour talks which gleam like bright diamonds. He's a superb storyteller, holds one's interest effortlessly, makes learning as pleasurable as possible. His accent at times seems Canadian, but he is American (born in Japan). His pronunciation "HWIG" for the word "WHIG" is very funny and should be corrected as it can be distracting. It is hugely significant that Lincoln expressed his opposition to slavery as early as March 1837, when he stated in the Illinois General Assembly that "the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy". This course is a "keeper", an invaluable aid in understanding how Lincoln attained greatness and how he affected and indeed changed the history of the US. I recommend this brilliant 5-star course to all.
Date published: 2012-10-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I made my kids watch the first lecture! I know when I've stumbled across a great course when I feel impressed to make my kids watch it. Such was the case with this course. I wanted them, as children, to understand Lincoln's upbringing. Professor Guelzo is a master storyteller. He is passionate and direct (his best work is on the American Revolution, which is odd considering that Dr. Guelzo is an expert on Lincoln). This could be considered an introductory course, yet there was still AMPLE information that was new to me, or that was presented in a way to make it seem more vital to understanding the man Lincoln than I had previously thought.
Date published: 2012-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from solid course and a comparison My fav course is the US history survey and I think Gallagher is the top prof but Guelzo is also excellent. I have enjoyed both Guelzo's lectures in the US history course and in his Amer Rev course. Lincoln is short and clear, easy listening, a bit of overlap with other civil war lectures but a good purchase nonetheless. Guelzo is very good on Abe's legacy, evolution, and continuing relevance
Date published: 2012-09-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Stuff, a bit boring I liked the course and thought is was very informative. However, the professors style felt much more like I was listening to an audio book than a course lecture. Perhaps, thats your thing. Personally I found myself bored and wandering attention in many places as the professors style failed to keep my attention.
Date published: 2012-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It was Perfectly.....Imperfect??? Pro: The professor is one of the best next to J. Rufus Fears. An excellent story-tellling pace filled with fact and exposition. HIs pace, style, approach and voice is very pleasant and makes the lecture feel as if you are listening to a wonderful book. I appreciate his abilities to examine the complexities of the the man, Abraham Lincoln as well as the politics of the US leading up and through the civil war era. Cons: I'm not sure how comfortable I am with his presentation of the Lincoln's faith. I was under the assumption, perhaps incorrectly, that Lincoln was far more "religious" than the professor would lead you to believe. Before one judges this portion of the lecture as revisionist history or accurate portrayal of fact one would need to do some further personal study on this segment of Lincoln's life. Other than this area I felt the lecture series was very strong. Conclusion: Let me "go on the record" I am biased against Lincoln as a president and his politics. Personally I feel as if Lincoln was one of the worst presidents in American history when it comes to state versus federal rights. With this bias being said, this lecture series only further reinforced my earlier opinions. On the other hand those who have a favorable opinion of Lincoln will also be reaffirmed in their opinions of the man personally and politically. Therefore, the lecture series is perfectly.....imperfect.....Great course!
Date published: 2012-05-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great, timeless course Prof. Guelzo is one of the two best history lecturers I've ever encountered. He held my interest 100% of the time. The course greatly expanded my knowledge, not only of Abraham Lincoln, but of the politics and events leading up to the Civil War. Prof. Guelzo is one of the foremost experts on Lincoln, but he seems not to have any grand theory of Lincoln, nor does he engage in any misguided attempt to make Lincoln relevant by drawing comparisons to current events. Instead I got the impression I was learning the facts, presented in a riveting way. The course is timeless—it will be just as outstanding 25 years in the future as it is now.
Date published: 2012-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A reminder of our greatest president There was a time when every schoolchild in this country was required to memorize Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. That practice is no longer in vogue, and Dr. Guelzo's course reminds us of why that is a great loss. As almost every other reviewer has noted, this course is a perfect introduction to President Lincoln's life. It covers all the major historical events of his life and the period of our history he so deeply affected. To my mind, the measure of any course is its ability to engage its listeners to extend their learning beyond the course. Like most every other reviewer, this course has done just that: I've picked up Doris Kearns-Goodwin's "Team of Rivals" again. And this time, I WILL finish it!
Date published: 2012-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent intro bio course I usually get the CD version for courses that are more bio than history and this one did not disappoint. Professor Guelzo presents the highs and lows of Lincoln's life in a quick twelve courses... more than enough to whet the appetite for deeper reading later if desired. I measure the success of a professor in their ability to want to follow up with my own research and reading and this course almost provides enough where it's desired but not needed. I may be skimping on Lincoln's life a bit but I think this course covers the 'Essential Lincoln' that should be written about any Great Person in history (I've also listened to the Churchill and Voltaire courses and found them 'complete enough' for the more than casual interest). While it certainly is not a comprehensive course on everything Lincoln, it goes well beyond any generic history book and falls a little short of a 'everything you ever wanted to know and more'... which I view as a good thing since it drives me to go find out more on my own. The course was well spoken without too many distracting mannerisms and was easy to follow and listen too. This definitely qualifies as a "Great Course".
Date published: 2012-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Broad Overview Abraham Lincoln was a great statesman who left many great stories worth telling. Professor Allen Guelzo is a great storyteller up to the task of assembling these stories into a broad sweeping life story. Guelzo obviously knows his subject well and provides a great introduction to Abraham Lincoln in this 6 hour, 12 lecture course from 2005. This course, however, is only an introduction to the life and career of our 16th President. Careful attention will likely send you running to the provided bibliography to locate a solid written biography of Lincoln to help fill the gaps. Highly recommended - especially for those without much prior knowledge of Lincoln’s life. It would be great to have additional 12 lecture courses about some of our other prominent US Presidents.
Date published: 2012-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from As Good as It Gets [audio download review] Content: These lectures highlight the life of Lincoln and the shape of his ideas as related to his background. To know a person, you must know the environment in which he/she lived. This is how these lectures helped me understand Lincoln more as a person and how he was shaped. For example, I learned the early days of Illinois (also where I'm from) and how the needs of the state and the political environment and debates of the time shaped his early political years. Also, at several points Prof. Guelzo skillfully highlights a few key points to take from certain periods of his life (e.g. in his early years he had 2 things going for him: 1) self-confidence 2) and the ability to make friends). These highlights neatly summed up information presented throughout. Presentation: I downloaded this and listened through the whole thing in a few days. Professor Guelzo has a nice avuncular delivery. His voice inflection is good, especially when he wants to emphasize a point emotionally with heavy stress. I also like how he introduces irony, by slowing down the tempo and this signals that something is not as expected (e.g. Lincoln turned out to be a poor businessman, surprisingly). Final comments: The key value I get from lectures by experts like Prof. Guelzo is that they summarize the important information and sift though the less salient material. I think he did this quite well, so I was very happy to listen to these lectures. They were well worth the price and I recommend them.
Date published: 2012-02-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Review of Lincoln Audio review: Very good overview. I appreciated the inspired delivery. But, overall I was bored and noticing this course wasn't introducing new ideas or perspectives. It relayed the basics of Lincoln's life and mixed in some speculation. I've bought more courses from this professor, so in no way am I saying this course is a dud. And, my feelings could be in part because I'm familiar with Lincoln through countless books. But, overall my opinion is this course was missing the special spark that makes me want to read and investigate more long after the class is done.
Date published: 2012-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Enjoyable Review of Lincoln's Life Twelve lectures is the right number to hit the highlights of Lincoln's life and career. Professor Allen has a great style and delivery, making the material enjoyable and interesting. He has a complete command of the information presented and a pleasing manner. A definite recommendation...I enjoyed it so much that I'm onto his American Revolution course next.
Date published: 2011-12-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great overview Great insight into Lincoln, Would have liked to hear a bit more of speculation on what he might have done in his second term with reconstruction.
Date published: 2011-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely Fantastic Of the handful of courses that I have listened to this has been the best one. The content is insightful and Professor Allen C. Guelzo is a master story teller. The information was great and Professor Allen C. Guelzo tells it in a dramatic way that hooked me. I loved it.
Date published: 2011-10-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great review of Abraham Lincoln Audio download. I immigrated to the US from the former USSR, so I did not know much about Abraham Lincoln. I have heard the name and knew that he was one of the presidents, but that was about it. I learned more from the course The History of the United States and even more from another course The Great Presidents, where Abraham Lincoln got 3 lectures. But I feel that this course has provides the best biography of the president, from his humble beginnings to his role as the commander of the army of the North that defeated the South in the bloody civil war. Abraham Lincoln is a true personification of the American Dream, an idea that anybody, no matter how humble, can achieve great success simply by working hard at accomplishing his/her dream. I liked the professor; he has a nice voice and a good presentation. He does not sound as if he is simply reading his notes. I enjoyed the information presented in this course and I recommend it highly.
Date published: 2011-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mr. Lincoln: The Life of Abraham Lincoln I just finished Professor Guelzo's brief series of lectures on the life of Abraham Lincoln. His presentation was superb, and the whole series was fascinating. He portrays Lincoln as anything but the bumbling, failure of an absent minded country lawyer we see in the Lincoln myth. He was, in fact, a highly successful attorney who pled cases before the Illinois Supreme Court. One thing that stands out about Dr. Guelzo's view of Lincoln is the contradictions in the President's personality. Lincoln was a strong believer in God and predistination who frequently mocked organized religion. He was a jokester who used his jokes to make a point and to avoid revealing personal information, an intensely private public man. Neither does he show Lincoln as a committed abolitionist.We also see Lincoln as a reluctant abolitionist who initially believed that slavery would die out on its own. He was a believer in human rights, but not necessarily civil rights. Professor Guelzo does an excellent job of showing the evolution of Lincoln's ideas and his growth as a man and as a President. He effectively uses quotations from Lincoln and other primary sources to verify his point of view. The lectures hit the high spots of Lincoln's conduct of the war and delve into the political infighting throughout his presidency. My principal criticism of the lectures was a function of their brevity. They left out a great deal of pertinent information that I would really have loved to hear.
Date published: 2011-10-20
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