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Award-winning Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer places Lincoln and his speech in the context of the times—an era of racism, politicized journalism, and public oratory as entertainment—and shows how the candidate framed the speech as an opportunity to continue his famous “debates” with his archrival, Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, on the question of slavery.
Holzer describes the enormous risk Lincoln took by appearing in New York, where he exposed himself to the country’s most critical audience and took on Republican Senator William Henry Seward of New York, the front-runner, in his own backyard. Then he recounts a brilliant and innovative public-relations campaign, as Lincoln took the speech “on the road” in his successful quest for the presidency.
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By W. F. Rucker on 07-15-13
Lincoln is a Big Hit in New York City
Abraham Lincoln accepted an invitation to speak in New York and when he was done he was the talk of the town. This speech and everything that grew out of it helped put Lincoln on the way to his nomination for President.
The author makes good use of the different sources available and tells the story in chronological fashion. Quotations from letters, newspaper headlines and contemporary dialog provide a variety that gives an exciting pace to the story. There are even photographs beginning with the the one taken by Matthew Brady the day of the speech. Lincoln used this speech to impress the New York audience with his talents as a student of history. He deliberately wrote a scholarly speech to show he was much more than a western rube. After the speech was given the sponsor group published a footnoted version of his speech. It took two people three weeks to thoroughly duplicate the research that Lincoln had put into his speech.
All of the audience, except the hardcore democrats, were amazed and moved by Lincoln's speech. His careful analysis of the founder's attitudes about the expansion of slavery built to an emotional climax that had the audience standing and cheering. The speech was published in all of the newspapers and sold as a pamphlet for many years. Lincoln went on to speak twelve times in fourteen days throughout New England using variations of the speech.
The author's portrayal of 19th century America included all of the aspects of daily life, riding for days on a train with no sleeping accommodations, getting covered with mud from the streets. I learned that Lincoln was a temperance man and 80% of the white males, the only voters, voted in the Presidential election of 1860.
I enjoyed the book and recommend it for anyone who has an interest in the election of 1860. It was well written and informative and I would look for other books by this author.