Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1832-1858, and: Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1859-1865 (review)
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BOOK REVIEWS Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1832-1858. Selected and annotated by Don E. Fehrenbacher. (New York: The Library of America, 1989. Pp. xix, 898. $35.00.) Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1859-1865. Selected and annotated by Don E. Fehrenbacher. (New York: The Library of America, 1989. Pp. xxxiii, 787. $35.00.) The purpose of these two volumes in The Library of America series is to present Abraham Lincoln's writings as literature to a wide general audience. Lincoln the writer is meant to be sampled and savored, not to be read continuously through as the reviewer must necessarily do. Still, a continuous reading reveals in graphic fashion the evolution of Lincoln as a prose stylist. The researcher and specialist will continue to rely on the eight volumes of The Collected Works ofAbraham Lincoln (1953-1955) edited by Roy P. Basier, from which Fehrenbacher has taken almost all of his selections. The first volume, through 1858, contains almost sixty percent of the material in Basier, the second volume almost twenty-five percent. One cannot quarrel with Fehrenbacher's choices. The writings not included are mostly remarks in the Illinois legislature, legal business, and the truly trivial. Anything of importance that Lincoln wrote is found here, and a great deal besides. The annotations and chronology are adequate for the nonspecialist. Reading these selections will demonstrate to most of us the validity of what we have been teaching as the conventional wisdom. Until the Kansas-Nebraska Law of 1854 there is not much excitement, but after that event there is a new fire in Lincoln. Over half of the first volume is devoted to the single year of 1858 and the campaign against Stephen A. Douglas. We are reminded that the campaign had a high road and a low road: that each of the debates was a gloss on the "House Divided Speech," but each of them also featured charges and countercharges of conspiracy. In both volumes there is a marked contrast between Lincoln's private writings and letters—pithy, earthy, and sometimes angry—and his public statements. Some of his early speeches are pretty hard going. But by BOOK REVIEWS275 the last years of his presidency he had learned that shorter is better and had evolved into the magnificent prose stylist of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural. (The self-educated Lincoln never did learn to spell "inaugeral" or "cotten" or several other words.) In reading the selections on the presidential years, one is struck by how much his literary style relied on the King James Bible for phrasing and cadence, by how much trivial business Lincoln handled himself, by his shrewd practical insights into military matters, by his inability to suffer fools gladly, and by his deep commitment to the restoration of the Union, whatever the cost. Making Lincoln available to a large general audience is a laudable aim, and if these two handsome volumes cannot do that, then nothing can. They join the approximately fifty other volumes in The Library of America, and Lincoln joins Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson as the only public figures in the series to date. They are superb examples of the bookmaker's craft, uniformly well-bound and well-printed on quality paper designed to last a lifetime. They are well worth the price. James L. Crouthamel Hobart and William Smith Colleges The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South. By Drew Gilpin Faust. (Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1988. Pp. xiii, 110. $19.95.) In this slim, but tightly focused and densely argued, volume based on her Walter Lynwood Fleming Lectures, Drew Faust brings a welcome sophistication and subtlety to the discussion of Confederate nationalism. In seeking to understand "how Confederates defined themselves and their commitment to a common, corporate existence" (2), Faust stresses above all that nationalism should not be viewed as an objective reality that can be mobilized on demand, but rather as "a dynamic of ideas and social realities that can, under the proper circumstances, unite and legitimate a people in what they regard as reasoned public action" (6). The process of creating a national identity, she correctly insists...


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