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Lincoln as Hero

Frank J. Williams

Publication Year: 2012

 @font-face { font-family: "Calibri"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 10pt; line-height: 115%; font-size: 11pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }Most Americans have considered, and still consider, Abraham Lincoln to be a heroic figure. From his humble beginnings to his leadership of a divided nation during the Civil War to his early efforts in abolishing slavery, Lincoln’s legacy is one of deep personal and political courage. In this unique and concise retelling of many of the key moments and achievements of Lincoln’s life and work, Frank J. Williams explores in detail what it means to be a hero and how Lincoln embodied the qualities Americans look for in their heroes.
            Lincoln as Hero shows how—whether it was as president, lawyer, or schoolboy—Lincoln extolled the foundational virtues of American society. Williams describes the character and leadership traits that define American heroism, including ideas and beliefs, willpower, pertinacity, the ability to communicate, and magnanimity. Using both celebrated episodes and lesser-known anecdotes from Lincoln’s life and achievements, Williams presents a wide-ranging analysis of these traits as they were demonstrated in Lincoln’s rise, starting with his self-education as a young man and moving on to his training and experience as a lawyer, his entry onto the political stage, and his burgeoning grasp of military tactics and leadership.
            Williams also examines in detail how Lincoln embodied heroism in standing against secession and fighting to preserve America’s great democratic experiment. With a focused sense of justice and a great respect for the mandates of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Lincoln came to embrace freedom for the enslaved, and his Emancipation Proclamation led the way for the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. Lincoln’s legacy as a hero and secular saint was secured when his lifeended by assassination as the Civil War was drawing to a close
            Touching on Lincoln’s humor and his quest for independence, justice, and equality, Williams outlines the path Lincoln took to becoming a great leader and an American hero, showing readers why his heroism is still relevant. True heroes, Williams argues, are successful not just by the standards of their own time but also through achievements that transcend their own eras and resonate throughout history—with their words and actions living on in our minds, if we are imaginative, and in our actions, if we are wise. 

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

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Book Title

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

Since it declared its independence from England in 1776, America has looked for heroes to lead the country and its people. The story of America and its quest for independence, justice, and equality is the story of heroic individuals. Fortunately, however, this heroism was...

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pp. 1-6

In her Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin describes a 1908 exchange between Leo Tolstoy and tribal people living in a remote mountain village of Eurasia. During that visit, at the tribal chief’s...

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1. The Prairie Boy from Middle-of-Nowhere, USA

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pp. 7-12

A hero may emerge in myriad forms. Heroes may be rich or poor, famous or inconspicuous, but if there’s one common thread that unites so many American heroes, it is that they are grounded by their humble beginnings. Abraham Lincoln is one of the...

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2. Lincoln as a Lawyer: The Foundation of a Hero

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pp. 13-23

It was not an accident that Lincoln became a hero or a mythic legend. His career served as an opportunity to sow the seeds of leadership that he collected through his observation and study of others during his childhood. Before he was president of the...

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3. Lincoln's Introduction to Politics

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pp. 24-30

Success does not always come easy for all heroes, but the failures that many incur have often only made them stronger and more determined. Undeterred by his loss at the age of twenty-three in his bid for a seat as a representative in the Illinois General...

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4. Finding a Hero in a Military Neophyte

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pp. 31-42

Some say that great leaders are born, not made. They believe that there are individuals who are destined to rise to leadership when needed. If this is true, there is virtually no explanation for Abraham Lincoln, a simple prairie boy from Middle-of-Nowhere...

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5. Courage to Undertake These Extraconstitutional Measures

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pp. 43-56

Chief among the characteristics that make a great leader a hero is that of courage. The circumstances that gave rise to the Civil War that Lincoln inherited as president presented opportunity after opportunity for Lincoln to demonstrate his unwavering courage...

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6. The Emancipation Proclamation

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pp. 57-69

Even as a young lawyer in the nation’s heartland, Abraham Lincoln understood that the promise of the Declaration of Independence rang hollow for the millions of black persons held in slavery. The single trait that Lincoln carried with him from the practice...

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7. The Assassination and Apotheosis of a Hero

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pp. 70-78

England’s Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin once observed: “Contemporary judgments were illusory; look at Lincoln’s case, how in his lifetime he was thought to be a clumsy lumbering countryman, blundering along without knowing where he was going...

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8. A Great American Hero

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pp. 79-83

When America became an independent nation in 1776, the founding fathers provided the country with a unique sense of identity. It would be established not on a common faith, language, or ethnicity but on a set of beliefs and democratic values...

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pp. 87

This book could not have been written without the invaluable assistance of my former law clerk and research assistant Nicole Benjamin. To her I owe much as I do William D. Pederson, who gave the manuscript a good read, offering many valuable suggestions...

Recent Books on Abraham Lincoln

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pp. 89-101


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pp. 103-114


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pp. 115-120

Author Biography

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pp. 121

The Concise Lincoln Library

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pp. 122

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780809332182
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809332175

Publication Year: 2012