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346CIVIL WAB HISTORY study of John Wentworth points out the dilemma of northern Democrats in the years prior to the Civil War; the conflict between party loyalty and personal conviction is admirably set forth. Complete with a comprehensive bibliography and index, Chicago Giant is highly recommended to all students of American history. Clyde C. Walton Springfield, Illinois. Congressman Abraham Lincoln. By Donald W. Riddle. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 1957. Pp. vii, 280. $4.50.) in his pbeface t? this Study, Mr. Riddle states that he has "thoroughly investigated " Lincoln's one term in Congress and that "this field is now covered." Undoubtedly the author has made extensive researches into the sources that touched on Lincoln's rather undistinguished single term in the House of Representatives . It appears, however, that Mr. Riddle finds it necessary to extol the virtues and rectitude of President Polk while growing impatient with Lincoln and actually suspecting his motives. The portrait of Congressman Lincoln that emerges from this account is not as fully drawn as one might wish. To the author Lincoln's term in Congress was marked by mediocrity and low-level partisan politics. Some facts must be remembered, even though the attention Lincoln drew to himself as a Congressman was not favorable. When he took his seat in the House on December 8, 1847, he was not a green novice about to "wreck his career during his first week in Congress." He had fifteen years of Illinois politics behind him as well as a growing reputation as an attorney. He had an ability to see things clearly which had earned him the respect of all who knew him. As a man who was to develop an ability to keep a sure finger on the pulse of the people to an eminent degree, it is true that Lincoln somehow missed in judging the reaction to his resolutions. When he offered the "spot resolutions," condemning President Polk's Mexican war policy, his fine distinction between the courage of American soldiers in Mexico and his contention that Polk ordered the war to be begun on Mexican soil was all one to the folks at home. Quick to play up Lincoln's views, though distorting his whole meaning by implying that he roundly condemned the American soldiers themselves, the newspapers made short work of his immediate political future by labeling him "Spots" Lincoln. Perhaps the choice of a partisan issue was one Lincoln just couldn't warm up to sufficiently to spark his genius for the right words. Whatever was lacking, it is certain there was no want of courage in the man if he at all sensed the possible repercussions his stand would generate. An assiduous reader of newspapers, as Lincoln was known to be, must have realized what they could do to his "resolutions " and how they might interpret his motives. Over the years many students of Lincoln's brief interlude in Congress have come to the conclusion that Polk did order the war begun on Mexican soil, as Lincoln contended in 1847. While hindsight somehow manages to take in the entire picture, the careful historian cannot ignore the possible perspective of the Book Reviews347 men in the period he is studying. The day-to-day concerns of the men who sat in Congress a hundred years ago did not always get into the written annals of the time. Attempting to fill in these gaps can be risky. In his study, Mr. Riddle has treated the lively skirmish for the General Land Office in full detail. It is a revealing account, which shows Lincoln as a man who knew when to be silent even though an injustice had been done to him, and who could be magnanimous. Flashes of the great strength of character which would later distinguish the man appear in this book, and for these clear insights and his review of the patronage scramble Mr. Riddle deserves a hearty commendation. Arnold Gates Garden City, New York. Lincoln's Commando. By Ralph J. Roske and Charles Van Doren. (New York: Harper and Brothers. 1957. Pp. x, 310. $4.50.) in the methodical and determined SLAUGHTEB that men call the game of war there are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 346-347
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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