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TheCanadian Review of American Studies, Volume 11,No. 3, Winter 1980 BeatingPlows into Bond Shares GaborS. Boritt. Lincoln and the Economics of the Ame1icanDream. Memphis, Tenn.: Memphis State UniversityPress, 1978. 420 + xxi pp. JohnA.James. Money and Capital Markets in Postbellum Ameiica. Princeton, NJ.: Princeton University Press, 1978. 293+ xv pp. JayR.Mandie. The Roots of Black Poverty: The Southern Plantationafter the Civil War. Durham, N.C.: DukeUnive.rsity Press, 1978. 144 + xvi pp. ClaudeF. Oubre. Forty Acres and a Mule: The Freedman s Bureauand Black Land Ownership. Baton Rouge, La.: LouisianaState University Press, 1978, 212 + xvii pp. John N. Ingham These four books cover a very broad spectrum of American life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Yet, within that expanse there is a strong thread of continuity-the economic and social transformation of America in the second half of the nineteenth century and its subsequent impactupon people and institutions. These books investigate the economic thoughts and actions of Abraham Lincoln and his visions for a modernizing and industrializing America which he hoped would bring equality and economic success to all. They search for the roots of contemporary black poverty in the Southern plantation system after the CivilWar and examine in detail the reasons for and consequences of the failure of the federal government to provide land for ex-slaves during Reconstruction. Finally, they analyze the development of a national banking system and capital markets in the late nineteenth century. Because Abraham Lincoln's first recorded speech in 1837and his first political pamphlet in 1840dealt withthe banking issue, and further, because his later career was identified with the cause of the slave and ex-slave, the thematic circle is completed. G. S. Boritt's Lincoln and the Economics of the American Dream is a verycomplex, important, and, in my opinion, tragically flawed book. As the titleindicates, this book addresses itself to the economic aspects of Lincoln's public career. As Boritt makes clear in his excellent historiographical essay 356 John N.Ingham at th.e end. of t?e book, ~his is an area which has be~n largely ignored by prev10us h1stonans, despite the plethora of works published on Lincoln over the years. Using Lincoln's "Political Economy" as his conceptual focus Boritt has two major objectives. He strives to demonstrate first that Lincoln's Whig economic principles dominated his thought and actions throughout his entire career and, second, that only through an analysis of Lincoln's economic thought can one resolve the quandary of the "two Lincolns" who have mystified historians over the years. The "first Lincoln" in traditional accounts is the rather shallow and crafty politician pursuing a narrow and uninspired Whig economic program in his early years. The "second Lincoln'' is the consummately moral statesman who emerges in the presidency. Historians have generally tried to solve this riddle by remarking upon Lincoln's astounding "growth in office," without providing any clear answers to this phenomenon. It is critical to the intent of Boritt's book that through an analysis of Lincoln's economic thought and actions throughout his career, a bridge can be built between the two Lincolns which emphasizes continuity rather than startling growth or change. The key to what, on the surface at least, appears to be Lincoln's rather orthodox Whig economics is Borritt's articulation of Lincoln's version ofthe "American Dream." Where other historians have generally understood Lincoln's early economics in terms of his orthodox Whig adherence to the tariff, banks and internal improvements (an Illinois echo of Henry Clay's "American System"), Boritt argues: "The key to this [Whig] persuasion was an intense and continually developing commitment to the ideal that allmen should receive a full, good and ever increasing reward for their labor sothat they might have the opportunity to rise in life" (p. ix). The book is then divided at 1854into two major parts. In viewing Lincoln's political economy in the Illinois years, Boritt not only details his thought and actions in regard to the traditional Whig pantheon of internal improvements, the tariff and banking, but he attempts to show, unlike most other historians, how in Lincoln's mind these issues were part of a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 355-363
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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