The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery

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The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery

Author: Eric Foner
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 448

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In this landmark work of deep scholarship and insight, Eric Foner gives us the definitive history of Abraham Lincoln and the end of slavery in America. Foner begins with Lincoln's youth in Indiana and Illinois and follows the trajectory of his career across an increasingly tense and shifting political terrain from Illinois to Washington, D.C. Although "naturally anti-slavery" for as long as he can remember, Lincoln scrupulously holds to the position that the Constitution protects the institution in the original slave states. But the political landscape is transformed in 1854 when the Kansas-Nebraska Act makes the expansion of slavery a national issue.A man of considered words and deliberate actions, Lincoln navigates the dynamic politics deftly, taking measured steps, often along a path forged by abolitionists and radicals in his party. Lincoln rises to leadership in the new Republican Party by calibrating his politics to the broadest possible antislavery coalition. As president of a divided nation and commander in chief at war, displaying a similar compound of pragmatism and principle, Lincoln finally embraces what he calls the Civil War's "fundamental and astounding" result: the immediate, uncompensated abolition of slavery and recognition of blacks as American citizens.Foner's Lincoln emerges as a leader, one whose greatness lies in his capacity for moral and political growth through real engagement with allies and critics alike. This powerful work will transform our understanding of the nation's greatest president and the issue that mattered most.

Background Information

Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican President and led the Union during the Civil War. Until 1763, what is now Indiana was under the control of France, later part of the Northwest Territory, separating into its own territory in 1800 and reaching statehood in 1816. Illinois is a large Midwestern state that holds a dominant position in transportation and agriculture. American slaves were almost entirely African and formed the basis of the cotton economy of the South until the Civil War. The Kansas-Nebraska Act was intended by Southerners to bring Kansas into the Union as a slave state, but it failed in that and instead inspired the formation of the Republican Party. Abolitionism was the movement, centered in the North, that abolition of slavery even in those states that had practiced it since the founding of the country. The Republican Party was formed in 1854 by Americans who were appalled at the Kansas-Nebraskaz Act.