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An Over-explained Biography on Lincoln (a review on the book A. Lincoln by Ronald C. White Jr)

Updated: Nov 22, 2023


One of the parts in the book I found most interesting was how brilliant Lincoln was, especially given his educational path. It’s implied that Lincoln’s schooling was intermittent from juggling school and helping his family with their work and that he became very self-taught. Despite his spotty educational upbringing, he passed the bar and became a lawyer. One of the parts I liked was when he sued his employer over a payment disagreement where he wasn’t paid what he was supposed to. He took them to court and won, which is impressive because, in his day, a railroad company was similar to a Fortune 500 company in today’s world; at least, that is the best comparison I can think of.

Another thing I learned in the book was how politically active Lincoln was. It was his speaking abilities through law that got him noticed and pushed towards politics. Lincoln was initially a huge Whig with a suitable acid tongue that he eventually had to tone down. There was a lot of mention of him doing excellent stump speeches because he could cater to the audience whenever he gave a speech in a different state. For instance, his address for Kentucky would completely differ from that in Illinois. He found a balance between a standardized and catered-to message.

Now, one of the book's central themes was family history, which I thought was way-depth for my liking. The book goes back to the first ancestor of Lincoln, explains their life, and then goes into the next and the next. For instance, we learn a lot about Lincoln’s father and his father’s father and even their childhood. I didn’t need to know the father got murdered or how the first ancestor started a textile mill. However, I do think the path the immediate family played a role in Lincoln’s life was fascinating. I wouldn't say I liked that and how he didn’t try to relate and connect with his son. The father even made Lincoln go work for other families, which made him feel like a slave. And I think that his feeling abandoned by his father and being emotionally unavailable to the death of his mother and sister contributed to Lincoln’s depression.

Speaking of relationships, the book, I feel, details Lincoln’s love life too in-depth, of course, with exciting and less-entertaining parts. The thing I found interesting was that he ended up having multiple relations in-depth with Maryn. In retrospect, this book’s point was to talk about his whole life, so I see why the author squeezed all this miscellaneous info in.

If I were to read another Lincoln biography, I would want to learn about what he did during his presidency. To me, that’s the most impactful time of his life, and the rest is just details. I don’t care for knowing more about his relationships, family background, etc., because he was pretty much an average guy for his period other than his stance on slavery. In conclusion, I think that if he had not been assassinated, I feel like integration offices would’ve made far more progress back then, and times today would be drastically different. What are your thoughts on the 16th president of the United States? Were any of these facts new to you?

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