This was a very solid biography of Lincoln Professor Miller definitely is well informed and approaches Lincoln's life through his humility and ability to see overwhelming issues such as slavery and preservation of the Union with great moral clarity, but also in a way that when he explained his reasoning you didn't feel as if he was talking down to anyone Abraham Lincoln is perhaps the greatest American historical figure who blew up stereotypes and first impressions Lincoln makes anyone realize that it has absolutely nothing to do with a piece of paper from a major university Never formally schooled and very ragged in appearanceoften being compared to a gorilla at first sight and with pants that never quite reached his ankles The one story I love involved Lincoln being hired to be an attorney at a famous case in Cincinnati and essentially being shunned by his partners, including Edwin M Stanton who one day Lincoln would make his Secretary of War It wasnt until he began speaking that one realized the full mental and logical powers possessed by this self schooled man Lincoln carried no grudges and saw the world in such a way that even after the war with the Confederacy he was willing to let it end and not moralize and take the egotist road For someone with absolute power, Lincoln very may well have disproven the usual idea of corruption.Although a bit redundant in sections this is a very compelling look at one of the most famous of American lives For $4 at Barnes and Noble its a downright steal. I slogged through this book, knowing I shouldn't be too hard on it There's been so much said on Lincoln, every angle analyzed, every perspective taken, that a selfproclaimed ethical biography seems almost required Indeed, with the central event of Lincoln's presidency being what might be called the greatest moral drama in the history of the United States, such a tack seems obvious, even indispensable And perhaps it is But I think it must be a harder job to do from the historian's approach than most, including maybe Miller himself, really think Lincoln's childhood is retold with verve and energy, despite Miller's bland prose, some of theinformative material on this period of Lincoln's life that I've read The picture here is of a serious, motivated youth, drawn to the life of the mind and anxious to get away from the physical, agrarian life imposed by his father The information is broad, mixed with a snapshot of contemporary rural America, but has little or nothing to do with Miller's thesis, focusing instead on young Lincoln's intellectual appetite and his conflict with his father's desire that he adapt the family's agrarian life If Miller had made a concerted effort to connect Lincoln's intellect with his ethics, his book might have gained some badlyneeded clarity As it is, Miller is trying, and usually failing, to tell three different stories: the story of Lincoln the man, the story of Lincoln the moralist and the story of Lincoln the politician Each would seem to inform the other, but I don't think Miller handles it well The three aspects fade in and out of focus, repetitively and confusingly Miller also has an irritating habit of interjecting himself into the narrative at weird intervals, sometimes helpfully, butoften to give an uncalledfor opinion with what the the dust jacket considers wit, but I thought was strange at best and cocky at worst As droning as his narrative is, the clever asides just felt out of place It's not completely without merit Lincoln's arcane, almost tortured views of slavery are analyzed, thoroughly, even painfully Miller likes Lincoln, and the president comes off looking pretty good on the balance I have no idea why this had to be a biography, much less an ethical one If Miller had condensed this down to a monograph, spared us his clumsy organization and simply provided us with a scholarly opinion piece, rather than stretching this into a fulllength history, I'd have liked thisToo long by half, not substantive enough on the whole. This book is not for the faint of heart; or for anyone who falls asleep easily Don't get me wrong: the book is worth reading It looks at Abraham Lincoln from a different prospective Rather than just Lincoln the politician, or just Lincoln the war president, William Lee Miller goes deeper, delving into the moral, philosophical and spiritual [not religious] underpinnings of Abraham Lincoln Miller then makes a strong argument that those moral and philosphical foundations go a long way toward explaining why the man is on Mount Rush A central tenet of Miller's work is this: Lincoln abhorred slavery He viewed slavery as inherently wrong, and he held this belief by the age of 30 To those who have argued using some of Lincoln's own words that Lincoln was not truly against slavery, or did not truly believe that bondage was wrong, Miller painstakingly [with the emphasis on pain] refutes these critics throughout the work Any ambiguity as to Lincoln's feelings about slavery, according to Miller, fall to the floor once you understand his 'virtues' Yet, if that is a central tenet, Miller also insists that those who deify Lincoln are equally misguided That Lincoln was a fantastic politician is generally agreed to even by his critics But Miller argues that too often Lincoln's political activity was nothingthan an end to a means: that he didn't really like politics and didn't do the things that politicians do This is simply not true Lincoln not only was good at politics: he loved it Miller's message to Lincolnworshipers who try to forget that Lincoln was a politician is simple: the man not only liked politics but he practically founded the Illinois Republican party Certainly not something that one who abhorrs politics would do, no?Lincoln was a true Whig at the start of his political career, which began before he turned 30 when he served in the Illinois House of Representatives He was a firm supporter of Henry Clay and his idea of an 'American System' of national improvements Unlike Clay, however, he believed that slavery was morally wrong Unlike abolitionists of the next two decades, however, Lincoln did not believe that slavery where it existed should be touched Where Lincoln was adamant, however, was that slavery should not spread He often made the analogy walking in to find deadly snakes in a bed with your children: the snakes are an evil, but you dare not disturb them for fear of your children being harmed You do not, however, putsnakes in the remaining beds, either.Miller looks at the 1860 election in an interesting way, too Basically, working backwards, Miller says the question isn't how did Lincoln get elected President The question is: how did he secure the Republican nomination The distinction is important because, according to Miller, it was largely a 'given' that whomever the Republicans nominated stood a better than even chance of winning the presidency So, how did Lincoln secure the nomination? A commonlyheld misconception is that a great deal of luck was involved Miller argues that, while luck played a role, it was nothan the fact that Lincoln was lucky to be from Illinois; lucky that Illinois had been home to Stephen Douglas; and lucky that he had used his sixyear verbal jousting with Douglas to create a litany of speeches and written documents outlining his views far beyond Illinois itself, making him something of a national figure even before the 1860 convention The location of that convention is often viewed as lucky It was not Lincoln was instrumental in getting Chicago chosen as the site of the convention.Throughout the book, Miller does a thorough job of tracing the trajectory of Lincoln's journey from selftaught lawyer to the White House While dry and somewhat existential at times, Miller includes enough politics and history to make the book worth reading He givesdepth to Lincoln than many authors His is a balanced look at the life of the real Lincoln, not the icon with a monument on the Mall in Washington.The book stops at Lincoln's inauguration There are numerous examples, however, of the 18611865 Lincoln and his decisionmaking But the purpose of the book is not to report on Lincoln the President It is to explain how Lincoln the President came to be What his values were, what his philosophies were, what made him what he was After reading this, you'll get a greater appreciation of Lincoln the Icon, too. This is not a straightline biography, but an ethical biography showing Lincoln's moral and intellectual development and growth in virtue Miller says Lincoln was not only a great man, but a good man His conduct and speeches rose to a higher moral standard the higher his office and greater his power As many Lincoln books I have read, this really presented the material in a new and thoughtprovoking way.Unfortunately, I didn't like the writing style While one of the blurbs speaks of Miller's presentation as being animated by wit and humor, I found his style overly folksy, meandering and consisting of too many parentheticals Five stars for content, three for writing.Quotes:p 146: This something [deep feeling], which Jefferson lacked but which Lincoln possessed in full measure, may perhaps for want of a better term be called a profoundly emotional apprehension of experiencechokengtitiktitikchokeng 225: Webera mature manfollowing an ethic of responsibility somewhere reaches the point where he says'Here I stand I can do no other.'p 254: Lincoln links the principle here implied about slavery to the moral meaning of America in the history of the world If we not only have slavery as a fact in our free country but look with equanimity to its spread and regard the spreading of slavery as the moral equivalent of the spread of freedom, then the republican movement around the world has reason to doubt us and the enemies of freedom have reason to laugh at our pretensionschokengtitiktitikchokeng 287: Lincoln's moral condemnation of slavery was not occasional but continual It was not window dressing, in the way 'moral' pretenses sometimes are, gestures without meaning, but the core of a political policy, with consequences Lincoln's presentation of himself to the national political world from 1854 to 1860 was extraordinary in its concentration and insistence on affirming certain generalideaschokengtitiktitikchokeng 397: So now we come to the element that is distinctive to Lincoln: the quality of his public arguement His presentation first of the antiNebraska case, and then of the Republican case, in debates and speeches over six years, made him stand out as a leader, even without holding any office His speeches, or rather the moralpolitical argument presented in his speeches and the clarity and force with which it was presented, as the essential ingredient in Lincoln's rise.P 408: The higher he went and the greater his power, the worthier his conduct would becomesomething like the opposite of Lord Acton's dictum More notable even than young Lincoln's rise to eminence from unpromising beginnings would be the fact that that rise would not corrupt him, but something like the reversechokengtitiktitikchokeng 437: Is Lincoln to be criticized for not throwing all his considerable influence on the side of a stopgap peace that might have been achieved through the Crittenden proposals? I think not As I read him, Lincoln would see a compromise on that basis as a total moral capitulation It would have made slavery the permanent moral equal of freedom, thus transforming the ethical meaning of 'our one common country.'p 462: He would insist, with rare pertinacity, that the principle of universal human equality, enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, joined Liberty in the core ideals of this nation.Lincoln, with all the limitations of his background in a totally white and racially prejudiced environmentwas a lifelong moral learner.President Lincoln wouldapply this high universal principle of Equality not simply in praise for this nation but also critically against this national for falling short of it. The biographer does a good job on trying to sort out the legendary Lincoln from the mythical Lincoln, mostly There are times within this book that one begins to feel that the author is projecting his understanding of Lincoln onto the events that happenedsuch as suggesting that some of his retorts were quips when in fact they probably were not Everyone, it seems, misunderstands Lincoln at some point or another which was true of his life.When I began reading this book, I was familiar with the perspective of slavery being a state's rights issue What this book does uniquely well is that it outlines that this is not so Since Lincoln was not an outright abolitionist, the position was often confusing in history What he was, was perhaps, a pragmatist in the sense that he did not politically think slavery could be outright abolished but rather that it could be contained and not spread like a virus The fact that it was permitted and was within the law of the country at least in some places I think, to him, meant that the institutions of the country had decided it would be so What the national conscience had not decided, however, was whether or not as a nation it SHOULD be so Lincoln clearly and categorically personally hated slavery It was a moral question to him that was easily answerable.In reading this book, I found several quotes attributed to Lincoln I had not discovered before His desire to take an oath in 1860 somewhat of his own making was most enlightening The fact he suggested that war was now in the hands of the people as opposed to his own self was also interesting since after he had sworn to protect the constitution he knew that his job was to defend the institutions it represented Since the people had no such oath, they were free to come and go as they pleased, as he pointed out War would be up to them The other interesting thing this book does not do is focus much on his assassination Indeed, as a character study, it has little need to explore that topic Rather, the book ends just as the civil war starts The author wisely has allowed the reader to fill in all the blanks that happen in the next five years from that marker in time by understanding the character of the person under study previous to that point Since the research that was done was thorough, you know what is going to happen next even if you had never read any civil war history prior.Another interesting item the author elucidates are grammatical changes Lincoln made Since Lincoln asked for the advice of people around him, he often listened to their suggestions so that the wording he presented was partly his own and partly modified by others who were sensitive to the climate in ways that he might not have been Many of these original works do not suggest a personality of compromise in the sense that we are often led to believe Lincoln held amongst opposite personalities and contrary positions Rather, many of his positions are very pointed and not at all compromising when it comes to the consequences of certain behavior and how the law would understand that behavior at a constitutional level One wonders whether he would have been better served with his original verbiage in some areas we understand with historical hindsight All in all, a very thorough character study of Lincoln, and an enjoyable read that any Lincoln scholar should have familiarity withnotwithstanding the occasional authorly attribution of something as a joke or jab that was probably neither The period of politics leading up to the civil war was, I suspect, sometimes just that loony. This is perhaps my favorite exposition of the life of Abraham Lincoln It is not your typical (linear) biography (That's been covered and we don't need another one.) It's an exploration of the events that shaped Lincoln's development as a man of genuine virtue.This not a hero worship puff piece It's actually a challenging academic work And it is neither light or easy reading But it is well worth the effort.In his life, Abraham Lincoln developed a rock solid personal code of Ethics It seamlessly governed his personal and public lives His decisions, actions and choices revealed his deeply personal virtues And, as this Ethical biography reveals, produced the greatest president his country would ever see.I first read this book in 2003 I reread it in 2012 while preparing an Ethics course for the State Bar of Georgia's Institute for Continuing Legal Education. A superb study of his character, beliefs, and behavior as a man entirely engaged in politics, but sustained by a sense of human decency throughout This work takes one through Lincoln’s personal development, his political reengagement in 1854 after the passage of the KansasNebraska Act, and his unexpected selection by the new Republican Party and his 1860 election to the Presidency Then volume 2, entitled “President Lincoln”, brilliantly completes the portrait of an ethical person engages in actual politics in a time of crisis. I little repetitive and never quite as enlightening as I hoped it would be, this book is, nonetheless, an interesting and revealing read. How did an unschooled career politician named Abraham Lincoln, from the raw frontier villages of earlynineteenthcentury Illinois, become one of the most revered of our national icons? This is the question that William Lee Miller explores and answers, in fascinating detail, in Lincoln's Virtues Lincoln, Miller says, was a great man who was also a good man It is the central thrust of this ethical biography to reveal how he became both, to trace his moral and intellectual development in the context of his times and in confrontation with the leading issues of the daymost notably, of course, that of slavery Following the rough chronology of Lincoln's life up to the crucial decisions in the winter of secession, the narrative portrays his conscious shaping of himself as a writer, speaker, moral agent, politician, and statesman Miller shows us a man who educated himself through reading, had a mind inclined to plow down to first principles and hold to them, and combined clarity of thought with firmness of will and power of expression, a man whose conduct rose to a higher moral standard the higher his office and the greater his power The author takes us into the pivotal moments of moral escalation in Lincoln's political life, allowing us to see him come gradually to the point at which he was compelled to say, Hold fast with a chain of steel Miller makes clear throughout that Lincoln never left behind or rose above the role of politician, but rather fulfilled the highest possibilities of this peculiarly honorable democratic vocation Lincoln's Virtues approaches this muchwrittenabout figure from a wholly new standpoint As a biography uniquely revealing of its subject's heart and mind, it represents a major contribution to the current and perennial American discussion of national moral conduct, and of the relationship between politics and morality There are many books on Lincoln of course This was a great one I think.