Read Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography by William Lee Miller Online


William Lee Miller’s ethical biography is a fresh, engaging telling of the story of Lincoln’s rise to power. Through careful scrutiny of Lincoln’s actions, speeches, and writings, and of accounts from those who knew him, Miller gives us insight into the moral development of a great politician — one who made the choice to go into politics, and ultimately realized that vocatWilliam Lee Miller’s ethical biography is a fresh, engaging telling of the story of Lincoln’s rise to power. Through careful scrutiny of Lincoln’s actions, speeches, and writings, and of accounts from those who knew him, Miller gives us insight into the moral development of a great politician — one who made the choice to go into politics, and ultimately realized that vocation’s fullest moral possibilities.As Lincoln’s Virtues makes refreshingly clear, Lincoln was not born with his face on Mount Rushmore; he was an actual human being making choices — moral choices — in a real world. In an account animated by wit and humor, Miller follows this unschooled frontier politician’s rise, showing that the higher he went and the greater his power, the worthier his conduct would become. He would become that rare bird, a great man who was also a good man. Uniquely revealing of its subject’s heart and mind, it represents a major contribution to our understanding and of Lincoln, and to the perennial American discussion of the relationship between politics and morality....

Title : Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780375701733
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 536 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography Reviews

  • Keith
    2019-05-28 00:35

    Some things I got out of this book:- Slavery was THE issue. Slavery was morally wrong. (The issue was NOT race.)- Lincoln was thorough in his research for speech preparation.- He did not hold grudges.- Lincoln spoke out on principles: Polk was expansionist & created the Mexican war then blamed it on Mexico. Although it might hurt his career and the war was already over, he spoke out against the false claims.- Lincoln spoke out on principles: He spent 6 years speaking against Douglas on the slavery issue.- The book only lightly talks on Buchanen’s treason against the union - following Lincoln’s example of being gentle on his opponents."... 3958 books about him already published by 1939" (Page 33)Lincoln did not hunt, [or] fish, was kind to animals, fled from farming, did not take up carpentry, "Lincoln never used tobacco; ...did not swear, in a social world in which fighting was a regular male activity, Lincoln became a peacemaker; in a hard-drinking society, Lincoln did not drink, when a temperance movement condemned all drinking Lincoln, the non-drinker did not join it; in an environment soaked with hostility to Indians, Lincoln resisted it; in a time and a place in which the great mass of common men in the West supported Andrew Jackson, Lincoln supported Henry Clay a southern-flavored setting soft on slavery, Lincoln always opposed it ...was generous to blacks; in an environment indifferent to education, Lincoln cared about it intensely ..." (Page 43)"Lincoln would not be sentimental about the traditional one-room schoolhouse ..." (Page 41) "... Lincoln himself would write as an adult, that he does not look back in piety and gratitude to any mentors ... Not his father, not really his mother or stepmother, not the school, not the church, not any adults in Pigeon Creek or New Salem." (Page 84)"Abraham's stepmother was by her own modest admission, not equipped to be a mentor to this unusual boy. Her contribution seems to have been her recognition that he was unusual ..." (Page 59)Chapter 4: I want in all cases to do right; Section 4: Be Emulous to Excel“Many of the literary selections [that Lincoln copied] are chosen, evidently, for their services in moral improvement - but from writers of distinction,…” (Page 79)“It is ideal as well as absurd to impose our opinions upon others." (Page 79)“…You must love learning, if you would possess it. In order to live it,…" (Page 79)“Rhetoric as a classical field had a closer connection to ethics than a modern mind might imagine." (Page 81)“Lincoln would read Shakespeare throughout his life, very much including his time as president of the United States." (Page 79)“Although Lincoln apparently did read, at some time in his youth, that ubiquitous American classic The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, …Lincoln never refers to it. His moral universe was less that of Franklin than that of Shakespeare.” (Page 81)“He was also separated … from the unmasking subversive thinkers on the Continent in the nineteenth century - Marx, Feuerbach, Nietzsche, not to mention Freud and multiple others in the twentieth … that would tend to undermine or overthrow or deny the notion of each human being as a rational moral agent.” (Page 82)“[The Bible] is the best gift God has given to man”; “All the good that the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book”; “All the things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.” (Page 83) “But for [the Bible] we could not know right from wrong.” (Page 84)“In his six-year encounter with Senator Stephen Douglas, as we will see, he would make unusually clear the link he asserted between God as creator and the American belief in equality.” (Page 88)“After four years of the terrible scourge of fratricidal war, begun in response to his own election, he would in his greatest speech recommend binding up the nation’s wounds ‘with malice toward none, with charity for all.’” (Page 90)"Lincoln, the loyal party man, had a particular scorn for politicians in Illinois who switched from the Whigs to the more dominant Democrats. ... [For] example Thomas Ford, the governor who wrote a sour book about Illinois politics..." (Page 107)"But although, to be sure, Lincoln changed, as we all do, and kept learning, as some do - I suggest, nevertheless, that there was on this point no radical discontinuity in his life." (Page 115)"He would be unequivocal about what caused the war: Slavery caused the war, not any of those unlikely other causes later proposed by apologists or revisionists -" (Page 287-288)"It is important, if you are to make an effective ethical criticism of some part of the existing world to the broad public, that your moral judgement not be thrown at the heads of your hearers like a rock." (Page 294)""Lincoln would observe that the two sides in the terrible war read the same Bible, prayed to the same God, and each invoked God's aid against the other." (Page 295)“And [the lines] were distinctly drawn. Douglas said so, Lincoln thought so, the audiences of the time on both sides thought so - but some scholars and Lincoln writers looking back in later years have not thought so.” (Page 343)“And in his last great utterance, the Second Inaugural Address, there would be a paragraph, not always noticed in this connection, that would surely testify to the intensity of the writer’s conviction that American slavery was an immense evil. ...” (Page 390) “Fondly do we hope - fervently do we pray - that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ’the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.’" (Page 390)“… It is reasonable to argue that Lincoln became president in spite of the split in the Democratic Party, not because of it.” (Page 404)

  • Donna
    2019-06-04 04:17

    This is not a straight-line 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 thought-provoking 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 experience."p. 225: Weber-"a mature man...following 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 pretensions."p. 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 general more ideas."p. 397: "So now we come to the element that is distinctive to Lincoln: the quality of his public arguement. His presentation first of the anti-Nebraska 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 moral-political 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 become-something 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 reverse."p. 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 environment...was a lifelong moral learner....President Lincoln would...apply this high universal principle of Equality not simply in praise for this nation but also critically against this national for falling short of it."

  • Nathan
    2019-06-14 22:17

    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 self-proclaimed "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 the more informative 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 badly-needed 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, but more often to give an uncalled-for 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 full-length history, I'd have liked this more. Too long by half, not substantive enough on the whole.

  • Joe
    2019-06-27 05:41

    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 appearance...often 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.

  • George Bradford
    2019-06-02 03:23

    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 re-read it in 2012 while preparing an Ethics course for the State Bar of Georgia's Institute for Continuing Legal Education.

  • Bill F.
    2019-06-19 23:17

    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 Rushmore. 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 nothing more than 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 Lincoln-worshipers 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, put more snakes 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 commonly-held misconception is that a great deal of luck was involved. Miller argues that, while luck played a role, it was no more than 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 six-year 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 self-taught 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 gives more depth 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 1861-1865 Lincoln and his decision-making. 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.

  • Jennifer Nelson
    2019-05-27 00:45

    In this book, you will find systematic personality analysis like you’ve never seen before! Lincoln’s life is carefully unpacked piece by piece and William Miller does a fantastic job making sense of it all. He especially focuses on the moral development of this amazing man, how the personal characteristics, culture of the day, influence of peers, and political climate of the day shaped and molded or led to the man Lincoln was. Mr. Miller discusses in detail the moral choices that Lincoln made throughout his life and how they led to the great triumph, success, and fame that he attained. Over and over, the author made me pause and think, not only about the life of Lincoln, but about political issues, personality issues, cultural issues and just overall life issues. He writes creatively, passionately, and with a sparkle of wit. I especially appreciated Mr. Miller’s affirmation of the moral underpinnings that are necessary in our world and his uplifting and honoring the moral decisions Lincoln made, such as forgiveness, humility, boldness, love of peace, standing for what’s right even against stiff opposition, responsibility, and a host of others.Although this was not exactly an easy read and it included many political discussions that left me in the dust, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would say it is necessary reading for anyone interested in the life of Abraham Lincoln.

  • Kristin
    2019-06-24 06:39

    I was assigned different chapters to read from this book for my Ethics class. I enjoyed those chapters so much that I decided to read this book from cover to cover. Miller does a great job of providing the historical context and backdrop of Lincoln's life. He also does a good job of describing Lincoln as a man, flaws and all. What I liked most was how Miller explains the relationship of Lincoln and Stanton, who ended up being the Union War Secretary during the Civil War. It's a story that movies are made out of, and though it's only described briefly, it is a story I will always remember from reading this book. I recommend this book to Dad and the Joyces. It not only provides the reader with an enthralling history lesson, but it also serves up some lessons on how to achieve self-improvement.

  • Mark
    2019-06-12 05:30

    So, I read this because the Prof. I was assisting is teaching a course on Lincoln and ethics in the fall, and I did not expect to find it particularly engaging. However, being a native to Illinois, I did find it interesting to get a new perspective on the state. Lincoln lived during a time period that really ties together the whole history of our nation: go back 100 years before his presidency and the country does not yet exist, and go forward 100 years and you're within living memory of the present. This really made me realize how young of a country we have (and how truly young race issues in this country still are).

  • Todd Stockslager
    2019-06-24 03:27

    Excellent conversational fun-to-read style, yet very serious study.Lincoln as a moral man is even more impressive and amazing than Lincoln the heroic legend, and Miller draws Lincoln to life as both.Was Lincoln a Christian? Regardless, and perhaps even more important to American history and God's purpose in directing it, he acted as the perfect model of a Christian leader following God's guiding hand.If he was not a Christian, as President his awareness of God's hand on him increased during his time in office.

  • Elise
    2019-06-23 04:25

    This is a really interesting book. With the glut of Lincoln bios out there today it would be east write this off as just another one but it's not. This is like no other biography I've read. The focus isn't on the biographical details of Lincoln's life, those are presupposed by the author and fairly, I believe. This book's target audience has read a bio of Lincoln or three. The focus is on Lincoln's moral virtues and the exposition is fascinating. If you think you know everything there is to know about Abraham Lincoln but still crave deeper understanding, this is just for you.

  • Tim
    2019-06-23 01:23

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The stories of the growth of Lincoln is an amazing one and Miller does an excellent job fusing the events of the past with examinations of morality, virtue, and philosophy. I would recommend this book to anyone who has enough background knowledge of Lincoln. I wouldn't start with this book though if you were looking for a straight-up biography. David Donald's biography would probably be a good start. Then read this one. You'll enjoy it!!

  • Ron
    2019-06-10 22:30

    A somewhat wordy (yet very worthwhile) exploration of Lincoln's moral thought and growth through the practical process of self-education and politics. It would help a serious person examine his or her own moral thinking/behavior and what, in his or her life, impacts that thinking/behavior. The book also, for me, adds to the general knowledge and understanding of Lincoln's life and times. Having done that, I fell I have a better grasp of some aspects of our times.

  • Jessica
    2019-05-28 02:40

    I really enjoyed this one for the first 100 pages, as it went through Lincoln who he was as a person and his morals and wasn't too historical. Then it got dry and talked about a lot of political history that wasn't very intriguing to me to I'd have to say it was three stars even though I still think he's an amazing man. I really enjoyed the "coffee table" type books this month to learn more snippets instead of from the view of the major Lincoln buffs.

  • Rick
    2019-06-19 06:33

    More like 3.5 stars.It's good and very good in sections, but not nearly as good as the sequel, President Lincoln: Duty of a Statesman that I thought was outstanding. I'm not a political person and this had lots of politics, but no surprise in that. Just drier and not as captivating as his other Lincoln book. Miller knows his subject and it shows. Good for fans of Lincoln.

  • Jim
    2019-06-22 05:31

    Very interesting book. It gave a lot of insight on how he grew up, and became the president that many of us hold dear to our hearts. It gives you a feeling of how tough it was for him to be respected by his East Coast coleagues and how tough it must have been to be elected President. Great read for someone with basic Lincoln knowledge and enjoys historical writing!

  • Ted
    2019-06-10 05:30

    William Lee Miller paints a picture of Abraham Lincoln as a practical, partisan and ambitious politician who finally was met with “bedrock principles on which he could not compromise.”Lincoln, according to Miller, was a “responsible realist” who had little use for political purists such as the abolitionists of the day.

  • Cleon
    2019-06-01 02:24

    This is an exquisite book. The writer is phenomenal. He provides an outstanding analysis of how that common man was able to navigate to the top of the country and successfully manage the most perilous and complex crisis of the nation's history.

  • Tara Bush
    2019-06-04 00:23

    I just couldn't find the time to get through this book. It has lots of interesting insights into Lincoln's moral convictions, but you have to wade through a lot of musings to get to each tidbit. I decided it was too much work and quit my endeavor about half way through the book.

  • lc
    2019-06-13 01:33

    Far better than most books about Lincoln because it explores why he became the man he was. It did not dwell on stories and yarn we knew but the reasons he made decisions he did. Far more emphasis on the ethical decisions he was forced to make and the background he brought into making them.

  • Andrew
    2019-06-02 06:37

    A careful examination of Lincoln's character and virtues as revealed through his life up to his election. Not a hagiography, but a fair look at a remarkable man. Excellent for fans of Aristotle's Ethics.

  • Kirstin
    2019-06-17 00:25

    One of the best Lincoln books I've read---and I've read a lot.

  • Rabya
    2019-06-11 23:36

    i'm a big fan of abraham lincolnneed to finish this book!

  • Bill Sloyer
    2019-05-28 02:18

    Got lazy and stopped a little more than half way through, skimming the rest. I got the point and decided not to keep going.

  • Nate
    2019-06-08 01:20

    Fascinating account examining his profound thought processes and the language over the course of years that supported his endeavors from both a tactical and strategic framework.

  • Caroline
    2019-06-25 00:36

    annoying if not already a lincoln scholar..

  • Will
    2019-06-13 06:43

    Nat'l Review: "A sober look at the habits that gave rise to the creation of the loftiest soul in the American political tradition."

  • April
    2019-06-15 00:28

    I thought that the author here was very dry and the book seemed to organized in a odd way. It was interesting but I thought I would never finish it.

  • Michael
    2019-06-11 03:29

    A very clever and unique approach to Lincoln. Miller traces the evolution and growth of character and values over the course of a lifetime.

  • Greg Wasserstrom
    2019-06-23 00:24

    This is the greatest book on political leadership I've ever read.