William Lee Miller''s Lincoln''s Virtues is less an "event" chronology than the tracing of the moral and ethical core of Abraham Lincoln''s beliefs, what Miller calls the man''s "unintended preparation for greatness." Miller posits that Lincoln rightly deserves his nonpareil place in American history. But, he continues, Lincoln''s greatness is best appreciated only when we realize he was merely mortal and therefore free to follow any number of courses of actions. Miller, through scores of eloquent exegeses of Lincoln''s writings and speeches, explores the path--consistent, though evolving--this free agent took. Lincoln chose politics as his work. As a politician he was subject to the very real constraints of collective action. However, such was the man''s "moral self-confidence," that the mantle of greatness alit on his shoulders alone. This is a revealing, delicate, and at times soaring work. It also presupposes its readers are much more than casually familiar with Lincoln''s life and times. - -H. O''Billovitch
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 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.
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