Sunday, August 2, 2009

Review: The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln

The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln:
The Story of America's Most Reviled President
by Larry Tagg

Who is the greatest, best or most popular president in American History? In poll after poll, of historians and the general public alike, Abraham Lincoln is consistently ranked, if not at the top of the list, then second only to George Washington. That being said, it might surprise people to learn that in his time Lincoln was not popular or well liked, but rather was hated, despised and reviled.

Too often Abraham Lincoln has been thought of as the marble man, set upon a pedestal for us to gaze upon; a mythic man, wise and all-knowing, who with a calm and steady, but sure hand guided the nation through four of the most bloody and tumultuous years in American history. Too often has he been portrayed as “The Emancipator” and seen as the perfect model for what a President of the United States should strive to become.

Like peeling away the layers of an onion, Larry Tagg in “The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: The Story of America’s Most Reviled President,” methodically tears the myth away from the man to reveal the truth of the reality: Abraham Lincoln was a flawed man. He like the rest of humanity, made mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes had drastic and devastating consequences.

Beginning with a brief explanation of American politics up to the election of Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Tagg describes the rise of the political party system, which after the founding fathers and the aristocratic presidents elected a series of weak unknowns to the presidency which lead to the dominance of Congress over that office.

Mr. Tagg continues by demonstrating that newspapers of the time were anything but “fair and balanced,” but rather leaned heavily to one political party or the other, therefore giving their readers a distorted view of events and personalities; playing up the party they supported and often demonizing the opposition.

Working chronologically the author takes his readers through the Lincoln presidency and demonstrates, by the use of letters and journals as well as newspaper accounts and political cartoons, that no matter on what topic Lincoln acted upon, especially slavery, emancipation and later reconstruction policy, he was “damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.” He either acted too fast or too strongly for the Democrats, or not fast or vigorously enough for the Radical Republicans. Most often these rival factions pulled in opposite directions. By constantly seeking the middle ground politically Abraham Lincoln was truly a man to be hated by everyone.

Larry Tagg has written a book that has needed to be written for many years. His tome topples the statue of the mythic President Abraham Lincoln from its pedestal, and replaces it with a more flawed figure of a human who is capable of making and learning from his mistakes, of being loved, adored and admired in our time while being hated, despised and reviled in his.

ISBN 978-1932714616, Savas Beatie, © 2009, Hardcover, 576 pages, Illustrations, Endnotes, Bibliography & Index. $32.95


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your review of "The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln" by Larry Tagg.

Signed copies are available from:
Savas Beatie LLC
PO Box 4527
El Dorado Hills, CA 95762

We appreciate your mention of this very worthy book.

Tammy Hall
Savas Beatie LLC

Jim Miller said...

It was my pleasure. Always glad to help. Don't hesitate to contact me if you need anything else. - Jim