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President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  677 ratings  ·  32 reviews
The American president has come to be the most powerful figure in the world—and back in the nineteenth century a great man held that office. William Lee Miller’s new book closely examines that great man in that hugely important office: Abraham Lincoln as president.

Wars waged by American presidents have come to be pivotal historical events. Here Miller analyzes the commande
Hardcover, 512 pages
Published February 5th 2008 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2008)
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4.22  · 
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 ·  677 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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Nathan Albright
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I happened to check this book out from the library before realizing it was the second part of a two-part “ethical biography” of Abraham Lincoln, this volume covering Lincoln as president. Although there are many books, many of them quite good [1], about Abraham Lincoln, the worth of his life and writing and political/moral thought has led many to write about him, most of them in praise and a few in fierce and usually unmerited criticism. This particular book, as might be expected, largely praise ...more
Matthew Hines
Aug 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book holds a prized place on my bookshelf. It is a monumental work on leadership and how Lincoln evolved as a leader while trying to hold the Union together.

One interesting chapter delves into the politics of the illegal slave trade in the years leading up to the war. In 1808, Congress declared the slave trade to be illegal, as allowed in the U.S. Constitution. However, that ban was frequently disobeyed, and in the 1840s the U.S. Navy had to create the African squadron to patrol west Afric
Everton Patterson
Good, well-written study of Lincoln's presidency. Lincoln was certainly an extraordinary human being, and the United States probably exists now only because he was president at that particular time. During the Civil War, he had the difficult task of prosecuting the war while not alienating the border slave states. Losing the border states could have led to the loss of the war and thus the perpetuation of slavery and the destruction of the United States. Due to his political mastery as well as hi ...more
Jan 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
I have read over 20 books on the life of Abraham Lincoln and I never tire of looking at his life and work from a different angle and although I was familiar with greater than 90% of the incidents and events discussed in this book I appreciated and enjoyed this author's perseptions from the perspective of statesmanship. Oh, for an Abraham Lincoln today!
Walter Herrick
Jan 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book 5 stars because I have had my eyes opened like never before about Lincoln in the Civil War. So the rating is mostly based on the experience of the book - and not how well it was written. I say this because like most nonfiction it is not easy to breeze-read through it. (I am also not disparaging the author. He does a great job and keeps it interesting and freely moving). I started this book back in 2008 and would put it aside for a time as I would take up whatever took my fancy a ...more
Steven Henderson
Jun 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This well researched book presented a powerful argument concerning Lincoln's respect for the Constitution, and his determination to follow its limitations.
Schawn schoepke
Dec 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
The more I read about Lincoln the more impressed I am with him as an incredible leader and human being. He was not perfect and very possibly many of the things he did were done for a reason yet he did them and that is the big difference. This is what is missing in todays climate a total focus and falling back on what you believe. His ability to adjust and meander through all the obstacles is incredible. The Duty of a Statesman was a decent look at some of the world Mr. Lincoln successfully tread ...more
Nov 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: scanned
What? No pictures???

An excellent detailed, well documented study of Lincoln as a leader. Emphasis on Lincoln as a war president facing the ethical and moral dilemmas thrust at him trying to hold a nation together that didn't necessarily want to stay together.

For people that have read Civil War history, this book is a must-read. If you've always wanted to start reading some Lincoln history, this is a good start. It's not a quick, simple read and the author tends to write as if he's addressing a c
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A compelling and thoughtful read. In my opinion, the best study of the moral dilemmas Lincoln faced during the war. My favorite chapter is entitled, "I Felt it my Duty to Refuse," and recounts the story of the famously soft-hearted Lincoln, upholding the death sentence of Nathaniel Gordon, the first, and only, American to be hung as a slave trader. Lincoln's only concession was a slight reprieve to allow the slaver to prepare "for the awful change that awaits him." No mercy this time.
Mar 25, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Thoughtful study on how Lincoln approached the duties of his office and of how he allowed or did not allow his personal ethics to impact his decisions and actions in office. If only we had leaders today with the same moral integrity and political acumen.
Rod Endacott
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I finally, finally read a book about Abraham Lincoln. I was not disappointed. More over, the author, William Lee Miller, treated me to an intimate portrayal of the real man. Beyond the accomplishments — holding together the precious threads of a constitution of a truly free country, and amending it to abolish slavery — the author identified and described the qualities he embodied — vision (worldly), understanding (divine), and courage (beyond imagination, considering the cost of life the Civil W ...more
Gordon Leidner
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Truly one of the best books I've read about Lincoln. Not a biography, but an analysis of his statesmanship during his presidency. Miller reviews a number of crucial decisions that Lincoln made during office, some of them are the usual subjects such as his decision to free the slaves, his skill as a war leader, etc. But others are less well known, especially his pardons or refusal to pardon various individuals (soldiers, a slave trader, an influential southerner who had shot a northern soldier an ...more
Kevin Dumcum
I am torn over this review. On the one hand, this book paints a vivid portrait of the man who saved the Union, ended the institution of slavery in the United States, and preserved the ideals of freedom and democracy for all the world.

On the other hand, the book is very repetitive. Each point the author makes is repeated two and three times, as the author employed the oral presentation rule of, say what you’re going to say, say it, and then say what you said.

I am among those who believe that Linc
David Kent
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In this stellar follow up to his "Lincoln's Virtues," noted historian William Lee Miller examines the presidency of Abraham Lincoln through the lens of morality. He succeeds in developing the moral themes that drove Lincoln through the most trying days of our nation's history.

[NOTE: A more detailed review to follow shortly]

I read this book as part of an ongoing book discussion group by the Lincoln Group of DC. Over a dozen people with interest in Lincoln joined monthly to impart varied and inval
Guy Priel
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. I read everything I can about Lincoln, so when I see a new title, regardless of the author, I snatch it up. This one was no different. I have read very little about Lincoln as President that didn't focus on the war. Yes, the War was the overriding problem throughout his presidency, but there is little written about Lincoln as a leader. This one certainly filled the gap and has found a place in my collection of Lincoln books. Miller did plenty of research and I look fo ...more
May 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
In precisely the same vein as it's prequel, a "ethical biography", at least purportedly. That's using "biography" loosely, as there is barely even a timeline of events. Opening with Lincoln's inauguration and closing with the most rudimentary treatment of his death that I've ever read, the narrative is propelled not by facts or chronology, but by vague notions of principle. Not that the principles themselves are vague-- Miller quite effectively conveys Lincoln's determination and will-- but the ...more
Yassine El
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing

Lincoln was a good republican and hated president. Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809. He showed a good figure of America, Lincoln help america grow in many ways, he made America grow by making it a big continent. Lincoln assisted at many journeys like wars. Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States Of America, he was president from 1861 to 1865. Lincoln was a member of the house of representative. Lincoln was married with Mary Todd, Lincoln has four children's Edward,Robert, Willie
Jul 09, 2015 rated it liked it
“President Lincoln: Duty of a Statesman” by William Lee Miller is pretty much an biography of President Lincoln. I thought this book had a lot of information, and you will learn pretty much anything there is to know about Lincoln. The only problem, is I thought this book dragged on forever and was a bit to long for my taste. For me, it was like reading a history textbook, except it was all about Lincoln. You will learn Lincoln’s political views and such in here too.

Diane Heath
This would have been more interesting if it was less textbookish. When I checked it out I was hoping it would be more like Kearns Team of Rivals. At the time of his election, the American people underestimated Lincoln. He was much more politically savvy than given credit for and fortunately for America (and the Union) he was at the right place at the right time.
Gayla Bassham
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads
Highly readable study of Lincoln's presidency. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on Lincoln's use of the pardon power. His handling of McClellan was also highly interesting, to say the least. Very different from Obama and McChrystal!
Susan Horan
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating examination of President Lincoln's personal moral code and how that morality shaped the major decisions and dilemmas of his presidency. After reading this, you'll know why Lincoln was not only our nation's greatest president, but one of its greatest human beings period.
Apr 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Excellent analysis of Lincoln's words and actions (more about his words, however) as President. Does a particuarly nice job of analyzing his inaugural addresses and many of his thoughts about slavery and the Civil War. A little scholarly at times but very thought-provoking.
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shows the complexity of Lincoln as he learned the art of governing according to principle during his Presidency.
Greg Wasserstrom
Apr 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent, but not as tight as Lincoln's Virtues.
Alex Cork
Apr 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Love the way this was written. Shows what a true statesman Lincoln really was through small stories of his life.
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An incredible book. I didn't want it to end.

It's much easier to read than the author's other ethical biography of Lincoln.
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lincoln
Great Book on Lincoln's ability to lead during a great crisis
Mar 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lincoln buffs, Civil War buffs
Shelves: read-2008
A very good book about the decisions President Lincoln had to make as the commander-in-chief of the country and as a human being. Very insightful.
Tom Mackie
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lincoln-studies
Miller is a very elegant writer. His "The Duty of a Statesman" is a beautiful book to read and it provides a very strong insight into Lincoln strength.
Ross Cohen
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoughtful work that argues the qualities that made President Lincoln great were the qualities that made him good.
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William Lee Miller is Scholar in Ethics and Institutions at the Miller Center. From 1992 until his retirement in 1999, Mr. Miller was Thomas C. Sorensen Professor of Political and Social Thought and Director of the Program in Political and Social Thought at the University of Virginia. He was professor of religious studies from 1982 to 1999, and chaired the Department of Rhetoric and Communication ...more