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Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President

(Library of Religious Biography)

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  288 ratings  ·  40 reviews
This major biography of Abraham Lincoln has won the prestigious Lincoln Prize, the annual award given to the best book in the Civil War field. Guelzo's superb work breaks new ground in exploring the role of ideas in Lincoln's life, treating him for the first time as a serious thinker deeply involved in the struggles of nineteenth-century thought.
Hardcover, 516 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
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4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  288 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Mark Jr.
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, audio
Nothing less than a tour-de-force. I'm tempted to say that only a religious person—particularly a Christian—could understand this almost certainly unbelieving politician and thinker. Guelzo finds a theme in Lincoln's theology that he, successfully in my opinion, traces throughout his life, namely a predestinarianism shorn of belief in God's personal goodness to Lincoln himself. This fatalistic theology guided Lincoln into making the most difficult decisions of the war. This is the key insight fr ...more
Urey Patrick
Abraham Lincoln is one of my historical heroes – perhaps my favorite historical figure. I would not have thought much new or fresh could be written about Lincoln, but Allen Guelzo proves me wrong. This book is less a biography or a history, and more a narrative Lincoln’s intellectual and spiritual evolution through the course of his life set against a background of his life and career, both antebellum and during the war. It is a subtle and deep examination of Lincoln’s moral, religious, politica ...more
Robin Friedman
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An Intellectual And Religious Biography Of Lincoln

Biographies of Abraham Lincoln have tended to fall into two broad categories. The first category consists of biographies of the "subjective" Lincoln. These biographies are based largely on the many anecdotes and stories people told about Lincoln's life, typically during the early years in Illinois and concentrate on trying to explore Lincoln as a man (He remains an enigma.)The second category of Lincoln biography is the political. This biography
Oct 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Guelzo's book is an excellent intellectual biography that firmly sets Lincoln within the context of his times, while not diminishing him to that context. Lincoln's Whig commitments to personal and national development are set against his subsistence farming, Democratic upbringing. His providentialial view of history and historical status (post assassination) as Redeemer President are set against his own inability to either claim faith and redemption for himself or escape the Calvinistic determi ...more
Spencer Cummins
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I enjoyed Guelzo's biography even more than Donald and Carwardine. In Guelzo's account we find the tension in Lincoln's mind of a war that in governed by the control of God's providential oversight. Yet, this kind of view partly taken from his hard shell Baptist upbringing does not bring much solace for Lincoln. Guelzo does well to bring out the Whig political struggles and the political setbacks that Lincoln faced in a continual basis.

We also get personal insight from Lincoln's friends and pub
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
A very interesting book not only about Abraham Lincoln, but a more holistic approach about the world he lived in, the USA at that time, the political parties, the religious understanding of the time, etc. Mind you that the author's language is more difficult and has an in depth approach. Sometimes I read a section more than once to comprehend the author's mind.
I don't recommend that you start with this book, if you want to understand Abraham Lincoln.
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-read
I have always been intrigued by Abraham Lincoln and read a few works about him. What differs this book from the others is that it is a thorough analysis of his intellectual and spiritual progress. It affirms Lincoln was a great thinker and, though he may be a man of faith, was most definitely not a Christian.

Lincoln was a complex man and did his job the best he could during a tumultuous time in US history. He was troubled, surely brought on by the burden of keeping the country intact while tryi
Andrew Carr
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an outstanding intellectual biography of Lincoln. Guelzo resurrects Lincoln's Whig origins, identifying the importance of Mill, Bentham, Smith and other liberal, reason and market-oriented thinkers in his world view. Lincoln, like those he read, fashioned his ideology for his times, seeing a vital role for government to create the institutions and conditions for free men to thrive. Slavery was thus, not only a moral wrong, but an economic system which denied opportunity for wage bound wo ...more
Hank Pharis
I expected this to be better than I found it. Perhaps if I get around to reading it I'll appreciate it more.
Probably part of the problem was having just listened to Burlingame's biography.

(Note: I'm stingy with stars. For me 2 stars means a good book. 3 = Very good; 4 = Outstanding {only about 5% of the books I read merit this}; 5 = All time favorites {one of these may come along every 400-500 books})
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

What can one say? Well-written, deeply researched, and thoughtfully reasoned. Guelzo’s work is fascinating. He delves into Lincoln’s struggle with a Calvinistic God, his “out-of-step” Whiggish convictions and deeply-convinced Enlightenment worldview. Guelzo reveals Lincoln’s deep internal struggles over Christianity, not the current New Atheist doubts, but the pain of a man burdened with his own shortcomings. Guelzo’s book is a must read for Lincoln lovers.
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President” is Allen Guelzo’s 1999 biography of Abraham Lincoln which was awarded the 2000 Lincoln Prize. Guelzo is a Professor and Director of Civil War Era studies at Gettysburg College. He is the author of over a dozen books, most of which are focused on Abraham Lincoln or other aspects of the Civil War.

Often described as an “intellectual biography” Guelzo’s book is certainly not a traditional review of Lincoln’s life. Rather t
Steph Clayton
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this book for a class in college and I remember really liking it. I think the look into Lincoln’s religion and how it shaped his decisions about the civil war were beyond fascinating and helped create a picture of Lincoln that I had never seen before.
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: civil-war
Allen C Guelzo’s biography of Lincoln is a helpful addition to the study of this great President. This is an intellectual biography that charts the development of Lincoln’s philosophy of government, economics, emancipation and the Constitution from his early days working for his father to the Presidency. Guelzo, professor of history at Gettysburg College, examines Lincoln as a man of thought, a man whose philosophical convictions guided his behavior. He shows that Lincoln was never strictly a pr ...more
Feb 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having another view of this great president past what I learned in school as a child and young adult lends quite a perspective of how we got to where we are in America. I think my original school-delivered knowledge of Lincoln was slightly idolized, but for good reason. He was truly a great man. I think the main thing I was missing was a good perspective of the times. We think our world is evil sometimes, I in fact heard that very assertion today. No doubt the world is evil, but it has been sinc ...more
A big chunk of a book, fun to chew through but a bit hard to digest. I mentally subtitled Guelzo's book "An Ethical Biography", as the overarching theme (at least ostensibly) is the philosophical makeup of Abraham Lincoln. The utility and relevance of such a theme is obvious: Lincoln helmed America through her greatest social and moral crisis-- what then, guided the guide? The answer, as given by Guelzo, is not a simple one.

He comes to his point rather slowly, leaving aside the issues of religi
The author begins by asserting that this is the first biography of Abraham Lincoln which takes him seriously as a man of ideas. There are two problems with this claim. First, it is over-egging the pudding, as previous books on Lincoln did take his political ideology seriously. Second, for a book claiming to be an intellectual history it contains comparatively little intellectual history within its 463 pages of text. What intellectual history it does contain is excellent, however.

I suspect that
Zena Ryder
Apr 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I very much enjoyed this biography. It focused more on the development of Lincoln's thought, including his religious beliefs (and lack of them) than the other biography I've read (A. Lincoln). According to Guelzo, Lincoln's religious beliefs became stronger during the trials of the Civil War, but he was never as devout as he wanted to be, and he never felt worthy of redemption. While he seems always to have believed in God to a greater or lesser degree, he was never much of a church-goer and he ...more
Aaron Million
Guelzo is a noted Civil War and Lincoln scholar, having won the Lincoln Prize three times. This is not a traditional biography of Lincoln. Instead, it is more of an intellectual and religious biography. Given that, the Civil War, along with most of its major players, is treated perfunctorily except in situations that specifically demanded a review of Lincoln's thought process (example: the firing of General George McClellan after repeated missed opportunities to attack the Confederate Army of No ...more
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Whenever the day comes for him to appear, the man who shall be the Redeemer President of These States, is to be the one that fullest realizes the rights of individuals, signified by the impregnable rights of The States, the substratum of this Union." -Abe's buddy Walt.

The best part of this book is its commentary on the religious beliefs of Lincoln. The author walks a difficult line, and avoids falling to either side. His descriptions of Lincoln's struggles with the inscrutability (that word is
Greg Van Vorhis
Feb 16, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author promises to look at Lincoln in a way nobody ever has...that this book is unique. And then he proceeds to write the same biography that you have read over and over and over again.
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me FOREVER to get into this book. First, the narrator was so irritating and robotic that I kept falling asleep listening to the book. Second, I thought Abraham Lincoln: A Life by Michael Burlingamewas thorough. I think this author took writing lessons from Burlingame. There was details in this book that I was wondering what it had to do with Lincoln's religion. Then, something snapped as it all came together and it was that the author was painting a very clear picture into what went into ...more
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good study of Lincoln's "Christianity" although not the most interesting I've read. Lincoln was an Enlightenment Christian, a believer in a far off God of judgment who did not love or offer redemption. His ways are inscrutable and mankind is helpless before him. On page 447 Guelzo calls Lincoln's religion "Calvinized Deism." This is certainly an important book for students of American religious history. Many of the threads the author draws together reveal why evangelical Christian ...more
Gordon Leidner
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is the best Lincoln biography I've read (as of Dec 2016), and I've read dozens. Guelzo does an excellent analysis of Lincoln's intellectual and spiritual development. We watch him develop in social skills, politics, law, economic policy, and faith. We not only see the how, but the WHY of Lincoln. Politically, he was always a Whig at heart. He hated slavery, we know. But WHY did he hate slavery? We watch him spring from his Calvinist roots, become a skeptic, and then return to his faith as h ...more
I read this book because I needede more information about Abraham Lincoln, for my history project, but I really liked the way Guelzo wrote biography of the president Abraham Lincoln. He also used a lot of quotes, and like many other fellow writers, he also used very provocative diction to engage the reader with the story of 16th president of the united states of america, Abraham Lincoln. Author focuses about the whole life of the president, but he also accentuated Lincoln's ideas about the Unio ...more
Jul 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Not your traditional biography, more of an attempt to explain Lincoln's thought processes and the events and intellectual influences that got him there. An interesting view and I learned a great deal that I hadn't known before, including Lincoln's almost total disinterest in Christianity. (Don't believe me? Read the book.) But I have to admit that the book dragged a bit from time to time and might have worked better as a dip-into-occasionally volume rather than a due-in-two-weeks library book.

Jeremy Touma
This intellectual biography of Lincoln depicts much of his life and how it affects him in different ways. We see his philosophies behind religion and his presidency but the entire book seems to be too open ended. Guelzo seems to like to jump from topic to topic without ever closing something. One thing that was much more real and very well depicted in the book, however, was the military side of Lincoln. Guelzo manages to vividly show the hardships and the toll the war took on the morale of every ...more
Sep 21, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in Presidential history
A different prespective on Lincoln than most biographies. A look at his religious background from the strict Calvinism and predestinationof his youth, the "apostasy" (by 19th century standards) of no religious beliefs in his young adulthood to his complex religious appeals in the Civil War and the eerie but majestic second inaugural in 1865.

If you are interested in Lincoln from a different perspective than the usual political and biographical entries in this category (I think only Napoleon has
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Though it took fifty odd pages to get into it, I really liked this book because it did more than recite Abraham Lincoln's life: the author skillfully paints the details of the cultural and intellectual ideas that make up the scenery of 19th century American life. From this vivid background I better understand how Lincoln impacted his era. I also appreciated the care taken to not idolize nor radicalize the man needlessly. I look forward to reading more of Allen C. Guelzo's helpful works.
Nov 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lincolnophiles
This was an amazing book that explored Lincoln's intellectual and religious background. It explores his thought on many fronts and emphasizes Lincoln's place as a Whig politician with a Whig political philosophy... antithetical to both Jackson AND Jefferson. Lincoln is a model life-long learner and you can see the benefit in his evolving thought in his writing and speeches. A true intellectual biography that actually opens up new understanding of Lincoln.
Bauer Evans
Dr. Guelzo is a Lincoln scholar up to the task of exploring Lincoln relationship with Christianity without slipping into either extreme of hagiography or cynicism. Best book I have read to date on Lincoln's spirituality. It is a labor of love to work through it; this is not popular 'writing' on a par with McCullough or Goodwin. But neither is not boring.
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UCAS English 11 R...: January Reading assignment 1 2 Jan 31, 2019 09:32AM  
  • Lincoln at Cooper Union: The Speech That Made Abraham Lincoln President
  • Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words
  • Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power
  • The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows
  • Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography
  • Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution
  • Founders' Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln
  • The Eloquent President: A Portrait of Lincoln Through His Words
  • Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates
  • Abraham Lincoln: A Life
  • Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington
  • The Lincoln-Douglas Debates
  • "We are Lincoln Men": Abraham Lincoln and His Friends
  • The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Lincoln's Battle with God: A President's Struggle with Faith and What It Meant for America
  • Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney: Slavery, Secession, and the President's War Powers
  • Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America: A Biography
Allen Carl Guelzo (born 1953) is the Henry R. Luce III Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College, where he serves as Director of the Civil War Era Studies Program.

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