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Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words    by Douglas L. Wilson order for
Lincoln's Sword
by Douglas L. Wilson
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2007 (2006)
Hardcover, Softcover

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Kerrily Sapet

'Writing - the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye - is the greatest invention of the world.' (Abraham Lincoln)

Long told in the United States are tales about Abraham Lincoln's humble log cabin upbringing. One story tells that he walked miles to return a borrowed book. According to these tales, even at a young age, Lincoln recognized the importance and the power of words. It would amaze the country that a man with such a simple provincial childhood could one day become president and write speeches that soothed a nation divided by war.

Author Douglas Wilson skillfully examines Lincoln's use of words to build his political career and attempt to keep the country united during the Civil War. Wilson's book, Lincoln's Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Words, offers an extensive and detailed look at this revered president's writing prowess. Wilson's fascinating book reconstructs Lincoln's lengthy writing process: drafting, writing, rewriting, and polishing. As a shrewd politician and literary genius, Lincoln's writings range from amusing to astonishing. Wilson delves into the surviving pages of a notebook from Lincoln's teenage years when he wrote: 'Abraham Lincoln, his hand and his pen, he will be good, but god knows when.' He also dissects the president's best known writings, such as the Gettysburg Address, his farewell speech to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Lincoln's Sword gives readers the impression they are standing at Lincoln's elbow as he struggles word by word to communicate his thoughts. Incredibly detailed and researched, the book offers serious Lincoln students a peek inside the president's head. Wilson, the co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College, makes liberal use of historical documents to illustrate Lincoln's writing process and his ability to sway public opinion. He shows that by the time Lincoln was assassinated his pen was truly mightier than any sword.

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