The Last Best Hope of Earth: Abraham Lincoln and the Promise of America

by Mark E. Neely Jr.

Paperback, 1995




Harvard University Press (1995), Edition: First Edition, Thus, 320 pages


"Mark R. Neely, Jr., provides for the general reader the first compact biography of Abraham Lincoln based on new scholarship. There is no comparable, succinct work on this nation's greatest president." "The Last Best Hope of Earth vividly recaptures the central place of politics in Lincoln's life. In Illinois, Lincoln was an established and prosperous lawyer, married to a refined and educated southern belle, and the father of four boys. Throughout his life, however, politics remained his first love. In Neely's depiction of Lincoln, power was never sought for its own sake. Having triumphed over the hardscrabble circumstances of his youth in Kentucky and Indiana, Lincoln, early in his political career, tied his ambition to the search for solutions to the economic underdevelopment of the American West. And in the last eleven years of his life, Lincoln's political ambitions became yoked to a fierce nationalism and a keen moral purpose - the preservation of the Union and the demise of slavery. Lincoln could not remember a time when he did not hate slavery, or revere the federal system. He made his position clear in the decade leading up to his presidential election campaign, and a civil war erupted." "Through Neely's eyes we see the growth of this president's advanced ideas about military strategy, despite their price in blood; his husbanding of the resources of the home front, regardless of its cost in national treasure; and his complex defense of the Constitution, notwithstanding a momentary loss of civil liberties. We also see Lincoln's steadfast dedication to the Emancipation Proclamation, while the fate of the republic and the future of four million black Americans hung in the balance." "Richly illustrated, nuanced and accessible, written with attention to the age in which Lincoln lived, yet ever alert to universal moral questions, this is a portrait of Lincoln as an extraordinary man in his own time and ours."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member estamm
This is an excellent short biography of Lincoln. As a '100 essential' book, however, I was expecting to be blown away, but I wasn't. If someone wants to learn a good deal about Lincoln in a 200 page biography, this would certainly be an excellent book to get. If you have already read numerous biographies about Lincoln, this does not really add anything new, and this could be skipped without really missing anything.… (more)
LibraryThing member sgerbic
Reviewed Feb 2007 Nice biography that focuses mainly on Lincoln’s Presidency. Neely almost ignores anything that does not directly relate such as his relationship with his wife and children. Neely explains that with the rise of psychohistory...there is more interest in Lincoln’s early life and intimate home and less on the “crucial half-decade.” This book has tons of pictures and documents, unfortunately in the case of handwritten documents, Neely does not include a typed transcript of what the reader is trying to decipher. The last chapter named “fate” I felt is badly named, Neely makes it ghostly. Neely does a great job explaining why Lincoln did what he did, construption, the Emancipation Proclamation ect... I love Neely’s conclusion, Hugh McCullough who is Secretary of the Treasury writes after Lincoln is assassinated, “my hope is, and my belief is, that this great National calamity will teach the world a lesson, which will be the most beneficial character to our Republican form of Government, that it will show that the assassination of our Chief Magistrate does not affect in the slightest degree the permanence of our institutions or the regular administration of the laws; that an event that would have shaken any other country to the centre does not even stagger for a moment a Government like ours.” 9-2007… (more)
LibraryThing member JBD1
Decent, but not as good as David Herbert Donald's.


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