One could rightly ask, “Can anything new be written about President Lincoln?” and based upon several fine books that have been published in the past 18 months, the answer is a rousing YES! And of those new books, James Simon’s book is one of the best.
Simon’s book is easy to read, well written, and is based upon a long-forgotten struggle between President Lincoln and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. In this struggle we learn much about antebellum America and we can learn a great deal about ourselves and our nation in the process.
Chief Justice Taney was from Maryland, had been a slave owner (by the time he was Chief Justice he had freed all his slaves), and was an educated man of class from a well-respected family. We know Lincoln to be a self-educated man, born in poverty, raised in rural, western America, and an opponent of slavery. Simon shows how both of these great men sought, and fought, within the judiciary and executive branches to preserve the Union as they saw it, even though both men had reached very different conclusions about the proper nature of American government.
The book begins at the beginning of the careers of these two loyal Americans and shows how they developed the ideas they held. In the process Simon exposes us to a world not seen since the 1830s, 40s, 50s and 60s. This highly readable book gives us insight into the minds of northern and southern Americans as the Civil War draws near and is then fought.
This book is a must for the home-schooling family with junior high and high school-aged children. But regardless of where a family decides to educate their children, this book can easily become a vehicle for family discussions about right and wrong, values, ethics, morality in government, and personal loyalty to friends and to a cause. Through this book we can become pupils of Lincoln and Taney, for each has much to offer us in the way of a positive role model.
If I bought just one book a year, this would be the book I would buy this year. It is that good.