The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery Book Review

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The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery serve as a brilliant introduction to the new set of commemorations as Foner not only highlights Lincoln’s progressing thoughts on the issue of slavery but also places the man in an extensive context of America’s most divisive and significant political dispute. However, it is shown that Foner clearly admires Lincoln as he does not hide Lincoln’s many complicities with the status regarding social or political issues or his enthusiasm.

He shows us a man who for the most of his life incorporated the limited political imaginations and social prejudices of Americans. Rather than developing as a destined for greatness, Lincoln in this book portrays as an ambition however for some of the time as a politician and lawyer who is faithful to the Whig Party and fighting to harmonize his moral protest to slavery with his obligation to constitutional government and social peace.

The book “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery” by Eric Foner illustrate the topic of race and slavery at the time of Abraham Lincoln. This book is compelling as to casted a new light on Lincoln and American slavery. Foner provided a mixture of inspired unorthodox and offensive racism of Abram Lincoln’s opinion regarding slavery. The author portrayed a thorough and sensible description of Lincoln’s perspective. My expectations of the book were met as it illustrates Lincoln’s life about his attitude towards antislavery.

I was fascinated while reading each and every chapter of the book as it presents some insightful opinions of Lincoln and also America’s significance to move towards freedom. The thesis of the book is the development of Abraham Lincoln’s ideas and perspectives regarding slavery and to position the anti-slavery movement in a different opinion. This can be evidenced as “his evolving attitude towards slavery.” However, the thing that was difficult to find is the powerful evidence that Lincoln’s radical opinions regarding slavery in reality which changed during his lifetime.

The book begins with Lincoln’s experience of slavery in his youth while he was growing in Indiana and Illinois and follows the course of his political career. Foner’s aims of Lincoln’s transformation from an uncertain country lawyer who was against slavery to a wartime president intended to forever remove the South’s unusual institution is based on three aspects which are Lincoln’s intelligent mind and solid understanding of constitutional laws, his proficiency of the art of the politically feasible and understanding of ebb along with the public opinion, and his natural ability to learn and grow.

The author achieved this aim by writing the captivating story of how Lincoln progressed from advocating moderately compensated liberation and moving back to Africa as a champion of liberation and the civil rights for blacks. However, the author’s own statement of aim “is intended to be both less and more than another biography” (p. xvi). The author has not attempted to submit a complete life of Abraham Lincoln which is less and more is that he wants to find something out of Lincoln’s accurate thinking on slavery at different points but at the same time to decipher what he correctly recognizes as the self-referential structure of Lincoln’s knowledge and also to show how revelation to the developing public opinion and to new company’s of people changed thinking of an individual.

The introduction of the book provides a clear and highly self-aware of a brief outline of where the historiography stands and the way it is rectified. From the beginning, he indicated to avoid any straightforward reference to other historian’s work by examining Lincoln’s speeches and writings. However, a reader seeking to obtain a complete understanding of Lincoln’s life from this book at the same time incorporating as much as can be learned about his opinions of slavery will be let down on the first point and completely delighted with the latter.

Lincoln is showed in the book as rather steady throughout his pre-war life or during it in his extensive theory of slavery. This is the place where Foner prospers by bringing out the nuances and twists involved in taking a clear steady course through changing context. Foner takes a clear Lincoln’s declaration of lasting resistance to slavery as basically unjust and unrepublican and focuses the continuity in his ideas and thoughts that the federal government was quite able, however, not necessarily obliged as the freedom national doctrine to eliminate slavery.

But Foner continues that this was also because of the package of certain limitations which is one contains a prohibition to respect the institution’s legal and constitutional protections, but also a distinct lack of wither outward kindness to free blacks or personal hostility towards the South. Moreover, The Fiery Trial is not a biography and Eric Foner has achieved the desired result by placing Lincoln in the circumstances of the attitudes of those around him. But contradictory, this goes back to the greatness of his individual growth when that circumstance is one of the abolitionist and compelling African-American.

Foner describes that the progress of Lincoln’s view on the matter of slavery transpired in parts because by this period he had experienced some few blacks who enlightened him of his prejudices; in part due to the precise and fearless service of blacks on behalf of the Union and in parts due to the blacks themselves are not concerned is signing up for colonization plan. Due to this change in view of Lincolns showed the basics of why Foner contemplates Lincolns as a great personality because of his ability and willingness to change.

However, some pages after the preface of the book are slow, dull and relatively uninteresting. But when Lincoln was elected as the president the story started to take a turn and the book became more interesting and engaging. Foner’s observations are impressive and brilliant but some of the discussions appear to be semantic, critical or some not required details.

Moreover, the end of the book is the main closure or it can be said as a series of extensive thoughts by the author outlining the picture. It is quite likely for a reader to deliberate about what was achieved other than acquiring a more detailed and subtle understanding of Lincoln’s thinking on slavery and the circumstances of his era. However, in the epilogue, Foner honors Lincoln’s capacity for development, the spirit of his greatness and theorizes that had he not been executed, Abraham Lincoln could have helped to prevent the people’s state of being deprived of a right or privilege and separation of blacks that followed liberation.

In the end, Foner concludes with a quotation “I think we have a purpose to thank God for Abraham Lincoln because of all his imperfections it can acknowledge that he has developed continuously and taken into consideration how slavery had diminished and corrupted the moral sense of the whole country. It is with the utmost of great good luck to have the citizen elect a man whose aim was to grow. There are so many discussions that I agree with in this book and Foner undoubtedly ask many new questions.

However, it is to ponder that if he does not eventually break the historiographical form to the scope that one might have known. This looks particularly impressive that the author has wiped the slate clean in a manner so that the reference of the scholarly debate is left out. We can see the author’s immediate new point for The Fiery Trial in his own contribution of an article on colonization.

All in all, The Fiery Trial gives an outstanding, nuance and challenging description of the great Emancipator’s struggle which is indicated in an extensive possible way which is the slavery. There are no morally or spiritually elevating moment stands not qualified by keen and disengaged observation of the restriction of Lincoln’s ideas or deeds and also no episode which clashes with contemporary assumptions is situated in anything other than correct and true historical context. Even with some warnings about the view of growth, this has to be the first passage of call for both the academic and the non-reader.


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The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery Book Review. (2021, Feb 08). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-fiery-trial-abraham-lincoln-and-american-slavery-book-review/

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