by Gore Vidal

An excellent historical novel that begins after Lincoln's election to President but a couple weeks before his inauguration and traces events in Washington D.C. through the activities of Lincoln, his cabinet members, his family, his secretary, and a boy who works at a pharmacy. It ends with Lincoln's long overdue assassination.

It gives a lot of insight into the history of the War of Northern Aggression and life in the capitol of the North. Vidal shows Lincoln was a clever politician and a principled tyrant.

"I assume that this comes under your 'inherent powers?" Seward was always amused by Lincoln's solemn attempts to rationalize such illegalities as the removal of two million dollars from the Treasury or the confiscation of all Western Union files. ...
Seward interrupted the old man without even a show of courtesy. "Mr. Lincoln, you are willing to arrest and to hold men indefinitely without ever charging them with any offense?"
"That's about it, Mr. Seward." Lincoln's face was uncommonly serene. ...
"But you have no authority to allow the military to arrest anyone they like and to hold them without due process of law."
"Plainly, I think that I do have that right because that is what I am about to do." Slowly, the coiled figure straightened out. Then Lincoln addressed General Scott. "Telegraph the order to General Butler."
"Yes, sir," Scott rang a bell. An orderly entered, received his instructions from Scott; and then departed with the order to overthrow the first rule of law—habeas corpus. (152—153)

For the first time, Seward understood the nature of Lincoln's political genius. He had been able to make himself absolute dictator without ever letting anyone suspect that he was anything more than a joking, timid backwoods lawyer, given to fits of humility in the presence of all the strutting military and political peacocks that flocked about him. (460)

Year Read: 1998

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