A good read in honor of a "young rail splitter's" birthday


Rich Lowry, Editor of National Review and The New York Times bestselling author of Legacy, unveils the essence of Abraham Lincoln in his most recent book, Lincoln Unbound: How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream—And How We Can Do It Again.

In the book (published June 2013), Lowry observes Lincoln's background and strives to discuss the origin of his ideals. By simply looking at Lincoln for who he is, Lowry unchains Lincoln from the modern day misconception of Lincoln as a progressive. He shows how Lincoln’s principles saved our nation during the Civil War and argues that if Republicans reclaim these ideals this can happen again.

Lowry shows the events and circumstances that made Lincoln great by taking his readers on a journey beginning in Lincoln's childhood up through his political development and leadership. For example, Lowry quotes Lincoln the moment he earned his first dollar saying, “The world seemed wider and fairer before me. I was a more hopeful and confident being from that time.”

However, Lowry also describes another learning experience of Lincoln’s that left a bad taste in his mouth and helped to form who he was. In Lincoln’s teen years his family struggled financially. Thomas Lincoln, Abraham’s father, began hiring Abraham out to do odd jobs and Thomas would take the money. Lowry exaplains that this was Thomas’s right until Abraham was 21.

But Abraham saw this as an injustice. In later speeches Abraham recounts this memory claiming that he too was a slave. In Lincoln Unbound, Lowry explains how these two events impressed upon Abraham a few of the main principles that influenced his politics: the importance of hard work, property rights and the injustice of slavery.

Throughout the book, Lowry describes the struggles of the Civil War showing how Lincoln was a principled leader. Many books discuss the brilliance of Lincoln’s leadership such as The Age of Lincoln and the Art of American Power by William Nester, where Nester claims that Lincoln was a “master of American power,” a point on which Lowry would agree. Lowry identifies the brilliance of Lincoln’s political leadership as “how uncompromising he was in his ultimate goal and how compromising he was in the course of getting there.”

But in Lincoln Unbound, Lowry proposes that Americans can apply Lincoln's methodology today to change the direction of America the same way Lincoln changed the course of America in the Civil War. Lowry argues that Republicans need to “commit themselves to that larger purpose, a society of equality and opportunity where all can rise.”

In Lincoln Unbound, Lowry defends Lincoln against 21st century progressives. Although Lowry doesn’t believe that Lincoln is entirely in line with either modern Republicans or Democrats, he claims that Lincoln is more in line with Republicans.

In the introduction to the book Lowry reacts to progressives such as President Obama who he believes boil Lincoln down “to his support for infrastructure projects” and misquote Lincoln to push progressive agendas. “Lincoln wouldn’t have taken to progressivism’s view that the Founding was an inconvenient anachronism, or to its contempt for the idea of natural law,” he writes.

One thing that would have improved the book would have been for Lowry to acknowledge other writers, such as Nester, who have published previous works on similar ideas. Overall however, Lincoln Unbound is a truly eye-opening book, both retrospectively and from a modern standpoint, appealing to long-time Lincoln fans and those who know relatively little of the excellent statesman.

The book not only frees Lincoln from being characterized as a progressive, but offers hope for Americans today. It is sure to influence many more Lincoln-fans, and hopefully leaders, for years to come.