“[W]e are indebted to Lewis Lehrman for focusing our attention on what the angels have always known...Now, Lehrman has given us in Lincoln at Peoria a full-length treatment of the 1854 speech that marked Lincoln's initial confrontation with the fateful question of slavery expansion...The subtitle of Lew Lehrman's book is The Turning Point. The Peoria speech was a turning point in Lincoln's life and career because it represented a turning point in the life of the nation...Lincoln at Peoria is a salutary, forceful reminder of the future president's powerful entry into the political struggle that led into the Civil War. The importance Lehrman finds in the Peoria speech cannot be exaggerated.... Lehrman not only elaborates, carefully and precisely, its political and philosophical doctrines, but he traces their presence through the other speeches, as well as into the presidency. It is a book on the whole of Lincoln... As Lew Lehrman so convincingly shows, there is nothing virtually present at Gettysburg that is not actually present at Peoria... It is part of Lehrman's achievement to make us aware of the extent of what Lincoln accomplished at Peoria...We are greatly indebted to Lewis Lehrman's superb book for helping us to understand why no list, however short, of the greatest speeches of all time could omit Lincoln at Peoria.”
“Part exhaustive survey of Abraham Lincoln scholarship, part close reading of an underappreciated Lincoln speech, part lively recreation of Illinois's antebellum political climate, and part brief for reinstating Lincoln as Great Emancipator, Lincoln at Peoria argues that the principles and skills that would equip Lincoln to end slavery in the United States came together in the fall of 1854, when he delivered a speech so powerful that it set the country on the road to emancipation and unification. In clear, businesslike prose, Lehrman persuasively establishes that the main ideas that would animate Lincoln from 1854 to his inauguration as president were in place by the time he delivered a three-hour speech against the Kansas-Nebraska Act at Peoria, Illinois, on October 16, 1854.”
“Lewis E. Lehrman, a cofounder of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, has long had a passion for American history and particularly for Lincoln. In this volume, he draws renewed attention to the earliest of Lincoln's mature antislavery speeches.”
“In his 2008 book, “Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point,” Lewis Lehrman - a scholar of some note - writes that Lincoln's Peoria speech ranks with his best. 'To understand President Abraham Lincoln, one must understand the Peoria speech ... It forms the foundation of his politics and principles ... It is a rhetorical and literary masterpiece” that “ dramatically altered the political career of the speaker and, as a result, the history of America.'”
“Lewis Lehrman's masterly study of Abraham Lincoln's 1854 speech in Peoria provides a revealing look at Lincoln's evolution from small-town lawyer to a stirring speaker, an adept politician, and, finally, an extraordinary statesman. Implicitly, Lehrman's book is about the moral and spiritual underpinnings of the United States.”
"For twenty years, Mr. Lehrman studied the 1854 crisis in American politics. He prodigiously searched both primary and secondary sources whenever he was not engaged in his business enterprises. The result is a masterpiece in both literary and historical accomplishments. His interpretations fill a noticeable void in Abraham Lincolnís life which hitherto has not been explored in such minute detail...."
Lehrman is judicious in his judgments about the meaning of the speech for the 21st century, and makes some wise and unexpected observations. ''The conventional wisdom of American politics suggests that elections should not turn on moral issues and that single-issue candidates cannot prevail in presidential contests, '' he writes. ''Lincoln thought otherwise''.
Lehrman, a much respected public intellectual and advocate for the teaching of history, is co-chairman of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York. Deep immersion in Lincoln studies has done his own pen no harm, and his final sentence is as deft a tribute to the inscrutable 16th president as has been written: ''Like a luminous comet, he had for a twinkling thrust himself before our eyes, the eyes of the world, there to vanish into the deep whence he came.''
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"Mr. Lehrman wisely lets Lincoln's own words carry the story. The man we encounter is not the abolitionist he would become, although there are clear indications that this likely would be the course he would follow. Rather, we find a conservative, strict constructionist lawyer who used facts and precedents from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to demolish the arguments Douglas made for the law he so desperately hoped would settle the question of slavery forever."
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"Lehrman's examination of Lincoln's Peoria speech and the events surrounding it is a missing piece in the vast puzzle of Lincoln scholarship....Lincoln at Peoria is an indispensable study on Lincoln's rise to greatness. It is fascinating and revelatory, and imbued with the care of a historian with a deep respect and reverence for Ė and adherence to Ė the historical record. One cannot imagine this book being improved upon."
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"The Peoria speech heralded Lincoln's reentry into politics and catapulted him into the national debate over slavery. Yet, until now, there has been no detailed study of this speech. Lehrman has undertaken a thorough analysis of the content, rhetoric, and consequences of the address. Of somewhat narrow scope in the vast world of Lincoln scholarship, this is still a valuable book for anyone seeking to understand the future Great Emancipator and his turbulent times."
"As Lehrman deftly explains, the Peoria speech was the foundation of Lincolnís political ideology and rhetoric for the rest of his life: its influence is palpable in his debates with Douglas in 1858, his Cooper Union Speech in 1860, and many of his ideas and policies as president toward slavery. Lincoln in Peoria traces the context, rhetoric, and consequences of that utterance and its place in Lincolnís rise to greatness. Lehrman spent 20 years researching and writing this book, and it shows. Lincoln at Peoria will not easily be surpassed as the best account of this speech."
"Lewis E. Lehrman's Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point fleshes out the most important turning point of Lincoln's political life - his October 1854 speech in which he opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the extension of slavery into the territories. Lincoln had given up politics and returned to private life. Aroused, he emerged as a leader of the anti-slavery cause and in this speech set forth the principles that took him to the White House."