The Fiery Trial
Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
Winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in History, the Bancroft Prize, and the Lincoln Prize: from a master historian, the story of Lincoln's—and the nation's—transformation through the crucible of slavery and emancipation.
In this landmark work of deep scholarship and insight, Eric Foner gives us the definitive history of Lincoln and the end of slavery in America. Foner begins with Lincoln's youth in Indiana and Illinois and follows the trajectory of his career across an increasingly tense and shifting political terrain from Illinois to Washington, D.C. Although “naturally anti-slavery” for as long as he can remember, Lincoln scrupulously holds to the position that the Constitution protects the institution in the original slave states. But the political landscape is transformed in 1854 when the Kansas-Nebraska Act makes the expansion of slavery a national issue.
A man of considered words and deliberate actions, Lincoln navigates the dynamic politics deftly, taking measured steps, often along a path forged by abolitionists and radicals in his party. Lincoln rises to leadership in the new Republican Party by calibrating his politics to the broadest possible antislavery coalition. As president of a divided nation and commander in chief at war, displaying a similar compound of pragmatism and principle, Lincoln finally embraces what he calls the Civil War's “fundamental and astounding” result: the immediate, uncompensated abolition of slavery and recognition of blacks as American citizens.
Foner's Lincoln emerges as a leader, one whose greatness lies in his capacity for moral and political growth through real engagement with allies and critics alike. This powerful work will transform our understanding of the nation's greatest president and the issue that mattered most.
- October 2010
- 6.4 × 9.6 in
/ 448 pages
- Territory Rights: Worldwide
Endorsements & Reviews
“A well orchestrated examination of Lincoln’s changing views of slavery, bringing unforeseeable twists and a fresh sense of improbability to a familiar story.” — The 2011 Pulitzer Prize Committee
“Starred Review. Original and compelling….In the vast library on Lincoln, Foner’s book stands out as the most sensible and sensitive reading of Lincoln’s lifetime involvement with slavery and the most insightful assessment of Lincoln’s—and indeed America’s—imperative to move toward freedom lest it be lost. An essential work for all Americans.” — Library Journal
“Do we need yet another book on Lincoln?... Well, yes, we do—if the book is by so richly informed a commentator as Eric Foner. Foner tackles what would seem to be an obvious topic, Lincoln and slavery, and manages to cast new light on it.... Because of his broad-ranging knowledge of the 19th century, Foner is able to provide the most thorough and judicious account of Lincoln's attitudes toward slavery that we have.” — David S. Reynolds, The New York Times Book Review
“While many thousands of books deal with Lincoln and slavery, Eric Foner has written the definitive account of this crucial subject, illuminating in a highly original and profound way the interactions of race, slavery, public opinion, politics, and Lincoln's own character that led to the wholly improbable uncompensated emancipation of some four million slaves. Even seasoned historians will acquire fresh and new perspectives from reading The Fiery Trial.” — David Brion Davis, author of Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World
Also by Eric Foner
Third Edition / Ebook, Downloadable Version
Seagull Third Edition / Paperback
Brief Third Edition / Paperback