It is 1856 and the city of Springfield is gripped in scandal. A man lies dead in his office, murdered - so says the fever pitch of public opinion - by his adulterous wife, caught in the throes of an affair with the man's own nephew. The state's attorney is armed with gossip and aiming for indictment. The accused woman's prospects are grim - until a beardless, exceptionally tall young lawyer strides into the courtroom and joins the defense.
Ladies and gentlemen, Abraham Lincoln has come to the rescue.
Julie M. Fenster's The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder and the Making of a Great President finds the 16th President in his formative years, as a lawyer building a practice from difficult cases like debt collection and the dregs of the Springfield legal system. Over the course of nine months in 1856, the young Lincoln observes the birth of the fledgling Republican Party and travels the country on their behalf, speaking out against Southern threats of secession, and balancing the lure of politics with the lurid details of a law practice back home.
Finding a new angle to observe Lincoln is no easy task - he is, perhaps, the single most written-about figure in all of American history. Fenster, however, has mined journals, newspapers, memoirs, and Lincoln's collected legal papers to reach back into history and re-create the days and weeks in which a great leader began to find his voice.
Julie M. Fenster is the co-author (with Douglas Brinkley) of The New York Times bestseller Parish Priest. Her books include the award-winning Ether Day and Race of the Century. A regular contributor to the American Heritage, Fenster has also written for The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. She lives in Syracuse, New York.
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