Thursday, November 13, 2014

Book Review: Lincoln in the World by Kevin Peraino

Lincoln in the World: The Making of a Statesman and the Dawn of American PowerLincoln in the World: The Making of a Statesman and the Dawn of American Power by Kevin Peraino
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The role that Abraham Lincoln had in transforming the presidency has primarily been viewed in the realm of domestic and of war powers while neglecting his contributions to the presidency in the role of foreign affairs.  In "Lincoln in the World", author Kevin Peraino aimed to explore Lincoln's dealing with the international community while engaging in a civil war that threatened to involve other nations.

Peraino divided his book into six sections, five of which he compared Lincoln to an individual in which he went up against on a particular problem in a matter of foreign policy and sixth in which the 'duality'  of Lincoln's foreign policy was examined in the career of his private secretary John Hay.  The five individuals Peraino matched up against Lincoln were his law partner Billy Herndon, his Secretary of State William Seward, Prime Minister  Lord Palmerston, journalist Karl Marx, and Emperor Napoleon III.  While the list of individuals Peraino selected seem to promise a quality read, unfortunately the results were mixed.

The selects involving Herndon and Seward were Peraino's attempt to first show Lincoln's developing thoughts in foreign policy involving the United States while the latter was a rehashing of working relationship of Lincoln and his Secretary of State.  While laudable in attempting show Lincoln's evolving thoughts on foreign policy, Peraino seemed to be reaching in Herndon's section and sounded second-rate while covering Seward, especially in comparison to other recent books.  Once Peraino focused on the international scene, the book gained momentum as he compared and contrasted Lincoln with Palmerston and Napoleon III.  While examining how Palmerston and Napoleon III lived and related to the world was fascinating and were the highlight of the book especially as they dealt with an incorrect assessment of Lincoln and Seward's working relationship as well underestimating Lincoln.  The worst stumble of the book was Peraino's inclusion of Karl Marx as a way to bring in Lincoln's attempts to shape opinion for the North on foreign populace as well as Marx indirectly affecting Lincoln's decision to emancipate the South's slaves.  Peraino's examination of John Hay's diplomatic career was an odd conclusion and was an attempt to show how Lincoln changed the nation's foreign policy, but came off as more sentimental then proving an argument.

"Lincoln in the World" had a promising premise, unfortunately Peraino did deliver in both argument and overall structure giving the reader a puzzling read that is only saved by the biographies and philosophies of other world leaders both political and intellectual.

I received a free paperback edition of this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

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