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Lincoln as Hero

Lincoln as Hero

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Frank J. Williams


Hardcover (Other formats: E-book)
144 pages, 5 x 8, 10 illustrations

Concise Lincoln Library


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About the Book

Most Americans have considered, and still consider, Abraham Lincoln to be a heroic figure. From his humble beginnings to his leadership of a divided nation during the Civil War to his early efforts in abolishing slavery, Lincoln’s legacy is one of deep personal and political courage. In this unique and concise retelling of many of the key moments and achievements of Lincoln’s life and work, Frank J. Williams explores in detail what it means to be a hero and how Lincoln embodied the qualities Americans look for in their heroes.

            Lincoln as Hero shows how—whether it was as president, lawyer, or schoolboy—Lincoln extolled the foundational virtues of American society. Williams describes the character and leadership traits that define American heroism, including ideas and beliefs, willpower, pertinacity, the ability to communicate, and magnanimity. Using both celebrated episodes and lesser-known anecdotes from Lincoln’s life and achievements, Williams presents a wide-ranging analysis of these traits as they were demonstrated in Lincoln’s rise, starting with his self-education as a young man and moving on to his training and experience as a lawyer, his entry onto the political stage, and his burgeoning grasp of military tactics and leadership.

            Williams also examines in detail how Lincoln embodied heroism in standing against secession and fighting to preserve America’s great democratic experiment. With a focused sense of justice and a great respect for the mandates of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Lincoln came to embrace freedom for the enslaved, and his Emancipation Proclamation led the way for the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery. Lincoln’s legacy as a hero and secular saint was secured when his lifeended by assassination as the Civil War was drawing to a close

            Touching on Lincoln’s humor and his quest for independence, justice, and equality, Williams outlines the path Lincoln took to becoming a great leader and an American hero, showing readers why his heroism is still relevant. True heroes, Williams argues, are successful not just by the standards of their own time but also through achievements that transcend their own eras and resonate throughout history—with their words and actions living on in our minds, if we are imaginative, and in our actions, if we are wise. 

Univeristy Press Books for Public and Secondary Schools 2013 edition


Frank J. Williams, retired chief justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island and a well-known expert on Abraham Lincoln, is the founding chair of the Lincoln Forum and a board member of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including Judging Lincoln, The Emancipation Proclamation: Three Views, and Lincoln Lessons: Reflections on America’s Greatest Leader.


“From a lifetime of studying Abraham Lincoln, Frank Williams has distilled an analysis of the qualities of courage and leadership that marked America’s sixteenth president as a genuine hero. This book offers a sensitive appreciation of Lincoln’s character.”—James McPherson, author of Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief

“We all need heroes in these perilous times, and Frank Williams reminds us of what a good political biography once was—concise, anecdotal, revealing, commanding and reminiscent—minus the drawbacks of hagiography. Abraham Lincoln comes alive in this vivid introduction to the sixteenth president’s legal mind and career, and reminds readers of his flaws and achievements as a politician and wartime president. And, as always, Williams never stints on his insistence concerning the lessons Lincoln’s legacy offers us today.”—Catherine Clinton, Queen's University Belfast

“Frank Williams has done serious Lincoln scholars and Lincoln admirers in general a great service. He has thought carefully and systematically about what the term ‘hero’ means, and he has applied his trademark skills as an analyst and Lincoln expert to investigating how the theme of heroic behavior worked itself out in Lincoln’s life and career. As a result, this book is a valuable resource, well argued and written.”—Brian Dirck, author of Lincoln the Lawyer