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Lincoln and Reconstruction

Lincoln and Reconstruction

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John C. Rodrigue


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Concise Lincoln Library


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About the Book

Although Abraham Lincoln dominates the literature on the American Civil War, he remains less commonly associated with reconstruction. Previous scholarly works touch on Lincoln and reconstruction, but they tend either to speculate on what Lincoln might have done after the war had he not been assassinated or to approach his reconstruction plans merely as a means of winning the war. In this thought-provoking study, John C. Rodrigue offers a succinct but significant survey of Lincoln’s wartime reconstruction initiatives while providing a fresh interpretation of the president’s plans for postwar America. 

Revealing that Lincoln concerned himself with reconstruction from the earliest days of his presidency, Rodrigue details how Lincoln’s initiatives unfolded, especially in the southern states where they were attempted. He explores Lincoln’s approach to various issues relevant to reconstruction, including slavery, race, citizenship, and democracy; his dealings with Congressional Republicans, especially the Radicals; his support for and eventual abandonment of colonization; his dealings with the border states; his handling of the calls for negotiations with the Confederacy as a way of reconstructing the Union; and his move toward emancipation and its implications for his approach to reconstruction.

As the Civil War progressed, Rodrigue shows, Lincoln’s definition of reconstruction transformed from the mere restoration of the seceded states to a more fundamental social, economic, and political reordering of southern society and of the Union itself. Based on Lincoln’s own words and writings as well as an extensive array of secondary literature, Rodrigue traces the evolution of Lincoln’s thinking on reconstruction, providing new insight into a downplayed aspect of his presidency.



John C. Rodrigue is  a professor of history at Stonehill College in North Easton, Massachusetts. He is the author of several books and other scholarly works, including Reconstruction in the Cane Fields: From Slavery to Free Labor in Louisiana’s Sugar Parishes, 1862–1880.



Lincoln and Reconstruction is a forcefully and intriguingly argued work on a topic that remains relevant and controversial.”—H-Net Review

Lincoln and Reconstruction is an enjoyable book.”—The Federal Lawyer
“Readers interested in the Civil War era will likely find John C. Rodrigue’s slim volume Lincoln and Reconstruction to be an intriguing study.”—Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“Densely packed with information, the general public will find Lincoln and Reconstruction informative and rewarding, although somewhat challenging to read. Scholars will appreciate the sophisticated and insightful overview Rodrigue provides to this very complex and difficult topic. In particular, scholars will find Lincoln and Reconstruction a useful book to assign undergraduate students.”—Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society

“Author John C. Rodrigue has composed a thoughtful, critical, and detailed analysis of Lincoln's views and efforts, noting that Lincoln concerned himself with the challenges of reconstruction from the inception of the Civil War. Lincoln and Reconstruction is an excellent pick especially for public and college library American History or Civil War shelves.”The Midwest Book Review

“Lincoln’s plan for Reconstruction is generally shunted off to a single chapter or less in broader histories of the period. John Rodrigue gives the subject the full attention it deserves in this well-researched and carefully argued book.”—James Oakes, author of Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States

“Rodrigue has provided a thoughtful, rewarding, and essential contribution to the study of Reconstruction. With sharp analytical insight, he argues that Lincoln’s role in defining Reconstruction was fundamental to its goals and politics. This examination, with its compelling analysis and painstaking research, is certain to challenge our understanding of Lincoln’s ‘practical statesmanship.’” —Orville Vernon Burton, author of The Age of Lincoln

“Sometimes a book comes along which analyzes and explains a difficult and complex subject in a clear, concise, and comprehensive manner. Such a book is Lincoln and Reconstruction. Though the president was murdered before the full unveiling of a reconstruction policy, the author, to his immense credit, does not rely on speculation, and gives us Lincoln’s actual thoughts and conduct that fairly describe his evolving views on the subject. To this author, Lincoln’s leadership demonstrates that partisanship and political ruthlessness can be used to advance the highest ideals—reunion and freedom.”—Frank J. Williams, retired chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and founding chair of the Lincoln Forum

"It is clear that Rodrigue has written a carefully researched, thoughtful, and valuable book that must be consulted by scholars in the future." —Paul Escott, Florida Historical Quarterly 

"All readers will gain fresh insights from Rodrigue’s analysis of the enduring historical controversies over Lincoln and Reconstruction." —Joseph G. Dawson Ill, Texas A&M University

“Rodrigue takes the reader on a journey through Lincoln’s presidency, highlighting critical moments that led the president to rethink how a war fought to restore the Union might actually be used to reconstruct a “new nation . . . dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Lincoln and Reconstruction casts Lincoln as a leader willing to rethink his positions on matters of emancipation and racial equality but uncertain about how to adequately transform the postbellum South socially and economically. If Lincoln, as W. E. B. Du Bois once wrote, was “big enough to be inconsistent,” Rodrigue’s concise account helps us better understand how those inconsistencies reflected the president’s political and intellectual evolution.” —Keith Hebert, Civil War History, The Kent State University Press