The Lincoln Miracle
Inside the Republican Convention that Changed History
Winner of the Harold Holzer Lincoln Forum Book Prize
The leadup to the presidential election of 1860 found America bitterly divided, as the dominant Democratic Party broke up over the intense pressure of slavery, and the six-year-old Republican Party sought a leader who could win. The story of the convention to name the Republican Party’s candidate – eight days that led to Abraham Lincoln’s nomination – makes clear that Lincoln’s extraordinary quest to lead the party might have collapsed, with fatal consequences for the United States of America.
The convention was held in Chicago, although Lincoln himself waited for news from Springfield, far from the heavy drinking, humor, jealousy, political animosities, and angling for power that were the stuff of political life of the times. The Lincoln Miracle: Inside the Republican Convention That Changed History plunges the reader right into the convention, to experience the sights, sounds and smells of Chicago in 1860. The tension-filled maneuvering of the political players and the candidates’ managers echo the forces buffeting the nation — particularly over slavery and Lincoln’s vision for ending it.
With its secretive and sordid horse-trading, the convention allows us to see Lincoln’s strengths as a political strategist. His plan played out perfectly against long odds, thanks to the hard work of friends whose extraordinary loyalty he had the gift of cultivating. The Lincoln Miracle opens a window on the tremendous political forces tearing America apart as it lurched toward the bloody and catastrophic Civil War.
Published by Grove Atlantic
Praise for The Lincoln Miracle
It is hard to imagine that any aspect of Abraham Lincoln’s life is understudied, but Edward Achorn has found one. The Lincoln Miracle offers a gripping account of the critical days in May 1860 when the underdog Lincoln snatched the Republican presidential nomination and ascended to the verge of national power . . . A provocative addition to the canon.
— Roger Lowenstein, Wall Street Journal
An in-depth examination of Abraham Lincoln’s successful quest for the Republican presidential nomination at the convention of 1860 . . . Beautifully written, filled with vivid and easily digested prose . . . Achorn deftly lays out the personas, demographics and rivalries that shaped the nominating contest and the 1860 election . . . More than 150 years after Lincoln’s assassination, the embers of civil war still glow. The Lincoln Miracle is relevant reading indeed.—Lloyd Green, Guardian
An exhaustively researched and detailed narrative of the ‘Lincoln Miracle’ . . . The Lincoln Miracle should stand as the definitive account of this epochal political moment in American history.”—Shelf Awareness, (Starred Review)
Comprehensive and often riveting . . . Offers sharp assessments of Lincoln’s rivals for the nomination . . . A dramatic and well-informed study of political sausage-making.
—Publishers Weekly, (Starred Review)
In 1860, long before American political conventions became quadrennial television spectacles with carefully orchestrated foregone conclusions designed largely to whip up enthusiasm among party faithful, the nascent Republican Party convened in Chicago’s Wigwam convention center with real business to conduct. Achorn follows the drama of that convention day by day, from May 12 through May 19, building on suspense as state delegations wavered back and forth . . . Achorn’s deep and energetic reconstruction of this momentous convention helps put in perspective the present political struggles over the nation’s future.— Booklist, (Starred Review)
Historian Achorn details the raucous, exciting convention and the behind-the-scenes dealings that exemplified 19th-century conventions . . . This detailed account of the convention takes the boisterous proceedings day-by-day, giving readers an in-depth look at the convention that nominated Lincoln. This finely grained and well-written account will appeal to readers interested in Lincoln or American presidential and political history.