An intimate study of Abraham Lincoln’s powerful vision of democracy, which guided him through the Civil War and is still relevant today—by a best-selling historian and three-time winner of the Lincoln Prize
"It is altogether fitting and proper that, with this meditation on democracy and its most subtle defender, Allen Guelzo again demonstrates that he is today’s most profound interpreter of this nation’s history and significance." —George F. Will
Abraham Lincoln grappled with the greatest crisis of democracy that has ever confronted the United States. While many books have been written about his temperament, judgment, and steady hand in guiding the country through the Civil War, we know less about Lincoln’s penetrating ideas and beliefs about democracy, which were every bit as important as his character in sustaining him through the crisis.
Allen C. Guelzo, one of America’s foremost experts on Lincoln, captures the president’s firmly held belief that democracy was the greatest political achievement in human history. He shows how Lincoln’s deep commitment to the balance between majority and minority rule enabled him to stand firm against secession while also committing the Union to reconciliation rather than recrimination in the aftermath of war. In bringing his subject to life as a rigorous and visionary thinker, Guelzo assesses Lincoln’s actions on civil liberties and his views on race, and explains why his vision for the role of government would have made him a pivotal president even if there had been no Civil War. Our Ancient Faith gives us a deeper understanding of this endlessly fascinating man and shows how his ideas are still sharp and relevant more than 150 years later.
About the Author
ALLEN C. GUELZO is Senior Research Scholar at the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University. He is the author of several books about the Civil War and early-nineteenth-century American history. He is a recipient of the Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize for Military History and has been awarded the Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize three times. He lives in Pennsylvania.
“Brim[s] with worthy insights and well-selected quotations . . . Writing in the shadow of what he knows are despairing political times—the brink of a presidential contest that few seem to want—Allen Guelzo offers us the solace of Abraham Lincoln’s belief in democracy . . . Thus his gift to readers: ‘I offer this man’s example.’” —Roger Lowenstein, The Wall Street Journal
"It is impossible to read Our Ancient Faith without feeling that Guelzo wrote this book as much for himself as for us, to fortify himself for the 2024 election battle to come; and to share an illuminating and ennobling story with a people short on hope and—just as important and just as troubling—perspective." —David Shirbman, The Boston Globe
“As the subject of thousands of studies, Lincoln is one of American history’s most written-about individuals. It is therefore a welcome surprise to read such fresh insights as Guelzo musters here . . . In an era when democracy’s death is shouted from the front page of seemingly every U.S. newspaper, it is comforting to read that Abraham Lincoln, at least, thought the effort to maintain it was not in vain.” —Booklist
"Here is a penetrating look at both the seeds of American democracy and their greatest cultivator." —The New Criterion
“Shines a new light on Lincoln’s powerful vision for true democracy.” — Washington Examiner
“Remarkably compact and accessible . . . sees Lincoln’s attributes as well as his shortcomings as clearly as anyone I have ever read on the subject.” — California Review of Books