May 13, 2016

Sidney Blumenthal

Harvard Book Store and Mass Humanities welcome senior adviser to Hillary Clinton SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL for a discussion of his latest book, A Self-Made Man: The Political Life of Abraham Lincoln, 1809–1849.


The first of a multi-volume history of Lincoln as a political genius—from his obscure beginnings to his presidency, assassination, and the overthrow of his post-Civil War dreams of Reconstruction. This first volume traces Lincoln from his painful youth, describing himself as “a slave,” to his emergence as the man we recognize as Abraham Lincoln.

From his youth as a “newsboy,” a voracious newspaper reader, Lincoln became a free thinker, reading Tom Paine, as well as Shakespeare and the Bible, and studying Euclid to sharpen his arguments as a lawyer.

Lincoln’s anti-slavery thinking began in his childhood amidst the Primitive Baptist antislavery dissidents in backwoods Kentucky and Indiana, the roots of his repudiation of Southern Christian pro-slavery theology. Intensely ambitious, he held political aspirations from his earliest years. Obsessed with Stephen Douglas, his political rival, he battled him for decades. Successful as a circuit lawyer, Lincoln built his team of loyalists. Blumenthal reveals how Douglas and Jefferson Davis acting together made possible Lincoln’s rise.

Blumenthal describes a socially awkward suitor who had a nervous breakdown over his inability to deal with the opposite sex. His marriage to the upper class Mary Todd was crucial to his social aspirations and his political career. Blumenthal portrays Mary as an asset to her husband, a rare woman of her day with strong political opinions.

Blumenthal’s robust portrayal is based on prodigious research of Lincoln’s record and of the period and its main players. It reflects both Lincoln’s time and the struggle that consumes our own political debate.

About Author(s)

Sidney Blumenthal is the former assistant and senior adviser to President Bill Clinton, and senior adviser to Hillary Clinton. He has been a national staff reporter for The Washington Post, Washington editor and staff writer for The New Yorker, senior writer for The New Republic, and contributed to numerous additional publications. His books include the bestselling The Clinton Wars, The Rise of the Counter-Establishment, and The Permanent Campaign. Among his films, he was the executive producer of the Academy Award- and Emmy-winning Taxi to the Dark Side.