The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom

The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom

From New York Times bestselling historian H. W. Brands, the epic struggle over slavery as embodied by John Brown and Abraham Lincoln, two men with radically different views on how moral people must act when their democracy countenances evil.

John Brown was a charismatic and deeply religious man who heard the God of the Old Testament speaking to him, telling him to destroy slavery by any means. In 1854, when Congress opened Kansas territory to slavery, Brown raised a band of followers to wage war against the institution--his men tore proslavery settlers from their homes and hacked them to death with broadswords. Three years later Brown and his men assaulted the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, hoping to arm slaves with weapons for the coming race war that would cleanse the nation of slavery once and for all.

Brown's violence pointed ambitious Illinois lawyer and former office-holder Abraham Lincoln toward a different solution to slavery: politics. A member of the moderate wing of the new, antislavery Republican Party, he spoke cautiously and dreamed big, plotting his path to Washington and perhaps the White House. Yet Lincoln's caution couldn't preserve him from the vortex of violence Brown set in motion. Arrested and sentenced to death, Brown's righteous dignity on the way to the gallows led many in the North to see him as a martyr to liberty. Southerners responded in anger and horror that a terrorist was made into a saint. Lincoln shrewdly threaded the needle of the fracturing country and won election as president, still preaching moderation.

But the time for moderation had passed, and as the nation careened toward war Lincoln would see his central faith, that democracy can resolve its moral crises peacefully, face the ultimate test. Master storyteller H. W. Brands narrates in thrilling fashion how two men confronted America's gravest scourge in the moments before the nation's darkest hour.

Title:The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom
ISBN:9780385544009
Format Type:

    The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom Reviews

  • Faith

    I usually find that dual biographies don’t work very well, but in this case it was very interesting to see how the end of slavery came about by the opposite approaches of Abraham Lincoln and John Br...

  • Lorna

    The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom by H.W. Brands was a riveting dual biography of John Brown and Abraham Lincoln and the period of hist...

  • Joseph

    Did you ever read one of those books where, when you got to the end, you said to yourself, "that's it??!!" This book was one of those kind. The narrative was brisk and engaging; above all, Mr. Brands ...

  • Brittany

    Structure/Formatting 5/5I seem to have a tendency to love dual biographies. I've read some that are done better than others, and this one is set up in the way that I seem to enjoy most (fairly chronol...

  • Casey Wheeler

    This book is a dual biography of specific time periods in the lives of John Brown and Abraham Lincoln. The book is well researched and well written as I have come to expect of the author as I have rea...

  • S. Smith

    This thoroughly researched study of two emblematic giants of U.S. history compares and contrasts the very different -- and differently significant -- actions taken by John Brown and Abraham Lincoln re...

  • Brian Willis

    The latest effort from H.W. Brands is not only a kind of dual biography of John Brown and Abraham Lincoln; in a very real sense, it is a dual biography of abolitionism and emancipation.I had not read ...

  • Anne

    "When were the good and the brave ever in a majority?" - ThoreauOther mid-19th century quotes plucked out for this book: "When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they ma...

  • Jeffrey (Akiva) Savett

    Five stars! Despite its awful title!I should have known I’d love this book; many years ago, I read Brands’s fine Franklin biography, subtitled interestingly enough, “The First American.” Drawn...

  • Tom Glaser

    I listened to a podcast interview with the author because I'd started to watch James McBride's The Good Lord Bird on Showtime and wondered whether Ethan Hawke's character was anything like the real Jo...