Author: Jason H. Silverman
Publisher: SIU Press
Category: Biography & Autobiography
Between 1840 and 1860, as Abraham Lincoln pursued his law career, more than four and a half million citizens of other countries became residents of the United States. The annexation of Texas and the outcome of the Mexican War meant that hundreds of thousands of Mexicans had become Americans, and a huge influx of newcomers arrived from northern and western Europe, while a smaller number came from China. Although some Americans sought to make immigration more difficult and to curtail the rights afforded to immigrants, Lincoln advocated for full protection of the rights of all legal residents. In this succinct study, Jason H. Silverman investigates Lincoln's evolving personal, professional, and political relationships with the wide variety of immigrant groups he encountered throughout his life, revealing the ways in which Lincoln differed from his contemporaries in his acceptance and interaction with these newcomers. From an early age, Silverman shows, Lincoln developed an awareness of and a tolerance for different peoples and their cultures. While no doubt a man of his time, Lincoln nevertheless refused to let his environment blind him to the strengths of diversity. His travels at a young age to the port of New Orleans exposed Lincoln to the sights, sounds, and tastes of a world unlike any he had ever seen and established in him a lifelong empathy for the foreign-born. Throughout his legal and political career, he displayed an affinity for immigrants, especially those of German, Irish, Jewish, and Scandinavian descent. Recognizing the need for immigrant labor, Lincoln saw that America could be a land of opportunity for newcomers. Consequently, he opposed the Know Nothing Party and the antiforeign attitudes of those in his own Republican Party. Revealing how immigrants affected Lincoln's presidential policies, Silverman details the importance of German support to Lincoln's 1860 presidential victory, his appointment of political generals of varying ethnicities, his reliance on an immigrant for the literal rules of war, and the issues that these and other dealings created for him. The first book to examine Lincoln and the place of the immigrant in America's society and economy, Silverman's pioneering work offers a rare new perspective on the renowned sixteenth president.