“Lincoln’s Mentors,” by Michael J. Gerhardt. Gerhardt’s book explores a very important time in Abraham Lincoln’s life, 1849 to 1861.
The purpose of the book is to discuss how Lincoln was mentored and by whom that put him on the path that led him to becoming the 16th president of the United States.
The author states in his introduction that he will answer the question of how a man with only two years’ experience in Congress became one of America’s greatest presidents.
Lincoln served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1846 to 1848. He returned to Springfield a defeated man whose political career was finished before it even started. He was so defeated by his failure that friends worried about his mental health.
Lincoln did what he did the first time he ran for office. He started to read. He read books specifically about topics that were important. He rarely read fiction.
Lincoln’s mentors were men who knew him and men who did not know him.
Some of the men he looked to as mentors he never even met. He read their writings and studied their work.
Even though he opposed Andrew Jackson for president, Jackson was the first president to give Lincoln a national office. Jackson is considered one of Lincoln’s mentors.
One of his other mentors included Henry Clay. He considered himself a “Clay Whig.” He voted for Clay instead of Jackson. But after 10 years of supporting the Whigs and never being supported in return, Lincoln realized the Whig party was on its downward spiral.
The rest of the mentors include Zachary Taylor, U.S. president. John Todd Stuart, Mary Todd’s cousin, was a mentor whom Lincoln met while working as a surveyor in Sangamon County. Stuart is the person who introduced Lincoln to Taylor.
Finally, there was Orville Browning, a friend and rival of Lincoln’s. Even though they competed, Lincoln repeatedly turned to Browning for advice.
Browning and Stuart actually advised Lincoln on his personal life and tried to keep him from marrying Mary Todd.
Browning was one of the people who helped found the national Republican Party as well as the Illinois Republican Party. In fact, Browning’s advice was so important to Lincoln, he continued to follow it after being elected as president.
This book is a good read for those who need to see that failure can lead to greater success depending on how you apply yourself. It is also a great study of how a man became so famous as a great president when no one thought he would ever achieve that goal. It is also a book for people who admire Lincoln and see him as the man he was, flawed but persistent.
A man willing to work with his political rivals and willing to learn from those he respected but fought against.