John Steele Gordon reviews for the latest Commentary magazine Rich Lowry’s new biography of Abraham Lincoln. The book, and review, focus much attention on the admirable aspects of Lincoln’s record.

It was entirely through his own efforts that Lincoln rose from agricultural laborer to prosperous and highly respected lawyer. This instilled in him a deep conviction that success in life was a matter of will and that the government’s job was to provide the legal and infrastructural framework within which men would have the best chance to succeed on their own. He wrote to one young man, “I know now how to aid you, save in the assurance of one of mature age, and much severe experience, that you can no fail, if you resolutely determine that you will not.”

Gordon also directly quotes Lowry’s assessment of “Lincoln’s philosophy in a single paragraph.”

Lincoln believed in dynamic capitalism that dissolved old ways of life. He embraced the latest technologies. He thought all men were created equal and deserved the opportunity to make the most of themselves. He urged them to make the effort to do so. He found in the American constitutional system and its free institutions the best possible platform for the realization of this vision. This is the Lincoln that is too often lost, and must be found — to truly understand him and, really, to understand who we are as a people.