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May 08 , 2009

The Life of Abraham Lincoln

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The question will naturally be raised, Why should there be another Life of Lincoln? This may be met by a counter question, Will there ever be a time in the near future when there will not be another Life of Lincoln? There is always a new class of students and a new enrolment of citizens. Every year many thousands of young people pass from the Grammar to the High School grade of our public schools. Other thousands are growing up into manhood and womanhood. These are of a different constituency from their fathers and grandfathers who remember the civil war and were perhaps in it. "To the younger generation," writes Carl Schurz, "Abraham Lincoln has already become a half mythical figure, which, in the haze of historic distance, grows to more and more heroic proportions, but also loses in distinctness of outline and figure." The last clause of this remark is painfully true. To the majority of people now living, his outline and figure are dim and vague. There are to-day professors and presidents of colleges, legislators of prominence, lawyers and judges, literary men, and successful business men, to whom Lincoln is a tradition. It cannot be expected that a person born after the year (say) 1855, could remember Lincoln more than as a name. Such an one's ideas are made up not from his remembrance and appreciation of events as they occurred, but from what he has read and heard about them in subsequent years. The great mine of information concerning the facts of Lincoln's life is, and probably will always be, the History by his secretaries, Nicolay and Hay. This is worthily supplemented by the splendid volumes of Miss Tarbell. There are other biographies of great value. Special mention should be made of the essay by Carl Schurz, which is classic. The author has consulted freely all the books on the subject he could lay his hands on. In this volume there is no attempt to write a history of the times in which Lincoln lived and worked. Such historical events as have been narrated were selected solely because they illustrated some phase of the character of Lincoln. In this biography the single purpose has been to present the living man with such distinctness of outline that the reader may have a sort of feeling of being acquainted with him. If the reader, finishing this volume, has a vivid realization of Lincoln as a man, the author will be fully repaid
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