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Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln
Category: Presidents / Biography
Title: Abraham Lincoln
Release Date: 2006-05-11
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 25 March 2019
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Abraham Lincoln, by Lord Charnwood

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and withalmost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away orre-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org

Title: Abraham Lincoln

Author: Lord Charnwood

Release Date: May 11, 2006 [EBook #18379]

Language: English


Produced by Al Haines








Statesmen—even the greatest—have rarely won the same unquestioningrecognition that falls to the great warriors or those supreme inscience, art or literature. Not in their own lifetime and hardly tothis day have the claims to supremacy of our own Oliver Cromwell,William III. and Lord Chatham rested on so sure a foundation as thoseof a Marlborough or a Nelson, a Newton, a Milton or a Hogarth. This isonly natural. A warrior, a man of science, an artist or a poet arejudged in the main by definite achievements, by the victories they havewon over foreign enemies or over ignorance and prejudice, by the joyand enlightenment they have brought to the consciousness of their ownand succeeding generations. For the statesman there is no such exactmeasure of greatness. The greater he is, the less likely is his workto be marked by decisive achievement which can be recalled byanniversaries or signalised by some outstanding event: the chief workof a great statesman rests in a gradual change of direction given tothe policy of his people, still more in a change of the spirit withinthem. Again, the statesman must work with a rough and readyinstrument. The soldier finds or makes his army ready to yieldunhesitating obedience to his commands, the sailor animates his fleetwith his own personal touch, and the great man in art, literature orscience is master of his material, if he can master himself. Thestatesman cannot mould a heterogeneous people, as the men of awell-disciplined army or navy can be moulded, to respond to his calland his alone. He has to do all his work in a society of which a largepart cannot see his object and another large part, as far as they dosee it, oppose it. Hence his work at the best is often incomplete andhe has to be satisfied with a rough average rather than with his ideal.

Lincoln, one of the few supreme statesmen of the last three centuries,was no exception to this rule. He was misunderstood and underrated inhis lifetime, and even yet has hardly come to his own. For his placeis among the great men of the earth. To them he belongs by right ofhis immense power of hard work, his unfaltering pursuit of what seemedto him right, and above all by that childlike directness and simplicityof vision which none but the greatest carry beyond their earliestyears. It is fit that the first considered attempt by an Englishman togive a picture of Lincoln, the great hero of America's struggle for thenoblest cause, should come at a time when we in England are passingthrough as fiery a trial for a cause we feel to be as noble. It is atime when we may learn much from Lincoln's failures and success, fromhis patience, his modesty, his serene optimism and his eloquence, sosimple and so magnificent.


March, 1916.





II. THE GROWTH OF THE AMERICAN NATION 1. The Formation of a National Government 2. Territorial Expansion 3. The Growth of the Practice and Traditions of the Union Government 4. The Missouri Compromise 5. Leaders, Parties, and Tendencies in Lincoln's Youth 6. Slavery and Southern Society 7. Intellectual Development

III. LINCOLN'S EARLY CAREER 1. Life at New Salem 2. In the Illinois Legislature 3. Marriage

IV. LINCOLN IN CONGRESS AND IN RETIREMENT 1. The Mexican War and Lincoln's Work in Congress 2. California and the Compromise of 1850 3. Lincoln in Retirement 4. The Repeal of the Missouri Compromise

V. THE RISE OF LINCOLN 1. Lincoln's Return to Public Life 2. The Principles and the Oratory of Lincoln 3. Lincoln against Douglas 4. John Brown 5. The Election of Lincoln as President

      1. The Case of the South against the Union
      2. The Progress of Secession
      3. The Inauguration of Lincoln
      4. The Outbreak of War


      1. Preliminary Stages of the War
      2. Bull Run
      3. Lincoln's Administration Generally
      4. Foreign Policy and England
      5. The Great Questions of Domestic Policy

IX. THE DISASTERS OF THE NORTH 1. Military Policy of the North 2. The War in the West up to May, 1862 3. The War in the East up to May, 1863


XI. THE APPROACH OF VICTORY 1. The War to the End of 1863 2. Conscription and the Politics of 1863 3. The War in 1864 4. The Second Election of Lincoln: 1864





The subject of this memoir is revered by multitudes of his countrymenas the preserver of their commonwealth. This reverence has grown withthe lapse of time and the accumulation of evidence. It is blended witha peculiar affection, seldom bestowed upon the memory of statesmen. Itis shared to-day by many who remember with no less affection how theirown fathers fought against him. He died with every circumstance oftragedy, yet it is not the accident of his death but the purpose of hislife that is remembered.

Readers of history in another country cannot doubt that the praise sogiven is rightly given; yet any bare record of the American Civil Warmay leave them wondering why it has been so unquestioningly accorded.The position and task of the American President in that crisis cannotbe understood from those of other historic rulers or historic leadersof a people; and it may seem as if, after that tremendous conflict inwhich there was no lack of heroes, some perverse whim had made mensingle out for glory the puzzled civil magistrate who sat by. Thuswhen an English writer tells again this tale, which has been well toldalready and in which there can remain no important new facts todisclose, he must endeavour to make clear to Englishmen circumstancesand conditions which are familiar to Americans. He will incur thecertainty that here and there his own perspective of American affairsand persons will be false, or his own touch unsympathetic. He hadbetter do this than chronicle sayings and doings which to him and tothose for whom he writes have no significance. Nor should the writershrink too timidly from the display of a partisanship which, on oneside or the other, it would be insensate not to feel. The trueobligation of impartiality is that he should conceal no fact which, inhis own mind, tells against his views.

Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth President of the United States of America,was born on February 12, 1809, in a log cabin on a barren farm in thebackwoods of Kentucky, about three miles west of a place calledHodgensville in what is now La Rue County.

Fifty years later when he had been nominated for the Presidency he wasasked for material for an account of his early life. "Why," he said,"it is a great folly to attempt to make anything out of me or my earlylife. It can all be condensed into a single sentence; and thatsentence you will find in Gray's 'Elegy':—

"'The short and simple annals of the poor.'

That's my life, and that's all you or anyone else can make out of it."His other references to early days were rare. He would repeat queerreminiscences of the backwoods to illustrate questions of state; but ofhis own part in that old life he spoke reluctantly and sadly.Nevertheless there was once extracted from him an awkwardautobiographical fragment, and his friends have collected and recordedconcerning his earlier years quite as much as is common in great men'sbiographies or can as a rule be reproduced with its true associations.Thus there are tales enough of the untaught student's perseverance, andof the boy giant's gentleness and prowess; tales, too, more than enoughin proportion, of the fun which varied but did not pervade hisexistence, and of the young rustic's occasional and somewhat oafishpranks. But, in any conception we may form as to the growth of hismind and character, this fact must have its place, that to the manhimself the thought of his early life was unattractive, void ofself-content over the difficulties which he had conquered, and void ofromantic fondness for vanished joys of youth.

Much the same may be said of his ancestry and family connections.Contempt for lowly beginnings, abhorrent as it is to any honest mind,would to Lincoln's mind have probably been inconceivable, but he lackedthat interest in ancestry which is generally marked in his countrymen,and from talk of his nearer progenitors he seems to have shrunk with apositive sadness of which some causes will soon be apparent. Since hisdeath it has been ascertained that in 1638 one Samuel Lincoln ofNorwich emigrated to Massachusetts. Descent from him could be claimedby a prosperous family in Virginia, several of whom fought on theSouthern side in the Civil War. One Abraham Lincoln, grandfather ofthe President and apparently a grandson of Samuel, crossed themountains from Virginia in 1780 and settled his family in Kentucky, ofwhich the nearer portions had recently been explored. One morning fouryears later he was at work near his cabin with Mordecai, Josiah, andThomas, his sons, when a shot from the bushes near by brought him down.Mordecai ran to the house, Josiah to a fort, which was close to them.Thomas, aged six, stayed by his father's body. Mordecai seized a gunand, looking through the window, saw an Indian in war paint stooping topick up Thomas. He fired and killed the savage, and, when Thomas hadrun into the cabin, continued firing at others who appeared among thebushes. Shortly Josiah returned with soldiers from the fort, and theIndians ran off, leaving Abraham the elder dead. Mordecai, hisheir-at-law, prospered. We hear of him long after as an old man ofsubstance and repute in Western Illinois. He had decided views aboutIndians. The sight of a redskin would move him to strange excitement;he would disappear into the bushes with his gun, and his conscience asa son and a sportsman would not be satisfied till he had stalked andshot him. We are further informed that he

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