An attempt has been made in the following pages to portray Abraham Lincoln, mainly in his relations to the country at large during his eventful administration.
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With this view, it has not been deemed necessary to cumber the work with the minute details of his life prior to that time. This period has, therefore, been but glanced at, with a care to present enough to make a connected whole. His Congressional career and his campaign with Senator Douglas are presented in outline, yet so, it is believed, that a clear idea of these incidents in his life can be obtained.
After the time of his election as President, however, a different course of treatment has been pursued. Thenceforward, to the close of his life, especial pains have been taken to present everything which should show him as he was—the Statesman persistent, resolute, free from boasting or ostentation, destitute of hate, never exultant, guarded in his prophecies, threatening none at home or abroad, indulging in no utopian dreams of a blissful future, moving quietly, calmly, conscientiously, irresistibly on to the end he saw with clearest vision.
Yet, even in what is presented as a complete record of his administration, too much must not be expected. It is impossible, for example, to thoroughly dissect the events of the great Rebellion in a work like the present. Nothing of the kind has been attempted. The prominent features only have been sketched; and that solely for the purpose of bringing into the distinct foreground him whose life is under consideration.
8Various Speeches, Proclamations, and Letters, not vitally essential to the unity of the main body of the work, yet valuable as affording illustrations of the man—have been collected in the Appendix.
Imperfect as this portraiture must necessarily be, there is one conciliatory thought. The subject needs no embellishment. It furnishes its own setting. The acts of the man speak for themselves. Only such an arrangement is needed as shall show the bearing of each upon the other, the development of each, the processes of growth.
Those words of the lamented dead which nestle in our hearts so tenderly—they call for no explanation. Potent, searching, taking hold of our consciences, they will remain with us while reason lasts.
Nor will the people’s interest be but for the moment. The baptism of blood to which the Nation has been called, cannot be forgotten for generations. And while memories of him abide, there will inevitably be associated with them the placid, quiet face, not devoid of mirth—its patient, anxious, yet withal hopeful expression—the sure, elastic step—the clearly cut, sharply defined speech of him, who, under Providence, was to lead us through the trial and anguish of those bitter days to the rest and refreshing of a peace, whose dawn only, alas! he was to see.
Though this work may not rise to the height required, it is hoped that it is not utterly unworthy of the subject. Such as it is—a labor of love—it is offered to those who loved and labored with the patriot and hero, with the earnest desire that it may not be regarded an unwarrantable intrusion upon ground on which any might hesitate to venture.
Philadelphia, June, 1865.