Page images

Our children shall behold his fame.

The kindly, earnest, brave, foreseeing man, Sagacious, patient, dreading praise, not blame, New birth of our new soil, the first American.


The books and pamphlets in existence which bear on the life and tragic death of Abraham Lincoln form a collection so vast that the mere enumeration of their titles would go far towards filling a volume. Nine-tenths of these publications are campaign documents and tributes called forth by his assassination. Mr. Andrew Boyd of Albany who published a Lincoln bibliography in 1870 owned a collection of 404 funeral orations alone, exclusive of poems and other. tributes. From a gentleman in Chili, from a missionary in Hayti, from a Jew in Wilna, from innumerable sources and in a dozen languages these pamphlets poured. From Vienna came a play dealing with the dramatic incidents in the life of the dead president. And so one might go on indefinitely. More, probably, has been written of Lincoln than of any man of his century, Napoleon excepted.

Even the question of the speeches and the various forms in which they have been given to the public is too large to be properly treated here. The book-worm must turn to Mr. Boyd's bibliography for the best information in regard to works published prior to 1870; since then the volumes have been sufficiently few and important to find a place in the catalogue of any large library.

Mr. Nicolay in making his exhaustive collection of Lincoln material for the two volumes of the Century Co 's edition of the Complete Works devoted years to research and verification. At an early date he began keeping scrapbooks and from his appointment as private secretary to the president-elect he of course let nothing pass him. For the early letters he, as well as every other biographer, was indebted to Mr. Herndon for persistent efforts to bring to

light anything connected with the president's youth and young manhood. Lincoln himself kept some record of his speeches, for side by side with his unselfish patriotism there dwelt no inconsiderable personal ambition. The political speeches in those days of the beginnings of the country lawyer's greatness had frequently a wide circulation in pamphlet form. Country newspapers were eager to adorn their pages with the rhetoric of the rising politician. A few manuscripts also are preserved. Mr. Nicolay carefully went over every step of the ground, searching old files of the Sangamo Journal and making his labor of love herculean.

The first published volume of Lincoln's speeches contained the great debates. Follett, Foster and Co. of Columbus brought out an octavo volume of 268 pages in 1860. Publishers in Boston, New York, Chicago and Detroit followed suit and the debates ran through two or three editions. A Springfield printer who had been asked by Lincoln to bring them out had considered their interest too ephemeral to warrant the venture. The Cooper institute speech in pamphlet form also received the widest publicity in 1860 and was translated in several languages including of all tongues-Welsh.

During Lincoln's presidency his letter to Conkling, to Greeley, some to McClellan, that which dealt with the Vallandigham case, extracts giving his opinions on slavery and so forth were sent out in pamphlet form by many printers. After his death these, with the farewell to Springfield, the emancipation proclamation, the inaugurals, the Gettyburg address, the "favorite poem" and so on, were scattered broadcast. The first appearance of the Gettysburg address in book form was apparently when Little, Brown and Co. of Boston gave it a place in their edition of Edward Everett's oration at the same time and place. In New York Baker and Godwin rather patronizingly included it in their

issue of Everett's speech, without giving to the page of immortal words the dignity of mention on the title page.

Campaign lives of more or less hackneyed sort contained copious extracts from the speeches. Of the whole collection two only need be mentioned, and only one of these for its intrinsic value. William Dean Howells wrote a slight life of Lincoln in 1860 and Follett, Foster and Co. of Columbus published it. In 1864 Henry Jarvis Raymond of the New York Times published a study of the administration of Lincoln which is the first work of literary and critical value to deal with the subject. Most men stood too near the man and the mighty issues of the day to judge him properly as an orator. Mr. Raymond first strikes the note of appreciation. He remarks as the most evident characteristic of Lincoln's state papers a singular faculty for "putting things." "He has no pride of intellect," continues Mr. Raymond, "not slightest desire for display, no thought or purpose but that of making everybody understand precisely what he means to say. It gives to his public papers a weight and influence with the mass of the people which no man of this country has ever before attained. And this is heightened by the atmosphere of humor which seems to pervade his mind and which is just as natural to it and as attractive and softening a part of it as the smoky hues of Indian summer are of the charming season to which they belong."

To-day Lincoln's position as a master of the English tongue in its strength and simplicity is unquestioned. The French Academy, Emerson, Lowell, Everett, Beecher, Ingersoll, great orators and critics of England and America are united on that point. No man of his century could state a proposition with more exactness and compactness. His clarity of expression, the consistent building up of his argument, his brilliantly apt comparisons, his illuminating wit, his merciless pursuit of illogic in his opponents, his reserve

and his dignity would be remarkable in a mind highly trained and in this untaught son of the wilderness become phenomenal. The Peoria address, the debates, the letters to Greeley, to McClellan, to Conkling, are models in their way. Equally noticeable is his instinct for words, his choice of the simple, the descriptive, the musical. The inaugurals, the Gettysburg address (ranked by Emerson as the peer of any of the utterances of man), the Springfield farewell, illustrate this side of his genius.

But no criticism, no analysis, can give life to these addresses as can the vision of the man who uttered them-of the towering, gaunt figure, ill-dressed, uncouth, yet glorified with the dignity of earnestness. Those who heard him say that he was often nervously awkward on rising to speak but soon forgot himself in his subject. He would toss back his head and show his figure, seemingly expanded beyond its lank proportions, at the extent of its gigantic height. He used his hands little but would sweep his arm through the air with an occasional splendid gesture. His rough dark face would shine and his grey eyes flash with eloquence or twinkle with humor. Competent judges rank him with Clay and Webster for force and magnetism. Such was Lincoln the orator.

« PreviousContinue »