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HIS work is the product of more than half a century of
diligent preparation and labor. It is added to the vast
Lincoln library in the belief that it contains fresh and heretofore unpublished information relative to Abraham Lincoln and men and events of his day. My personal participation in the activities of the national government during Mr. Lincoln's Presidency, and my intimate acquaintance and close official association with many of the most prominent men of that day afforded me the best of facilities for acquiring knowledge of what was then in progress throughout the nation. Therefore, my personal reminiscences of those years, which are published for the first time in this work, contain much valuable information which other writers seem not to have secured.
In addition to this are the accumulations of prolonged and careful research in which nothing of value relative to Lincoln has been overlooked. More than two thousand publications have been carefully examined and made to contribute to the data which makes authentic every statement of this work. From books and other war-time publications, from national and local official records, and from Confederate documents and histories, items have been gathered and woven into connected records of events which form important new contributions to authentic history. The disclosures thus made are of great significance and some of them are so astounding that the validity of the history may at first be doubted. But investigation will establish, beyond question, the truth of every statement and deduction contained herein.
I have been greatly favored and aided in all this prolonged and taxing research. Data that had been lost have by diligent search been recovered, and much of which I had never heard came unsought into my possession and has been used to the
great advantage of this work. Many doors have been voluntarily opened to me, affording admission to unsearched realms abounding in new and exceedingly valuable material. Sympathizing friends and strangers, hearing of the nature and purpose of my work, have contributed information that has aided me greatly to enrich these pages with choice Lincolniana in literature and art.
I was especially fortunate in the extended research which made possible the preparation of the account of the JaquessGilmore Mission, knowledge of which during its progress was not had even by the President's confidential secretaries, nor by any member of his Cabinet. A great flood of light is by that fascinating story cast upon the character and inner life of Abraham Lincoln, revealing his secret meditations and his undeclared hopes during even the darkest period of his life. Very extensive and unfrequented fields were perseveringly surveyed in securing the information given in that chapter. Each item is fully authenticated by unquestionable records, but here only have they been united so as to tell the thrilling story of that unique and marvelously successful adventure.
The chapter devoted to quotations from the diary of Lincoln's pastor, Rev. P. D. Gurley, D.D., is of special interest and value. The existence of this daily record by the able and distinguished minister who, during Mr. Lincoln's Presidency, was his beloved spiritual adviser and his esteemed and trusted
unsellor, has for some time been known to a limited number of persons and has eagerly been sought by writers and publishers, but until the present it has been withheld from publication. I was delighted to secure the manuscript from Doctor Gurley's daughter, Mrs. Emma Gurley Adams of Washington, D. C., and I heartily commend it to the reader.
A considerable portion of this work is devoted to the correction of errors. No man in American history is so generally misunderstood as Abraham Lincoln. Erroneous statements and opinions relative to his ancestry, early life, family relations, personal appearance, bearing, habits, attitude to reforms, and
religious belief and experience have long remained uncorrected to the great detriment of the world's heritage in one of its most important characters. Those misrepresentations and misconceptions have come from conditions existing during Mr. Lincoln's life, and from the malice or inexcusable carelessness of writers since his assassination.
Mr. Lincoln was before the nation for only seven years and was known to the people of his own state for but a slightly more extended period. However, during all of that time there was in progress throughout the nation a great moral and civic movement which was characterized by intense bitterness of spirit, and personal animosities.
Mr. Lincoln was an active and influential participant in that contest and during its progress he was the target for the most vindictive and cruel personal assaults known to political campaigns. At first the misrepresentations were only such as are usual in heated political contests, for he was always held in high esteem by his partisan antagonists in Illinois. But when his fame became national, and the movement against slavery became dangerous to that institution, the warfare against him sank to a lower level and was prosecuted with less regard for truth and honor.
So long as damaging misrepresentations were confined to the campaign statements of his political antagonists their influence was not seriously harmful, but when his former law partner, William H. Herndon, published in his “Life of Lincoln” that he was of illegitimate birth and had declared to him that the same was true of his mother, the wicked falsehood was accepted as true, and added immensely to the force of other untruthful statements that were given wide circulation. As is shown in this work Herndon's statement was promptly and indignantly denied and was proved to be without the least foundation. But after that had been done it continued to be reproduced in later works and was given wide publicity.
Herndon was a pronounced infidel and in his book states that Lincoln also was an unbeliever. This declaration was
confirmed by Lamon, another infidel author of a Lincoln biography, and has been repeated by many careless writers and widely proclaimed by enemies of Christianity and of Lincoln until, in spite of his own strong, unequivocal declarations to the contrary, it is very widely believed to be true. In like manner many other harmful errors have been published and accepted until the true image of Lincoln is quite generally seen through a mask of unfortunate misconceptions.
These conditions should not be permitted to continue. It is due the memory of Lincoln that his image, so admired by the world, should be unmasked and made to appear in public thought in its unmarred purity and beauty. The misleading legendry which has become associated with his name should be cast aside and forgotten, and the truthful history of this greatest product of the new world should be reverently learned in its entirety and faithfully repeated to all the world, and to succeeding generations. To aid in accomplishing this result is the chief purpose of this work.
The charming "Stories about Lincoln” which form a chapter are pleasingly illustrative of his unique and delightful personality. Mr. Lincoln's own stories have been given large space in other publications, but brief accounts of events with which he was connected, such as are here given, have had less publicity. They are, however, bright and lovely gems picked up on vast fields of research and are here given their illuminating historical settings.
The topical arrangement of Mr. Lincoln's declarations of religious beliefs and experiences constitute a feature peculiar to this work. By this grouping of his own statements it is possible to ascertain, with but little effort, the exact truth relative to this very interesting and important matter.
The collecting of this material from the large number of books consulted and its arrangement topically has been the most prolonged and tedious feature of the preparation of this work. But it has been a labor of love and of unspeakable delight. Ministers, lecturers, lawyers, teachers and writers are busy