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Nicolay ; "The Life of Abraham Lincoln," by J. G. Holland; "Abraham Lincoln, A Biography for Young People," by Noah Brooks; "Abraham Lincoln, the Man of the People," by Norman Hapgood; "Abraham Lincoln," by John Torrey Morse, Jr.; "The Every-Day Life of Abraham Lincoln," by Francis F. Browne, and the compiler's "Life of Abraham Lincoln."
The selections are arranged chronologically. They begin with the first public address, written when Lincoln was twenty-three years old, and end with his last public words spoken in Washington three days before his assassination. They consist of letters to friends and to political allies and opponents, of public papers, of addresses on a great variety of occasions, and of extracts from the debates and speeches in which he expounded his ideas on slavery. If fuller material is wished, or a complete copy of a document from which only a fragment is here quoted, the best source in which to seek it is Nicolay and Hay's “Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln."
In reading, it should be remembered that the ideas which have controlled the selections run through practically all of them and are not illustrated simply by a few extracts.
LINCOLN'S IDEAS OF DEMOCRACY
It is important that Lincoln's ideas of democracy be disentangled from theory and oratory in the pupil's mind and be presented clearly as a series of practical rules of life, as they certainly were to their author.
I. Let the pupil work out, from the selections and with what help he can get from biographies, Lincoln's notions of what a man should be in a democracy.
1. Self-Respecting. Study his relations to other men to show this: to his law partner Herndon; to Stephen H. Douglas; to William H. Seward; to his generals.
2. Self-Reliant. At critical points in his career Lincoln always followed his own conclusion as to what was wise. Illustrate this by his choice of studies, political policies, and choice of men for his administration and for the army.
3. Self-Developing. Trace his struggles for education.
4. Holding Public Good above Self-Interest. How he took his defeat in 1858, sacrificing his ambition to be a United States senator in order to make the issue clear to the people. How he offered to resign from the presidency if it would help the situation. How he insisted in 1864 on making a draft of men needed for the war, although the action threatened to defeat his reëlection to the presidency.
II. What was Lincoln's idea of the relation of one man to another in a democracy?
This theme can be studied best by taking up Lincoln's treatment of certain persons with whom he was thrown into close relationship.
1. His Stepbrother. See letters of advice to him.
2. Stephen H. Douglas. See Lincoln's treatment of him in the debates of 1858.
3. General George B. McClellan.
4. Horace Greeley.
III. What was Lincoln's idea of a public man's relation to the people in a democracy?
1. Did he believe the people capable of thinking out public questions and coming to their own conclusions, or did he believe they followed the views of the leader of their political party?
2. What did Lincoln mean by "fooling" the people?
3. What did Lincoln believe to be the right and true way to lead the people?
Ample material for answering and illustrating these questions is contained in a study of his debates with Douglas, in his efforts for compensated emancipation, and in his insisting that the Civil War be continued until the South laid down arms.
Helpful reading on the democracy of Lincoln is to be found in Carl Schurz's Essay on Abraham Lincoln; in Herbert
Croly's comments on Lincoln in his "Promise of American Life"; in James Russell Lowell's Essays.
LINCOLN'S TREATMENT OF THE QUESTION OF SLAVERY
Lincoln's treatment of the question of slavery gives an admirable opportunity to study his mental and moral development. The selections here given are sufficient to enable the pupil to trace the way in which he solved each successive step in the problem from 1837, the time of his first public protest against the institution, to the days just before his death, when he was considering a policy of merciful reconstruction.
The following questions will serve as suggestions for working out this important study:
I. What was the general opinion on slavery in Illinois in 1837 when Lincoln made his first public protest against it? Did he run any risk of losing his place in the State Assembly by his action? What experience had he had with the institution before this?
2. What was the political situation in 1845 which called out the letter to Williamson Durley? What were Lincoln's political ambitions at the time?
3. What was Lincoln doing when the Missouri Compromise was repealed, and what effect did that repeal have upon him?
4. Why did Lincoln leave the Whig party in 1856? What were the views of the new Republican Party?
5. What was Douglas's main argument in the debates of 1858? How did Lincoln answer that argument? What were the arguments by which Lincoln sustained his position that slavery must be stopped or it would spread over the entire nation?
6. Was the Civil War fought to free the black man?
7. How did Lincoln show that slavery was inconsistent with democracy?
8. Why did Lincoln want to free the slaves by buying them?
9. Was emancipation a wise war measure?
10. What was Lincoln's idea of reconstruction?
Throughout this study stress should be laid on the intellectual integrity, the courage and the willingness to sacrifice personal to public interest, which characterized Lincoln's successive positions. In 1837, in 1856, in 1858, in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, at each critical moment in his connection with slavery questions he risked his position by the boldness with which he insisted that his views should be understood.
Books, other than those above named, useful for this study are "Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln," by Francis B. Carpenter; "Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln. by Distinguished Men of His Times," by Allen Thorndike Rice.
LINCOLN AS A WRITER OF ENGLISH
Abraham Lincoln's ability to serve the country was greatly increased by his command of English prose. The result of his close hard thinking could never have been as effective if he had not understood the art of putting thoughts into convincing and moving words, and at the same time conveying a sense of his own sincerity. His art was the logical result of a life-long struggle to express the ideas which interested him, so clearly that the humblest could understand his meaning.
It will be well to begin a study of his English by a review of his schooling and his habits of reading, of writing, and of speaking, when a boy. In turn there should be taken up his study of English grammar, of surveying, and of the law. What were the reasons impelling him in each case? What were his obstacles? How did he meet them? How did he succeed?
Two books largely formed Lincoln's style, the Bible and Shakespeare. The tracing of their effect on his prose is not difficult and should be attempted by the pupil.
The gradual development of his style may be traced by comparing extracts of different periods, as his first public address in 1832 with the speech on the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise in 1854, with the Cooper Union speech in 1860, and with the First and Second Inaugurals. Compare in these extracts the vocabulary he commanded at different times, the flexibility and elegance of phrase, the elevation of tone, and the ability to convey feeling as well as ideas.
A similar comparative study may be made of Lincoln's letters, documents too often overlooked. Take the letter to his partner Herndon, written in 1864, and compare with that his letters to Hooker, Grant, Greeley, and Mrs. Bixby here printed.
The purest and most beautiful English he wrote is found in the Springfield Farewell, the Gettysburg Address, and the Second Inaugural, and they deserve most careful analysis according to the favorite methods of the individual teacher.
It should be remembered that their full value cannot be appreciated unless the pupil understands the occasion which called each forth.
For studies in strength and exactness of expression there are no writings better than Lincoln's remarks on labor and capital in the Annual Message of 1861, and the letters to Horacę Greeley (August 22, 1862), to General Hooker (January 26, 1863), and to J. C. Conkling (August 26, 1863).
The value of the short well-chosen word and of the terse sentence are admirably illustrated in these extracts.
Books which throw light on his literary qualities are Carl Schurz's Essay on Lincoln, Richard Watson Gilder's Introduction to his "Lincoln; Passages from His Speeches and Letters"; and James Russell Lowell's Essay on Lincoln.
I. M. T.