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Before the meeting of the Republican National Convention of 1860 I had undertaken, not of my own motion or at first willingly, to write a campaign biography of its nominee for the Presidency. I was confident that my subject would not be Mr. Seward, but had no presentiment that the choice of the convention would be Abraham Lincoln, whom I had then never met. In my first interview with him, soon after the adjournment of the convention (of which I was a member), he earnestly and even sadly insisted that there was no adequate material for such a work as was intended, yet he received me very kindly, and showed no unusual reserve in talking of either his earlier or maturer life. As to both periods, he readily gave such facts as my inquiries invited or suggested; introduced me to friends with whom he had been on intimate terms for more than twenty years; and put me in the way of exploring newspaper files and legislative journals in the Illinois State library for biographic material.
He told me of his correspondence with one of his father's relatives in Rockingham County, Virginia, and with one of the Lincolns of Massachusetts, without obtaining positive proof of the relationship which later research has rendered certain. Recognizing that his parents were of humble life, and ranking himself with plain people, he distinctly claimed to be of a stock which, though it had produced no man of great eminence, had always been of good repute in general as to both character and capacity. At my request and in my presence (May 24, 1861) he sat for a daguerreotype, which was lithographically reproduced for the volume then in preparation, published the following month.
My personal intercourse with Lincoln was continued later at Springfield, as well as during part of his journey to Washington the next winter, and in that city thenceforward during the rest of his days. While preparing to add a second part to the biography, for the canvass of 1864, access was given me to the needed official papers. With permission, copies were made of valuable documents, not all of which were then used, including autograph letters and papers of the President, General Scott, and General McClellan, not then generally accessible. Additional autograph manuscripts of Lincoln, Chase, and others are now printed for the first time.
In the summer of 1865 there was added to the two parts thus produced a third and longer one, making a volume of over eight hundred pages. With all its defects, the book had an extraordinary sale. A more deliberate and complete biography was then intended by the author as soon as freedom from interfering duties would permit. That time was long in coming, but the purpose thus deferred was never abandoned. It is now fulfilled, with the advantage gained from constantly accumulating materials, and with the aid of new lights and changed conditions favorable to a more dispassionate estimate of the men and events of one of the most exciting and momentous periods in human history.
A reproduction of Halpin's engraving of the portrait of Lincoln by F. B. Carpenter serves as frontispiece to the first volume, with the artist's approval, given (March 27, 1900) a few weeks before his decease. Of the original painting, President Lincoln said: “I feel that there is more of me in this portrait than in any representation which has ever been made.” Chief Justice Chase wrote (in 1866): “ The likeness is very faithful and lifelike. Mr. Lincoln's countenance had great mobility, and its expression varied much. I have seen him often with that which you have given him. I think it also his best.” The frontispiece of the second volume is a photogravure of the daguerreotype taken just after his nomination at Chicago — lithographed for a campaign biography, but otherwise never before published.
J. H. BARRETT. LOVELAND, Ohio, November, 1903.