Lincoln’s character is difficult to read, from its many-sided aspects. He rarely revealed to the same person more than a single side. His individuality was marvellous. “Let us take him,” in the words of his latest good biographer, “as simply Abraham Lincoln, singular and solitary as we all see that he was. Let us be thankful if we can make a niche big enough for him among the world’s heroes without worrying ourselves about the proportion it may bear to other niches; and there let him remain forever, lonely, as in his strong lifetime, impressive, mysterious, unmeasured, and unsolved.”
One thing may be confidently affirmed of this man,—that he stands as a notable exemplar, in the highest grade, of the American of this century,—the natural development of the self-reliant English stock upon our continent. Lowell, in his “Commemoration Ode,” has set forth Lincoln’s greatness and this fine representative quality of his, in words that may well conclude our study of the man and of the first full epoch of American life:—
“Here was a type of the
true elder race,
And one of Plutarch’s men talked with us face to face.
I praise him not; it were too late;
And some innative weakness there must be
In him who condescends to victory
Such as the Present gives, and cannot wait,
Safe in himself as in a fate.
So always firmly he:
He knew to bide his time,
And can his fame abide,
Still patient in his simple faith sublime,
Till the wise years decide.
Great captains, with their guns and drums,
Disturb our judgment for the hour,
But at last silence comes;
These all are gone, and, standing like a tower,
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 most voluminous of the Lives of Abraham Lincoln is that of Nicolay and Hay, which seems to be fair and candid without great exaggerations; but it is more a political and military history of the United States than a Life of Lincoln himself. Herndon’s Life is probably the most satisfactory of the period before Lincoln’s inauguration. Holland, Lamar, Stoddard, Arnold, and Morse have all written interesting biographies. See also Ford’s History of Illinois, Greeley’s American Conflict, Lincoln and Douglas Debates, Lincoln’s Speeches, published by the Century Co., Secretary Chase’s Diary, Swinton’s Army of the Potomac, Lives of Seward, McClellan, Garrison, and Grant, Grant’s Autobiography, McClure’s Lincoln and Men of War Times, Wilson’s History of the Rise and Fall of the Slave Power.
ROBERT EDWARD LEE.
THE SOUTHERN CONFEDERACY.