The Writings Of Abraham Lincoln: Volume 2, by Abraham Lincoln
Considering there are so many books about Abraham Lincoln, it is worthwhile for those who are fond of the writing and thinking of our sixteenth president to read what he had to say himself, especially when one looks at the elevated tone of his rhetoric and the way that he thoughtfully dealt with a lot of different subjects and matters over the course of a productive life. This particular volume covers his writings between 1843 and 1858 before his famous debates with Douglas. During the time that is covered here, Lincoln was a one-term member of the House of Representatives as well as a lawyer and his personal and political speeches are all covered here. As one might expect, there are quite a few writings here that are full of humorous barbs, some of which are worthwhile in showing Lincoln’s mature thinking on the subject of slavery as he opposed Douglas in competition for the soul and votes of Illinois citizens, and where he made his debut as far as the political thinking of the United States as a whole is concerned, although he was by no means as famous as Douglas and some of his other peers.
This book is nearly 400 pages and it contains a lot of material, as one might well guess. Included at the beginning of these writings is his writings to other Whig leaders involving their rotation of office, which Lincoln was particularly interested to enforce in giving himself a position in Congress that he could use (as he did) for a later springboard to higher office. Likewise, there are letters of politics and business to Herndon where Lincoln attempts to explain himself remotely concerning the nuances of his anti-war but pro-soldier stance in the Mexican War. He also writes occasionally to friends like Joshua Speed. His house speeches are full of humor as well as his lawyerly perspective as he wants to know what spot the Mexican War began on, and he humorously deflates the pretensions of Lewis Cass to military glory by mocking his own martial expertise. Lincoln reflects on his family background, comments on the painfulness of his relations with his father, and also urges a younger brother to be less lazy and not try to take advantage of Lincoln’s stepmother. There are also speeches on behalf of various deceased Whig leaders. At the end of this book there are some excellent political speeches as Lincoln moved from a Whig focusing on internal improvements (seen in many of his congressional speeches, including a patent application) to an antislavery Republican, including speeches in Peoria and Springfield that are justly well-remembered in history.
There are some fascinating aspects of Lincoln’s life that become evident as one looks at the materials included here. While Lincoln sought a higher profile, his rise was tempered by struggles in dealing with the mundane natures of politics–including the difficulty of rustling up enough votes for Senator in 1854, for example, as well as the struggles of obtaining patronage for himself and his friends from the Taylor administration, as well as the problems within his own family, including his difficult relationship with his father and the lack of hard work and ambition of other members of his family. Lincoln, like many people who rose from poverty to greatness, was never able to lose completely the struggle against being pulled down by where he came from, and it is to his credit that he never lost sight of his background in attempting to communicate high ideals of freedom to audiences that gloried in their own freedom while being flatly racist against blacks. And during all of this time Lincoln was not only deeply interested and involved with politics but also had a busy law practice that included some cases discussed here, involving bridges as well as probate law. Lincoln’s greatness includes a successful handling of the mundane matters of a busy life.