The Complete Writings Of Abraham Lincoln, Volume 7
This particular book finishes up the collection of Abraham Lincoln’s writings, mostly consisting of Lincoln’s writings from the very end of 1863 to his death along with writings of Lincoln’s that were found in the process of publishing that have been appended to the end of the collection, additions which allow the reader to see Lincoln’s definition of Democracy, one of the more useful notes which are included here from Lincoln’s prewar body of literature that it would be a real shame to be without. And given that these writings are the last writings of Lincoln, the last of which is a poignant permission to someone to come by and talk with Lincoln tomorrow written on the day he was shot, there is a lot here that has the poignant retrospection that is common when we know things after the fact that were not known at the time by Lincoln or other participants. Still, there are definitely some very classic and wonderful Lincoln writings included here and the process of winding down the Civil War did not in any way hinder Lincoln’s greatness as a practical political philosopher and as an eloquent writer about the American political tradition.
This book is the final volume of a lengthy series of Lincoln’s complete writings and it sees Lincoln succeed in that most difficult of tasks for a victorious leader after a successful war, and that is magnanimity. Lincoln shows no interest in rubbing the South in its defeat nor in making any demands upon the South except for freedom and increased civil rights for blacks as well as Union. Whether or not Lincoln would have been successful in calming the vengeful hostility of the North or in showing the South that it was not to be viewed as a lesser colony of the North through his policies in the postwar period is sadly a matter for counterfactual history. This volume, though, demonstrates that even as Lincoln sought to bring the war to a successful conclusion and worked hard to make sure that new states like Nevada could help in that task, he never lost sight of the goal of national reconciliation with justice for all that he sought, and his actions in the last year or so of his life demonstrate that to a great degree. It is only a shame that this is the end of his earthly endeavors.
Included among the timeless classic writings is a parallel look at the Gettysburg Address from several accounts, the understated religious eloquence of the Second Inaugural Address, and Lincoln’s standards for peace with the rebels, a standard to which he consistently held. We see Lincoln working to speed up the reconstruction of Tennessee and Louisiana and writing to young people who wanted to pray for the end of slavery, which Lincoln said was beyond his personal power but something he wished for himself as well. Included in these writings are discussions about the logistics of Lincoln’s trip into Richmond after its capture by Grant’s army and his willingness to back up Grant’s insistence to bring the war to a successful conclusion, something that Lincoln believed depended on Grant himself. There are documents showing Lincoln’s unwillingness to interfere with the choice of Vice President, which did Hannibal Hamlin rather wrong, I must admit, even if he was a rather shadowy presence in an otherwise powerful team. Likewise, we see the sometimes awkward steps that Lincoln had to take with regards to the political realities of the war and the need to shield some people from the effects of their folly because of the political and personal damage that would happen if the son of the US Ambassador to Prussia was put to death for desertion.