The Writings of Abraham Lincoln: Volume Five: 1858-1862, by Abraham Lincoln
The writings of Abraham Lincoln are a fascinating look into how it is that an obscure Illinois lawyer became the president of the United State during its darkest hour. This particular book, a massive one of more than 500 pages, covers the transitional period between Lincoln’s life as a private citizen for whom politics was becoming increasingly important and the president, upon whose will a great deal depended. This book does a good job at showing how it is that Lincoln showed himself available for high office, successfully encouraged fellow Republicans and potential allies around, and eventually was able to obtain first the nomination for President and then the office itself, and the book even covers the initial part of the Civil War itself. As this specific time period is of great interest to many people, this volume is certainly one that can be profitably read by many, even if it is a somewhat long book. Whether one is looking at famous and important speeches, Lincoln winding up his legal business, or the early moves that he made as president and had to deal with issues of patronage and other similar headaches, this book has a lot to offer.
This particular book includes the writings of Abraham Lincoln in 1858 that were not involved with the debate, which included a meeting with Senator Trumbull concerning how they would deal with Douglas’ attempt to pit them and their supporters against each other. After that, Lincoln’s writings in 1859 include some legal business, some political praise of the Republican state officers, and speeches in places like Ohio and Kansas on behalf of Republican local politics. In 1860 we see the Cooper Union speech and a follow-up speech in New Haven as well as writing seeking to encourage his supporters and make sure that he had the loyal support of his state political party, and then his discussion of various political matters. 1861 then brings his various short speeches on the way to Washington DC, his first inaugural and July 4th address to Congress, as well as a lot of matters of government business, which he handled with considerable aplomb, including delicate matters of foreign diplomacy. The first part of 1862 shows Lincoln encouraging the raising of regiments still as well as matters of military strategy and tactics and dealing with the home front, all areas of importance as well. The result is a lengthy and fascinating glance at Lincoln’s busy life as he became president.
The side of Lincoln that I most enjoyed here personally was the way that Lincoln dealt with his legal work as well as his efforts to communicate his growing political awareness and the practicalities of being a campaigning person, even if he was not always very self-aware that he was in fact campaigning for the presidency. His speeches in Ohio, for example, especially his speech in Cincinnati, was aimed largely at people in Kentucky as a stand-in for the South that Lincoln wanted to communicate with but was unwilling and unable to travel to. As a moderate Republican who had high ideals with regards to the equality of mankind with regards to God-given rights, but who was also conscious of the limitations on the practical worth of this equality by virtue of the necessity of obtaining the consent of the governed (which included Southern whites) to govern, Lincoln was well-equipped to lay bare the division that split the nation over a matter of right and wrong and the South’s unwillingness to accept that people viewed its way of life and peculiar institution as being wrong. Similar divides exist at present and it is worth seeing how impervious they are to statesmanship or honest discussion.