“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.” – Abraham Lincoln
While President’s Day was originally begun to honor George Washington, another popular figurehead we honor on President’s Day is the renowned 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Born on February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln is regarded as one of America’s greatest heroes due to his role as savior of the Union and emancipator of the slaves.
His rise from modest beginnings to achieving the highest office in the land is a remarkable story. Also, his sudden and tragic assassination is a story we all know well from childhood. The photograph below is the last known photograph of Abraham Lincoln, taken on March 6, 1865, taken on the balcony at the White House.
There have been many good books written about this American hero, but one of the essential works, Abraham Lincoln: A History, was penned by his two personal secretaries during the Springfield years, John Nicolay and John Hay.
This set is a gold mine of primary material, contains secondary sources not found elsewhere, is well structured and well written, and for all its understandable biases, is “one of the greatest historical products of its era and is still a necessary source for Lincoln biographers” (Mark E. Neely).
To read his own words and speeches, the Political Debates between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, In the Celebrated Campaign of 1858, in Illinois is a wonderful piece of history to own. During Lincoln’s campaign for the Presidency,
“he began collecting a scrapbook of his best speeches, particularly those from the just-concluded campaign against Douglas, for possible inclusion in a book. Assiduously pasting newspaper accounts of the debates into the scrapbook, Lincoln cast about for a publisher. Initial efforts failed, mainly because Lincoln wanted the book printed in Springfield, which had no local publishing or printing facilities. Eventually, however, the Columbus, Ohio, firm of Follett, Foster & Company showed interest, and he began preparing the first edition… Somewhat surprisingly for an attorney, Lincoln did not seek Douglas’ permission to publish a book of their combined speeches, although Douglas was later given the last-minute opportunity—he declined—to make corrections to his own remarks” (Morris, 121).
To better understand his thoughts, The Writings of Abraham Lincoln is another wonderful set. Ranging from finely honed legal arguments to dry and sometimes savage humor to private correspondence and political rhetoric of unsurpassed grandeur, the writings collected in this set are at once the literary testament of the greatest writer ever to occupy the White House and a documentary history of America in Abraham Lincoln’s time. They record Lincoln’s campaigns for public office; the evolution of his stand against slavery; his pyrotechnic debates with Stephen Douglas; his conduct of the Civil War; and the great public utterances of his presidency, including the Emancipation Proclamation and the Gettysburg Address.
His expression for democracy and perseverance that the Union was worth saving exemplify the ideals of self-government that all nations should strive to achieve. Lincoln’s distinctively humane personality and incredible impact on the nation has endowed him with an enduring legacy. Collecting Abraham Lincoln letters and documents are a wonderful way to share a part of that legacy and preserve these pieces for future generations.
Another interesting item in our collection is a military commission signed by Lincoln.
“The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others, the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men’s labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name, liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incompatible names… liberty and tyranny.” – Abraham Lincoln