Saturday, February 28, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Sunday, February 22, 2009
- #10: Lincoln's attempt to own and operate a general store
- #7: Lincoln's extraordinary indulgence of two youngest sons
- #6: Lincoln's inattention to administrative details
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Here is the official press release -- dateline Hodgenville, Kentucky on Lincoln's birthday -- from the US Mint. And here is the press release -- dateline Washington, though unveiled at Old State Capitol in Springfield, IL -- from the Post Office.
While both of these offerings are obviously appropriate government commemorations of the sixteenth president. But the new penny is particularly fitting, given that the current penny honoring Lincoln was unveiled in honor of the centennial of Lincoln's birth in 1909, which made it the first regular circulating coin to honor a president. The penny continues to feature the famous Lincoln profile by Victor David Brenner.
The four reverse sides, to be released over the next few months, feature representations of epochs in Lincoln's life. The first features an image of the "traditional" Lincoln birth cabin now enshrined in Kentucky. Even though this log cabin has been proven not to be Lincoln's log cabin (which most likely was burned for firewood before he was president), it is still symbolic of Lincoln's all-American rise from poverty to the presidency. The second shows Lincoln the rail-splitter, or Lincoln the reluctant rail-splitter reading instead of splitting the log, which is a good representative of Lincoln's priorities. The third shows Lincoln the orator outside the then Illinois State Capitol (now called the Old State Capitol) where he delivered his famous "House Divided" Address, a key part of Lincoln's rise to national prominence.
My favorite, though, is the view of United States Capitol during the early years of the Civil War, when the magnificent dome on the building was still being built. Not only is this an authentic, and unusual, symbol of the Lincoln presidency, it has symbolic value. Writers then and since have recognized the unfinished dome the potent metaphor of the unfinished Union Lincoln was seeking to preserve.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Releasing on February 17
There are hundreds of Lincoln quotation books floating around, all of various quality. It is difficult to argue that more are needed, but it is good to know that there are always such books in print for people to discover or treasure Lincoln's timeless words. Personally, I'd recommend books with longer selections, preferably uncut, but these books are fun and usually harmless.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Several news organizations had special features on Lincoln last week, but it took a while to realize that US News and World Report had a week-long series of online articles on the sixteenth president, culminating with one by Harold Holzer. Altogether the articles are strong overviews of significant topics about Lincoln -- his evolving slavery position, issues about civil liberties, his religious views. Additionally, Holzer's piece is an excellent summary of his own expertise on Lincoln's ability to carefully tweak his public image through visual artists. In order of online publication, the articles are:
- "Abraham Lincoln's Great Awakening: From Moderate to Abolitionist" by Justin Ewers, a senior editor at US News. In this piece, Ewers gives a solid presentation of Lincoln's shift in his policy toward slavery over the months between his inauguration and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Ewers position, which better takes recent criticism of Lincoln's attitude toward slavery into account, suggests that Lincoln himself needed to be convinced to shift policy. Such a shift gives implies a personal overtone to part of Lincoln's coda to his 1862 Message to Congress, which Ewers sites near the end of his article: "As our case is new, we must think anew, and act anew."
- "Revoking Civil Liberties: Lincoln's Constitutional Dilemma" by Justin Ewers. Attempting to wade through the even thornier issue of Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeus corpus, Ewers focuses on the war-time experience the bitterly divided state of Missouri. For decades, historians have criticized Lincoln's handling of this issue; even those who agree with its necessity and legality often believe there were problems in execution. Ewers ably shows that the suspension of habeus corpus probably was taken furthest in Missouri, in ways that were difficult for Lincoln to comprehend or control. But this unique example is a poor representative of the entire policy, which was mostly successful and well handled. Indeed, it shows the irony of the historical arguments against Lincoln in this case -- Lincoln was fighting a war about the authority of the central government in a republic where state governments probably had more real authority. So Lincoln's suspension of habeus corpus required either the military or state authorities to be carried out; in Missouri, these entities had conflicting opinions on how the policy should be carried out, with the state authorities gaining the upper hand, despite Lincoln's efforts to the contrary. (Interestingly, a much stronger question about Lincoln and civil liberties is mentioned by Ewers in the second paragraph and then ignored: Lincoln directly countermanding a Supreme Court decision with which he disagreed.)
- "Abraham Lincoln: A Technology Leader of His Time" by Henry J. Reske, a frequent contributor to US News. Reske, in this brief overview, points to the aspect of Lincoln's personality that is perhaps the least recognized, his scientific curiosity. Lincoln is still the only president to hold a patent, for a device to raise boats off of shoals and sandbars. (The impact of this invention is perhaps overstated in the quotations by Jason Emerson, author of a recent book on Lincoln the Inventor.) This curiosity had one odd consequence -- Lincoln's attempt to become a paid lecturer with his address on "Discoveries and Inventions." But it had significant impact on Lincoln as commander-in-chief, owing to his interest in weapons technology and his embrace of the telegraph.
- "Abraham Lincoln, an Everyman Who Saved a Nation" by John C. Waugh, an author with several Civil War books to his credit, including two on Lincoln: One Man Great Enough: Abraham Lincoln's Road to Civil War and Reelecting Lincoln: The Battle for the 1864 Presidency. In this essay, Waugh argues that the secret to Lincoln's greatness lies in his overwhelming ambition and determination to prepare himself for greatness. When the opportunity arrived, in 1854, for Lincoln, he took center stage as a giant ready for battle, writes Waugh, suggesting that by 1861 Lincoln was "a complete package." While I don't necessarily disagree with the general argument -- even if it doesn't quite answer the question of how Lincoln was unique -- I think that Waugh goes too far. Lincoln, it seems, never regarded himself as "a complete package," such that he was always thinking and working to improve himself, regardless of the circumstances he found himself in.
- "Abraham Lincoln's Religious Uncertainty" by Dan Gilgoff, a senior writer at US News who focuses of religion and politics. This is a strong, though brief, summary of the development of Lincoln's religious views, mentioning all of the significant points of consideration (except perhaps the odd evidence that Lincoln's rejection of his parent's faith began not in adulthood, but earlier, given there is no indication he was ever baptized). Lincoln's beliefs about faith evolved, likely in some ways alongside those of his wife (it seems that she too was a strong-tongued religious skeptic, which I think might have been part of the mutual attraction), as they both matured and experienced the hardships of life, particularly the death of two of their sons. It is very difficult, though, to strongly argue what those beliefs were at the end of Lincoln's life, which is why Gilgoff, I think, settles for the defensible 'religious uncertainty.'
- "Abraham Lincoln: From Homely to Heroic" by Harold Holzer. Holzer, an expert on graphic depictions of Lincoln, details Lincoln's willing participation with photographers, painters, and sculptors. Lincoln somehow recognized, from an early point in his career, but especially after his 1860 trip to Cooper Union, the power of these images to shape the public's perception of him, despite his poor physical appearance. At the end, Holzer describes Lincoln's careful encouragement of these distributed images as "savvy, disarming, diversionary, occasionally even disingenuous," which seems to me accurate and to the point.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
"The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln" premiered on Monday, February 9, 2009.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Read the full news release here.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Click here to read Durbin's full remarks, as released by his office.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Releasing on February 10
Monday, February 9, 2009
The History Channel
The National Geographic Channel
Click here to read the review.
But the survey books can be superficial. And the narrow-turf studies can suffer from tunnel vision. Mr. Flood's "1864" compresses the multiple demands upon Lincoln into a tight time frame and thus captures a dizzying, visceral sense of why this single year took such a heavy toll.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Releasing in January
Lincoln: A Very Short Introduction by Allen C. Guelzo (Oxford University Press, US, 2009, paperback, 160 pages)
Now we have three prominent attempts to write a truly brief, but erudite, biography of Lincoln. Of these, this seems to me the most likely to be successful. McPherson and McGovern are first-time Lincoln authors, despite McPherson's career as a Civil War scholar. On the other hand, Guelzo has written an excellent full one-volume biography of Lincoln already -- Abraham Lincoln, Redeemer President. Since that book, Guelzo has focused exclusively on Lincoln with an excellent book on Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, another on the Lincoln-Douglas debates and a new book on Lincoln's philosophy. If a good short biography of Lincoln is possible, Guelzo seems up to the task.
On February 3
Lincoln's Men: The President and His Private Secretaries by Daniel Mark Epstein (Collins, 2009, hardcover, 272 pages)
Daniel Epstein now offers his third Lincoln book in the last four years -- a sign of the pace this popular author maintains. All of his Lincoln books consider specific relationships of Lincoln -- the first was a parallel biography of someone who Lincoln probably never met, Walt Whitman; the second was a biography of the marriage of Abraham and Mary Lincoln. In this book (not to be confused with a previous Lincoln's Men by William C. Davis about Lincoln's relationship with the Union soldiers) Epstein traces the relationship Lincoln had with his personal secretaries in the White House.
It is difficult to overstate the depth of Lincoln's relationship with his secretaries, particularly John Nicolay and John Hay. They slept in the White House and were virtually always in the executive office; they acted as gatekeepers to Lincoln's office, they handled Lincoln's correspondence, and sometimes they even carried out missions to serve as Lincoln's eyes and ears outside the White House. They wrote on Lincoln's behalf, sometimes in his name, sometimes in anonymous articles for Union newspapers. Years after Lincoln's death, these two men would co-write a 10-volume biography of Lincoln that focused largely on his presidential years.
This book focuses on Nicolay and Hay, although it appears to also have significant material about William Stoddard, an assistant secretary who joined the team midway through the administration. Having glanced at Epstein's previous books, it will likely be a fluid narrative of these relationships. I can only hope that it does this too often overlooked topic justice.
Monday, February 2, 2009
Sunday, February 1, 2009
I can't sincerely argue that cyberspace needs my Lincoln blog, which has prevented me from starting this project for several years. Over that time, a few friends have suggested I should throw my hat in the ring and "start a Lincoln blog," but I've always been reluctant. I figured I'd do better to focus on the projects I'd already begun -- especially my Internet projects -- rather than adding something new.
But over the last year, the idea of starting a Lincoln blog has really been gnawing at me, and I've spent some time over the last six months preparing for the possibility. On a whim, one afternoon I searched to see if the address I would like to use was available; finding it available, I immediately reserved it. I started looking for ways to develop daily Internet searching habits to look for timely content, and I confronted the central question of what my blog might focus on. Then I considered how to design the site (having decided that traditional templates would not meet my desires).
You see the decisions that I've made over the past few months. I've designed a wide blog layout, with three columns instead of two, and put on it most of the site elements I wanted (there may still be another section of links added). I've started posting for about a month before really telling anyone, to get comfortable and decide that I really do want to do this right now.
And now I'm announcing the launch of my Lincoln blog, Lincolniana. The title is a throwback to a once-common, but now rarely used, term in the Lincoln field -- it refers to the artifacts that one can collect related to Lincoln. In the past, this had a wide meaning, from physical things that Lincoln touched or owned, especially actual copies of correspondence or other writing, to things produced about Lincoln -- copies of his writings, artwork, books, and eventually the trove of knick-knacks and usually kitschy products that featured Abraham Lincoln's likeness. And some of the early great collections of Lincoln artifacts outside of the Lincoln family, including some great collections of Lincoln-related books eventually donated to libraries, are known as Collections of Lincolniana (such as the Barton Collection of Lincolniana, which forms the basis of the University of Chicago's Lincoln collection, or more impressively, the Oldroyd Collection of Lincolniana, which forms the core of the Ford's Theatre Museum Collection). There are fewer such private Lincoln collections today, and they are rarely classified as collections of Lincolniana.
In some small ways, I hope that my blog will become a fine Internet collection of Lincoln materials befitting its name. Unlike some collectors, I will not post every Lincoln fact or article I can find; like the best collectors, I hope to discriminate wisely. In some ways, I will cast a wide net, and include discussions of Lincoln's legacy and influence today, especially in politics, but also in the arts -- including commercial arts, like advertising. In other ways, I will be more old-fashioned. I will focus much attention on Lincoln-specific books, documentaries, and other events, alerting people to upcoming things of interest and providing some (hopefully) timely reviews of this Lincoln material.
For the next few months, this will be more than enough, given the intensified interest in Lincoln during this, the bicentennial anniversary of his birth in 1809. Beyond that, I may add other elements, including some occasional essays on Lincoln that I write based more on my interests, rather than publishing cycles or news coverage.
So that is the stated scope of this blog. It is large enough to keep me busy for a long, long time, but not so helter-skelter as it might be. I think that many people will find it interesting (there is a significant audience for those Lincoln books, articles, programs, and exhibits that are appear in large numbers every year). The joke in publishing is that you can multiply your book sales by putting Lincoln's name in the title. If you are a Lincoln buff, or as I sometimes classify myself, A Lincoln Nut, welcome. Pass the blog address on to your friends -- they're welcome too.