My Dear General--While the ever varying throng which passed in and out of the doors of the White House furnished an almost unlimited field for the student of human nature, I think that the best point of observation was at the very moment of presentation to the President.
Among the daily applicants for an interview with Mr. Lincoln were representatives of every class and grade in the social scale, and from every corner of the vast domains of the Republic, and it would be hardly correct to say that he was less than perfectly "at home" with any and all of them. Even in conversation with men whose superior culture and information he frankly acknowledged, or for whose moral dignity or great achievements he professed the utmost respect, Mr. Lincoln was free from that embarrassment which at times is so painfully manifest in weaker men. Such entire self-possession is sometimes the consequence of overwhelming self-esteem, or an ever present consciousness of the possession of power, but with him it was the result of his utter absence of self-consciousness.1 His thoughts rarely reverted to any effect or impression which he himself might be making, and he was, therefore, if not at all graceful, at least easy and natural.
He was a most teachable man, and asked questions with a childlike simplicity which would have been too much for the false pride of many a man far less well informed. His fund of knowledge was, as he himself declared, very largely made up of information obtained in conversation, and if not so well arranged and digested as if it had been the accumulation of careful study and exact research, it included a vast amount of valuable matter hardly to be found in books. I may have occasion hereafter to instance the manner in which some such information, and the resulting ideas, was brought into play, not only in his law practice, but in the public service. His early education had not so disciplined his mind as to render hard study, mere book work, either easy or agreeable to him, and his reading was la
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Publication information: Book title: Inside the White House in War Times:Memoirs and Reports of Lincoln's Secretary. Contributors: William O. Stoddard - Author, Michael Burlingame - Editor. Publisher: University of Nebraska Press. Place of publication: Lincoln, NE. Publication year: 2000. Page number: 184.
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