Abraham Lincoln, a Press Portrait: His Life and Times from the Original Newspaper Documents of the Union, the Confederacy, and Europe

Abraham Lincoln, a Press Portrait: His Life and Times from the Original Newspaper Documents of the Union, the Confederacy, and Europe

Abraham Lincoln, a Press Portrait: His Life and Times from the Original Newspaper Documents of the Union, the Confederacy, and Europe

Abraham Lincoln, a Press Portrait: His Life and Times from the Original Newspaper Documents of the Union, the Confederacy, and Europe

Synopsis

This striking portrait of Abraham Lincoln found in this book is drawn entirely from the writing of his contemporaries and extends from his political beginnings in Springfield to his assassination. It reveals a more severely beleaguered, less godlike, and finally a richer Lincoln than has come through many of the biographies of Lincoln written at a distance after his death. To those who are familiar only with the various "retouched" versions of Lincoln's life, Abraham Lincoln: A Press Portrait will be a welcome--if sometimes surprising--addition to the literature surrounding the man who is perhaps the central figure in all of American history. The brutality, indeed that malignancy of some of the treatment Lincoln received at the hands of the press may well shock those readers who believe the second half of the twentieth century has a monopoly on the journalism of insult, outrage, and indignation. That Lincoln acted with the calm and clarity he did under the barrage of such attacks can only enhance his stature as one of the great political leaders of any nation at any time.

Excerpt

Abraham Lincoln entered public life nearly a century and a half ago —long before the selling of cosmeticized Presidents in televised packages —when the force of a man's mind and the power of his lungs still counted.

The story of Lincoln's life can be newly discovered in the raw language of the newspapers and broadsides that reported his personal growth and career. The press of his time was a direct, unpolled reflection of the shades and fervor of clashing public ideologies. In taking the measure of a man and his philosophy, one can always apply modern yardsticks and meanings. The scholar, however, finds authenticity refreshing and turns to original sources and contemporary documents.

In recent years, Lincoln's life has been reinterpreted many times for political purposes; much chicken in Republican box lunches has been larded with fat-cat credos that Lincoln himself would have found hard to swallow. He has been updated continuously, with interpretations as far removed from his principles as those attributed to him by the Copperhead and fire-eating Southern publications during his years as the sixteenth President. The most outrageous distortions of all have claimed that Lincoln was really a racist who favored slavery. It is essential, therefore, to examine not simply a sentence here and there, or a campaign speech, but the long, straight line of his life as he lived it—and as it was revealed by the press to the American people.

"Please pardon me for suggesting that if the papers, like yours, which heretofore have persistently garbled and misrepresented what I have said, will now fully and fairly place it before their readers, there can be no further misunderstanding," Lincoln wrote to the editor of the Missouri Republican.

From his first days in New Salem, Lincoln was aware of the press as a forum for aiding or misrepresenting a candidate's cause. As a young postmaster he read the newspapers from different parts of the country that came to his surprisingly well-educated, even sophisticated Illinois village. He relied on reporters, editors, and publishers throughout his political . . .

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