The Life of Abraham Lincoln: From His Birth to His Inauguration as President

The Life of Abraham Lincoln: From His Birth to His Inauguration as President

The Life of Abraham Lincoln: From His Birth to His Inauguration as President

The Life of Abraham Lincoln: From His Birth to His Inauguration as President

Synopsis

Ward H. Lamon's biography, which first appeared in 1872, presented a rustic portrait of the young Lincoln as he would be depicted in numerous books and later in movies: "He wore flax and tow linen pantaloons-I thought about five inches too short in the legs-and frequently he had but one suspender, no vest or coat." Straightforward in tone, the book was the first challenge to the filiopietistic school of Abraham Lincoln biography. One of Lincoln's few close friends, Lamon based his book on materials gathered by Lincoln's law partner William Herndon. Lamon's was the first Lincoln biography to be based on this indispensable collection. Joining forces with a politically well-connected ghost writer, Chauncey F. Black, Lamon produced a book controversial for its treatment of Lincoln's paternity, his courtships and marriage, and its assertion of Lincoln's lack of Christian faith. The Life of Abraham Lincoln from His Birth to His Inauguration as President was initially rejected by reviewers and the reading public as too invasive of Lincoln's privacy. Today's readers can relish the vivid account of Lincoln's boyhood, his young manhood, and his years in the Illinois legislature. Full accounts of Lincoln's relationships with Ann Rutledge, Mary Owens, and Mary Todd are equally valuable.

Excerpt

Rodney O. Davis

The Lamon biography of Abraham Lincoln is a book with two authors, the nominal one, Ward Hill Lamon, and Lamon’s amanuensis, Chauncey F. Black. It is also a book with two rather important godfathers, Jeremiah Sullivan Black, father of the ghostwriter, and William Henry Herndon. the volume covers only the period of Lincoln’s life up to his inauguration, for it was intended to be the first volume of a two-volume work. of special interest when published because of the connections of Herndon and Lamon with Lincoln, its major historiographical significance resides in its being the first Lincoln biography to consult the great body of reminiscence that Herndon had been collecting since shortly after Lincoln died. For that reason alone its reissuance has been long overdue, for this is the first new printing since original publication in 1872 by James R. Osgood and Company of Boston.

The involvement of Judge Jeremiah Black in this biography is a bit hard to trace directly, but his hand is nonetheless apparent. a lifelong Jacksonian of what must be called a very conservative stripe, the elder Black had been James Buchanan’s attorney general and secretary of state. His loyalty to the Buchanan administration and its policies never ceased, nor did his hatred of the memory of Stephen A. Douglas, who had divided the Democratic Party. He definitely qualified as a Washington insider. At the end of the 1860s Judge Black’s Washington law firm included his son Chauncey and had been joined by Lamon. When Lamon purchased copies of Herndon’s Lincoln reminiscences, he sold a half interest in them to Chauncey Black, the money for . . .

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