Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1858 - Vol. 1

By Albert J. Beveridge | Go to book overview

PREFACE

WHEN Mr. Beveridge had finished his Life of John Marshall, he already had in view writing a Life of Abraham Lincoln, to be, as he expressed it, a companion piece to the Marshall, continuing the institutional interpretation of America and weaving it about the life and career of Lincoln as he had tried to weave the first part of such an interpretation around the life and career of Marshall. In the two works he would have covered the subject from colonial days to the end of the War of Secession. The story told in the volumes now published is complete to November, 1858.

The methods used by Mr. Beveridge in gathering the material for this work were controlled by the true spirit of research. He made his own investigations, questioning what had been published by others and trusting no agent without duly verifying his work. He made journeys to the Lincoln country, sifted the many traditions which have grown wherever the family rested, and sought to see for himself how far the neighborhood could influence the man. He was tireless in reading collections of papers still unpublished, in carefully going through files of newspapers preserved in many and widely separated cities, seeking the fact and coloring of narrative he used so skilfully and convincingly. In his own words he stated the value he placed upon such minute research:

'Facts when justly arranged interpret themselves. They tell the story. For this purpose a little fact is as important as what is called a big fact. The picture may be well-nigh finished, but it remains vague for want of one more fact.

'When that missing fact is discovered all others become clear and distinct; it is like turning a light, properly shaded, upon a painting which but a moment before was a blur in the dimness.'

brks="brks">Having located and obtained what seemed of importance he would write the chapter in its first form, or draft. That was a preliminary stage, for he would work over his material again and again, rewriting the entire chapter many times -- a single chapter in the second volume was rewritten fifteen times -- until it

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