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- Abraham Lincoln: A History V1 - 1/63 -
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: A HISTORY BY JOHN G. NICOLAY AND JOHN HAY
TO THE HONORABLE ROBERT TODD LINCOLN
THIS WORK IS DEDICATED IN TOKEN OF A LIFE-LONG FRIENDSHIP AND ESTEEM
A generation born since Abraham Lincoln died has already reached manhood and womanhood. Yet there are millions still living who sympathized with him in his noble aspirations, who labored with him in his toilsome life, and whose hearts were saddened by his tragic death. It is the almost unbroken testimony of his contemporaries that by virtue of certain high traits of character, in certain momentous lines of purpose and achievement, he was incomparably the greatest man of his time. The deliberate judgment of those who knew him has hardened into tradition; for although but twenty-five years have passed since he fell by the bullet of the assassin, the tradition is already complete. The voice of hostile faction is silent, or unheeded; even criticism is gentle and timid. If history had said its last word, if no more were to be known of him than is already written, his fame, however lacking in definite outline, however distorted by fable, would survive undiminished to the latest generations. The blessings of an enfranchised race would forever hail him as their liberator; the nation would acknowledge him as the mighty counselor whose patient courage and wisdom saved the life of the republic in its darkest hour; and illuminating his proud eminence as orator, statesman, and ruler, there would forever shine around his memory the halo of that tender humanity and Christian charity in which he walked among his fellow- countrymen as their familiar companion and friend.
It is not, therefore, with any thought of adding materially to his already accomplished renown that we have written the work which we now offer to our fellow-citizens. But each age owes to its successors the truth in regard to its own annals. The young men who have been born since Sumter was fired on have a right to all their elders know of the important events they came too late to share in. The life and fame of Lincoln will not have their legitimate effect of instruction and example unless the circumstances among which he lived and found his opportunities are placed in their true light before the men who never saw him.
To write the life of this great American in such a way as to show his relations to the times in which he moved, the stupendous issues he controlled, the remarkable men by whom he was surrounded, has been the purpose which the authors have diligently pursued for many years. We can say nothing of the result of our labor; only those who have been similarly employed can appreciate the sense of inadequate performance with which we regard what we have accomplished. We claim for our work that we have devoted to it twenty years of almost unremitting assiduity; that we have neglected no means in our power to ascertain the truth; that we have rejected no authentic facts essential to a candid story; that we have had no theory to establish, no personal grudge to gratify, no unavowed objects to subserve. We have aimed to write a sufficiently full and absolutely honest history of a great man and a great time; and although we take it for granted that we have made mistakes, that we have fallen into such errors and inaccuracies as are unavoidable in so large a work, we claim there is not a line in all these volumes dictated by malice or unfairness.
Our desire to have this work placed under the eyes of the greatest possible number of readers induced us to accept the generous offer of "The Century Magazine" to print it first in that periodical. In this way it received, as we expected, the intelligent criticism of a very large number of readers, thoroughly informed in regard to the events narrated, and we have derived the greatest advantage from the suggestions and corrections which have been elicited during the serial publication, which began in November, 1886, and closed early in 1890. We beg, here, to make our sincere acknowledgments to the hundreds of friendly critics who have furnished us with valuable information.
As "The Century" had already given, during several years, a considerable portion of its pages to the elucidation and discussion of the battles and campaigns of the civil war, it was the opinion of its editor, in which we coincided, that it was not advisable to print in the magazine the full narrative sketch of the war which we had prepared. We omitted also a large number of chapters which, although essential to a history of the time, and directly connected with the life of Mr. Lincoln, were still episodical in their nature, and were perhaps not indispensable to a comprehension of the principal events of his administration. These are all included in the present volumes; they comprise additional chapters almost equal in extent and fully equal in interest to those which have already been printed in "The Century." Interspersed throughout the work in their proper connection and sequence, and containing some of the most important of Mr. Lincoln's letters, they lend breadth and unity to the historical drama.
We trust it will not be regarded as presumptuous if we say a word in relation to the facilities we have enjoyed and the methods we have used in the preparation of this work. We knew Mr. Lincoln intimately before his election to the Presidency. We came from Illinois to Washington with him, and remained at his side and in his service-- separately or together--until the day of his death. We were the daily and nightly witnesses of the incidents, the anxieties, the fears, and the hopes which pervaded the Executive Mansion and the National Capital. The President's correspondence, both official and private, passed through our hands; he gave us his full confidence. We had personal acquaintance and daily official intercourse with Cabinet Officers, Members of Congress, Governors, and Military and Naval Officers of all grades, whose affairs brought them to the White House. It was during these years of the war that we formed the design of writing this history and began to prepare for it. President Lincoln gave it his sanction and promised his cordial cooperation. After several years' residence in Europe, we returned to this country and began the execution of our long-cherished plan. Mr. Robert T. Lincoln gave into our keeping all the official and private papers and manuscripts in his possession, to which we have added all the material we could acquire by industry or by purchase. It is with the advantage, therefore, of a wide personal acquaintance with all the leading participants of the war, and of perfect familiarity with the manuscript material, and also with the assistance of the vast bulk of printed records and treatises which have accumulated since 1865, that we have prosecuted this work to its close.
If we gained nothing else by our long association with Mr. Lincoln we hope at least that we acquired from him the habit of judging men and events with candor and impartiality. The material placed in our hands was unexampled in value and fullness; we have felt the obligation of using it with perfect fairness. We have striven to be equally just to friends and to adversaries; where the facts favor our enemies we have recorded them ungrudgingly; where they bear severely upon statesmen and generals whom we have loved and honored we have not scrupled to set them forth, at the risk of being accused of coldness and ingratitude to those with whom we have lived on terms of intimate friendship. The recollection of these friendships will always be to us a source of pride and joy; but in this book we have known no allegiance but to the truth. We have in no case relied upon our own memory of the events narrated, though they may have passed under our own eyes; we have seen too often the danger of such a reliance in the reminiscences of others. We have trusted only our diaries and memoranda of the moment; and in the documents and reports we have cited we have used incessant care to secure authenticity. So far as possible, every story has been traced to its source, and every document read in the official record or the original manuscript.
We are aware of the prejudice which exists against a book written by two persons, but we feel that in our case the disadvantages of collaboration are reduced to the minimum. Our experiences, our observations, our material, have been for twenty years not merely homogeneous--they have been identical. Our plans were made with thorough concert; our studies of the subject were carried on together; we were able to work simultaneously without danger of repetition or conflict. The apportionment of our separate tasks has been dictated purely by convenience; the division of topics between us has been sometimes for long periods, sometimes almost for alternate chapters. Each has written an equal portion of the work; while consultation and joint revision have been continuous, the text of each remains substantially unaltered. It is in the fullest sense, and in every part, a joint work. We each assume responsibility, not only for the whole, but for all the details, and whatever credit or blame the public may award our labors is equally due to both.
We commend the result of so many years of research and diligence to all our countrymen, North and South, in the hope that it may do something to secure a truthful history of the great struggle which displayed on both sides the highest qualities of American manhood, and may contribute in some measure to the growth and maintenance throughout all our borders of that spirit of freedom and nationality for which Abraham Lincoln lived and died.
John G. Nicolay John Hay [signatures]
ABRAHAM LINCOLN From a photograph taken about 1860 by Hesler, of Chicago; from the original negative owned by George B. Ayres, Philadelphia.
LAND WARRANT, ISSUED TO ABRAHAM LINKHORN (LINCOLN)
FAC-SIMILE FROM THE FIELD-BOOK OF DANIEL BOONE
SURVEYOR'S CERTIFICATE FOR ABRAHAM LINKHORN (LINCOLN)
HOUSE IN WHICH THOMAS LINCOLN AND NANCY HANKS WERE MARRIED
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