The work here was begun in 1894 at the suggestion of Mr. S. S. McClure and Mr. J. S. Phillips, editors of “McClure’s Magazine.” Their desire was to add to our knowledge of Abraham Lincoln by collecting and preserving the reminiscences of such of his contemporaries as were then living. In undertaking the work it was determined to spare neither labor nor money and in this determination Mr. McClure and his associates have never wavered. Without the sympathy, confidence, suggestion and criticism which they have given the work it would have been impossible.
The author was asked to prepare a series of articles on Lincoln covering his life up to 1858 and embodying as far as possible the unpublished material collected. These articles, which appeared in “McClure’s Magazine” for 1895 and 1896, were received favorably, and it was decided to follow them by a series on the later life of Lincoln. This latter series was concluded in September, 1899, and both series, with considerable supplementary matter, are published in the present volumes.
The new material collected will, we believe, add considerably to our knowledge of Lincoln’s life. Documents are presented establishing clearly that his mother was not the nameless girl that she has been so generally believed. His father, Thomas Lincoln, is shown to have been something more than a shiftless “poor white,” and Lincoln’s early life, if hard and crude, to have been full of honest, cheerful effort at betterment. His struggles for a livelihood and his intellectual development from the time he started out for himself until he was admitted to the bar are traced with more detail than in any other biography, and considerable new light is thrown on this period of his life. The sensational account of his running away from his own wedding, accepted generally by historians, is shown to be false. To the period of Lincoln’s life from 1849, when he gave up politics, until 1858, the period of the Lincoln and Douglas Debates, the most important contribution made is the report of what is known as the “Lost Speech.”
The second volume of the Life contains as an appendix 196 pages of letters, telegrams and speeches which do not appear in Lincoln’s “Complete Works,” published by his private secretaries Messrs. Nicolay and Hay. The great majority of these documents have never been published at all. The source from which they have been obtained is given in each case.
No attempt has been made to cover the history of Lincoln’s times save as necessary in tracing the development of his mind and in illustrating his moral qualities. It is Lincoln the man, as seen by his fellows and revealed by his own acts and words, that the author has tried to picture. This has been the particular aim of the second series of articles. (Nova)