Title Reviewed:
Abraham Lincoln: His Story in His Own Words

Author Reviewed:
Ralph Geoffrey Newman

Robert G. Gunderson


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 71, Issue 4, pp 382-383

Article Type:
Book Review

Download Source:

Abraham Lincoln: His Story in His Own Words. Edited by Ralph Geoffrey Newman. (Garden City, N. Y.: Double-day & Company, Inc., 1975. Pp. 117. Frontispiece, notes, bibliographies, index. $6.95.)

Ralph Newman has searched Lincoln's autobiographical observations, arranged them chronologically, and provided transitions and notes. The result is a very brief account, revealing Lincoln's genius for precise phrasing as well as his modesty, humor, and tragic sense of life. Some quotations have contemporary relevance. "I thought the act of sending an armed force among the Mexicans," Lincoln said of President James K. Polk, "was unconstitutional, because the power of levying war is vested in Congress, and not in the President" (p. 40). After the unsuccessful contest with Stephen Douglas in 1858, Lincoln announced: "The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one, or even one hundred defeats" (p. 49). Newman fails to include Lincoln's opposition to suffrage for blacks and his parenthetical support for woman's suffrage during his campaign for the Illinois legislature in 1836: "I go for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage, who pay taxes or bear arms, (by no means excluding females.)"*

  • * Roy P. Basier, ed., Collected Words of Abraham Lincoln (8 vols., New Brunswick, N. J., 1953), I, 48.

Scholars will find nothing new, but general readers will be engrossed with the familiar eloquence of Lincoln's sparse prose. He went to school "by littles"; his store "winked out"; his marrying was "a matter of profound wonder." His election to Congress, he said, "has not pleased me as much as I expected" (p. 39). After assuming a task "greater than that which rested upon Washington" (p. 60), he wished that "war was an easier and pleasanter business than it is; but it does not admit of holidays" (p. 73). Responding to a serenade after Appomattox, he asked the band to play "Dixie," claiming it as "our lawful prize" (p. 90). That same week, like those heroes memorialized at Gettysburg, he paid "the last full measure of devotion" (p. 92).

Indiana, University, Bloomington Robert G. Gunderson

Published by theĀ Indiana University Department of History.