15,000 Lincoln books

 

B. Nash

B. Nash

 

 

Well, it may be gathered from the picture above that I’m in deep thought. Maybe I am. Maybe I’m thinking about the fact that there have been 15,000 books written about Abraham Lincoln, to date. Maybe I’m realizing that I’ll never read near as many books about Lincoln as that astronomical number. Who could? Maybe I’m wondering how so many books could be written about one man-and say anything new? And maybe I’m chuckling a bit, because I think Abraham Lincoln, himself, would have been utterly amazed that 15,000 books could ever have been written about him. In fact, in 1859, Lincoln wrote a short biographical sketch about himself at the request of Jesse Fell. As you will note, it is a concise account of his life as Lincoln saw it.  There was certainly not enough written to fill 15,000 books! Here’s what Lincoln wrote:

I  was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. My parents were both born in Virginia of undistinguished families – second families, perhaps   I should say. My mother, who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name of Hanks, some of whom now reside in Adams, and others in Macon counties, Illinois. My paternal grandfather, Abraham Lincoln, emigrated from Rockingham County, Virginia, to Kentucky, about 1781 or 2, where, a year or two later, he was killed by Indians, not in battle, but by stealth when he was laboring to open a farm in the forest. His ancestors, who were Quakers, went to Virginia from Berks County, Pennsylvania. An effort to identify them with the New England family of the same name ended in nothing more definite than a similarity of Christian names in both families, such as Enoch, Levi, Mordecai, Solomon, Abraham and the like.

My father, at the death of his father, was but six years of age; and he grew up, literally without education. He removed from Kentucky to what is now Spencer county, Indiana, in my eighth year. We reached our new home about the same time the state came into the Union. It was a wild region with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods. There I grew up. There were some school so called; but no qualification was ever required of a teacher beyond “readin, writin and cipherin,” to the Rule of Three. If a straggler supposed to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard. There was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education. Of course when I came of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read, write and cipher to the Rule of Three; but that was all. I have not been to school since. The little advance I now have upon this store of education I have picked up from time to time under the pressure of necessity.

I was raised to farm work, which I continued till I was twenty-two. At twenty-one I came to Illinois, and passed the first year in Illinois-Macon county. Then I got to New Salem (at that time in Sangamon, now in Menard county) where I remained a year as a sort of clerk in a store. Then came the Black Hawk War; and I was elected a Captain of Volunteers – a success which gave me more pleasure than any I have had since. I went the campaign was elated, ran for the Legislature the same year (1832) and was beaten – the only time I have been beaten by the people. The next, and three succeeding biennial elections, I was elected to the Legislature. I was not a candidate afterwards. During this Legislative period I had studied law, and removed to Springfield to practice it. In 1846 I was once elected to the lower House of Congress. Was not a candidate for re-election. From 1849 to 1854, both inclusive, practiced law more assiduously than ever before. Always a Whig in politics, and generally on the Whig electoral tickets, making active canvasses. I was losing interest in politics, when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused me again. What have done since then is pretty well known.

If any personal description of me is thought desirable, it may be said, I am, in height, six feet, four inches, nearly; lean in flesh, weighing, on an average, one hundred and eighty pounds; dark complexion, with coarse black hair, and gray eyes-no other marks or brands recollected.

December 20, 1859

 

 

Source: The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, III 1858-1860

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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