Friday, May 3, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 10: Abraham Lincoln, Autobiography Written for Campaign (#111)

Abraham Lincoln, Autobiography Written for Campaign from Abraham Lincoln: Speeches and Writings 1859–1865:
The weird thing is, if you've read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, then you already know just about everything he says in here. For all the faults of that book, it was pretty nicely researched.

Campaign literature is like protest literature: it wants you to do something. (Hawthorne didn't write a pamphlet for Pierce in order to not get Pierce elected--though it might've been better if he had.) And so newly-national Lincoln sounds unsurprisingly like a lot of politicians here: he came from such poor circumstances and he's a down home guy. Now, the anecdotes might change a bit--Lincoln knew how to handle an axe, didn't have enough schooling but borrowed books and bettered himself--but the intent is pretty much the same.

I recently watched Lincoln, which makes 1860s-era politics seem a lot like our own; Lincoln's campaign biography merely hammers that home, as when Lincoln tries to explain why he voted against the Mexican-American war (illegal war) but voted to supply the army (support the troops).

What's most interesting to me--besides that weird little dig about "the peculiar habits" of the "quakers," which is part of this 19th-century distrust over the Quakers--is how Lincoln refers to himself as "A." for the first 75% and then switches to "Mr. L." when he gets elected to Congress. Is that a conscious effort to make himself seem relatable when young and give him gravitas when older?

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