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Book Chapter

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Publication Title

Lincoln & Liberty: Wisdom For the Ages


Even the most casual students of Abraham Lincoln are familiar with his greatest speeches. Literary achievements such as the Gettysburg Address, Second Inaugural, and sections of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates have become enshrined in American national memory. Lesser-known but still significant efforts such as the Peoria Speech (1854), the Cooper Union Address (1860), and the First Inaugural (1861) are also now part of the cultural literacy of any serious Lincoln devotee. But press Lincoln buffs on the content of his shrewdest confidential political statements, ask them to describe in detail his most significant partisan letters, memos, or documents, and even the best might stumble. Everyone acknowledges that Lincoln was an active partisan with deft political skills, but there is no canon for Lincoln's behind-the-scenes political career. To some, this might seem self-evident. Party organizing leaves behind little contemporary textual evidence, and nobody would claim that a missive fired off in the heat of a campaign -- no matter how pivotal -- deserves the kind of exegesis now routinely offered for Lincoln's public writings.


This published version is made available on Dickinson Scholar with the permission of the publisher. For more information on the published version, visit The University Press of Kentucky's Website.