Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Finally, Abe Lincoln. Is he great?

now reading: Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years by Carl Sandburg

So I'm reading this bio of Abraham Lincoln, as I continue along with my prez bios project (reading a biography of every president in order to see where we went wrong, a project that was obviously started during the Dubya administration). I realize that for some people Abraham Lincoln has been "next" ever since I finished Thomas Jefferson, or possibly James Madison, since many of us tend to give little thought to the likes of Martin Van Buren, James K. Polk, or Zachary Taylor. And, let's not even get started about Millard Fillmore, who is solidly in my top three along with James Madison and my boy, JQA. (That would be John Quincy Adams).

But you see, if you don't read a biography of every president in order to see where we went wrong, then you might find yourself reading a book about ol' Abe without any idea what Franklin Pierce (#14) and James Buchanan (#15) did in the decade before the Civil War. I must say that reading these presidential stories has been even more interesting than I thought it was going to be. The early-to-mid 1800s are a seriously incredible time in U.S. history, with so much going on, and HUGE problems to solve, and so many potentially mad events on the horizon, and the presidents are fascinating.  I have found my study of Abe enhanced by knowing the details of what came before.

I am totally not prepared to launch into any slavery diatribe right now, but my god was that a problem for the nation. Very few saints in the whole ending-slavery thing. For example, Lincoln: not a radical abolitionist. He was much more concerned with keeping the union together, etc., at least as president. It is interesting to read about the folksy, humorous, humble man, as presented by Carl Sandburg. Obviously most of us know Carl Sandburg for his poetry, but he dug deep and spent years creating this six-volume portrait of Lincoln, which he then himself abridged into a six-in-one 800-page volume (that I am now reading).

Obviously, I know how things are going to end, but it is nonetheless a gripping saga getting there.

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