Tags: Presidential History | biography | of | abraham lincoln | depictions | changed

Biography of Abraham Lincoln: How Author Depictions Have Changed Through Years

By    |   Tuesday, 03 Feb 2015 06:05 PM

In biographies of Abraham Lincoln through the years, the presidential leader has gone from being portrayed as a divine individual with nary a fault or peer to an individual with great leadership abilities but possessed by his own demons, struggling with his family life and a country on the brink of collapse.

Works shortly after the 16th president's death painted him as a larger-than-life individual. Just weeks after the president's death, Josiah Holland, a popular author of advice books, went to Springfield, Illinois, to chronicle the president's life. While adding to the country's knowledge of the leader, Holland's "Life of Abraham Lincoln" was labeled by critics at that time as a eulogy to Lincoln.

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Author David Donald would later tell the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association that Holland manufactured “a mythological patron saint.”

When time had passed and many of those who had written personal remembrances of the president passed away, more critical looks of Lincoln began to crop up.

Works emerged that depicted Lincoln as an intelligent but crude person, a product of the frontier. A 1920 work examined if he was an illegitimate child.

Then historians began wresting with what changed Lincoln from an anti-slavery moderate to the Great Emancipator.

“It was not simply that he was wisely biding his time and waiting for Northern anti-slavery sentiment to mature in order to move on emancipation,” wrote Manisha Sinha in "Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World." “He himself had to be convinced.”

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More recently, authors have examined the troubles of Lincoln, from his own depression to his abusive marriage.

Lincoln scholar and author Michael Burlingame told Abraham Lincoln Online, “There was a theme that is in my first book, 'The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln' ... how awful the marriage was.”

“The stories of Mary Todd Lincoln and how badly she behaved in treating Lincoln were truly dismaying. She physically abused him. She embarrassed him time and again by accepting bribes and kickbacks and by overspending and padding expense accounts and payrolls and accepting commissions for pardon brokering. The evidence for this is overwhelming and is going to shock some people.”

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In biographies of Abraham Lincoln through the years, the president has gone from being portrayed as a divine individual with nary a fault or peer to an individual with great leadership abilities but possessed by his own demons, struggling with his family life and a country on the brink of collapse.
biography, of, abraham lincoln, depictions, changed
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2015-05-03
Tuesday, 03 Feb 2015 06:05 PM
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