Thursday, April 04, 2013

The political and personal mystery that was Abraham Lincoln

I like countless people have looked on both sides of Lincoln. His personal life and his political one. I am often baffled by what little we really know about him.

Much was destroyed by Robert Lincoln who held a vice grip on his father's image and legacy. When Hay and Nicolay wrote the official biography of Lincoln. Much of his life with his wife was not included. The private letters between them were not as well.

Robert Lincoln destroyed all of this. What we are left with is a sketch rather than a portrait.

The information provided by Hay and Nicolay had to be approved by Robert. Also they just didn't bother adding stuff that would annoy Robert, as he was providing materials for the books. But only materials that he approved of could be put in the book.

So we have a very clean portrait of Lincoln.  The official biography had to be done this way. For if Robert got annoyed he would close off all access.

It would be amazing to see what he originally had, our history would be far more understood. Specially when it comes to Lincoln. Cause we really do not know him. We know what others thought of him, but we rarely get to understand what he was thinking.

I have a feeling that Abe Lincoln's letters to his wife were full of personal thoughts and tender words might make us think different of him. Perhaps see him far more passionate than we view him now.

Mary Lincoln always talked about the letters from her husband that she kept together. Sadly Robert's view was to make his father saintly and remove anything that made him seem mortal.

Mary Lincoln was a great political thinker and a great adviser to her husband. What we are often left with is a hollow image of her. For most of her letters have been lost, most probably burned also by Robert.

Robert Lincoln knew everything, but wrote nothing. He let it vanish and now we really do not know who Lincoln was.

 Lincoln's law partner Herndon, wrote a wonderful book about Lincoln, but it made Lincoln a little too human so it hardly made a dent in the history of Lincoln.

 Elizabeth Keckley wrote a long forgotten book called, "Behind the Scenes". It was said that Robert tried to get it removed, but it sold so pitifully it did not matter.

These two books show Lincoln more as he was, but it was not what others wanted to make him into.  Lincoln was tossed into the historical washing machine with too much bleach. So he lost a great deal of what he was.

We will never know what Lincoln thought or shared with many people. He kept no diary, had no close friends in which he would share many of his thoughts. He had friends and intimates, but kept them at arms length. They saw him, heard him, laughed with him, but truly did not know him.

His close friend David Davis said that as soon as Lincoln was finished with someone he needed, he tossed them away like a used chess piece.

Lincoln was not always nice, he could be nasty, he could lie through his teeth to get what he wanted, was not religious, but knew he could move people by using religious texts.

So each of us has our own personal Lincoln. What we think he was, or hope he was. Cause no matter what, no one will ever know him.  To figure what made him tick will forever be a great mystery