Hollywood films eject a powerful impact that influences the world. As incredible as it may seem, sometimes that influence is for the good.
To prove that point, the Academy Award winning film, Lincoln, prompted interest in American History which in turn provided a boom for book sellers. The movie, a box office smash, created an intense desire within theater patrons to learn everything possible about the early president by devouring books with “Lincoln” in the title.
The most thorough insight of the 16th president graces the pages of “Lincoln” by David Herbert Donald (Touchstone Books-Simon & Shuster1995), and now newly re-discovered.
This is THE definitive book of Abraham Lincoln and the most thorough examination of the man behind the presidency who so shaped the United States ever to be published. .
Author David Herbert Donald stated in his forward that he wanted a more “grainy” biography of Mr. Lincoln than had been published in the past. In this, he succeeded admirably.
Eschewing the obligatory gloss and romanticism found in most books written about him, we see at last, the honest, human side of Mr. Lincoln, warts and all, that not only gives us a better understanding of one of the most important men in American history, but challenges us all to let nothing hold us back from following the paths of our own hearts.
Mr. Donald’s book is rich with little known information about Abraham Lincoln’s childhood, his dysfunctional family, his surprising sense of humor, pranks, and his regular bouts with melancholy and depression so severe that, “he took to his bed for over a week.”
Donald’s book gives attention to Lincoln’s unquenchable ambition, to his brain-numbing labor in his law practice, to his tempestuous married life, and his repeated defeats. And herein lies the success of this book; its honesty in portraying Lincoln as a human being with whom we can all identify.
There are many poignant scenes that come vividly alive in these pages, some so personal that a times the reader may feel he is intruding. One such scene shows Mr. Lincoln alone, and lonely in the Soldiers’ Home 3 miles from the capitol. His wife Mary was recovering from a carriage accident which resulted in a head injury. Lincoln could not spend much time at her bedside because of the draft riots in New York. Union troops had to be called to New York to try and restore order.
During this period, Lincoln reflected on his administration, his challenges and accomplishments. His problems were many including the still unsolved slavery issue. He was stubborn to the point of believing that only he could solve the problems at hand, which made him seem abrupt, even rude by some. Others accused him of being a dictator.
It became a private time of introspection and mental justification of many of his misunderstood actions. As he stares into space we want to slip quietly away, without disturbing him, closing the door gently behind us.
The myths are dispelled. He did not scribble the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope on the train taking him to the site. Lincoln worked many hours to craft that speech, re-writing it 50 times, checking every dot and comma.
He had more than his share of detractors. He was not unanimously loved as we might believe.