Lincoln in Private: What His Most Personal Reflections Tell Us About Our Greatest President

May 4, 2021
Lincoln in Private: What His Most Personal Reflections Tell Us About Our Greatest President

**“A fascinating tour inside the mind—and the heart—of AbrahamLincoln . . . An important and timeless work.”—Jon Meacham,Pulitzer Prize–winning author of His Truth Is Marching On**From the New York Times bestselling author of A. Lincoln andAmerican Ulysses, a revelatory glimpse into the intellectualjourney of our sixteenth president through his private notes tohimself, explored together here for the first timeA deeply private man, shut off even to those who worked closelywith him, Abraham Lincoln often captured “his best thoughts,” as hecalled them, in short notes to himself. He would work out hispersonal stances on the biggest issues of the day, never expectinganyone to see these frank, unpolished pieces of writing, which he’dthen keep close at hand, in desk drawers and even in his top hat.The profound importance of these notes has been overlooked, becausethe originals are scattered across several different archives andhave never before been brought together and examined as a coherentwhole.Now, renowned Lincoln historian Ronald C. White walks readersthrough twelve of Lincoln’s most important private notes,showcasing our greatest president’s brilliance and empathy, butalso his very human anxieties and ambitions. We look over Lincoln’sshoulder as he grapples with the problem of slavery, attempting tofind convincing rebuttals to those who supported the evilinstitution (“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be amaster. This expresses my idea of democracy.”); prepares for hishistoric debates with Stephen Douglas; expresses his privatefeelings after a defeated bid for a Senate seat (“With me, the raceof ambition has been a failure—a flat failure”); voices hisconcerns about the new Republican Party’s long-term prospects;develops an argument for national unity amidst a secession crisisthat would ultimately rend the nation in two; and, for a presidentmany have viewed as not religious, develops a sophisticatedtheological reflection in the midst of the Civil War (“it is quitepossible that God’s purpose is something different from the purposeof either party”). Additionally, in a historic first, all 111Lincoln notes are transcribed in the appendix, a gift to scholarsand Lincoln buffs alike.These are notes Lincoln never expected anyone to read, put intocontext by a writer who has spent his career studying Lincoln’slife and words. The result is a rare glimpse into the mind and soulof one of our nation’s most important figures.