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Abraham Lincoln is legendary among American presidents. And yet the Lincoln legend sometimes makes it difficult to find Lincoln the man, the politician – and the political thinker. My hope is that this addition to the vast literature on Lincoln aids that search in some small way.
Anyone who undertakes the task of selecting and annotating Lincoln’s writings immediately faces several difficulties. First, Lincoln was a skilful politician who played his cards close to his vest. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to discern his “real” meaning. When he writes or says something that sounds despicably racist, for example, is he speaking from the heart or attempting to placate an audience of rabid racists? A second difficulty is that it is impossible to master the voluminous secondary literature on Lincoln, which continues to grow apace. This I know because when I agreed to edit this volume I tried – and finally failed – to master this massive corpus. But the attempt, although futile, was an education in itself.
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