Over the course of American history, Jews have held many American leaders in high esteem, but they maintain a unique emotional bond with Abraham Lincoln. From the time of his presidency to the present day, American Jews have persistently viewed Lincoln as one of their own, casting him as a Jewish sojourner and, in certain respects, a Jewish role model. This pioneering compendium— The first volume of annotated documents to focus on the history of Lincoln’s image, influence, and reputation among American Jews— considers how Lincoln acquired his exceptional status and how, over the past century and a half, this fascinating relationship has evolved.
Organized into twelve chronological and thematic chapters, these little-known primary source documents—many never before published and some translated into English for the first time—consist of newspaper clippings, journal articles, letters, poems, and sermons, and provide insight into a wide variety of issues relating to Lincoln’s Jewish connection. Topics include Lincoln’s early encounters with Central European Jewish immigrants living in the Old Northwest; Lincoln’s Jewish political allies; his encounters with Jews and the Jewish community as President; Lincoln’s response to the Jewish chaplain controversy; General U. S. Grant’s General Orders No. 11 expelling “Jews, as a class” from the Military Department of Tennessee; the question of amending the U.S. Constitution to legislate the country’s so-called Christian national character; and Jewish eulogies after Lincoln’s assassination. Other chapters consider the crisis of conscience that arose when President Andrew Johnson proclaimed a national day of mourning for Lincoln on the festival of Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks), a day when Jewish law enjoins Jews to rejoice and not to mourn; Lincoln’s Jewish detractors contrasted to his boosters; how American Jews have intentionally “Judaized” Lincoln ever since his death; the leading role that American Jews have played in in crafting Lincoln’s image and in preserving his memory for the American nation; American Jewish reflections on the question “What Would Lincoln Do?”; and how Lincoln, for America’s Jewish citizenry, became the avatar of America’s highest moral aspirations.
With thoughtful chapter introductions that provide readers with a context for the annotated documents that follow, this volume provides a fascinating chronicle of American Jewry’s unfolding historical encounter with the life and symbolic image of Abraham Lincoln, shedding light on how the cultural interchange between American ideals and Jewish traditions influences the dynamics of the American Jewish experience.
Finalist, 2014 National Jewish Book Award
Finalist, 2015 Ohioana Book Award
A who's who of Lincoln scholars explores why Lincoln considered the Union the "last best hope of earth" and how his words and deeds have continued to shape the nation through modern times. Focusing on Lincoln's view of American history and his legacy for the United States and the world, this volume demonstrates the complexity of the problems Lincoln faced and the genius of his leadership in preserving the nation while purging it of slavery.
When Lincoln Came to Egypt
George W. Smith, with a Foreword by Daniel W. Stowell Southern Illinois University Press, 2016 Library of Congress E457.3.S68 2016 | Dewey Decimal 973.7092
In When Lincoln Came to Egypt, George W. Smith provides a detailed record of Abraham Lincoln’s travel in the southernmost region of Illinois, commonly referred to as Egypt. These visits began in 1830, before Lincoln had held public office, and continued through 1858, when he debated Stephen A. Douglas in Jonesboro and Alton as they ran against each other for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Lincoln found in the southern third of Illinois a political climate very different from that of central Illinois, where his career had begun. Lincoln’s trips to Egypt thus broadened his experience and understanding of the state as well as the nation. Smith discusses the origins of the people of the region and Lincoln’s early public life and provides historical and political background for his detailed discussion of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The culmination of fifty years of extensive research, When Lincoln Came to Egypt provides a glimpse into an often overlooked part of Lincoln’s development as a politician.
From the time of Lincoln’ s nomination for the presidency until his assassination, John G. Nicolay served as the Civil War president’ s chief personal secretary. Nicolay became an intimate of Lincoln and probably knew him as well as anyone outside his own family. Unlike John Hay, his subordinate, Nicolay kept no diary, but he did write several memoranda recording his chief’ s conversation that shed direct light on Lincoln. In his many letters to Hay, to his fiancé e, Therena Bates, and to others, Nicolay often describes the mood at the White House as well as events there. He also expresses opinions that were almost certainly shaped by the president
For this volume, Michael Burlingame includes all of Nicolay’ s memoranda of conversations, all of the journal entries describing Lincoln’ s activities, and excerpts from most of the nearly three hundred letters Nicolay wrote to Therena Bates between 1860 and 1865. He includes letters and portions of letters that describe Lincoln or the mood at the White House or that give Nicolay’ s personal opinions. He also includes letters written by Nicolay while on troubleshooting missions for the president.
An impoverished youth, Nicolay was an unlikely candidate for the important position he held during the Civil War. It was only over the strong objections of some powerful people that he became Lincoln’ s private secretary after Lincoln’ s nomination for the presidency in 1860. Prominent Chicago Republican Herman Kreismann found the appointment of a man so lacking in savoir faire
“ ridiculous.” Henry Martin Smith, city editor of the Chicago Tribune, called Nicolay’ s appointment a national loss. Henry C.Whitney was surprised that the president would appoint a “ nobody.”
Lacking charm, Nicolay became known at the White House as the “ bulldog in the ante-room” with a disposition “ sour and crusty.” California journalist Noah Brooks deemed Nicolay a “ grim Cerberus of Teutonic descent who guards the last door which opens into the awful presence.” Yet in some ways he was perfectly suited for the difficult job. William O. Stoddard, noting that Nicolay was not popular and could “ say 'no'about as disagreeably as any man I ever knew,” still granted that Nicolay served Lincoln well because he was devoted and incorruptible. Stoddard concluded that Nicolay “ deserves the thanks of all who loved Mr. Lincoln.”
For his part, Nicolay said he derived his greatest satisfaction “ from having enjoyed the privilege and honor of being Mr. Lincoln’ s intimate and official private secretary, and of earning his cordial friendship and perfect trust.”
The Dumville family settled in central Illinois during an era of division and dramatic change. Arguments over slavery raged. Railroads and circuit-riding preachers brought the wider world to the prairie. Irish and German immigrants flooded towns and churches. Anne M. Heinz and John P. Heinz draw from an extraordinary archive at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to reveal how Ann Dumville and her daughters Jemima, Hephzibah, and Elizabeth lived these times. The letters tell the story of Ann, expelled from her Methodist church for her unshakable abolitionist beliefs; the serious and religious Jemima, a schoolteacher who started each school day with prayer; Elizabeth, enduring hard work as a farmer's wife, far away from the others; and Hephzibah, observing human folly and her own marriage prospects with the same wicked wit. Though separated by circumstances, the Dumvilles deeply engaged one another with their differing views on Methodism, politics, education, technological innovation, and relationships with employers. At the same time, the letters offer a rarely seen look at antebellum working women confronting privation, scarce opportunities, and the horrors of civil war with unwavering courage and faith.