The Boys' Life of Abraham Lincoln HTML version

The Man Who Was President
The way Mr. Lincoln signed this most important state paper was thoroughly in keeping
with his nature. He hated all shams and show and pretense, and being absolutely without
affectation of any kind, it would never have occurred to him to pose for effect while
signing the Emancipation Proclamation or any other paper. He never thought of himself
as a President to be set up before a multitude and admired, but always as a President
charged with duties which he owed to every citizen. In fulfilling these he did not stand
upon ceremony, but took the most direct way to the end he had in view.
It is not often that a President pleads a cause before Congress. Mr. Lincoln did not find it
beneath his dignity at one time to go in person to the Capitol, and calling a number of the
leading senators and representatives around him, explain to them, with the aid of a map,
his reasons for believing that the final stand of the Confederates would be made in that
part of the South where the seven States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia come together; and strive in this way to
interest them in the sad plight of the loyal people of Tennessee who were being
persecuted by the Confederate government, but whose mountainous region might, with a
little help, be made a citadel of Union strength in the very heart of this stronghold of
In his private life he was entirely simple and unaffected. Yet he had a deep sense of what
was due his office, and took part with becoming dignity in all official or public
ceremonies. He received the diplomats sent to Washington from the courts of Europe
with a formal and quiet reserve which made them realize at once that although this son of
the people had been born in a log cabin, he was ruler of a great nation, and more than
that, was a prince by right of his own fine instincts and good breeding.
He was ever gentle and courteous, but with a few quiet words he could silence a bore
who had come meaning to talk to him for hours. For his friends he had always a ready
smile and a quaintly turned phrase. His sense of humor was his salvation. Without it he
must have died of the strain and anxiety of the Civil War. There was something almost
pathetic in the way he would snatch a moment from his pressing duties and gravest cares
to listen to a good story or indulge in a hearty laugh. Some people could not understand
this. To one member of his cabinet, at least, it seemed strange and unfitting that he should
read aloud to them a chapter from a humorous book by Artemus Ward before taking up
the weighty matter of the Emancipation Proclamation. From their point of view it showed
lack of feeling and frivolity of character, when, in truth, it was the very depth of his
feeling, and the intensity of his distress at the suffering of the war, that led him to seek
relief in laughter, to gather from the comedy of life strength to go on and meet its sternest
He was a social man. He could not fully enjoy even a jest alone. He wanted somebody to
share the pleasure with him. Often when care kept him awake late at night he would
wander through the halls of the Executive Mansion, and coming to the room where his