Lincoln was a complicated man; unassuming but ambitious, honest but wily, humorous but occasionally despondent, spiritual but not religious, and
he thought slavery was evil but condoned its legality until late in his life. The author, as narrator, tells of Lincoln's magnanimity in both victory and defeat, his continual quest for self-improvement, his personal tragedies, and his compassion in the midst of war. However, Lincoln was a pragmatic politician
who pushed the Emancipation Proclamation although it did not free many slaves, used patronage to secure votes, and ordered the extraordinary use of
Presidential War Powers. His life story is told in a generally chronological
series of chapters focused on a time or specific event in Lincoln's life from his childhood to his time in New Salem on his own, his "adventure in the Law,"
his close relationship with friends, his political career, his family, his unlikely rise to become President of the United States, and the monumental decisions he faced during the Civil War.
There are over 16,000 books about Lincoln registered with the Library of
Congress ranging from those which only extol his virtues (and he had many)
to those which attempt to "de-myth" his legacy by exaggerating his faults (and
he had a few). The fact is that Lincoln's life defies simple characterizations.
He had opposed President Polk's "Unconstitutional use of power" during the
Mexican War, but Lincoln later assumed War Powers beyond Polk's or any other previous President. He was known as "Honest Abe" and even political opponents remarked that "his cards were always face-up," but he once intentionally misled Congress. He agonized over the carnage inflicted on both sides of the War, but continually ordered his Generals to "push the fight" to the Southern armies. To Lincoln, however, these actions were not "transgressions" but strategies necessary to end the War and to achieve his overarching goal, the preservation of the Union.
The issues of slavery, secession and the Civil War are discussed to explore
the effect of certain events on Lincoln and the life-changing decisions he made.
Lincoln's personal and political philosophy toward slavery evolved over time, but he always believed secession was illegal and must be prohibited. Selected Civil War battles and the Generals who were in command are also presented, but only if there was a direct impact on Lincoln personally or on his management of
Mr. Dorris chose to not include a detailed account of the assassination
conspiracy against Lincoln or the circumstance of his death, focusing
instead on his life and the way he lived it.
While every attempt was made to be historically accurate, Mr. Dorris chose
to not present a history textbook with every page interrupted by footnotes
to prove authenticity. Instead this narrative utilizes verifiable consensus
information about Lincoln and it does not attempt to "plow new ground" by
either challenging or embellishing Lincoln's legacy.
Mr. Dorris assumes the role of a narrator and simply tells his rendition
of the fascinating life story of "Abraham Lincoln - an uncommon, common man."