Abraham Lincoln, American Prince

Ancestry, Ambition and the Anti-Slavery Cause


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About the Book

The relationship between Abraham Lincoln and his two most influential ancestors—his mother and “the Virginia planter,” a slaveholder, a shadowy grandfather he likely never met—is rarely mentioned in Lincoln biographies or in history texts. However, Lincoln, forever linked to the cause of freedom and equality in America, spoke candidly of the planter to his law partner, Billy Herndon, who recalled his words, “My mother inherited his qualities and I hers. All that I am or ever hope to be I get from my mother—God bless her.”

This vital two-generation relationship was nonetheless problematic. In Lincoln’s boyhood the planter was a figure he ridiculed while in his young manhood the planter evolved into a role model whom Lincoln revered and associated with Jefferson’s overdue ideal that “all men are created equal.” Thus galvanized “by blood” to educate himself, to stand for election and to oppose slavery, Lincoln quit farming at age 22. This book explains how he thus followed an inherited family dream.

About the Author(s)

Wayne Soini is a retired labor lawyer living in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He has researched and written six nonfiction books.

Bibliographic Details

Wayne Soini
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 211
Bibliographic Info: 20 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8812-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4558-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
A Note on Method and Sources 4
Source Abbreviations 7
Part One: Reports
1. Nancy Hanks, Backwoods Debater (circa 1800) 10
2. The Weaving Shed Story (1817 or 1818) 18
3. Two Scary Grandfathers (Lincoln’s Boyhood) 26
4. Lincoln Investigates His Grandfathers (1848 and 1854) 38
5. What Lincoln Told Billy Herndon (circa 1851) 47
6. What Lincoln Told the “Special Correspondent” (1860) 57
7. Lincoln’s “Great Cause” (1863) 61
Part Two: Reflections
8. Lincoln’s Mother, Lincoln’s Hero 70
9. Nancy Hanks at and Outside of the Berrys’ 85
10. First Fruits: Sally, the Lincolns’ Firstborn 93
11. The ­Great Educational Debate 98
12. The Winter of the Deep Snow 110
13. A Meditation on Lucy Hanks, Her Impact on Her Daughter, and on Lincoln 120
14. What Lincoln Told Neither Herndon Nor the Special Correspondent 131
15. The Farmers and the Enslaved 143
16. Lincoln and His Ancestors 149
Part Three: Recapitulation
17. Lincoln’s Hope of an Immortal Name 156
Afterword 162
Appendix A: Lincoln: Uncertainty, Probabilities and the Census of 1850: A Speculative Essay 165
Appendix B: Lincoln’s Schooling (An Approximation) 171
Appendix C: Lincoln’s Early Encounters with Enslaved Persons and Statements About Slavery 173
Appendix D: Lincoln’s Campaigns for Public Office 174
Chapter Notes 175
Bibliography 197
Index 199