By: Wade Hall
Reviewed by: Kevin Wilder
NewSouth Books, 2010
According to author Wade Hall, next to only Jesus, more books have been published about Abraham Lincoln than any historical figure. Lincoln was a natural storyteller, too, often using humorous narratives to get his political points across without “insulting or angering.” Hall, author of more than twenty books featuring other “good people,” has done something similar in his new book. Decorated with historical illustrations, photographs, and a detailed chronology, it offers yet another charming portrait of our sixteenth president’s rich life.
An Interview With Abraham Lincoln is as informative as it is concise, featuring questions posed by a fictional young journalist at the end of the Civil War weeks before the assassination. Shelby Grider fought for the Union at Shiloh, was saved by a Confederate soldier in Louisville, and has now asked the president to sit with him to ask a few questions.
Lincoln’s answers have been taken from actual words spoken in speeches and letters. They highlight the entire span of his life, from youth to eventual American sainthood. Lincoln mentions witnessing the evils of slavery tearing his nation apart early in life and passionately beginning working for change. He desired to be “literate and read books” and to be “a man of learning with a profession.” Where modern politicians would boast of their accomplishments, he shows greater humility by touching modestly on his involvement as a captain in the Black Hawk War and only showing slight enthusiasm regarding his marriage to Mary Todd Lincoln. (“If I was going to be a successful politician, I had to have a wife,” he says.) More strongly, however, are his convictions for everyone to be awarded personal freedom. As he states in the book, the Republican Party—the original radical progressive party dedicated to “saving the Union and emancipating the slaves”—gave him an opportunity to bring the country back together.
Parts of the mock interview focus on Lincoln’s admiration for the state of Kentucky, since Hall originally wrote the book for its Humanities Council to commemorate Lincoln’s 200th birthday. According to Hall, Lincoln remained a Kentuckian through and through, even while living in Indiana and Illinois. He was happy the state never seceded, even though Kentucky voted largely against him in the 1860 election. Most tragic of all might be his wishes for tranquility during his last three years in office.
This interview, by seamlessly weaving the man’s charming personality with his leadership, reminds us how his assassination would come far too quickly. May 2010
Kevin Wilder lives in Birmingham.