Sunday, January 27, 2013

the last book I ever read (Rise to Greatness by David Von Drehle, excerpt four)

from Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year by David Von Drehle:

On the first day of the new year, Abraham Lincoln shook those outstretched hands until his fingers trembled because with the public on his side he might be able to untangle this horrible knot: master the army, hold Europe at bay, tame the Congress, coordinate the government, rescue the Treasury, launch an offensive, hold on to the border states, solve the problem of slavery, and somehow preserve his own sanity. Without public support, the country was finished. Lincoln knew he must move quickly—but never more vigorously than the people would sustain. He was driven by a simple theory, one friend summed up: “That but one thing was necessary, and that was a united North.”

The president shook the last hand at about two p.m., and then the final visitors descended from the East Room window to the White House lawn. Beyond the gates, the holiday continued long into the night, with parades and cannon fire and barrels of beer. Lincoln’s right arm ached, and his thoughts were dark. As he told a trusted friend the next day, he was, for the first time, beginning to consider “the bare possibility of our being two nations.” But he had sworn a solemn oath to preserve the Constitution and, as the coming year would prove, he did not give up easily. So Lincoln walked with his ungainly stride down the long central corridor of the White House and climbed the stairs to the second floor. With his boys lost joyfully in the celebration outside, there was nothing to keep him from the office, and though he was exhausted, it was time to go to work.

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