No one interested in American history can escape Abraham Lincoln. Over the years the outpouring of books, articles, essays, and poems has been enormous, so much so that this form of activity is sometimes referred to as “the Lincoln industry.” With all of this attention devoted to one man, how can there be a “Lincoln puzzle”? Surely all Americans know him — walking for miles to borrow (or return) books, reading by firelight, splitting fence rails, wrestling with the boys (always winning) — this simple, rugged, honest son of the frontier, a man of the people, called by them to save the Union and free the slaves, presiding with melancholy anguish over a long and bloody war, comforting Mrs. Bixby for the loss of her sons. Is this not what they see when they go to the Lincoln Memorial and look up at that brooding giant whose somber gaze seems to penetrate the very meaning of life? Where is the puzzle?
What Americans see is the legendary Lincoln, who began to take shape when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on Good Friday.
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