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Preface FOR many years the surroundings in which Lincoln spent his boyhood, youth, and early manhood were looked upon as drab, sordid, uninspiring; as an obstacle that he in some mysterious manner succeeded in surmounting. As time went on, however, historians saw the frontier as a major factOl' in molding our institutions and national character. And it also molded men. With this new conception of history came the realization that Lincoln, in large measure, was shaped by his frontier environment; that, while it made life hard for him, it also gave him strength, courage, and confidence. Lincoln had less than a year of formal schooling. For the rest, he was self-made. He learned; he was not taught. What he read, he mastered; but he did not read widely. He learned principally by mingling with people and discussing affairs with them, by observation of their ways and their reactions-in short, from his environment . This growing appreciation of the part that Lincoln 's environment played in shaping him induced the 'V'WI, LINCOLN'S 'NEW SALEM State of Illinois to undertake the restoration of the village of New Salem, and is our reason for describing its people, their occupations, interests, customs, religion , manner of life, and thought. Some of New Salem's residents had important and easily recognized influence on Lincoln. Denton Offutt brought him to New Salem. Mentor Graham taught him grammar and mathematics, both of which were essential to his further development. Jack Kelso introduced him to Shakespeare and Burns. Jack Armstrong and his followers became his personal friends and political supporters . Others of the inhabitants touched his life at different points and even the humblest and most inconspicuous of them had some part in the making of the later, greater Lincoln. Lincoln's success as a politician and president, for example, was due in no small measure to the fact that he knew how the common man would think. This he leamed in large part at New Salem, where he worked on common terms with the humblest of the villagers. He learned how and what Joshua Miller. the blacksmith, thought, how Bill Clary, the saloonkeeper , Martin Waddell, the hatter, and Alexander Ferguson , the cobbler, viewed things. He knew the common people because he had been one of them. No other portion of Lincoln's life lends itself so readily to intensive study of his environment as do his six years at New Salem. His physical surroundings have Preface been re-created. The names and occupations of practically all of his associates and something of the character of many of them are known. The village was small enough to make practicable a reasonably complete description of its people and its life. Aside from its connection with IJincoln, New Salem is important as an example of a typical American pioneer village. There were hundreds like it. Some of them survived; others died, as it did. It is one of the fewperhaps the only one-whose founding, growth, and decline can be minutely traced. Part One of this book is devoted to the history of New Salem. It tells who the inhabitants were,how ~hey lived, how they looked on life. Since many of those most active in the village lived in outlying settlements, the account is not limited to the village, but provides a picture of the whole community. Part One sets the stage, so to speak, for Part Two, in which Lincoln's activities are discussed and the meaning of the New Salem years in his development is appraised. Part Three explains the growth of the Lincoln legend around the site of the lost town, and the changing conception of the signifi- ,cance of the frontier as a factor in Lincoln's life. It -explains how New Salem came to be restored, the manner in which the facts about the old cabins were secured, how the furnishings were acquired, and the problems that had to be solved in the restoration. x LINCOLN'S NEW SALEM The files of the Sangama J aurnal have yielded new facts. The letters of Charles James Fox Clarke, who lived in and, later, neal' New Salem, published in the Journal af the Illinois State Historical Society for January 1930 but never used before in any book on New Salem, give a vivid picture of New Salem life. T. G. Onstot's Pionee1'S of Menard and Mason Counties and Petel' Cartwright's Autobiography give the color of the pioneer days. County histories, reminiscences...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780809382774
Print ISBN
9780809313891
MARC Record
OCLC
782950380
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
N
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