- Our Very Illustrious Brother, Abraham Lincoln: A Bibliography of the Louis D. Carman Lincolniana Collection in the Library of the Supreme Council, 33° S.J.
A very grand rhetorical foreword by Jack E. Hightower, past sovereign grand inspector general in Texas, precedes this bibliography and attempts to firmly situate Abraham Lincoln—and thus by association the books within the bibliography—as representative of Freemason ideology. Lincoln himself was not a Freemason; however, the Lincolniana collection that is the subject of this book belonged to a Freemason, Dr. Louis D. Carman of Washington, D.C. In February 1932 Carman donated his library to the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry Southern Jurisdiction. The introduction posits that because the Freemasons were going through difficulties similar to those of Abraham Lincoln at the time of the Civil War, Lincoln’s speeches could be used as “moral guide[s] for personal conduct and accountability” (ix).
The purpose of the introduction seems to be to promote Freemasonry rather than to discuss the content of the Lincoln collection. Much emphasis is placed on the Freemasons’ belief that Lincoln “was a Mason at heart if not in name” (ix). Freemasons and other groups seem to want to claim Lincoln as a noteworthy figurehead for their cause. Because Lincoln failed to commit to a specific group or religion, his personal beliefs are open to posthumous interpretation: “There is no doubt that Abraham Lincoln thought and wrote about many of the same philosophical issues that are at the centre of Masonic thought” (xii). The acknowledgments indicate why the book has an unabashedly Freemason perspective; acknowledged are sixty-three Freemason members and their family and friends who “answered the call for financial support to publish this bibliography” (xv).
The bibliography itself lists authors by alphabetical surname, book title, publishing details, pagination, series information, introduction author, and quantity of copies printed (many were privately printed and often limited to just a few hundred copies). Documented details are given if letters were enclosed or if, for example, the book contained an autograph from the author to Carman, such as item 299, [End Page 240] signed by David Lloyd George in 1924. A picture of a pamphlet or book front cover is often included and usually accompanied by an approximately 150-word extract from the text. While these extracts are interesting reading, it would have been beneficial if they contained page references. The end of the book includes a useful title and author index.
Many of the books and pamphlets in the collection focus on Lincoln’s life, his childhood of poor beginnings, and his relationships with his biological mother, Nancy Hanks, his foster mother, Sarah Bush Lincoln, and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. Some books look at his influence on temperance and the abolition of slavery. Others focus on his assassination and the conspiracy surrounding it. There are illustrated books, children’s books, scrapbooks of newspaper cuttings, tributes to him, speeches and addresses, personal recollections, sermons, interviews, reminiscences by his bodyguard Col. William H. Crook, books on the Civil War and Illinois, pamphlets containing schoolchildren’s essays on Lincoln, magazines, books describing other collections of Lincolniana, and pamphlets relating to Lincoln auction material. A number of publications are in French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Also included are books containing portraits and cartoons of Lincoln, poetry, odes, and quite a number of plays.
Many of the creators of these works attempt to use Lincoln to support their cause. A few authors express conjecture as to whether he was a spiritualist. Others look at his use of the Bible and Christian tendencies. What does appear to be a common theme running through many of the books, though, is that Lincoln was revered and deified by many. This is exemplified in a poem by Charles...