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Abraham Lincoln and the Self-Made Myth Essay

An ambitious ascent from a poor Illinois farm boy to occupying the highest political office during one of Americas most turbulent times makes for the literature of hero worship. In the essay entitled Abraham Lincoln the self-made myth Rich Hofstadter challenges the reader to penetrate beneath the surface of the American political tradions and investigate the event and actions that contributed to the Lincoln Myth. To begin with Hofstadter states that one of Lincoln’s most endearing qualisties to Americans was his humble origins and the fact that, “Lincoln was a preeminent example of that self-help which Americans have always so admired,” (121). But he further goes on to state that Lincoln used this to his advantage. First in his campaign speeches always eluding to himself as humble Abraham Lincoln and in the way he addressed his own wife in public as “mother” (122).

He received distinguished guests in shirtsleeves, and once during his presidency hailed a soldier out of the ranks with the cry, “Bub! Bub!” The concept of the self-made, simple man played well with the American public thus became “fully absorbed into his political being,” (124). Historical novels and fictionalized biographies about Lincoln would be amiss of the greater portion of its contents were not dedicated to the slavery issue. Many only give, “a tiresome celebration of the America past with a progressive interpretation of American history of her-worship and national self-congratulation,” (Forward 2). In Hostadter’s essay he discusses the slavery issue not with a sentimental approach but with critical analysis. Lincoln was a Southerner by birth. He grew up in communities in Illinois where slavery was rare. Laws against runaway slaves were in force when Lincoln served in the state legislature. It was here that Lincoln made his first public statement on slavery by voting against a proslavery resolution.

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