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The Inner Life Of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months At The White

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The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months at the White House (1867)
by Francis Carpenter

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Francis Bicknell Carpenter (1830 – 1900) was an American painter born in Homer, New York. Carpenter is best known for his painting First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln, which is hanging in the United States Capitol. Carpenter resided with President Lincoln at the White House and in 1866 published his one volume memoir The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln:
Six Months at the White House with Abraham Lincoln.

The book by Carpenter, the artist who painted "The Emancipation Proclamation," appearing within a few years after the President's death, has vitally influenced the conception of Lincoln's character held by two generations of Americans. "The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months at the White House" described the President's daily life as Mr. Carpenter knew it and was an intimate character study such as few men of the time, even among those brought into close official relations with Mr. Lincoln, were qualified to make. His book was widely read and many men and women of today can refer their first attempts to idealize the man Lincoln to the word-pictures so skillfully drawn by Mr. Carpenter, who was a writer as well as a painter.

In order to paint the famous portrait, Mr. Carpenter spent six months in Washington, chiefly at the White House, carefully studying his subjects. The result was one of the most satisfactory historical portrait groups ever produced by an American artist. The painting has been reproduced as a steel engraving and has thus had wide circulation. The original canvas was purchased by Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson and presented to Congress. It now hangs in the Capitol at Washington. Mr. Carpenter wrote a popular book about his experiences in Washington

An artist of more or less talent—we do not know how much or how little— takes it into his head that it would be a good thing to give a portrait of Mr. Lincoln and his Cabinet. He applies to several friends to aid him in carrying out his views; he gets letters of introduction to Mr. Lincoln, who readily accepts his proposition and receives him into the White House, so that he can see him at every leisure moment. Thus far all is right. The President did as he promised; his conduct towards the artist was kind and encouraging. This is not denied; on the contrary, gratitude is expressed for it.

The ostensible object of the author in publishing this book is to show what a great man Mr. Lincoln was; but its real object is very different and sufficiently obvious. Next to the author himself, the chief hero of the book, is not the President, but his Secretary of State. If we are to believe Mr. Carpenter, it is to the latter we are indebted for every important step taken by the former; in short, according to our very patriotic artist-author, Mr. Lincoln was little better than a mere puppet in the hands of Mr. Seward. This information is conveyed to us very much in the spirit of, Le roi est mori; vive le roil that is, in a manner which renders it more than probable that, had Mr. Seward been the person who fell, we should have had a very different estimate from that now presented; then the guiding genius would have been, really as well as nominally, Mr. Lincoln. Mr. Seward might have been a very clever person; he would have had many great and noble qualities, but he would not have been the intellectual giant, the sagacious, far-seeing, profound, and eloquent statesman which he now is. Had he died instead of Mr. Lincoln, he could never have been President.

Accordingly, not only is he lauded to the skies in this book, as casting all other statesmen and cabinet ministers of ancient and modern times into the shade, but the pettiest of his "friends" are magnified on a similar scale—persons whose only friendship for anybody is that which is based on the hope of gain, the expectation of some paltry office which may be sold or bartered like a petroleum well, or the rout of a newsboy.

Originally published 1867; may contain an occasional

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