Thursday, December 12, 2013

Opening paragraphs.............Part the First

In the four years that Abraham Lincoln would be president, the American public would gradually discover, much to its collective astonishment, that this unprepossessing Illinois politician had remarkable abilities as a writer.  In that brief period, and in the midst of a relentless siege of crises and distractions, he would produce not one or two examples of provocative writing (which would itself be more than most presidents could manage) but a whole series of unmistakably impressive documents.  Even though confined to such unpromising formats as ceremonial speeches, messages to Congress, proclamations, and public letters in newspapers, Lincoln's presidential writing proved to be timely, engaging, consistently lucid, compelling in argument, and most important of all, invested with memorable and even inspiring language.  Eventually it began to be recognized that Lincoln's unsuspected literary talent was having a decisive effect in shaping public attitudes and was a telling factor in the success of his policies.  Only with his death, however, did it begin to dawn on his contemporaries that Abraham Lincoln's words were destined to find a permanent place in the American imagination.
-Douglas L. Wilson,  from the Prologue to Lincoln's Sword:  The Presidency and the Power of Words

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