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Washington and Lincoln



Presidential Seal February 1996

For Presidents' Day we've gathered several past Atlantic Monthly articles about Washington and Lincoln -- two Presidents whose dignity, integrity, and statesmanship have become legendary. Legends aren't always true of course, but in today's pervasively cynical, anti-government atmosphere, Presidents' Day helps to remind us of the contributions and dedication of Presidents past and present. We hope that in this election year such a focus on character will inspire all Americans -- including those with political aspirations.


  • "Washington's Hardest Decision" (October, 1952) by Douglass Freeman, describes the reluctance with which Washington gave up his post-revolution retreat from public affairs to be the first to assume the office of President.

  • In "Washington's Great Campaign of 1776" (January, 1889) John Fiske gives a detailed description of military maneuvering, on both sides, leading up to Washington's defeat of the British at the Battle of Trenton.

  • Paul Leicester Ford points out in "Dr. Rush and General Washington" (May, 1895) that sacrosanct though his reputation may now be, in his own day Washington was not without his detractors. The main body of the article is composed of excerpts from the letters of Dr. Benjamin Rush, a doctor in the Continental army who addressed scathing criticims of Washington's management of the Continental army to his friend John Adams in the Continental Congress.

  • Arthur Morgan's "New Light on Lincoln's Boyhood" (February, 1920) is the product of interviews conducted by the author with descendants of some of Lincoln's friends and relatives. He unearths some amusing tales about Lincoln's boyhood escapades and character traits.

  • In "Recollections of Lincoln" (February, 1904) newspaper reporter Henry Villard, who on several occasions was assigned to report on political events in which Lincoln participated, recounts his experiences with and impressions of the former President.

  • And finally, John Vance Cheney's "Lincoln" (February, 1909) is a poem written in Lincoln's honor. The poem ranks Lincoln with such leaders as Caesar, Alexander, and Charlemagne, but suggests that Lincoln was more humble and human -- a hero for the common person.



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