Narrative Summary of The Every-day Life of Abraham Lincoln

Overview: This book is a collection of personal stories and recollections about Abraham Lincoln, painting a picture of the man beyond the historical figure. It focuses on his early life in Kentucky and Indiana, his growth in New Salem, his legal career in Springfield, his political rise, and finally, his role as President during the Civil War. You’ll learn about his character, his struggles, his relationships, and his beliefs. The text provides a unique perspective on Lincoln as a man, rather than just a historical figure.

Main parts:

  1. Early Life: This section covers Lincoln’s childhood in Kentucky and Indiana, highlighting his poverty, lack of formal education, and the strong influence of his mother. It also describes his work on the farm and as a flatboatman, and his early interest in reading and politics.
  2. New Salem and the Black Hawk War: This section describes Lincoln’s move to New Salem, his work as a clerk, and his participation in the Black Hawk War. It showcases his athletic abilities, his kindness, his love of storytelling, and his growing reputation as “Honest Abe.”
  3. The Lawyer: This section details Lincoln’s early days as a lawyer in Springfield, the challenges he faced, and his rise to prominence as a respected attorney. It covers his practice of “riding the circuit” and his skills in handling diverse cases, including his famous defense of William D. Armstrong.
  4. Political Career: This section describes Lincoln’s first experience in the Illinois Legislature, his political evolution, and his rise as a Whig leader. It covers his relationship with Stephen A. Douglas and his increasing opposition to slavery.
  5. The Republican Party and the Lincoln-Douglas Debates: This section covers the formation of the Republican Party, Lincoln’s role in it, and his famous debates with Douglas, which solidified his reputation as a powerful speaker.
  6. The Presidency: This section covers Lincoln’s election as President, his inaugural address, and the first tumultuous years of his administration. It explores his views on secession, his cabinet choices, and the start of the Civil War.
  7. War Years and Emancipation: This section details Lincoln’s efforts to direct the war, his relationship with General McClellan and other commanders, the development of the “Monitor,” and the Emancipation Proclamation. It showcases Lincoln’s leadership, his wisdom, his compassion, and his struggles with the war and its consequences.

View on Life:

  • Humanity and Equality: Lincoln believed in the inherent equality of all men, even slaves, and he saw slavery as a moral wrong. He was driven by a deep sense of justice and a desire to make the world a better place.
  • Duty and Faith: Lincoln believed that doing his duty was paramount, and he placed his faith in God to guide him through the challenges he faced. He consistently tried to make difficult decisions based on a deep sense of right and wrong.
  • Common Sense: Lincoln trusted in common sense and the wisdom of the people. He believed that a strong government was necessary to protect the liberties of the people.


  • Black Hawk War: Lincoln’s experience in the Black Hawk War shaped his leadership and his understanding of military affairs.
  • The Great Lincoln-Douglas Debates: These debates offered a platform for Lincoln to articulate his anti-slavery views and showcase his oratorical skills.
  • The Trent Affair: This international crisis tested Lincoln’s diplomacy and his ability to handle pressure.
  • The Battle of Antietam: Lincoln’s decision to reinstate McClellan after Pope’s defeat proved wise and led to a Union victory.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation: This momentous decision demonstrated Lincoln’s commitment to ending slavery and his strategic understanding of the war.
  • The Battle of Gettysburg: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address immortalized his vision for a nation united under the ideals of liberty and equality.
  • The Capture of Vicksburg: This decisive victory solidified Lincoln’s confidence in Grant as a skilled commander.
  • Early’s Raid: This attack on Washington tested Lincoln’s resilience and his commitment to defending the capital.
  • The Hampton Roads Conference: This unsuccessful meeting with Confederate peace commissioners demonstrated Lincoln’s determination to maintain the integrity of the Union.
  • The Assassination: This tragic event ended Lincoln’s life, but also solidified his place in history as a martyr for liberty and a true leader of the people.


  • Poverty and Lack of Education: Lincoln faced immense challenges growing up in poverty and lacking access to formal education. He overcame these obstacles through hard work, self-education, and a relentless drive to improve himself.
  • The Civil War: Lincoln’s presidency was dominated by the Civil War. He faced a divided nation, rebellious states, and a challenging military campaign. He navigated these complex issues with determination, wisdom, and a deep commitment to preserving the Union.
  • Political Opposition: Lincoln faced opposition from both within his own party and from those who opposed his policies. He endured criticism and personal attacks with grace and a focus on the greater good.
  • The Question of Slavery: Lincoln struggled to balance his personal abhorrence of slavery with his commitment to the Constitution and the preservation of the Union. His decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation was a defining moment in his presidency and in American history.


  • The Conflict with Slavery: The central conflict in the text is the struggle against slavery. Lincoln, starting from his early anti-slavery convictions, navigates the political complexities of the issue, ultimately leading to the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • The Conflict within the Union: The Civil War represents a conflict between the North and South, ultimately pitting brother against brother and testing the very foundation of the United States.


  • The story follows Lincoln’s life from his humble beginnings in Kentucky to his rise as President and his pivotal role in guiding the nation through the Civil War.
  • Key milestones include:
    • His early struggles in Indiana and his move to New Salem.
    • His political career in Illinois and his rise as a leader of the Republican Party.
    • His election as President and his efforts to avoid war.
    • His decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
    • His leadership in guiding the Union to victory.
    • The tragic assassination that ends his life.

Point of View:

  • The book offers a unique perspective on Lincoln through the eyes of those who knew him personally. It provides intimate anecdotes and insights into his character and struggles, offering a more humanized portrayal of the historical figure.

How it’s written:

  • The text is written in a conversational and engaging tone, drawing heavily on personal anecdotes and recollections. This creates a sense of immediacy and allows the reader to connect with Lincoln on a personal level.
  • Example: “When Lincoln found out how it was, he said: ‘It’s all right. We’ll sit right down on the sand and wait for the boat.’ Then they all sat down on the ground and listened to genuine Lincoln stories till the time was up.”


  • The tone of the book is generally respectful and admiring of Lincoln, but it doesn’t shy away from portraying his struggles and the challenges he faced.

Life choices:

  • Lincoln’s life was marked by significant choices, each reflecting his values and priorities:
    • His pursuit of knowledge, despite poverty and limited opportunities.
    • His embrace of the anti-slavery movement, despite potential political consequences.
    • His commitment to preserving the Union, even at the cost of immense suffering.


  • The text teaches valuable life lessons about:
    • Overcoming adversity through hard work and determination.
    • Standing up for what is right, even when facing opposition.
    • The importance of compassion and understanding in a divided world.
    • The power of leadership based on integrity and moral conviction.


  • Abraham Lincoln: The main character of the book, Lincoln is portrayed as a kind, intelligent, and courageous man with a deep sense of justice and a commitment to the Union.
  • Stephen A. Douglas: Lincoln’s primary political opponent, Douglas is described as a shrewd and eloquent debater, but lacking Lincoln’s depth of character and commitment to moral principles.
  • Mary Todd Lincoln: Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd is a complex character, ambitious and independent, yet also prone to emotional outbursts. She plays a crucial role in Lincoln’s life, both challenging and supporting him.
  • William H. Herndon: Lincoln’s law partner and close friend, Herndon is a staunch abolitionist who influences Lincoln’s views on slavery.
  • Ulysses S. Grant: Lincoln’s chosen commander, Grant is portrayed as a quiet and determined leader, who ultimately guides the Union to victory.


  • Equality and Justice: The text explores the struggle for equality and justice for all, with Lincoln’s fight against slavery serving as a central theme.
  • Leadership and Character: The book emphasizes the importance of strong leadership, particularly during challenging times. Lincoln’s character, defined by honesty, compassion, and a deep sense of duty, exemplifies the qualities necessary for effective leadership.
  • The Cost of Freedom: The text emphasizes the sacrifices made for freedom, both on the battlefield and in the political arena. The Civil War serves as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices that are sometimes necessary for a just and equitable society.
  • The Power of Perseverance: Lincoln’s life is a testament to the power of perseverance, showing how he overcame adversity to achieve great things.


  • The text promotes the principles of:
    • Equality: All men are created equal and deserve equal rights.
    • Justice: It is essential to strive for justice and fairness in all aspects of life.
    • Duty: Each person has a duty to act with honor and integrity, particularly in the face of difficult challenges.
    • The power of the people: A strong democracy relies on the collective wisdom and strength of its people.


  • Characters:
    • Lincoln was driven by a desire to preserve the Union and to end slavery.
    • Douglas was primarily focused on political power.
    • McClellan sought military success but struggled to balance his ambition with the political pressures he faced.
    • Stanton was driven by a relentless desire to win the war.
  • Reader:
    • To understand Lincoln’s life and character beyond the historical figure.
    • To appreciate the challenges and complexities of the Civil War.
    • To learn valuable lessons about leadership, perseverance, and the pursuit of justice.

Unique Vocabulary:

  • “Scrubs:” Refers to individuals who were considered of a lower social class. Used by Lincoln to describe himself in his early years.
  • “Nubbin:” A small piece, especially of corn. Used by Lincoln to describe his candle stub, showing the scarcity of resources during his childhood.
  • “Probst:” A person who was extremely unattractive. Used by Lincoln to describe a neighbor he knew, illustrating his humor.
  • “Suckers:” Refers to individuals from Illinois. Used by Lincoln to describe two men who wanted to compare their height to his, showing his fondness for humor and his ability to engage with people from different backgrounds.
  • “Hard-handed yeomanry:” A term used to describe individuals who were farmers or laborers and who were considered representative of the working class.
  • “To get the hang:” To learn or understand something. Used by Lincoln to describe his goal for his first speech in Congress.
  • “Darkey Arithmetic:” A playful term used by Lincoln to describe a simplified way of calculating losses in a battle, showing his wit and his ability to connect with his audience.
  • “To play his last card:” A metaphor used by Lincoln to describe his intention to implement a bold strategy to preserve the Union, showing his determination.
  • “To get rid of the grub:” A slang expression used by Lincoln to describe his desire to escape the pressures of the presidency, showing his desire for a simpler life.
  • “To put the foot down firmly:” A phrase used by Lincoln to describe his willingness to stand firm against opposition, showing his strength of character.


  • The Story of Weems’s Life of Washington: Lincoln’s childhood love for this book shaped his appreciation for history and freedom.
  • Earning his First Dollar: This anecdote highlights Lincoln’s humble beginnings and his pride in honest work.
  • The Lightning Rod Story: This anecdote showcases Lincoln’s wit and his opposition to political opportunism.
  • The Story of Sykes’s Dog: Lincoln’s use of this story highlights his sense of humor and his ability to relate to people from all walks of life.
  • The Story of the ‘Monitor’: This anecdote illustrates how Lincoln’s willingness to take a chance on an unconventional idea contributed to a crucial military victory.
  • The Story of the Man with a Gun: Lincoln’s use of this story to explain a situation reveals his keen understanding of human nature and his ability to find humor even in difficult situations.
  • The Story of the Man with the ‘Coon’: This anecdote illustrates Lincoln’s patience and his understanding of how easily people can be persuaded.


  • The Importance of the Union: Lincoln believed that the Union was essential to the survival of the Republic and the protection of liberty. He argued that the states were inseparable and that the people had a duty to preserve the nation.
  • The Moral Wrong of Slavery: Lincoln was steadfast in his belief that slavery was a moral evil that needed to be eradicated. He saw it as a violation of basic human rights and as a threat to the principles of freedom and equality upon which the country was founded.
  • The Need for Courage and Perseverance: Lincoln’s actions throughout his presidency highlight the importance of courage, perseverance, and a unwavering commitment to ideals.
  • The Power of Unity: Lincoln consistently emphasized the need for unity in the face of division and conflict. He believed that the strength of the nation lay in the unity of its people and that unity was essential for overcoming the challenges of war and reconstruction.

Facts and findings:

  • The text provides a wealth of information about Lincoln’s life, including details about his family, his education, his legal career, his political rise, and his presidency.
  • It also highlights key facts about the Civil War, such as the events leading to the conflict, major battles, and the process of emancipation.


  • The book references specific statistics related to:
    • The population of slaveholders in Kentucky: 33,000 slaveholders, compared to 600,000 non-slaveholding whites.
    • The number of Union troops: The text mentions that the Union army had 400,000 soldiers in 1861 and that 130,000 more were added after the Emancipation Proclamation.
    • The cost of horses: Lincoln referred to the cost of cavalry horses, which were priced at $125 per head.
    • The number of troops under Grant’s command: 80,000 soldiers.

Points of View:

  • First-Person Perspective: The book is written from a first-person perspective, drawing on personal recollections and accounts from those who knew Lincoln. This provides a unique and often intimate perspective on the man, revealing his personality and struggles beyond the historical figure.
  • The View of Lincoln’s Contemporaries: The text provides insight into how Lincoln’s contemporaries viewed him, both those who supported and those who opposed his actions. This reveals the various perceptions of Lincoln as a person and a leader.


  • A Humanized Portrait of Lincoln: The text offers a perspective on Lincoln that goes beyond the traditional historical account. It emphasizes his humanity, his struggles, his humor, and his personal qualities.
  • The Perspective of the People: The book also highlights Lincoln’s deep connection with the people. He is portrayed as a man of the people, understanding their needs and concerns and fighting for their rights.
  • The Perspective of the War: The text provides a nuanced perspective on the Civil War, highlighting the challenges of leadership during a time of national crisis.

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