Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"LINCOLNOCLASM"

Edgar Lee Masters did not like Abraham Lincoln. Masters so disliked Lincoln that his biography, Lincoln the Man, reads like a diatribe against the 16th President. Masters was so uncomplimentary of Lincoln that a bill was introduced in Congress to have his work declared obscene. The incident with Masters' biography of Lincoln gave rise to the coinage of a new word, "Lincolnoclasm," and those authors who were uncomplimentary of Lincoln became known as "Lincolnoclasts."

I have at last finished the first draft of my new book on Lincoln's famous Almanac Trial. It exemplifies Will Rogers' aphorism "There's a lot we know that just ain't so." I am definitely not a Lincolnoclast, but I think the book will show that several incidents from the trial have been portrayed in a way to enhance Lincoln's stature at the expense of historical accuracy. The process started when Lincoln was running for President, and the story of the trial was dramatized as a piece of campaign propaganda. Of course, this spawned counter-propaganda which was highly unflattering, and at least one of those unflattering stories has endured to the present.

I believe that the "true facts" of the trial, though not as dramatic as some of the myth, will show that Lincoln was a superb trial lawyer. I think the book will also answer some modern day criticisms which raise questions about his legal ethics. I was a criminal trial lawyer for 32 years, and I can unreservedly say that I would have been glad to  have Lincoln as co-counsel on any case I ever tried. I believe it would also have been a pleasure to try a case against him. He was well-versed in the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable.