By John Ostapkovich
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Abraham Lincoln is revered almost universally as one of our nation’s greatest Presidents, but a new book by a Bordentown, New Jersey native tracks the activities of the two men who made it so.
Part 19th Century West Wing episode, part historical drama, Lincoln’s Boys by Joshua Seitz follows the efforts of John Hay and John Nicolay, who together performed White House roles that today would be Chief of Staff, political director and press secretary, in repairing the slain president’s image. Seitz says the man on the penny and in the Memorial in Washington D.C. was belittled at the time.
“After his Presidency, as well as during it, there were quite a few Washington and New York elites, and Boston elites who thought he was a simple-minded country lawyer who had leapfrogged over much-more-qualified candidates for the Presidency in 1860,” Seitz says, “and who had been fundamentally unqualified to lead the country during the war.”
Given access to Lincoln’s papers by his son Robert, the aides refuted every point, leading toward a pivotal biography that presented the hallowed Lincoln we know today.
“That was absolutely the tipping point,” Seitz says. “Everything that we now hold to be true about Lincoln, that he was a political genius, that he out-generaled his generals, that he stayed firm during the dark moments of the war, when other politicians were ready to cut a deal, the idea that he dominated a cabinet of strong personalities, that also comes from Hay and Nicolay.”