by Allen C. Guelzo

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln told Chicago journalist John Locke Scripps: “Why, Scripps, it is a great piece of folly to attempt to make anything out of my early life. It can all be condensed into a single sentence . . . ‘The short and simple annals of the poor.’ That’s my life, and that’s all you or anyone else can make of it.” That, of course, was not true. No American life has ever been less capable of being telescoped into a single sentence; no American life has ever been so far removed from merely being “short and simple.”