CHAPTER FOURSTEEL AND VELVET

Not often in the story of mankind does a man arrive on earth who is both steel and velvet, who is as hard as rock and soft as drifting fog, who holds in his heart and mind the paradox of terrible storm and peace unspeakable and perfect.

—Carl Sandburg, poet and author, writing about Abraham Lincoln

 

In July 1862, President Abraham Lincoln made the most momentous decision of his presidency.

It was a wrenching time. The Civil War had been going badly for the Union, and Lincoln’s eleven-year-old son, Willie, had died recently, devastating the president.

Lincoln abhorred slavery, but he knew that the Constitution implicitly protected it, greatly limiting his presidential options. He believed slavery would die out over ...

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