February 20, 1923

President Warren G. Harding Acclaims Abraham Lincoln the Apogee of the Golden Age of American Statesmanship

Typed Letter Signed
1 page
SMC 1331
 Looking at Lincoln through the rear-view mirror of history, Harding notes a curious anomaly: the further away from Lincoln time takes us, the larger he becomes. In fact, not only does Lincoln seem larger, but he makes everyone around him larger too. The generation ending with the Civil War was “a sort of golden age of American statesmanship,” Harding surmises, in which giants roamed the political landscape. This was the direct result, he says, of Lincoln’s moral intensity: 

There were giants arrayed on both sides… and for that very reason we have come to appraise more highly the contributions of the Leader of Leaders whose sagacity, clarity of intellect, and steadfastness of purpose won for him premiership among those who at last dominated and won in the cause of Liberty and Union, Abraham Lincoln. Even those who were at the front of opposition to him appear to us greater by having coped with this giant… It was the moral intensity of this one man which, more than anything else, made the men of his time appear to us as giants. 

Harding, whom most historians rate a sort of presidential pygmy, was by 1923 already deeply mired in scandal; but he was no fool, and in writing about a better man at a better time, no doubt felt, sincerely, the loss of the Edenic “Age of Lincoln” he salutes, and mourns, here. 
Typed Letter Signed, as President, 1 page, quarto, The White House, February 20, 1923. To C. E. Ditmer
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