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

February 20, 1923

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President Warren G. Harding Acclaims Abraham Lincoln the Apogee of the Golden Age of American Statesmanship
Typed Letter Signed
1 page | SMC 1331

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      Background

       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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      THE WHITE HOUSE
      WASHINGTON

      February 20, 1923.

      My dear Mr. Ditmer:

      I wish to express my most hearty agreement with you in your interest in the career of Abraham Lincoln.  As the passage of the years takes up [sic] farther away from it, there is apparent a disposition among thoughtful Americans to look back upon the generation ending with the Civil War period, as a sort of golden age of American statesmanship.  It was marked by a courageous attack upon stupendous questions whose wise settlement was rightly regarded as fundamental to the very existence of the Republic.  There were giants arrayed on both sides of those questions, 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 the 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 reason of having coped with this giant of human purposes and patriotic aims.  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; and we shall appreciate him more and more as, with continued studies of his career, we come to recognize that his times were truly this Age of Lincoln.

      Very sincerely yours,

      WARREN G HARDING


      Mr. C. E. Ditmer,
      618 Wayne Avenue,
      Greenville, Ohio.