Theodore Roosevelt on Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "One of the Great Classics of Human Eloquence"

December 29, 1908

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Theodore Roosevelt on Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address: "One of the Great Classics of Human Eloquence"
Typed Letter Signed
1 page | SMC 548

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      Background

      Here President Roosevelt salutes the incomparable Gettysburg Address – thanking Heaven, in fact, that his upcoming remarks at the 1909 cornerstone ceremonies of the Lincoln birthplace would not be printed side-by-side with Lincoln’s immortal speech.

      Th
      ank Heaven that it can not be printed beside the Gettysburg address. A speech may be a pretty good speech of the hour, or of the day, or even of the year, and yet be ruined if put side by side with one of the two or three great classics of human eloquence—of that eloquence which shows forth its human soul.  

      Robert Collier of Collier’s Weekly bought the dilapidated and overrun Lincoln birthplace in 1905, that he might establish it as a “new Mecca in America” - akin to a second Mount Vernon - to which future generations could come to partake of the “purifying inspiration” of Lincoln’s life. He soon signed Roosevelt up as a member of the Board of Directors of the Lincoln Farm Association, and arranged for him to speak at its cornerstone ceremonies on the centennial of Lincoln’s birth. In this connection, Collier had received from Roosevelt an advance copy of his address, which he had wished to print side by side with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, within a design by Maxfield Parrish: but the discrepancy in length made that impossible, and Collier told Roosevelt he would instead have to print Roosevelt’s remarks as a “stand-alone” souvenir. This letter is Roosevelt’s response to that proposition. 


      Typed Letter Signed, as President, with some ten words in autograph, 1 page, quarto, The White House, Washington, December 29, 1908. To Robert J. Collier, Esq.
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      THE WHITE HOUSE
      WASHINGTON

      December 29, 1908.

      My dear Collier: 
       
      I am much pleased that you liked my address, and of course I should also be pleased if you cared to print it as you propose. But, thank Heaven that it can not be printed beside the Gettysburg address. A speech may be a pretty good speech of the hour, or of the day, or even of the year, and yet be ruined if put side by side with one of the two or three great classics of human eloquence— of that eloquence which shows forth its human soul.

      I will read the tribute to your father with very real pleasure.

      Wishing you and yours many happy new years, I am,

      Sincerely yours,

      Theodore Roosevelt [in manuscript]

      Robert J. Collier, Esq.,
      416 West 13th Street,
      New York, N.Y.