Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Written during the early years of World War II, James Daugherty’s biography describes a leader who was the epitome of a democratic people. The book depicts the life of a man, born into poverty and exposed to minimal formal schooling, who nevertheless was elected president of the United States.

Daugherty’s biography is divided into six sections, each dealing with a period of Lincoln’s life. Each section is, in turn, subdivided into episodes corresponding to each of these periods. The early years include standard Lincoln material: his birth in a log cabin, the early death of his mother, and the influence of Sarah Bush Lincoln, Abe’s stepmother. Daugherty explains Lincoln’s developing independence, such as a visit to New Orleans while moving trade goods for an employer. Included is the story, perhaps apocryphal, of his first exposure to the slave trade. Regardless of the story’s veracity, by this time Lincoln had begun to develop a lifelong aversion to the practice.

Daugherty’s story then becomes a political narrative. Self-taught in the machinations of law, Lincoln was elected to the state legislature. He served a term and returned to a private law practice in Springfield, Illinois. With the slavery issue threatening to tear apart the country, however, Lincoln again returned to national politics in the mid-1850’s. Daugherty then depicts the famous debates with Stephen A. Douglas, a wily campaigner who bested Lincoln for a seat in...

(The entire section is 458 words.)