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You may opt out or anytime. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Ebert February 12, Nicolay helped Lincoln achieve greatness in both life and legend. Born Johann Georg Nicolai in in the village of Essingen in what is now Germany, Nicolay was five when his family arrived in the United States, anglicized its last name, and settled in a German immigrant community in Cincinnati, Ohio.
While physically frail, the academically inclined George, as he was called, learned English quickly. By the age of 14 he had lost his father and been dismissed from the family mill by his eldest brother. And like Lincoln, he was vehemently opposed to Senator.
Stephen A. The paper supported Republican candidates in Illinois, including Ozias M. Hatch, who after his election as Secretary of State in invited Nicolay to become his chief clerk. Although Lincoln was 23 years older than Nicolay they became fast friends, often conversing and playing chess in the State Library. Nicolay is a good Republican … a good man and worthy of any confidence that may be bestowed upon him. Nicolay was present at the Chicago convention when Lincoln won the nomination.
Soon thereafter, Lincoln offered him the position of campaign secretary. Lincoln liked Nicolay and admired his abilities, but there was also a political calculation in choosing a widely respected German immigrant to play a key role in his administration. By appointing Nicolay his private secretary, Lincoln assured German Americans that he was not a nativist.
As the Private Secretary to the president, Nicolay became the de facto first White House chief of staff. He brought his friend Hay on board as an assistant. Nicolay served as the principal liaison between the White House and Congress. He sat in on Cabinet meetings and presidential interviews and took careful notes. He drafted important documents and letters. He assisted First Lady Mary Lincoln with state dinners and other matters of protocol, experiencing tense relations with her when she overspent and fudged the s.
Nicolay conducted multiple treaty negotiations with Native American tribes. Living in Washington had meant enduring long periods of separation from the love of his life, Therena Bates, who remained in Pittsfield, and Nicolay was growing weary of confrontations with Mrs.
Nicolay and Bates got married and headed off for a new life in Paris in June of Their daughter, Helen, was born there the following year. Nicolay served as consul at Paris until he was replaced by an appointee of President Grant in He returned to the U. In he was selected to be Marshal of the U. Supreme Court. This enabled Nicolay and his family to live in Washington, D.
Doing painstaking research, Nicolay and Hay shunned hearsay and undocumented tales about Lincoln and relied on credible documentation for every aspect of their volume, 4, work, Abraham Lincoln — A History , which was published by the Century Company in The work was more than a mere biography of Lincoln. It assembled a detailed military history of the Civil War and reported on the machinations of the cabinet, Congress, and the military. It portrayed Lincoln as a witty and wise man who loved to tell stories. It detailed how Lincoln bore the suffering of war on his shoulders while his faith in God grew deeper, and the ways he saw beyond the immediate ups and downs of war, keeping the ultimate goal of preserving the Union ever in his mind.
This massive effort was not viewed as flawless, but it was widely praised when it was published, and it shaped a heroic image of Lincoln that persists to this day. His motives were always pure, his fairness, kindness, and wisdom were without parallel, and only he possessed the qualities of mind and character needed by the nation in its moment of gravest crisis. The book was a work of filial love, scholarly yet biased, by two men who, in their early manhood, had viewed Lincoln as an all-wise father figure who could do no wrong, the man who had saved the nation and ended slavery.
The self-effacing Nicolay—the Father of Lincoln Scholars—is practically invisible in the volumes. He always chose to work behind the scenes for his hero, mentor, and friend. Please tell us your thoughts. We may edit your letter for length and clarity and publish it on our site. No paywall. No . No partisan hacks. Ideas journalism with a head and a heart. The self-effacing Nicolay—the Father of Lincoln Scholars—is practically invisible. Post Prev Next. Send Us a Letter.Personal assistant private Lincoln
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John George Nicolay