John Hay

Abraham Lincoln signed it. A lot of scholars say he didn’t write it. Now, newly discovered evidence helps solve an enduring mystery.

The stirring Civil War document featured in Saving Private Ryan grew out of a lie and probably wasn’t really written by Lincoln

Saving Private Ryan , Steven Spielberg’s big movie of 1998, prefaces its plot with the very moving reading of a famous letter of condolence written by Abraham Lincoln to Lydia Bixby, a widow in Boston who had lost five sons in the Civil War. Read more >>

Vidal’s Lincoln

WHEN ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S wartime secretaries, John Hay and John G. Nicolay, serialized their life of the President in Century magazine in 1885, Lincoln’s old friend and law partner William H. Read more >>

To stave off despair, the President relied on a sense of humor that was rich, self-deprecating—and surprisingly bawdy

A great “intensity of thought,” Abraham Lincoln once counseled his friend Joshua Speed, “will some times wear the sweetest idea thread-bare and turn it to the bitterness of death.” No aspect of Lincoln’s character has become more tangibly real in the literature than his melanch Read more >>
When the first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, took office in 1790, his entire staff consisted of just six people, including himself and a part-time translator. The current Secretary presides over almost fifteen thousand employees scattered around the globe. Read more >>

The United States remained officially neutral, but many Americans fought alongside both opposing armies and several became legendary heroes

“I have been absorbed in interest in the Boer War,” wrote Theodore Roosevelt to his friend Cecil Spring Rice in 1899. He was not alone. Most Americans took a keen interest in this remote conflict. Read more >>
Not so long ago, indeed well within a lifetime, there was no “dearth of heroes” in this country, to quote the title of our opening article a little out of context. Read more >>