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One who approaches Greatness on his belly so that he may not be commanded to turn and be kicked… Ambrose Bierce

As the lean leech, its victim found, is pleased To fix itself upon a part diseased Till, its black hide distended with bad blood, It drops to die of surfeit in the mud, So the base sycophant with joy descries His neighbor’s weak spot and his mouth applies, Gorges and prospers like the leech, although, Unlike that reptile, he will not let go.

If it paid you to devote Your talent to the service of a goat, Showing by forceful logic that its beard Is more than Aaron’s fit to be revered; If to the task of honoring its smell Profit had prompted you, and love as well, The world would benefit at last by you And wealthy malefactors weep anew — Your favor for a moment’s space denied And to the nobler object turned aside. Is’t not enough that thrifty millionaires Who loot in freight and spoliate in fares, Or, cursed with consciences that bid them fly To safer villainies of darker dye, Forswearing robbery and fain, instead, To steal (they call it “cornering”) our bread May see you groveling their boots to lick And begging for the favor of a kick?

Still must you follow to the bitter end Your sycophantic disposition’s trend, And in your eagerness to please the rich hungry sinners to their final ditch? In their praise you smite the sounding wire, And sing hosannas to great! What’s Satan done that him you should eschew? He too is reeking rich –deducting you.”

Photo shows President Abraham Lincoln seated between his private secretaries John G. Nicolay and John Hay at a photo session in Alexander Gardner’s studio in Washington, D.C., on November 8, 1863. “On this day John Hay wrote in his diary: ‘Went with Mrs. Ames to Gardner’s Gallery & were soon joined by Nico (John G. Nicolay) and the Prest. We had a great many pictures taken … some of the Prest. the best I have seen. … Nico & I immortalized ourselves by having ourselves done in a group with the Prest.” …Library of Congress

Lincoln’s men : the president and his private secretaries New York : Smithsonian Books : Collins, c 2009 Daniel Mark Epstein United States Politics and government 1861-1865 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 262 p. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [245]-252) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Lincoln’s Men is the first narrative portrait of the three young men who served as Lincoln’s secretaries during the Civil War. John Nicolay and John Hay lived in the White House, across the hall from the president’s office, and they and William Stoddard spent more time with Lincoln than anyone else outside his immediate family.

Lincoln used these three young men as a sounding board; they were the first audience for much of his writing from the period. From their unique vantage point, they had a front-row seat on the war, but unlike the soldiers they also had a good time. Washington under siege was a city of endless receptions and parties.

Daniel Mark Epstein captures each life. We see Nicolay, balancing his obligations to Lincoln with a long-distance engagement to his childhood sweetheart; Hay, the poet/amanuensis, in love with a famous and married actress; and Stoddard, a little too obsessed with gambling in the gold market.

The secretaries left significant diaries, letters, and memoirs about Lincoln. Nicolay and Hay went on to distinguished careers in the Foreign Service after the war and later wrote the classic “authorized” biography of Lincoln, published in 1890 in ten volumes.

An intimate portrait of the Civil War White House, Lincoln’s Men gives a vivid sense of what it was like to work for the first president to assume absolute powers to effect a second revolution in America. A little too much in love with Lincoln and far too forgiving of the sybarites who managed the sycophants surrounding him it is at least an amusing read.

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