First of all, of course, he is a very great stylist. Example (from the letter to Mrs. Bixby, the woman who lost five sons):
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.This is also the "so great a sacrifice on the altar of freedom" letter, but honestly, anyone could have written that. It sounds like Reagan. But "beguile"! The whole idea of doing anything other than grieving is a lie! Notice also that Lincoln doesn't take the time to give himself credit for his honesty; the word does the work for him, he doesn't need more words to point out that a word just did it.
In fact, it's interesting that a lawyer, and a good one, would wind up being called Honest Abe, and I think it's because he's so good a lawyer (and so confident in his work) that he doesn't need to sugarcoat anything. In fact, one of his tactics is always the "I'm just a simple country lawyer" gambit. Here it is at the end of the proclmation of amnesty (which was his proposal for setting up provisional Union-friendly governments in Confederate states):
"and, while the mode presented is the best the Executive can suggest, with his present impressions, it must not be understood that no other possible mode would be acceptable."With that tactic it shows off how breahtaking he is in his concepts -- Gettysburg dedicates us, of course, and my favorite passage from the second inaugural:
Of we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall, we discern therein, any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?That's enough for today. It's not even his birthday.