(John Hay, one of Abraham Lincoln's secretaries, gives his assessment of the achievement of the late President.)
"Where," asked Mr. Schuyler, "would you place Mr. Lincoln amongst the presidents of our country?"
"Oh, I would place him first."
"Above Washington?" Mr. Schuyler looked startled.
"Yes," said Hay, who had thought a great deal about the Tycoon's place in history. "Mr. Lincoln had a far greater and more difficult task than Washington's. You see, the southern states had every Constitutional right to get out of the Union. But Lincoln said, no. Lincoln said, this Union can never be broken. Now that was a terrible responsibility for one man to take. But he took it, knowing he would be obliged to fight the greatest war in human history, which he did, and which he won. So he not only put the Union back together again, but he made an entirely new country, and all of it in his own image."
--from Lincoln: A Novel, by Gore Vidal.