Abraham Lincoln

State of the Union 1863

Abraham Lincoln

On December 8, 1863 Lincoln sent his annual message to Congress in which he reviewed the state of the country during the year that was coming to an end.  The message to Congress would have been read by a clerk.  We would call this today a state of the union address.  Washington had delivered his annual messages to Congress personally to joint sessions.  This custom was ended by Thomas Jefferson, who thought the President delivering a speech to Congress smacked of monarchy, too closely resembling the speech from the throne delivered by English monarchs at the opening of Parliament.  Thereafter president’s sent their annual messages to Congress in written form, until Wilson revived the custom of delivering the speech in person.

One aspect of Lincoln’s speech that surprised me when I first read it is the amount of it devoted to foreign affairs, almost half, if the portion dealing with foreign nationals in the United States is included.  Lincoln devotes less than a quarter of the speech to the War which is unsurprising.  The War news was a constant feature of life in the United States during the Civil War, and Lincoln probably looked upon the annual message as an opportunity to remind Congress and the people that the War was not the only thing occurring in the United States.  Lincoln ends his message with a general overview of his policy regarding Reconstruction.  Lincoln could hope now that ultimate victory might be on the horizon, and he realized that a substantial portion of the Republican members of Congress opposed any leniency to the South.  Lincoln was beginning his tight rope walk to both satisfy the demands of the Radical Republicans for civil rights for freedmen, and to deny them their desire to punish the South.  He would continue to walk that tightrope until the bullet of Booth brought his life to an end with consequences the nation is still living with.  Here is the annual address of President Abraham Lincoln for 1863: Continue reading

Lincoln and the Creation of Thanksgiving

In the midst of this, however, He, from Whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated.

Abraham Lincoln, from his last public address, April 11, 1865

Abraham Lincoln frequently throughout the Civil War called for Thanksgiving for Union victories and for prayers and repentance for national sins.  The idea however of an annual Thanksgiving did not spring from him but from Sarah Josepha Hale, a noted literary figure who, among other accomplishments wrote the child’s poem Mary Had a Little Lamb.  Born in 1788, for years she had led a movement for a national day of Thanksgiving to be observed annually.

Sir.–

Permit me, as Editress of the “Lady’s Book”, to request a few minutes of your precious time, while laying before you a subject of deep interest to myself and — as I trust — even to the President of our Republic, of some importance. This subject is to have the day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival.

You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution.

Enclosed are three papers (being printed these are easily read) which will make the idea and its progress clear and show also the popularity of the plan.

For the last fifteen years I have set forth this idea in the “Lady’s Book”, and placed the papers before the Governors of all the States and Territories — also I have sent these to our Ministers abroad, and our Missionaries to the heathen — and commanders in the Navy. From the recipients I have received, uniformly the most kind approval. Two of these letters, one from Governor (now General) Banks and one from Governor Morgan are enclosed; both gentlemen as you will see, have nobly aided to bring about the desired Thanksgiving Union.

But I find there are obstacles not possible to be overcome without legislative aid — that each State should, by statute, make it obligatory on the Governor to appoint the last Thursday of November, annually, as Thanksgiving Day; — or, as this way would require years to be realized, it has ocurred to me that a proclamation from the President of the United States would be the best, surest and most fitting method of National appointment.

I have written to my friend, Hon. Wm. H. Seward, and requested him to confer with President Lincoln on this subject As the President of the United States has the power of appointments for the District of Columbia and the Territories; also for the Army and Navy and all American citizens abroad who claim protection from the U. S. Flag — could he not, with right as well as duty, issue his proclamation for a Day of National Thanksgiving for all the above classes of persons? And would it not be fitting and

patriotic for him to appeal to the Governors of all the States, inviting and commending these to unite in issuing proclamations for the last Thursday in November as the Day of Thanksgiving for the people of each State? Thus the great Union Festival of America would be established.

Now the purpose of this letter is to entreat President Lincoln to put forth his Proclamation, appointing the last Thursday in November (which falls this year on the 26th) as the National Thanksgiving for all those classes of people who are under the National Government particularly, and commending this Union Thanksgiving to each State Executive: thus, by the noble example and action of the President of the United States, the permanency and unity of our Great American Festival of Thanksgiving would be forever secured.

An immediate proclamation would be necessary, so as to reach all the States in season for State appointments, also to anticipate the early appointments by Governors.

Excuse the liberty I have taken

With profound respect

Yrs truly

Sarah Josepha Hale,

Editress of the “Ladys Book”

There is no evidence that Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation was issued in response to this letter, but it is probable.  Here is the proclamation on October 3, 1863 by President Lincoln that established Thanksgiving as an annual event: Continue reading

We Have No King But Jesus

The feast of Christ the King is a very new one, although the image of Christ as King is as old as Christianity.  Pope Pius XI established the feast with his encyclical Quas Primas  in 1925 to remind the World after the horrors of World War I and its aftermath that God was in charge.

This kingdom is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things. That this is so the above quotations from Scripture amply prove, and Christ by his own action confirms it. On many occasions, when the Jews and even the Apostles wrongly supposed that the Messiah would restore the liberties and the kingdom of Israel, he repelled and denied such a suggestion. When the populace thronged around him in admiration and would have acclaimed him King, he shrank from the honor and sought safety in flight. Before the Roman magistrate he declared that his kingdom was not of this world. The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross.

 

Prior to the American Revolution an English aristocrat related an incident in a letter.  He asked a servant who his master was, and the man responded unhesitatingly:  My Lord Jesus Christ!  The aristocrat found this hilarious, but the servant was reflecting a very old Christian view.

Christ Pantocrator is one of the more popular images by which Christians pictured, after the edict of Milan, Christ, the Lord of all.  This representation ties in nicely with the traditional American cry of “We have no King but Jesus!” which became popular during the American Revolution.  At the battle of Lexington the phrase “We recognize no Sovereign but God and no King but Jesus!”, was flung back at Major Pitcairn after he had ordered the militia to disperse.

Our wisest statesman have always remembered that behind the trappings of power of this World that God is ultimately the one who has charge of the fate of nations as well as individuals.  Abraham Lincoln was utterly convinced of this as he indicated in a letter to Eliza P. Gurney on September 4, 1864 as the Civil War teetered in the balance:

The purposes of the Almighty are perfect, and must  prevail, though we erring mortals may fail to accurately perceive  them in advance. We hoped for a happy termination of this terrible  war long before this; but God knows best, and has ruled otherwise. We  shall yet acknowledge His wisdom and our own error therein. Meanwhile  we must work earnestly in the best light He gives us, trusting that so  working still conduces to the great ends He ordains. Surely He intends  some great good to follow this mighty convulsion, which no mortal  could make, and no mortal could stay. Continue reading

Abe Lincoln v. Madison Avenue

Classic.  Bob Newhart’s bit from 1960 about a conversation between Abraham Lincoln and a then modern day press agent just prior to the Gettysburg Address.

Get Thee Behind Abe, Editors!

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Hattip to Steven Hayward at Powerline.   Decades ago I recall watching a commercial, see the video below, where Abraham Lincoln is turned down for an executive position because he lacked a college degree.   I have often thought that Lincoln would not have been Lincoln without the arduous process of self education that he continued throughout his life.  (During his election campaign in 1860 he was pained to see that his campaign claimed that he had read Plutarch’s Lives.  He hadn’t, but he took time  out to do so before he was elected.)  Of course in his day it was not unusual for a self taught man to rise high politically.  In our day it is almost unthinkable, Harry Truman being the last president who did not attend college.  This is a great pity.  Self taught men and women can sometimes end up as town cranks or bores at bars, but sometimes they bring vitality and fresh insights that cannot be taught at any institution of higher learning, and their intellects are sharpened by their lonely quest for knowledge.  Lincoln regretted his lack of almost any formal education, but in his case I suspect his genius would have been lessened by it. Continue reading

November 19, 1863: Lincoln Delivers The Gettysburg Address

 

 

 

Presidents during their presidencies make hundreds of speeches.  Most are utterly forgotten soon after they are delivered.  Even most of the speeches by a president who is also a skilled orator, as Lincoln was, are recalled only by historians and trivia buffs.  Yet the Gettysburg address has achieved immortality.

Lincoln was invited to say a few words at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg on November 19, 1863.  The featured speaker was Edward Everett, one of the most accomplished men in American public life, who gave a two hour oration.  It is a fine example of nineteenth century oratory, full of learning, argument and passion.  It may seem very odd to contemplate in our sound bite age, but audiences in America in Lincoln’s time expected these type of lengthy excursions into eloquence and felt cheated when a speaker skimped on either length or ornateness in his efforts.

Lincoln then got up and spoke for two minutes.

We are not really sure what Lincoln said.  There are two drafts of the speech in Lincoln’s hand, and they differ from each other.  It is quite likely that neither reflects precisely the words that Lincoln used in the Gettysburg Address.  For the sake of simplicity, and because it is the version people usually think of when reference is made to the Gettysburg address, the text used here is the version carved on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle- field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate…we cannot consecrate…we cannot hallow…this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Here was the masterpiece of Lincoln’s passion for concise, almost terse, argument.  No doubt many in the audience were amazed when Lincoln sat down, probably assuming that this was a preamble to his main speech.

“Fourscore and seven years ago”

Lincoln starts out with an attention grabber.  Rather than the prosaic eighty-seven years, he treats his listeners to a poetic line that causes them to think and follow Lincoln back in time to the founding. Continue reading

Gettysburg Address Medley

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a  new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men  are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any  nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great  battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a  final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might  live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not  hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have  consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will  little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what  they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the  unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It  is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us —  that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for  which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve  that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall  have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people,  for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The Prayer Before the Speeches

Stockton

 

Thomas H. Stockton in 1863 was pastor of the First Methodist Church in Philadelphia.  A man with many political connections, he had been chaplain of the United States House of Representatives in 1833, 1835, 1859 and 1861.  It was therefore no surprise that he was chosen to give the invocation on November 18, 1863 at the opening of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.  He was in ill health and looked older than his 55 years, but he would live another five years and he had energy enough for the task before him.  Here is his prayer: Continue reading

A Silly Retraction

 

 

 

As faithful readers of this blog know, there are few bigger fans of Mr. Lincoln than me, and I completely concur with Sir Winston Churchill that the Gettysburg Address  is “The ultimate expression of the majesty of Shakespeare’s language.” 

That having been said I found profoundly silly a retraction which appears in the Patriot News newspaper:

We write today in reconsideration of “The Gettysburg Address,” delivered by then-President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the greatest conflict seen on American soil. Our predecessors, perhaps under the influence of partisanship, or of strong drink, as was common in the profession at the time, called President Lincoln’s words “silly remarks,” deserving “a veil of oblivion,” apparently believing it an indifferent and altogether ordinary message, unremarkable in eloquence and uninspiring in its brevity.

The retraction goes on to state:

In the editorial about President Abraham Lincoln’s speech delivered Nov. 19, 1863, in Gettysburg, the Patriot & Union failed to recognize its momentous importance, timeless eloquence, and lasting significance. The Patriot-News regrets the error.

 

Go here to read the rest.  This rubs me the wrong way.  Apologizing for the actions of men long dead always strikes me as asinine.  The men who penned the original editorial cannot defend their opinion now.  If they could, they probably would note that they reflected a large body of Northern opinion that viewed the War as a tragic mistake, brought on by abolitionist fanaticism, which caused over a million homes in the North to be draped in mourning.  I view such arguments as being completely erroneous, but I leave to those who made such arguments the dignity to which they are entitled of being participants in the maelstrom of devastating events who were honestly stating their views.  To have successors a century and a half later glibly denouncing their views, even attributing such views to strong drink, insults them and insults the historical record.  It is part and parcel of a historical myopia which views the present as perfect and entitled to denounce the benighted individuals who had the misfortune to live before our enlightened times.  The simple truth is that we, just as much as those in the past we denounce, are in many ways prisoners of our times, often taking our attitudes and beliefs from those that enjoy popularity in our day.  I have absolutely no doubt that the successors of the papers which praised the Gettysburg Address one hundred and fifty years ago, might well be denouncing it today, if the War, and all our subsequent history, had turned out differently.  If one wishes to truly understand history, and the passions of the men and women who lived through it, one must be willing to understand what motivated them, why they did what they did.  This foolish retraction teaches us nothing about history, but quite a bit about how the Present usually is a bad judge of the Past, at least if we wish to understand the Past.  Here is a portion of the original editorial: Continue reading

Red Skelton, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and One Nation Under God

Red Skelton and his unforgettable rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance.  Skelton rose out of abject poverty to become one of the great comedians of his time.  His comment about the phrase “under God”  reminds us how deeply this phrase is embedded in American history:

The addition of “under God” to the pledge of allegiance in 1954 of course echoes this sentence from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The Pledge was altered with that phrase of Lincoln’s specifically in mind.  The Knights of Columbus played an important role in getting the pledge changed, beginning in 1951 to say the Pledge with the phrase “under God” inserted at all Knights of Columbus functions.

Lincoln probably recalled the phrase from George Washington’s use of it in his order to the Continental Army on August 27, 1776 before the battle of Long Island:

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.

Continue reading

The Other Gettysburg Address

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Edward Everett was the main attraction at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.  He had led a distinguished life serving as Governor of Massachusetts and ambassador to Great Britain.  In 1860 he had run on the Constitutional Union Party ticket as vice-president, attempting to forestall the break up of the Union that he clearly saw coming.  After the election of Lincoln he became a vigorous supporter of Lincoln’s policies to preserve the Union by force.  He would die in 1865 prior to the end of the War, but with the knowledge that the Union would win and the Union would be preserved.

He was a good choice to be the main speaker, still vigorous at sixty-nine, one of the most eloquent orators of his time, a time which included such speakers as Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John Calhoun.  As he spoke it was as if the past of the country was commenting on its turbulent present.  He spoke for two hours and his listeners would have felt cheated if he had not done so, as lengthy speeches were expected at that time in American history on important occasions, unlike our own time where any statement that goes over three minutes is considered long-winded.

After his address he wrote Lincoln a famous letter in which he included this sentence that almost all Americans would agree with:   “I should be glad if I could flatter myself, that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”

Lincoln replied:

Executive Mansion Washington November 20, 1863

Hon. Edward Everett. My dear Sir:

Your kind note of to-day is received. In our respective parts yesterday,  you could not have been excused to make a short address, nor I a long one. I am pleased to know that, in your judgment, the  little I did say was not entirely a failure. Of course I knew Mr.  Everett would not fail; and yet, while the whole discourse was  eminently satisfactory, and will be of great value, there were passages  in it which transcended my expectation. The point made against  the theory of the general government being only an agency, whose  principals are the States, was new to me, and, as I think, is one of  the best arguments for the national supremacy. The tribute to our  noble women for their angel-ministering to the suffering soldiers,  surpasses, in its way, as do the subjects of it, whatever has gone  before.

Our sick boy, for whom you kindly inquire, we hope is past the  worst. Your Obt. Servt.

A. Lincoln

Here is Everett’s speech, interspersed with my commentary.  It is completely our of step with our sound bite age, but it is worthy of our close attention as it sheds light upon his time: Continue reading

Thank You Mr. President

Lincoln

 

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built.

Abraham Lincoln, August 27, 1858

 

 

 

 

 

In nine days, this town will commemorate the 150th  anniversary of Lincoln’s speech with a ceremony at the same Soldiers’ National  Cemetery featuring the U.S. Marine Band, Gov. Tom Corbett and a reading of the  Gettysburg Address.

One person who will not be among those honoring  Lincoln is President Barack Obama. The White House gave no reason why the  president would not attend.

  According to the National Park Service, Obama  has never visited the battlefield as president.

 

Gettysburg Address: First Draft

 

The news of the surrender of Vicksburg did not reach Washington until July 7, 1863.  On top of Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg, the town went wild with rejoicing.  A jubilant crowd went to the White House.  President Lincoln made an impromptu speech that contained many of the themes and thoughts that he would flesh out in his Gettysburg Address delivered on November 19, 1863:

Fellow-citizens: I am very glad to see you to-night.  But yet I will not say I thank you for this call.  But I do most sincerely thank Almighty God for the occasion on which you have called. [Cheers.]  How long ago is it?  Eighty odd years since, upon the Fourth day of July, for the first time in the world, a union body of representatives was assembled to declare as a self-evident truth that all men were created equal. [Cheers.]

That was the birthday of the United States of America.  Since then the fourth day of July has had several very peculiar recognitions.  The two most distinguished men who framed and supported that paper, including the particular declaration I have mentioned, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, the one having framed it, and the other sustained it most ably in debate, the only two of the fifty-five or fifty-six who signed it, I believe, who were ever President of the United States, precisely fifty years after they put their hands to that paper it pleased the Almighty God to take away from this stage of action on the Fourth of July.  This extraordinary coincidence we can understand to be a dispensation of the Almighty Ruler of Events.

Another of our Presidents, five years afterwards, was called from this stage of existence on the same day of the month, and now on this Fourth of July just past, when a gigantic rebellion has risen in the land, precisely at the bottom of which is an effort to overthrow that principle “that all men are created equal,” we have a surrender of one of their most powerful positions and powerful armies forced upon them on that very day. [Cheers.] And I see in the succession of battles in Pennsylvania, which continued three days, so rapidly following each other as to be justly called one great battle, fought on the first, second and third of July; on the fourth the enemies of the declaration that all men are created equal had to turn tail and run. [Laughter and applause.] Continue reading

Abraham Lincoln Democrat

Abraham Lincoln Democrat

Weasel Zippers broke the story that the above plaque is affixed to the Jacob Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies on the campus at Northeastern University in Chicago.  The historical ignorance is appalling but unsurprising.  After all, dead Republicans have been voting Democrat for generations in Chicago!

Update:  Northeastern responds:

 

The Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University is housed in a building that bears historical significance. From time to time, the integrity of a plaque honoring the memory of Abraham Lincoln is questioned. Installed in the building for its opening in 1905, the plaque includes an inscription of the word “democrat” following Abraham Lincoln’s name. According to building archives, the word democrat was used because Lincoln was an advocate for democracy—the political or social equality of all people. The word was not chosen to reflect a political affiliation.

The building was initially designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for his uncle, the Rev. Jenkin Lloyd Jones. Jones and Wright disagreed about the building design, which was handed off in 1902 to Dwight Perkins, who made several changes to Wright’s original design.

The building was designed to house a comprehensive social service agency called the Abraham Lincoln Center. According to documents by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John Lloyd Wright, the building was named for his father’s hero.

The Abraham Lincoln Center was purchased in 1969 by the Illinois Board of Governors of State Colleges and Universities for Northeastern Illinois University. Since that time, the building has housed Northeastern’s Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies. Now in its 47th year, Northeastern’s Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies is an academic center for students and scholars to examine the political, economic, cultural and social forces that impact inner city communities. Nearly 150 graduates have gone on to earn doctoral degrees and pursue careers as professors, instructors and administrators in higher education.

The academic programs housed in this building promote political and social equality, the same values espoused by Abraham Lincoln. Northeastern Illinois University recognizes the context that this plaque was created and intends to uphold its integrity.

Jones, who founded the Abraham Lincoln Center, was a Unitarian, and something of a flake.

 

An Invitation to Speak

 

One hundred and fifty years ago President Lincoln received an invitation to say “a few appropriate remarks”.  Lincoln while he was President received many invitations to speak and accepted very few of them.  This one, however, he did accept.  It was an invitation from David Wills, a Gettysburg attorney, who had been appointed by Andrew Curtin, governor of Pennsylvania, to spearhead the ceremony for the opening of the national cemetery at Gettysburg.

Beginning on October 17 the Union dead had been removed from their makeshift graves and reburied.  We must not think of Gettysburg then as it is now.  Now, it is a national park, a symbol of national pride.  Then it was a scene of almost unspeakable horror, bearing the raw scars of a huge battle where over 8,000 Americans had recently been killed and over 27,000 had been wounded, many maimed for life.  It had been a Union victory, but the War went on with no end in sight.  Lincoln seized upon the opportunity to explain to the American people, perhaps to also explain to himself, what Gettysburg meant.  Here is the text of the invitation: Continue reading

The Many Faces of Abe

One of the many things that I find fascinating about Lincoln is how different he looked in most of his photographs.  All but one of the Lincoln photographs were taken during the last eleven years of his life, and they are an interesting study in contrasts.  This is especially intriguing since the subject of a photograph in Lincoln’s day had to sit absolutely still for at least 18 seconds, and I would think this would tend to flatten out any emotions that the subject was feeling at the time which might have altered his features.

I have studied Lincoln now for almost a half century and the complexity of the man is perhaps his most salient feature, and that shines through in his pictures.  A man known for his humble birth, but who hated the life of poverty and drudgery that he worked so hard to escape from.  Famous for reading before the embers of a fire place as a child, he read little as an adult beyond newspapers and a few choice books, but what he read he retained with a bear trap like grasp. A teller of humorous tales who was afflicted with deep melancholia.  No formal education to speak of, but the finest writer of prose ever to sit in the White House.  A deeply logical man who loved Euclid, he could understand the passions, the loves and the hates, that almost destroyed his nation.  A humane man who abhorred bloodshed, he presided over the bloodiest war in our history.  Viewed with suspicion by the abolitionists of his day, it was his fate to destroy slavery that had existed in what would be the United States for a quarter of a millennia.  Turn Lincoln over in your mind and new facets of the man spring up.

Stephen Vincent Benet in his epic poem on the Civil War, John Brown’s Body, captured some of the many Lincolns that appeared in the photographs: Continue reading

Gettysburg Closed

In the never ending effort of the Obama administration to see just how absurd they can be over the fake government shutdown, they have attempted to close down the Gettysburg battlefield.  I say attempted because a lot of tourists are engaging in civil disobedience and touring the battlefield, playing catch me if you can with National Park Service Rangers.  Go here to read all about it.

This of course is all part of a carefully orchestrated plot by the Obama administration:

A U.S. park ranger, who did not wish to be identified, told FoxNews.com that supervisors within the National Park Service overruled plans to deal with the budget cuts in a way that would have had minimal impact on the public. Instead, the source said, park staff were told to cancel special events and cut “interpretation services” — the talks, tours and other education services provided by local park rangers.

“Apparently, they want the public to feel the pain,” the ranger said.

 

Instead of feeling pain the public has had a glimpse into just how mean, petty and spiteful the gangsters currently in power in the White House can be.

 

 

Continue reading

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