Happy Birthday Honest Abe

FEBRUARY 12, 2007

Quote of the Day, 2/12/07:

“They’ll think nothing of it.”
Abraham Lincoln, April 14, 1865

These were the last words of Abraham Lincoln, responding to his wife, Mary Todd, after he leaned over to hold her hand at Ford’s Theatre, causing her to quip “What will people think?” Moments later, John Wilkes Booth took his life.

There’s really not much left unsaid about Abraham Lincoln at this point: we’ve all learned about him in grade school, we’ve all seen the pictures of him, and we’ve all seen fake versions of him in movies and cartoons. Some of us saw the two-hour special about him on the History Channel last year, although I unfortunately missed it (I heard it was excellent). Born on this day in 1809, Lincoln rose to prominence from nothing: some of us may remember from grade school that he was born into a one-roomed cabin to poor farmers in Kentucky: this isn’t folklore, its true. He was named after his grandfather, who was killed in an American Indian raid in the 1780s. His father was a respected guy, but due to some bad financial decisions, they were forced to live under a dugout in the side of a hill for some time while traveling through Indiana. At the age of 9, his mom died.

Throughout his childhood his family belonged to a segment of the Baptist church that broke away from the main branch due to anti-slavery views; this didn’t stop young Abe from ridiculing and criticizing all forms of religion. After having numerous problems trying to settle down in Indiana, the Lincoln family made it to Illinois. By this time he was 22; he set out on the world. He taught himself the Bible, Shakespeare, and American history. He was a skilled axe-man, reportedly competing at fairs; he never fished or hunted, because he hated killing animals; he was 6 ft 4 in. At some point he supposedly saw a slave auction in New Orleans that changed his perception on life, although this is disputed by many.

With the help of some friends, Lincoln became a lawyer in Illinois: he was well known for his great public speaking ability. Soon after, he got into politics, where he had a strong anti-war voice. Through the years he rose further: and eventually, as we all know, he became President.

But here’s where we should stop and think for a second: during his presidency, the country actually split apart. It was split into two. This is obvious to anyone who’s over the age of 12, but still, put yourself in his shoes: imagine becoming President today, and then having the whole damn country split in half and go to war. And not just a war of words, or a war of political ideas: a war that consisted of guns, blood, and death, all on American soil. I tell you what: if I was Abraham Lincoln, I would have shit my pants as soon as I set foot in the Oval Office.

The guy never had it easy, but he always got the job done: he didn’t panic, didn’t pussy foot around: he hand-picked his generals, and if he didn’t like them, he fired them. History buffs know that the Confederacy had the real strategic stars when it came to military minds, (Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson) and Lincoln and the Union were actually losing the war for over a year. Imagine that: not only are you the President, and your country is at war, but the other guys, the guys with no money, with no chance in Hell, are winning.

Ofcourse, as we all know, the North, and Lincoln, ended up winning in the end. Lincoln not only managed the war, he also ended slavery, about 60 years after the rest of the Western world had gotten rid of it. Ofcourse, this was part of the strategy to bring down the South: by passing the Emancipation Proclamation, and later the more important 13th Amendment, he not only ended slavery and brought freedom to Black Americans across the South, he took away the financial means of those in power below the Mason-Dixon line.

Finally, the war ended: all Lincoln had to due now was deal with Reconstruction, which would end up being more devastating than the war in some ways. Ofcourse, he never really got to see Reconstruction: he was shot in the back of the head by Booth before he could. Lincoln, by all means, was a worn down, stressed out man by this time: if you look at photographs of him before the war, and then after, it looks like he aged about 25 years. But in one famous picture of him from 1865, the year of his death, he’s smiling, despite the fact that he looks about 30 years older than he really was.

Looking back, it really wasn’t fair: the poor guy never got to breath. He never really got the chance to look back at his Presidency and say “Wow, I really did a good job,” or “Man, that almost didn’t work out.”

Nope, for Lincoln, it was the same old story: despite the great things he did in his lifetime, he never seemed to catch a break. So on this day, I think its important that everyone put aside a couple moments and wish good old Honest Abe a Happy Birthday (if you’re reading this on the 13th, as you probably are, wish him a belated Happy Birthday.)

Until Next Time,

Greg

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