Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 81

'I cannot bring myself to believe that any human being lives who would do me harm.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 80

“During his long years as an attorney Lincoln’s ‘stories and jokes and, more important, his skills as a lawyer helped him fit in. Most of all, perhaps, Lincoln met the professional standards of manliness, and this despite the fact that he did not drink, gamble, or otherwise perform according to wider cultural conventions of the day.

He was direct and unpretentious in his professional demeanor; he was both aggressive and courteous in his pursuit of courtroom victory.”
- Brian Dirck

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 79

In the high-stakes run-up to the Civil War, immediately after the inauguration Lincoln faced a constitutional crisis of the first order. It centered on Fort Sumter and came in the form of a letter from the commandant who said his garrison at Fort Sumter was faced with dwindling supplies.

The situation on the face of it looked like heads Jefferson Davis wins, tails Abraham Lincoln loses. Lincoln had two options, the one worse than the other.

First, he could simply pull the garrison out, but that was utterly repellant because the North would be seen to be acceding to superior might, surrendering what was a federal installation at the point of a gun. The other alternative was to send in reinforcements, presumably to shoot it out. But that military solution was equally impossible. For one thing, the U.S. Army in the spring of 1861 had no more than 16,000 troops, and most of them had been transferred to the northwest portion of the country to provide protection for settlers heading west [sent there by secretaries of war in the 1850’s who were southerners anticipating the possibility of just such a situation as this]. Furthermore, not only was the Charleston harbor mined but the fort itself was surrounded by artillery manned by South Carolinians just itching to open up.

After careful deliberation the new president arrived at a third option: he ordered a ship fitted out with food and medicine to sail as soon as possible for Charleston. He then notified the South Carolina governor that that was what he was doing.

That simple decision turned the tables completely. It was now, heads Abraham Lincoln wins, tails Jefferson Davis loses. Lincoln, given a choice between withdrawing or reinforcing the garrison, had, by some sorcerer’s incantation, arrived at a third alternative: send food and medicine to re-stock the garrison.

Now Jefferson Davis was presented with two choices, but for him there was to be no third option. The South could either allow the humanitarian ship entry to the fort and thus prolong indefinitely the unbearable sense of crisis, or accede to the bombardment because those South Carolinian hotheads hadn't the patience for any other course of action.

So when the South did fire on Fort Sumter, Lincoln lost a fort he couldn't maintain anyway, but gained an enormous psychological advantage in that thousands flocked to the colors with the following open-ended mindset: ‘they started it; we’re going to finish it.’

Lincoln may have been an inexperienced prairie lawyer, but proved to be a consummate strategist. He also appeared to be remarkably cool under pressure.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 78

'Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 76

The terms of surrender Grant presented to Lee at Appomattox were uncommonly lenient. Confederate officers, after relinquishing their arms and artillery were allowed ’to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by the United States authority’ on the condition they never again ‘take up arms’ against the Union. They were also allowed to take their private horses as well as their side arms [‘their horses to plow with and the guns to shoot crows with’]. As the brief meeting between the two commanders drew to a close Lee mentioned that ‘his army was in a very bad condition for want of food.’ Grant gave orders that 100,000 rations be provided for Lee’s scarecrow army of 25,000 men. This provision, Lee observed, ‘would have a happy effect upon my army.’

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 75

'I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father's child has.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 74

'My opinion is that no state can, in any way lawfully, get out of the Union, without the consent of the others; and that it is the duty of the President, and other government functionaries to run the machine as it is.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 73

 ‘Lincoln worshipped the Founding Fathers as apostles of liberty who’d begun an experiment in popular government on these shores, to show a doubting Europe that people could govern themselves without hereditary monarchs and aristocracies. And the foundation of the American experiment was the Declaration of Independence which in Lincoln’s view contained the highest political truths in human history: that all men are created equal and that all are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Which for Lincoln meant that men like him were not chained to the condition of their births, that they could better their station in life and harvest the fruits of their own talents and industry.’
- Stephen Oates

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 72

On the way to his inauguration from his home in Springfield in 1861 he said in Columbus, Ohio, 'There is nothing going wrong. We entertain different views upon political questions but nobody is suffering anything.' And at Cleveland, 'Have they not all their rights now as they ever had? Do they not have their fugitive slaves returned now as ever? Have they not the same Constitution that they have lived under for seventy odd years? What then is the matter with them? Why all this excitement? Why all these complaints?'

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 71

'If this is coffee please bring me some tea; but if this is tea please bring me some coffee.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 70

'I do not consider that I have ever accomplished anything without God; and if it is His will that I must die by the hand of an assassin I must be resigned. I must do my duty as I see it and leave the rest with God.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 69

'Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren't very new at all.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 68

 ‘I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.’
- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 67

'I appeal to you again to constantly bear in mind that with you - not with politicians, not with Presidents, not with office-seekers but with you - is the question “Shall the Union and shall the liberties of this country be preserved to the latest generation?”’
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 66

Harriet Beecher Stowe one winter evening toward the end of the war asked if the president did not feel a great relief over the prospect of the war soon coming to a close. And Lincoln had answered, she said, in a sad way: 'No Mrs. Stowe. I shall never live to see peace. This war is killing me.'