Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 377

Keeping it simple
In the 1850's Lincoln was involved in a high-profile case arguing for a steam ship company against a railroad company. The issue had to do with low-lying trestles across a river. The lawyer for the railroad argued brilliantly as to why the burgeoning economic prosperity for the entire region demanded free and unfettered access to bridges across rivers. His summary took over an hour. Lincoln's summary was one sentence: 'What the jury has to decide is whether one group has more right to cross a river than another has to go up and down a river.”

He won the case.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 376

There were few indeed who agreed with Lincoln in his day, and probably few who would agree with him in our day, but this is what he said, and he stuck by it!
‘Passion has helped us; but can do so no more. It will in future be our enemy. Reason, cold, calculating, unimpassioned reason must furnish all the materials for our future support and defense.’
- Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 375

The advantage[s] of keeping one’s eye on the ball.
According to the Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, the Lincoln cabinet, at the beginning anyway, was anything but unified; discussions went on without order or system, notes Welles, ‘but in the summing up and conclusions the President, who was a patient listener and learner, concentrated results, and often determined questions adverse to the Secretary of State, regarding him and his opinions, as he did those of his other advisers, for what they were worth and generally no more.’

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 374

‘The political sagacity of no other man was ever equal to that which enabled Lincoln to gather around him in earnest support of his administration, rivalries, opposing purposes, conflicting theories, and implacable enmities, which would have rent asunder any other administration. He grew wiser and broader and stronger as difficulties thickened and perils multiplied, till the end found him the wonder in our history. I could never quite fathom his thoughts. But as I saw how he overcame obstacles and escaped entanglements, it grew upon me that he was wiser than the men around him, that the nation had no other man for the place to which he was assigned by the Great Disposer.’
- Congressman Henry Dawes [According to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles]

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 373

Did the 2012 "lincoln" film get it right, or what? Here's Lincoln as wheeler-and-dealer.

‘Lincoln knew that to abolish slavery once and for all, more worldly means than prayer would be required. Congressman James S. Rollins, one of the largest slave owners in Missouri and an adamant opponent of the Emancipation Proclamation, was sitting at his desk on the floor of the House when he received an invitation from Lincoln, written in pencil. “Rollins,” he said, “I have been wanting to talk to you for some time about the 13th Amendment.” When Rollins arrived at the White House, Lincoln waxed nostalgic about old political times before beginning his pitch for the amendment. Rollins replied that he had decided to vote for it immediately after the election result. Lincoln wasted no time, running down a list of undecided congressmen from Missouri and assigning Rollins the task of persuading them to join their side. “Tell them of my anxiety,” he said. To provide an incentive, Lincoln kept vacant a federal judgeship in Missouri, whose appointment would be influenced by one of those voting in favor of the amendment.
‘The list of political favors paid out didn’t end there. Congressman Alexander Coffroth, a Pennsylvania Democrat, had won reelection so narrowly that Republicans were challenging the outcome. But opposition to Coffroth taking his seat miraculously disappeared as soon as he voted in favor of the amendment. Shortly after Democratic Congressman Moses Odell of New York came out in favor of the amendment, Lincoln named him the new naval agent for his home state. Congressman George Yeaman of Kentucky, who had introduced a resolution denouncing the Emancipation Proclamation as “an assumption of power dangerous to the rights of citizens,” announced his support for the amendment and was soon appointed minister to Denmark.’
- Sydney Blumenthal

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 372


Early in the war when a delegation of women visiting the White House asked Lincoln for a word of encouragement, he replied bluntly, ’I have no word of encouragement to give. Our people and our generals have not yet made up their minds that we are involved in an awful war. Our officers seem to think the war can be won by plans and strategy. That is not true. Only hard and tough fighting will win.’

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 371

Whenever Lincoln, particularly as a young man, attended social functions he was extremely ill at ease around coquettish young women. He did not understand them, felt stupid in their presence, was sure they all thought him ugly. Consequently he either acted the clown or sat with his hands hidden under his knees. Except for his friend Ann Rutledge, Lincoln's closest female relationships as a young man thus far had been with married women who tended to mother him.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 370

Lincoln’s wit and wisdom stands in vast, yawning contrast to the witless, non-wisdom of the rest of the country.
The Civil War was truly a war of brother against brother as exemplified by the roll call of Mary Todd Lincoln's family of Lexington [Kentucky was a border state]. Her eldest brother Levi and her half-sister Margaret Kellogg were for the Union, while her youngest brother George and her three half-brothers had joined the Confederate Army, and her three half-sisters were the wives of Confederate officers.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 369

If you and I didn’t have all the bases covered it’s comforting to know that Lincoln didn’t either.
Consider this: there is no such thing as a photograph or a statue or a painting of Abraham Lincoln in which his tie is straight and more than85% of his hair is in place. [He apparently combed his hair with his fingers – which were invented long before pocket combs.] Think of the $5 bill, the Lincoln Memorial statue, Mount Rushmore. Photogenic, he wasn’t!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 368

The main speaker at the dedication ceremony of the cemetery at Gettysburg, Edward Everett, sent this note about what came to be called the Gettysburg Address to President Lincoln: '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.'
- Edward Everett

Monday, August 10, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 367

Compassion in action.
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’]. This provision, Lee observed, ‘would have a happy effect upon my army.’ 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 scare-crow army of 25,000 men.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 366

The principal speaker at the November 19, 1863 ceremony dedicating the Gettysburg cemetery was Edward Everett from Massachusetts. As an afterthought the organizers invited Lincoln ‘to make a few appropriate remarks.’ From Lincoln’s perspective, the dedication of this cemetery offered him the opportunity to lay out succinctly the North’s war aims – to explain why all these dead had not died in vain. This opportunity was particularly appealing in that virtually every Northern governor would be in attendance, and such a grouping, at that time, was a rarity indeed.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 365

‘As a general rule I abstain from reading reports of attacks upon myself, wishing not to be provoked by that to which I cannot properly offer an answer.’
- Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 364

At one point during the war Lincoln was forced by his cabinet to confront the realization that many people who were thought to be Unionists were actually spies providing key information to the Confederacy. After presenting the evidence, Secretary of War Stanton asked for direction. Lincoln, who had been silent and visibly disturbed, expressed his feelings with a story about the dilemma of an old farmer who had a very large shade tree towering over his house. 'It was a majestic-looking tree and apparently perfect in every part – tall, straight and of immense size - the grand old sentinel of his forest home. One morning while at work in his garden he saw a squirrel run up the tree into a hole and thought the tree might be hollow. He proceeded to examine it carefully and - much to his surprise - he found that the stately tree that he had valued for its beauty and grandeur to be the pride and protection of his little farm was hollow from top to bottom. Only a rim of sound wood remained barely sufficient to support its weight. What was he to do? If he cut it down it would do immense damage with its great length and spreading branches. If he let it remain his family was in constant danger; in a storm it might fall or the wind might blow it down and his house and children be crushed by it. What should he do? As he turned away he said sadly, “I wish I had never seen that squirrel.”’
- Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 363

Domestic reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation seemed as furious as it was remarkably shortsighted. The Republican press in giving the proclamation strong editorial support assured their readers that liberated slaves would not stampede into the North and steal their jobs. Even so, this decision cost the Lincoln administration a huge price: by-partisan support for the war disappeared like snow in spring. ‘It is impudent and insulting to God as to man,’ cried one Democrat, ‘for it declares those equal whom God created unequal.’ There was trouble in the army as well with white soldiers cursing liberated slaves with an ‘unreasoning hatred.’ But Lincoln was immovable as stone. He was determined to strike at the rebellion at its very core. He also estimated that making this an overt fight against slavery would doom any hopes the South had of foreign recognition. Finally, he anticipated great advantage not only from depleting the South of slave labor but also in swelling Union ranks with black soldiers [in the end an estimated 186,000 blacks joined the Union war effort].