Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 392

One knowledgeable observer wrote in the summer 1863: '… As to the politics of Washington the most striking thing is the absence of personal loyalty to the President. It does not exist. He has no admirers, no enthusiastic supporters, none to bet on his head. He has a kind of shrewdness and common sense, mother-wit, and slipshod, low-level honesty that made him a good Western jury lawyer. But he is an unutterable calamity to us where he is.'

[Was he?]

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 391

One of the lessons that Lincoln lived by, particularly as the urge to war came to dominate North and South, was the importance of avoiding a rank appeal to naked emotion, a very powerful, seductive temptation indeed. And yet only a few years after Lincoln’s 1865 assassination no less a figure than Lincoln’s former Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was doing that very thing. During the campaign of 1868 Stanton stumped for the Republican presidential candidate Ulysses Grant. Stanton, according to the historian David Donald, ‘swept his Pennsylvania audiences for Grant by reading the Gettysburg Address. Then he said, tearfully, “You hear the voice of Father Abraham here tonight. Did he die in vain?...Let us here, every one, with uplifted hand, declare before Almighty God that the precious  gift of this great heritage, consecrated in the blood of our soldiers, shall never perish from the earth. Now -” and he uplifted his hands – “all hands to God. I SWEAR IT!” After which his auditors all presumably went out and voted Republican.’

Friday, September 25, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 390

Over and over again opposition newspapers large and small said that Lincoln's goal was to raise the then-current presidential salary of $25,000 to $100,000 a year, as he wished; that he was drawing his salary in gold while the soldiers were paid in greenbacks as he wished; that his length of time in office was to be fixed by Congress for a life term, as he wished. Of course, the fact that none of those scurrulous rumors was true was no reason not to spread them.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 388

 “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.”

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 387

 “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 386

“While we must by all available means prevent the overthrow of the government we should avoid planting and cultivating too many thorns in the bosom of society.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 385

 “Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? Is there any better or equal hope in the world?”

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 384

Some Tiny Advantages in a Huge Calamity
Moving forward on the Homestead Act and other traditional Republican platform positions - Lincoln pulled off a similar dramatic success with the transcontinental railroad - was relatively easy since the Democratic Party of his day had been eviscerated by the removal of the seceded states. The gargantuan price the nation paid in the form of that terrible civil war provided Lincoln with a few such relatively painless victories. In addition, the Homestead Act represented a clean encapsulating into law of a philosophy he had often expressed: everyone should have a fair chance in the race of life. For example, how many times did he say things like this: “I am not ashamed to confess that 25 years ago I was a hired laborer hauling rails at work on a flatboat - just what might happen to any poor man's son. I want every man to have a chance." I suppose there is advantage [the easy passage of the Homestead Act] in every disadvantage [620,000 casualties in the Civil War], no matter how horrendous.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 383

William Seward was far better known in the country in the run-up to the 1860 election. In fact as the former governor and then-current senator from New York he was the heir apparent to the Republican presidential nomination. Like so many of Lincoln’s contemporaries Seward grossly underestimated Lincoln, and - understandably - resented losing out to Lincoln, an upstart lawyer from the middle of nowhere. Lincoln appointed him Secretary of State – and then Seward took the attitude that he was prime minister with Lincoln as a kind of figurehead president. In those first few weeks after Lincoln’s 1861 inauguration Seward conducted secret negotiations with Confederate emissaries without his boss even knowing. He also submitted to Lincoln a most curious document blandly entitled ‘Some Thoughts for the President’s Consideration,’ a document based on the assumption that the administration had no stated policy or strategy for coping with the looming constitutional crisis that came to be the Civil War. Lincoln, who remarked to his private secretary, ‘I can’t let Seward take the first trick,’ then held a private meeting with Seward at which he politely but firmly rejected his advice [for example, Seward had suggested that a war with England would unite the country, North and South; Lincoln countered, ‘one war at a time’]. In addition, Lincoln pointed out that his administration did have a policy: to hold Forts Pickins and Sumter as stated in the Inaugural Address, a document Seward himself had read in advance, edited and approved. Finally, if there were to be any change or modification in the administration’s policy, the president had said, ‘I must do it.’ When all the dust was settled Seward wrote his wife, ‘Executive force and vigor are rare qualities. The President is the best of us.’ Curiously, Lincoln’s putting Seward in his place was the basis for this initial sense of respect – which in turn was the basis for a friendship that was to last until the day Lincoln died.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 382

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.'

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mike Huckabee, Kim Davis and Abraham Lincoln

In a recent ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos Mike Huckabee defended Kim Davis the Kentucky clerk who has gone to jail rather than issue same-sex marriage licenses. According to Huckabee, Ms. Davis was following in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln who “…ignored the 1857 Dred Scott decision.” In point of fact although Lincoln disapproved of that decision he did not “ignore” it – neither did he go to jail because of his opposition to it.

What did Lincoln do? He respected the judicial process by passing a constitutional amendment outlawing slavery after winning this nation’s bloodiest war fought over that very issue of slavery. In short, if Mike Huckabee and Kim Davis want to reverse a finding of the Supreme Court they should pass a constitutional amendment too, not settle for “I’m-a-martyr” cheap theatrics.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 380

At one Cabinet meeting Lincoln had all his counselors but one against him. He told them he was ‘reminded of a revival meeting in Illinois when a fellow with a few drinks too many in him had walked up the aisle to a front pew. All eyes were on him, but he didn't care; he joined in the singing, droned amen at the close of prayers, and as the meeting proceeded dozed off to sleep. Before the meeting ended the pastor asked the usual question: “Who are on the Lord's side?” and the congregation arose en masse. When the pastor asked, “Who are on the side of the Devil” the dozing sleeper came to, heard part of the question, saw the parson standing, and rose to his feet to say “I don't exactly understand the question but I'll stand by you, parson, to the last. But it seems to me that we're in a hopeless minority.”'

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 379

At one point during the Civil War there was talk of a Southern woman spy in the White House. The Senate Committee on the Conduct of the War heard about it and held a secret session to look into allegations that Mrs. Lincoln, who was from the border state of Kentucky, was a disloyalist. One member of the committee told of what happened. 'We had just been called to order by the Chairman, when the officer stationed at the committee room door came in with a half-frightened expression on his face. Before he had opportunity to make explanation, we understood the reason for his excitement, and were ourselves almost overwhelmed with astonishment. For at the foot of the Committee table, standing solitary, his hat in his hand, his form towering, Abraham Lincoln stood. Had he come by some incantation, thus of a sudden appearing before us unannounced, we could not have been more astounded. There was an almost inhuman sadness in his eyes; an indescribable sense of his complete isolation which the committee members felt had to do with fundamental senses of the apparition. No one spoke, for no one knew what to say. The President had not been asked to come before the Committee, nor was it suspected that he had information that we were to investigate reports, which, if true, fastened treason upon his family in the White House. At last the caller spoke slowly, with control, though with a depth of sorrow in the tone of voice: “I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, appear of my own volition before this Committee of the Senate to say that I, of my own knowledge, know that it is untrue that any of my family hold treasonable communication with the enemy.” Having attested this, he went away as silent and solitary as he had come. We sat for some moments speechless. Then by tacit agreement, no word being spoken, the Committee dropped all consideration of the rumors that the wife of the President was betraying the Union. We were so greatly affected that the Committee adjourned for the day.'

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Lincoln’s Wit/Wisdom 378

 ‘Ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors to bullets.’
- Abraham Lincoln