Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lincoln and the power of words 6

'I am rather inclined to silence, and whether that be wise or not it is at least more unusual nowadays to find a man who can hold his tongue than to find one who cannot.'
- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lincoln and the power of words 5

During his one and only term in the House of Representatives delegates remembered Lincoln’s answering a colleague's objection to federal improvement of the Illinois River because it ran through only one state, by asking through how many states the federally improved Hudson River ran.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lincoln and the power of words 4

’Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.'
- Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Lincoln and the power of words 3

‘Are you not over-cautious when you assume that you cannot do what the enemy is consistently doing?’
- Abraham Lincoln

Friday, January 22, 2016

Lincoln and the power of words 2

'With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, and to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and a lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. '
- Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Lincoln and the power of words 1

Another distinctive facet to Lincoln's abiding appeal was/is the matchless power of his words – an absolute essential in a leader of men since we humans are creatures that live and move and have our being in a world of words as fish in a world of water and birds in a world of air.
One reason his words were so powerful was that he used them so sparingly. How often did he say that his personal inclination was to refrain from saying anything unless he sought to achieve some good by it? [By contrast, how many politicians do we know today who are firm believers that there is no such thing as bad publicity, who simply can’t resist the seductive power of a TV news crew?] But when Lincoln did have something to say he would weave a distinctively subtle alchemy of words that invariably had a way of sweeping up his audience into his world with the concerted power of one who is master of that world down to the final semi-colon. And since writing was a skill he practiced virtually all his life, he could – and did – impress effortlessly. That is the part of what came to be called the Gettysburg Address that is ho-hum: he put relatively little time into its composition because he had little time to give to it. But that condition applied to virtually everything he ever wrote. He wrote in keeping with his own early description of his politics – short and sweet like the old lady’s dance with no wasted movements. In short, whatever left his pen habitually had had all the dross already burnt off, leaving only a residue of pure gold.
The next few entries will show some dazzling examples of Lincoln’s wizardly working of words.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Lincoln and Death 7

Lincoln's death was an unparalleled international phenomenon. Of course heads of state, like his great and good friend Queen Victoria, sent condolences. But what was astonishing was that, according to one historian, condolences also came from the Working Class Improvement Association of Lisbon, the Students in the Faculty of Theology in Strasbourg, the Teachers of the Ragged School in Bristol, the Vestry of the Parish of Chelsea, the Cotton Brokers' Association of Liverpool, the Men's Gymnastic Union of Berne, Switzerland [all 44 members]. As if moved inexorably by some powerful if unseen gravitational pull, people thousands of miles away all made it their business to express their profound sorrow at the passing of this most enigmatic of men. For somehow Lincoln had managed to capture their imaginations, this man carved from the granite of the great American heartland, who had clambered through the dense entangling undergrowth of misunderstanding and greed, of violence and stupidity, to burst forth onto God's very own broad, sunlit uplands.
- Arnold Kunst

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Lincoln and Death 6

Long-term reactions to Lincoln's death came from as far away as Russia in the early 20th century. In the eyes of the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy Lincoln was a kind of world folk legend through 'peculiar moral powers and greatness of character... He was what Beethoven was in music, Dante in poetry, Raphael in painting and Christ in the philosophy of life. If he had failed to become President, he would be no doubt just as great, but only God could appreciate it. We are still too near his greatness, and so can hardly appreciate his power; but after a few centuries more our posterity will find him considerably bigger than we do.'

Friday, January 8, 2016

Lincoln and Death 5

Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, had on many occasions attacked the Lincoln administration for any number of reasons. But on Lincoln's death he wrote arguably the most prescient obituary of Abraham Lincoln ever penned, one that any of us might justifiably long for: 'He was not a born king of men but a child of the common people who made himself a great persuader, therefore a leader, by dint of firm resolve, patient effort, and dogged perseverance. He slowly won his way to eminence and fame by doing the work that lay next to him - doing it with all his growing might - doing it as well as he could, and learning by his failure, when failure was encountered, how to do it better. He was open to all impressions and influences and gladly profited by the teaching of events and circumstances, no matter how adverse or unwelcome. There was probably no year of his life when he was not a wiser, cooler, and better man than he had been the year proceeding.'

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Lincoln and Death 4

‘Our country owed all her troubles to Lincoln. God simply made me the instrument of his punishment.’
- John Wilkes Booth

Monday, January 4, 2016

Lincoln and Death 3

'I do the very best I know how and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right what's said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.'
-       Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Lincoln and Death 2

'Die when I may I want it said by those who knew me best that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.'
- Abraham Lincoln