February 12 of 2009 marks the date to celebrate the bicentennial birth of one of North America’s most distinguished sons. Well spoken and conscientious, perceived by some as an arrogant individual, his character and decisions can still be judged under the shadow of controversy, despite it of all, he was a man of the people, for the people and elected by the people to serve as president of the United States of America. Very much aware of the needs of society, he tried everything in his power to maintain order and the authoritarian preservation of the Union for which he paid in full with his life. The fruits of his labor lay heavy on the balance of good will.
“When I do good… I feel good. When I do bad I feel bad. That is my religion.”
( One of the many quotes by Abraham Lincoln * )
A man of quiet temper and manners of a true gentleman. Lincoln lived by the code of his conscious. Becoming one of the most recognizable faces in the history of the world, the image and reputation make Abraham Lincoln a man for all seasons. Without any question his looks were unique, like his demeanor and style, both political and personal making him an American symbol of manhood and integrity.
“If I were two faced… would I be wearing this one?”
( * )
Among all American statements Abraham Lincoln remains a giant figure and the most singular individual of his time. His memory is revered at the altar of sainthood and his own words, used in his many speeches, echo sincerity; touching the hearts of so many. Just like he did in his famous “Gettysburg address,” an extraordinary literary piece where the author demonstrates his ability to effectively pen down thoughts….
“…But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate,
we cannot consecrate,
we cannot hollow this ground.
The brave men, living and dead
who struggled here have consecrated it far above
our poor power to add
A true example of moral authority he stood firm against critics and adversity, his droll sense humor and compassion, his temper and tenacity, his perseverance for justice, wisdom and heart, made him the man to deal with the increasing turbulence in the ideology threatening to fracture the country, a difficult era for a young nation full of courageous ideas while destroying itself by a bloody and somehow inevitable civil war.
“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading today.”
( * )
The skilful politician that he was brought him fame across the nation, made him a man of statue. Although accepted by many, he was ridiculed by his political adversaries; challenged all the time. He was continuously accused of being a political instigator, even questioned on his ability to lead a country at war. Also his position on the racial issues of those days was very much the subject under the light of public opinion. And yet he managed to get along with the large majority of the nation.
“Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.”
( * )
A man of working experience with the knowledge and depth on subjects for everyone, he always knew the exact amount of substance it took in order to get a job done. His advice on any subject was done with skill and humanism of poetic dimensions.
“I had eight hours to cut down a tree, I’d spent two hours sharpening my ax.”
( * )
The naked eye of any of his contemporaries caught a visibly strong character over his physical presence, but modesty was an adjective that reflected his personality. In order to express ideas, the simple words that he used, still with the passage of time are transparent as flowing water from the source stream of the truth.
“Books serve to show a man, that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.” ( * )
During the war, the powerful control of his office was on the table of discussion as much as the way he handled the incompetent demeanor of some of his Army generals. He knew how to get out of it…. When told about the drinking problems of general Ulysses Grant, president Lincoln responded:
“I wish I knew the name of the brand of the liquor he consumes.”
( * )
A thinker, a writer, an author of his own speeches, and in the mind of many: a champion of social justice who was not afraid to speak his mind, nor to the press, nor to his political enemies and while making a point, he was able to deliver answers with passion and eloquence, grace and personality.
“Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy.“
( * )
Like a true seaman he knew when and how to raise the sails of the ship he commanded through the many seas of discomfort, troubled times and tragedy. Always with his eyes on the horizon and the best of intentions to take the vessel to a safe port. Justifiably so, the immortal words of Walt Whitman “Oh captain, my captain…!” perfectly fit the man and his journey.
“And at the end, it is not the years in your life that count. Its is the life in your years.”
( * )
The nation he loved so much has reserved a day on his behalf. Poets and writers have filled pages for Abraham Lincoln (and we still do…) his influence is a never ending source of inspiration and his life and dedication to the country he served is a bastion of national pride; today and for generations to come.
“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at the time.”
( * )
In recognition to his memory, playgrounds, public libraries, schools and national parks, statues and paintings are found throughout the land, currency, buildings and monuments carry his face or his name:
Lincoln Park in Illinois state.
Lincoln Museum in Illinois State.
Lincoln Monument in Illinois State.
Lincoln Mount, pike in Colorado State.
Lincoln National Memorial in Colorado State.
Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Colorado State.
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in NYC.
The Mount of Rushmore in South Dakota.
Paintings as well as motion pictures and stage plays.
Costumes and cartoons of Abraham Lincoln are part of the American culture.
The US currency honors Abraham Lincoln on the Penny coins as well as the five Dollar bills.
Every car’s license plate in the state of Illinois bears his image and statement: “Land of Lincoln.”
His many quotations about different subjects are used by scholars as pure wisdom and candlelights in the field of literature.
His legacy goes on….
Yes, how fortunate we are! Let us celebrate his birth. Let the tragedy of his death not to be forgotten. The “captain” lives in the heart of the American people and “we the people” look up to him.
Some of the highlights of his life:
Abraham Lincoln was born in the state of Kentucky in 1809; he was only 54 years old when he met a tragic death at the very end of the Civil War.
He became the sixteenth president of the United States of America.
Lost his mother at the early age of nine and his father married a widow with family of her own.
With his father and new family, and as a young boy he moved to Indiana, there he grew up in a farm, very much in contact with nature and the land; he became a young frontier man, yet very much interested in books and history.
Originally he was uneducated and a working country boy, smart and a vivid reader, he was able to digest every book that fell in his hands, thus becoming a self made intellectual among his peers.
Even as a young man in search of new ideas the meaning and accomplishments of the “founding fathers” and their “proclamation of independence” always intrigued him. No doubt he would become a stubborn lawful man made of discipline to be reckoned with.
He held some odd jobs and by 1832 became a captain in an all-volunteer army to be part of the “Black Hawk War.” Captain Lincoln never saw action.
In search of better conditions and trying to reorganize his life, he moved to the state of Illinois where he prepared himself for the lawyer’s bar exam. Once he was found to be competent and met the requirements established by the state, he was able to practice law.
He was engaged to a young woman, Ann Rutledge, the daughter of his landlord, but she died too soon in 1835 due to malaria. The theory that he was deeply in love with her and never forgot all about her… persists and it is believed that she was his true love.
Making a decent living for himself he become a working member of the WHIG party in the state legislature. That was circa 1836 and it is there in Illinois where the blood of politics enters his veins.
His marriage to Mary Todd took place in 1842, and he fathered four sons, out of which only one grew to become an adult, Robert Todd.
It is a popular belief that the mental problems of his wife (considered by some as a crazy woman) provided lots of grief to the life of Abraham Lincoln. He was committed to overcome adversity.
He ran for public office and served one term (1847-1849) in the House of Representatives. Outspoken as he was, soon became an opponent of the Mexican war. Somehow his views were not taken seriously by the people of Illinois and leaving public office was the proper thing to do, he became disappointed.
He bore the critics with stoicism and grace, yet at that time of his life, he decided to return to his old job.
Once he was settled in what he always considered to be his home town (Springfield, Il.) he practiced law one more time. The kindness of heart in matters of human needs were lawfully expressed, the honesty and the ability to prepare for his cases helped his reputation as a well-taken law practitioner all over the state. With him justice was never a subject to underestimate.
Soon, his popularity as a serious lawyer brought him fame and more cases before the State Supreme Court, even in Federal Courts.
In a visible job position he became well known and respected by all around him. His partners and friends in the WHIG party pushed him to run for the senate seat in 1855, but he lost. Under signs of deep frustration due to his aggressive attitude he looked for a better option, so he joined the newly formed Republican Party.
It was in 1858 that he ran again for the senate, this time as a republican with ideas of his own. Meanwhile the Democratic Party ran on the platform that favored “slavery.” That was a heartfelt issue very much openly discussed not only among the States but in the new territories as well. Opinions and flaming tempers were on display. Abraham Lincoln took sides.
While accepting the nomination and before an enthusiastic audience of republicans he read his impeccable “House Divided” speech on slavery, now regarded as a historical treasure:
“I do not expect the Union to be dissolved
I do not expect the house to fall
but I do expect it will cease
to be divided
it will become all one thing
or the other.”
For this statement above Lincoln was accused of fueling the flames of trouble, perhaps urging a fratricidal war, yet he challenged his opponent to a national series of debates. The outcome provided the proper stage for the self made Lincoln, already accepted as a popular and a national household name.
In 1860 the Republican Party offered him the nomination to run for president of the United States of America and although his name was not on the ballots of ten states, he collected 40% of the popular vote. Nevertheless he won the Electoral College by a large margin.
In the mist of deep political troubles, difference in ideology and ways to govern the country, he become president elect of a nation in search of survival.
Under discomfort from many social-political opponents Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated president of the United States of America on March of 1861.
His dream to pursuit the executive office in the White House became a nightmare ready for a wake up call that changed the course of history.
Soon he faced the outcry of secession from the southern states. In the early days of his presidency the civil war began and his office was undermined by a series of dramatic events and tragic consequences. Even so at the end of the war he was re-elected president for a second term, but his life fell short as he was assassinated before family and friends; a nation in horror still fighting the last months of its civil war. That was in April of 1865. He could not live to see the end of the war nor the results of the work put in place.
Just as his life was cut short, his ideas moved on forward and history judges him as one of the very best.
Yes, civil and pragmatic, an ideologist and concerned, president Lincoln stood tall as an individual and as a leader. It is for a good reason that he is known as “a man of the people.” His legacy is the basis of the resounding new birth of a nation, its struggle to succeed, and the willingness to show the light of freedom with the flaming torch of justice; held by daring good-will men.
© By Emiliano (Poeta48@aol.com)