Poor Abe

What would he think of this world.  He might say “deja vu all over again” when looking at divisions in our country.

Noted historian and Pulitzer Prize recipient Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote a marvelous book about Lincoln, Team of Rivals, that examined his values and character as much as his Presidency.

Kearns’ book focuses on Lincoln and three of his rivals for the 1860 Presidential nomination:  New York Senator and former governor William H. Seward; Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase; former Missouri Attorney General Edward Bates; and Abraham Lincoln.  After winning the election, Lincoln did an usual thing by appointing all three of his opponents to cabinet positions in his administration. Each of these men had a very different perspective, representing elements of the Republican Party.

Kearns wrote in her book:

“We need the strongest men of the party in the Cabinet. We needed to hold our own people together. I had looked the party over and concluded that these were the very strongest men. Then I had no right to deprive the country of their services.”
–Abraham Lincoln

Kearns went on to say in an NPR interivew: “And as long as he could keep that coalition together by keeping these people inside the tent, he was actually keeping those strands in the country together as well.”

Well done, Abe.  But next time someone offers you theater tickets, decline.

 

Lincoln might have been the most pragmatic man to ever occupy the Oval Office. He saw opportunity in problems and a way to unite in conflict. He certainly had conflict, in his Cabinet, his military leadership, and in the country.  Lincoln was full up to his stovepipe hat in conflict. Good for him he wasn’t taller than six foot, four inches.  Maybe it was because of his height that he took the long view and thought meticulously through his decisions.  He had a view for life after the War, a way to unite the country, and preserve some degree of dignity for the South.  There were no Twitter rages about “lock them up!”

Lincoln was a self-taught man, very little formal schooling, yet he practiced law and even owned a patent (Patent No. 6,469 in 1849). Lincoln gained his knowledge and perspective from reading.  Studies show that reading increases mental flexibility and empathy.  Someone hand our 45th President a book.

Lincoln was known to visit his army in the field and came under Confederate fire. Standing over six feet he was a noticeable target. Lincoln would later create the Secret Service but he thought little of the dangers of visiting the front line to get first hand updates from his Generals and personally talk to the troops.

Named after him, the Lincoln Bedroom has many connotations, but Lincoln never slept there. Not even the Lincoln Lawyer slept there. This room served as his office, meeting room for the Cabinet and to display his Trump University diploma (he had little formal schooling, remember).

Among his honors, Lincoln is a member of the Wrestling Hall of Fame.  Yes, he ‘rassled a bit in his younger days and was known to be a talker in the ring, challenging those in the crowd to “come on down” for a match.  No, the stovepipe hat was not part of his wrestling attire. And he was not known as Abe the Abominable. Except to some Southerners.

Even in death, Lincoln didn’t get any respect. Grave robbers planned to abscond with Lincoln’s body and hold it for ransom. Yikes.  The plot was foiled and it led to a more secure resting place for Abe.

Abe was fascinated by inventions and enjoyed testing new firearms, and did so around the White House grounds.  He attended artillery field testing and enjoyed meeting with inventors.  No idea on his NRA rating.

Lincoln wasn’t born in the Land of Lincoln, in fact, he didn’t reside there until he was 21 years of age.  He heard it was a great place for Millennials.  Illinois had a state motto that he liked: Move here, and you could become President!

Even though he was a great President, Abe wasn’t always a winner. He lost five elections, including two campaigns for Senate, on his way to becoming President. He was heard to tell an ancestor of Richard Nixon, “You won’t have Lincoln to kick around anymore.” That was only part of what he actually said. The rest of it was, “…because I’m getting my kicks on Route 66.”

Lincoln looked good with an electric guitar but unfortunately he never played a musical instrument. A shame. A thoughtful and soulful guy, I imagine Abe would have been into Santana, and found solace in Santana’s bending and sustaining notes. Abe took things to heart, he battled depression, dealt with the death of a son and cared for his melancholy wife. There was a lot of sadness around him, the guitar would soothed the heaviness of his problems.

As troubled and problematic as life could be for Lincoln, he had a sense of humor.

Once after being called “two-faced,” he quipped, “If I had two faces, why would I be wearing this one?” Rim-shot.

Lincoln was the only President known to be a poet.  He wrote prose as a teenager, and dabbled in it as an adult. “There once was a Whig from Nantucket…”

 


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