Lincoln 1860

Lincoln 1860

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln

A baby was born at Sinking Spring Farm, Kentucky, near present-day Hodgenville, one hundred ninety nine years ago today, February 12, 1809. That young child, named Abraham by his family, of course grew up to become our nation's greatest president and one of the greatest Americans who has ever lived.

Abraham Lincoln had no special advantages growing up, unlike many other of our nation's leaders who were born into wealth or were given the opportunity of formal education throughout their youth. Instead, Lincoln was born of humble parentage, farmers on what was then the Western frontier of the United States. There is some debate just how poverty-stricken his parents were, but they were certainly not well-to-do by any means. As for formal education, Lincoln himself stated that his actual school learning did not total more than 18 months for his entire life.

Lincoln's journey to greatness was an unusual one. He worked at various jobs such as a deckhand on two flatboat trips to New Orleans, as a store clerk, a postmaster, and even as a captain of volunteers in the Blackhawk War in Illinois. All along the way, Lincoln's ambition never waned and he always strove to improve himself and his lot in life.

Finally, he became a lawyer, entered politics, and sprung onto the national stage during the brilliant series of debates between him and Stephen A. Douglas during their senatorial campaign of 1858. Even though Lincoln lost that election, he became the improbable Republican candidate for the 1860 presidential election and won. His life was tragically cut short on April 14, 1865 when he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln died the next morning at 7:22 a.m.

Sometimes it's difficult for the average person to sort through the facts, as well as the myths, which envelop Abraham Lincoln to this day. For example, an enduring myth is that Lincoln encountered mostly failure before he came out of nowhere and magically became president. This site shows that although he did experience failures along the way, Lincoln also achieved successes which led to even greater achivements.

Nearly 15,000 books have been written about Mr. Lincoln with more coming out every month. It's difficult to recommend any one book for learning more about him, but I would start with David H. Donald's Lincoln. It quite simply is the best single-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln ever written.

The photo I've included in this post is from the February 12, 1944 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. I've never seen this image before tonight, but I find it very moving.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln. The nation remembers your leadership and cries out for it still today.

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