Wednesday, May 28, 2008

If You Can't Be Lincoln, Join Him


Here's a photo from today's New York Times showing Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton posing in front of Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. She visited it today, while contemplating her impending loss of the nomination.

Members of the press pool actually asked her if she thought either her husband or she would ever have their likeness carved in the mountain. Perish the thought! In her defense, at least Mrs. Clinton laughed at the question.

I guess if you can't be just like Abe, you can at least pose with him.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lincoln Memorial Maintenance


Here's an interesting photo of some maintenance being done on the Lincoln statue in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. This photo is from three years ago, but for some reason is popping up on the Reuters news site recently. I didn't know that cleaning of the statue occurs, so this was news to me.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Nation Remembers Their Sacrifice


Today is the day that we remember the ultimate sacrifice of our fallen military personnel who died while serving our country in defense of our freedom. Unfortunately, the true meaning and history of this day have become obscured as many of us treat it as the beginning of summer, to be celebrated with picnics, barbecues, boating and drinking.

While we all have our own opinions about war and the military in general (especially these days), we all need to be grateful to those who gave their lives for us. Lincoln said it best in his closing remarks of the Gettysburg Address:
...that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

For a detailed history of Memorial Day, click here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Do We Need Another Abraham Lincoln?

I love to find hidden gems about Abraham Lincoln in small town papers and other obscure resources and then share them with my readers. Here is a great editorial asking the rhetorical question "Does America need another Abe Lincoln?" The article comes from fwdailynews.com, a family of newspapers serving northeastern Indiana.

The author begins by sharing the fascinating news of yet another auction coming up (June 2008) at Christie's in New York of a document signed by Old Abe himself. What's so unique about this document, though, is that it was also signed by Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States Of America! It seems that this document was signed by both presidents in order to grant safe passage to a gentleman who wished to sell approximately 100 bales of cotton in order to support the Orphan Home of Mississippi. The document is estimated to bring between $100,000 and $150,000 at auction. It's the only known Civil War document signed by both Lincoln and Davis. I suspect it will fetch far more than that.

But the author of this editorial goes on to make an eloquent plea to Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barrack Obama the presumptive nominees of their parties for president. The author makes a great case that the next president will need to "bind up the nation's wounds" and to put partisan politics aside in order to solve the many problems our nation is facing. The next president, according to the writer, needs to lead all of us, convince Congress to help him (or her) make our country great again. Please take a moment to read this wonderful editorial.

I couldn't agree more. We've all had enough of the blithering babble stemming from both sides of the political spectrum. The politics of hate from the left and the right won't solve a thing.

Yes! A resounding YES! We do need another Abraham Lincoln, a person who will lead our nation through grace, dignity, intelligence, and magnanimity.

Justice Scalia Compares Himself To Lincoln


I've added a few posts to this blog in recent days and weeks about how politicians are falling all over themselves trying to claim that they are just like Abraham Lincoln. Now we have Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia joining the rush to be Abe.

In remarks made earlier this week at the Centennial Celebration of the Illinois Supreme Court Building Gala, Scalia claimed that his strict constructionist views of the U.S. Constitution aren't that "far removed'' from those of Abraham Lincoln.

Well, perhaps Justice Scalia is correct. I am not a lawyer and I confess to not knowing a good deal about Lincoln's legal views. But this much I do know: Justice Scalia consistently rules against the rights of ordinary people in favor of the government and big business every chance he gets. No doubt he is an absolutely brilliant lawyer and justice, but he is also heartless when stomping on the rights of the people. Somehow that does not seem very "Lincolnesque" to me.

Can we please have today's political leaders, elected and otherwise, quit comparing themselves to Abraham Lincoln? The more they try, the sillier they appear.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Historian Pleads Guilty To Stealing Lincoln Letter

Yet another thief is in the news today for stealing letters written by former presidents of the United States. The former head of the Theodore Roosevelt Association in Oyster Bay, New York, pleaded guilty to stealing letters written by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln from the association.

Edward Renehan admitted in Federal Court to taking an 1840 letter written by Lincoln, and two letters written in 1778 and 1791 by Washington, then selling them to a New York gallery for $97,000.

Fortunately, federal officials have recovered the letters and will return them to the association. Renehan will face between 24 and 30 months in federal prison. He claims that bipolar disorder made him do it. Hmmm. How about simple greed?

See my posting of January 28, 2008 for the story of another thief who stole valuable documents written by Lincoln and other leaders from American history.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Homestead Act of 1862


The Homestead Act of 1862 was signed into law 146 years ago today, May 20, 1862, by president Abraham Lincoln. The law which went into effect on January 1, 1863 opened the floodgates to "settlement" of the American West and forever changed the country.

The urge to expand and migrate west began almost as soon as the first Europeans arrived on the eastern shore of North America. As the population grew over the decades, the demand for lands owned by the government grew exponentially. While the government wanted to distribute land (seen as a form of raising revenue), there was much confusion over the methods used for land measurement, leading to property disputes. In 1785, the Land Ordinance went into effect to standardize land measurement, dividing 6 mile square plots into "Townships" and each township into 36 equal sections of 1 square mile, or 640 acres. At that point, settlers could buy 640 acres of land with certain requirements for purchasing such as improvements, plowing, etc. By the early 1800's, the requirement for purchased was lowered to 320 acres.

But with the coming of rapid expansion in the population and change in demographics in the 1840's, more action was required to provide more opportunity for farmers. Crop prices were rising, modernization was taking place, huge farms were pushing out smaller farmers in the east and the south, and the political climate was changing. Various attempts at providing government lands in the West were met with stiff resistance from Southern politicians who feared that opening lands in the West would limit the spread of slavery.

Finally with the onset of the Civil War and the secession of the South, the Federal Government took action. The passage and signing into law of the Homestead Act of 1862 provided government land of 160 acres to any man (who had never fought against the government) with the stipulation that some crops be planted, the person had to live on the land for 5 years, and that a small structure be built. After 5 years, the person could buy the land for around $1.25 per acre.

Depending on one's point of view, the Homestead Act was a boon or a disaster. It was fantastic for people who wanted their own land and to carve out a new life in the frontier. It was a disaster for the Native Americans, who were pushed further and further west into a life of disease and poverty on reservations.

Eventually, huge agribusinesses (industrial farms) pushed out these farmers and the act was repealed in 1977. Today there is no such thing as being able to settle on government land for five years and then purchasing it for next-to-nothing.

The original Homestead Act document is currently on display in Bismarck, North Dakota as part of the celebration of the Lincoln birth bicentennial. It will remain on display until February 12, 2009. The permanent home of the document is the National Archives in Washington, D.C. To learn more about the Homestead Act, you may click here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Everyone's Thinkin' Lincoln!


With the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth less than a year away, it seems as if everyone is "thinkin' Lincoln" these days. Candidates fall over themselves comparing themselves to Lincoln, (see my previous post), new books about Lincoln seem to appear every day, and Steven Spielberg has finally announced his biopic of Lincoln will begin filming in 2009.

This week's Newsweek magazine has a very informative article concerning many of the special events and projects under way to celebrate Old Abe. For example, the U.S. Mint will offer four different pennies, the reverse of each depicting a different residence of Lincoln. Ford's Theater will commission and stage a new play about Lincoln's life. A new exhibit is being put together by the Library of Congress. Up to 17 states will be staging re-enactments of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates. Philadelphia will be re-creating an 1864 fair that Lincoln attended. Esteemed Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer has not one, but three books coming out. The best site for learning about all the different events is at the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. The Commission was formed by Congress to organize and plan the celebrations across the country.

In short, it appears that the U.S. will be in the midst of Lincolnmania. Now is the perfect time for all of us to learn more about Abraham Lincoln. Not the myth, but the man himself. Pick up a book, attend a re-enactment, visit a Lincoln site. Learn how this one man, with next to no formal education, became the nation's greatest president, who resonates in our nation to this day.

Can Anyone Really Be Another Lincoln?


The so-called "silly season" of politics is fully under way in recent weeks. Candidates for U.S. president pretend to be like us, showing up to bowl a few frames, stopping off in a bar to down a shot or two of whiskey, and of course claiming to feel the pain of the current economic troubles. As if multi-millionaires could ever really know what it's like to be an ordinary person.

The silliest statements and posturing of all is how the political operatives for each party claim that their candidate is just like Abraham Lincoln, or that they are the "next" Abraham Lincoln. I've posted on this topic previously, but now it's really getting out of hand.

In an article from the Associated Press, Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan compared Senator John McCain to Lincoln, claiming that like Lincoln, McCain knows how to carry on the struggle of war. According to Duncan, McCain understands the importance of the struggle and will see it through. Of course with this comparison, Chairman Duncan shows he knows nothing about U.S. history. One cannot begin to compare the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to the American Civil War, in which the very survival of the nation was at stake. Continuing the struggle in Iraq with no defined goals and murky (at best) reasons for being there in the first place is not the same thing as continuing the struggle in the American Civil War.

Not to be outdone in the comparison to Lincoln department, former Democrat party presidential candidate George McGovern compared Barack Obama to Lincoln in a recent political appearance. The grounds for the comparison wasn't Lincoln and Obama's leadership on racial issues, or that both men served in the U.S. Congress. No, McGovern's reason was simply because Obama is from Illinois, just like Abe. Therefore, Obama is the next Lincoln. Of course, this comparison comes from a man who supported Hillary Clinton until Obama surged to the lead. Senator McGovern deserted her like a rat from a sinking ship. The good senator should read up on Lincoln and learn something about political beliefs and principles and stick to them instead of jumping on the bandwagon of the leader.

I can't find any articles comparing Hillary Clinton to Abraham Lincoln. I know she recently challenged Obama to "Lincoln-Douglas" style debates, a challenge which was regretfully rebuffed. And of course she was born in Illinois, so she must also be like Abe!

So can today's candidates really be the "next Lincoln" or is it just wishful thinking? Wouldn't it be wonderful if the winner could exhibit the same moral strength, political brilliance, and outstanding leadership of the original? Unfortunately, I don't think we need to hold our breath waiting for it to happen.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Interest In Lincoln Is Soaring


Here's proof that interest in our nation's 16th president is "soaring." While hunting around the Internet for photos of Abe, I found this image of a hot air balloon which promotes Illinois tourism, complete with a representation of you-know-who on it. I always assumed Lincoln "flew" above all of our other presidents, but now we know it to be so.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Slow Week For Abe

It's been a busy life outside of the Abraham Lincoln Blog for me recently. With the coming of spring, the yard and garden need tending and sporting events need to be attended. My real job (as a computer geek) is warming up rapidly along with the weather as well. These duties combine to take me away from my first love: history, trivia, and fun facts about our nation's number one president. (That would be Lincoln in case you didn't know)


I want to assure my readers, all 2 of you (just kidding), that I'm not shutting down the blog. Believe me, if I could earn a living doing this, I would.

Abe Along The Roadside


Back in 1959, the state of Wyoming commissioned a memorial to Abraham Lincoln, featuring an intentionally oversized head on smaller shoulders. It was done to mark the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's birth. Placed along Interstate 80 in 1969, the placing of the monument marks the highest point along the old Lincoln Highway, the nation's first coast-to-coast road.

The head is an impressive 12 1/2 feet high and rests upon a 30 foot tall granite monolith. The monument is accessible to travellers along Interstate 80, westbound, between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming.

I'm not sure why Abe has such an angry expression on his face (actually many statues of him do). But I suppose if any of us oversaw the bloodiest war in our nation's history, only to be murdered by some punk, we'd be really upset, too!

 
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