Friday, January 30, 2009
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 9:11 PM
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 7:18 PM
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 3:00 PM
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
American History magazine is kicking off a year-long series in which it will attempt to "humanize" Abraham Lincoln. Titled "The Lincoln Chronicles," the series of six articles will attempt to spotlight six crucial episodes in Lincoln's life; episodes which "tested, revealed and enlarged Lincoln's character and made him the towering figure he became." The author of the series is University of Texas historian H.W. Brands, probably best known for his Pulitzer Prize-nominated The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin and his more recent Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times.
The first article in this ambitious series from American History recounts the events leading up to Lincoln's famous "House Divided" speech he gave in Springfield, Illinois on June 16, 1858. In that speech, of course, Lincoln made the radical statement that in his view the United States could not continue being half free and half slave. He believed (and was of course correct) that it would become all one thing or all the other.
The article, titled "Dangerous Ambition," begins by telling us how Lincoln was somewhat "adrift" in the summer of 1858. It had been over a decade since his sole term in Congress. While he was making a handsome living as a lawyer, his ambition wouldn't permit him to be content in that profession forever. The recently-formed Republican Party gave Lincoln an opportunity to once again step into politics. When the party began searching for a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1858, Lincoln was nominated by the Illinois Republican Party.
Up to that point, Lincoln had been a fairly moderate politician. His only term in the House of Representatives in Washington was unremarkable, save for a speech in which he challenged the legality of the Mexican War. While he was principally against slavery, he was far less "radical" about it than most abolitionists were at that time. So when Lincoln rose to give his speech that June day in 1858, no one could have seen what was coming.
After a few opening remarks, Lincoln declared: "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe that this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and have free." According to Dr. Brands, this was "explosive language, and Lincoln knew it." Lincoln continued: "I do not expect the Union to be dissolved. I do not expect the house to fall. But I do expect it was cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South."
The words stunned the listeners as Lincoln had obviously taken the words of the radicals and made them his own. Again according to Brands, the "slaveholder plot must be resisted, Lincoln said, and it would be defeated." Lincoln closed by saying: "We shall not fail...The victory is sure to come."
The rest of the article deals with the aftermath of this speech, which is considered the equal in eloquence of The Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural Address. The national press reprinted it, and Lincoln soared onto the national stage. The Lincoln-Douglas debates would occur later in the fall of 1858, causing Lincoln's star to shine at supernova brilliance. Though he would lose the Senate election to Stephen Douglas, his prominence didn't falter.
Dr. Brands closes by writing that Lincoln never backtracked from his claim that slavery must be ended, but points out that Lincoln never addressed the issue in such stark and bold words. In other words, a Senate candidate may speak much more sharply than a candidate for the nation's highest office, which Lincoln became in 1860.
The issue of American History that is the basis of this post is still available at newsstands and bookstores. It also contains a letter from the publisher which explains the attempt to "humanize" Abraham Lincoln. If you've never read an issue of this magazine, I would encourage you to do so. Published 6 times per year, it always contains fascinating stories about the history of our nation.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 4:29 PM
Monday, January 12, 2009
A Connecticut composer and conductor has recently written "The Gettysburg Address" for orchestra and narrator. Mr. Richard Chiarappa sent me a nice email informing me about this musical piece, which will also feature narration of the complete text of Lincoln's famous address. The work is scheduled to be debuted in Connecticut sometime in March or October of this year, according to Mr. Chiarappa. He generously included a link to the orchestral music for this work, but narration will be added later this month. I've listened to the music and it is quite moving, incorporating portions of "Dixie" and "The Battle Hymn Of The Republic." I can't wait to hear it along with the narration.
Mr. Chiarappa is also the creator of a musical called "LINCOLN & BOOTH" which sets the conspiracy and assassination story to song. On the above link I provided, you can hear a duet ("Just Ourselves" sung by "Lincoln" and "Mary" before their departure to Ford's Theater the night of the assassination). Other characters in the musical feature Booth's co-conspirators, including Mary Surratt. This website shows scenes from the musical, and provides more background about the songs, etc. It's obvious that Mr. Chiarappa has done an extensive amount of research on the history of the assassination.
I am always interested in publicizing worthy exhibits, shows, displays, and theatrical performances concerning Abraham Lincoln. If the reader or anyone the reader knows has information which might interest other readers of The Abraham Lincoln Blog, please drop me a line. I can't promise to mention everything, but I'll do my best.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 7:52 PM
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 7:19 PM
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Here is yet another example of President-Elect Barack Obama's continued channeling of Honest Abe. After being sworn in as our nation's 44th President, President Obama will be served an inaugural luncheon which will be reminiscent of the foods that Lincoln himself enjoyed.
According to this item from the Political Punch blog at ABC News, every course of the inaugural lunch will be served in memory of Abe. The first course will even be served on replicas of the china which Mary Lincoln picked out herself for the Lincoln White House.
The appetizer will be pastry stuffed with seafood, a nod to Lincoln's love of oysters, both scalloped and stewed. The main course will be duck with winter vegetables, similar to Lincoln's love of the wild game and root vegetables he dined on while growing up on the frontier. The dessert, an apple cinnamon sponge cake, will reflect Lincoln's love of apples and apple cake.
While I'm sure Mr. Obama didn't go out of his way to choose this menu (it's most likely done by the Inaugural Committee), this constant reflection upon Lincoln is beginning to be a bit much even for me. It's all well and good to announce a candidacy in Springfield; read a lot of Lincoln books (hey, who doesn't?); recreate part of Lincoln's train ride to Washington; and use the Lincoln Bible for the swearing-in ceremony. But to eat like Abe did? I think that's taking it a bit too far.
Mr. Obama, PLEASE don't ever accept an invitation to see "Our American Cousin" at the theater. OK?
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 10:58 AM
Thursday, January 8, 2009
My apologies for the lack of posts for the past couple of weeks. The holidays combined with being under the weather (thanks to too many late nights during the holiday season) have kept me from posting as often as I would like. On to the topic at hand, that being Mr. Lincoln!
Way back on December 28, 2007 I posted an article about the storage of the clothing Lincoln wore on the night of his assassination at Ford's Theater. The theater was undergoing a massive multi-million dollar renovation at the time, and the clothes, including Lincoln's frock coat, had to be safely stored while the renovation took place. The plan was to put the clothing back on display once the renovation was complete.
Today's Washington Post brings the very disappointing news that Lincoln's coat has now been deemed too fragile and expensive to be placed on permanent display. The coat, made by Brooks Brothers with the words "One Country, One Destiny" embroidered in its lining, is stained with Lincoln's blood and was to have been a centerpiece of the assassination exhibit at the theater.
Unfortunately, the coat has deteriorated over the years and textile conservators have advised against a permanent display. However, in honor of Lincoln's 200th birthday, Ford's Theater will put the coat on temporary exhibit beginning February 12 until April 15, the anniversary of his death. After that date, a replica coat will be displayed. The original will remain in storage, to be displayed only on special occasions.
If the Smithsonian's National Museum Of American History can find a way to permanently display the original Star-Spangled Banner, surely Ford's Theater can come up with some method for displaying Lincoln's coat on a permanent basis. Yes, it is priceless and fragile. But it's also an important artifact from our nation's history and it should be available for everyone to view.
Posted by Geoff Elliott at 7:53 AM