Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President, has an approaching birthday on February 12th. He would have been 218 years old had that cowardly John Wilkes Booth not shot him in the back of the head. It has always been my belief that if any one person in American history deserves a national holiday in his honor, it should be President Lincoln.
With apologies to Alexander Construction and their wonderful statue of Lincoln in Bourbonnais, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC is perhaps the most awe-inspiring memorial to any individual. It’s hauntingly majestic. The architect of this glorious structure was Henry Bacon, the designer Daniel French, and it was carved by the Piccirilli Brothers. The Memorial was completed in 1922 and Lincoln’s only surviving son, 78-year-old Robert, was in attendance. (Oddly, today there are no surviving relatives of Abraham Lincoln.) It is 19’ tall, weighs 156 ton, and made of Georgia white marble. There is a legend that Mr. Lincoln’s hands on the statue form an “A” and an “L” in sign language, due to the president’s involvement on behalf of a college for the deaf to allow scholarships, and the fact that designer French had a deaf son.
Although born in Kentucky, it is Illinois that lays claim to this 6’4” towering legend, as this was where he spent life when not in the DC swamp. In 1834 he was elected and served in the Illinois House of Representatives for eight years. There is no truth to the rumor he left due to Mike Madigan taking over as Speaker of the House. He then went on to serve Illinois in the US House of Representatives, and admirably served only one term before returning to Illinois to practice law. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if today’s politicians would serve only one or two terms and then leave, instead of…well, you know the rest of that story?
Imagine if you will the incredible pressure this man was under throughout his presidency. For his anti-slavery stance, he was so loathed by seven southern states they actually seceded from the union upon his election in 1860! Current President Trump only has to be concerned about California leaving the union...and there might not be much objection from the rest of the country.
Lincoln was then forced to oversee a terrible, bloody war within his own country, the only civil war in American history. There were 620,000 Americans that perished in that war – more than both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam…combined. In 1863 he issued the Emancipation Proclamation and pushed through Congress the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery, thus settling the issue once and for all. After the war, he was inundated with political and hair-brained opinions of how the south should be rebuilt and reprimanded over their audacity to go to war. He also buried his son, Willie, while all this was going on.
Most of these facts we learned in high school, so people are somewhat familiar with this history. But there are many more details about Lincoln that could be considered somewhat amazing.
For the record, this commentary to Abraham Lincoln is entirely coincidental to the recent birth of my grandson, Lincoln Matthew Schore.