I got such a positive response from my last column on Abraham Lincoln, I decided to follow it up with even more fascinating information.
One of Lincoln’s natural gifts was that he was a wonderful storyteller. So I thought it was appropriate that we tell some stories about Lincoln himself that are sure to fascinate.
Lincoln and his wife held several seances at the White House. This was his wife’s idea, but Lincoln supported her in everything. The reason for the seances was of the four sons the Lincolns had, only Robert Todd survived into adulthood.
Even their surviving son, when he was a young man, escaped death narrowly at a train station in New Jersey. The young Lincoln was accidentally pushed off the platform onto the track – into the path of the oncoming train arriving at the station.
If it wasn’t for the quick response by a man standing with him, Robert Todd undoubtedly would not have survived. The man who was standing near young Lincoln saw what happened, grabbed the young man by the collar of his coat and yanked him back onto the platform, out of harm’s way.
The man who saved Robert’s life was none other than Edwin Booth, the brother of his father’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.
Speaking of the Booth family, Lincoln was a fan of John Wilkes Booth, an actor. Lincoln enjoyed his performances immensely and even invited Booth to the White House to meet him. But Booth, who had a deep hatred for Lincoln, refused each time.
Lincoln was criticized in many quarters around the country for attending the theater while the Civil War was going on. Many people thought it wasn’t proper for the president to go to entertainment activities during the war. But Lincoln replied to the effect that, “I go to the theater so I may laugh, and I laugh so I might not cry, I might not weep.” What Lincoln was saying was he needed a respite from the rigors of war, which I’m sure weighed heavily on his mind.
Throughout his life – as a laborer, lawyer, politician, even president – Lincoln used skills as a storyteller to share parables to get his point across to the American people.
Lincoln was not only a great orator, he was also a great writer, as well – possibly our only president who qualified as a poet. One need only to look at the two-minute speech he delivered at Gettysburg to realize what a great writer Lincoln was.
Lincoln didn’t always go to church, but he was a God-fearing man. Lincoln was the perfect person to handle our country in its greatest strife.
One of the most well-known of Lincoln’s quotes is: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” It’s a quote that unfortunately is as appropriate today as it was in Lincoln’s time. Hard to believe that during the Civil War, while Lincoln was popular and revered in some quarters, he was despised in others.
Lincoln was made fun of, called a country bumpkin, a man ill at ease and lacking in refinement. Shockingly, some newspapers even called for his assassination during his presidency. Gen. George B. McClellan, his opponent in the 1864 election, referred to Lincoln as a coward.
Nothing Lincoln did seemed to appease anybody. They said that was too lax in some quarters and too controlling in others. While Lincoln was scorned in the southern states, he was also criticized in northern newspapers as well. One female abolitionist exclaimed she would leave the country if Lincoln were re-elected again.
Lincoln did not have to deal with all the media outlets that modern political figures face: cable channels, networks, and the internet.
While it may not be fair to compare presidents of today with presidents of yesterday, there are some remarkable parallels despite the passage of time – including the challenge of the news media to remain fair and impartial.
I often think of what Edward R. Murrow would say of the news media today. I do not think he would be happy.
Lincoln was not a saint. He was only human like the rest of us and, as such, would be susceptible to mistakes and frailties of other humans. But given what he had to deal with during the Civil War and a country divided, he did an amazing job of reunifying the country.