Posted by: Jim E | February 17, 2010

Lincoln…Abraham, that is…

We just celebrated Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays on President’s Day…(really Lincoln’s is February 12th and Washington’s is February 22)…so some made up President’s Day to celebrate all presidents…you may or may not realize that there isn’t a federal holiday called, President’s Day…congress never made this a federal holiday…some states have called it a holiday but it is not officially a national holiday…

Frankly, I prefer to celebrate Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays…they stand alone as presidents…but today I want to revere Lincoln…who I see as the greatest president we have every had…and the picture of Lincoln I like best (and there are a number of them I think are great)…is one of the last photographs taken of him…February 5, 1865, at the end of his life and the end of the Civil War…it is called the “Broken Glass Portrait”…(while the glass plate was being developed, a crack appeared and only one print was made before it cracked completely)…

You can certainly see the lines on the face of the man who had endured one of the most difficult times in our country’s history…

Born 201 years ago in Hodgenville, Kentucky…in a log cabin…one window, one door and one chimney…later on a trip down the Mississippi on a flat boat to New Oleans…he saw his first slave auction…and as a young man determined he would do something about it if he could…

(It was somewhat the same when our son Jeremy saw the movie “Mississippi Burning” for the first time, years ago…when he saw drinking fountains labeled “For Whites Only” and “Colored Only”…he asked me, “Did that really happen?”…I assured him it did…and like Lincoln, was awful in his eyes…couldn’t believe it could happen in America…to those made in the Image of God)…

This photo mirrors the state of the union at the time…and what a man for the hour…he came from “The short and simple annals of the poor.”…he went to school maybe 12 months between his 8th and 15th birthdays…son of an illiterate father, yet acquired an education…”he was active and persistent in learning…he read Everything he Could.”…but he had the King James Bible…he knew it and knew the language of it…and he had Shakespeare…all this stored away in his memory and at the ready…like a portable arsenal…

Lincoln came from a literary rhetorical tradition that for most modern Americans has been lost…it comes from knowing The Bible chapter and verse, the entire text and knowing Shakespeare…these sort of classic literary roots that are as fundamental to the way so many literary Americans were educated in the 19th Century…and Lincoln had that language, that rapturous, religious, rhetorical set of images that he had at his fingertips…and if you have never read Lincoln’s Second Inaugural…you must…it is not long…and it is not so much a state paper as an almost biblical acceptance of God’s awesome Will…

In the terrible crucible of war…a divided United States of America became one…other nations have wars; but we had Lincoln, and that made all the difference…

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  1. Please add me to the list
    Thank you

    • If you are asking (by saying “add me to the list”) that you get the blog on email…the only way I know to do that is by going to my blog…and on the right side of the blog is a box that says, “Email Subscription”…put in your email address and click…that should do it…but if it is not “that” list you are talking about…I’m don’t have enough information to know what you mean…

      Your Roving Reporter, Jim E


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