Monday, April 13, 2015

Lincoln Assassinated

My first recollection of President Lincoln is from 1959 and the release of the new Lincoln penny. The obverse was changed from "wheat stalks" to an image of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. His picture hung in every classroom from Kindergarten through at least Junior High School, right alongside George Washington. He was considered somewhat of a saint. So naturally I was curious about this man ever since I can recall.

I have read everything about him, from Carl Sandburg's brilliant 2 volume biography to the latest books on his sexual obsessions. I have seen him played by Raymond Massey and Henry Fonda in films and several actors on stage. Love him or hate him, he was quite a man.

Tasked with keeping the Union together took a great toll upon him. You can see it in photos, especially the one here, taken just 3 days before he was shot and killed by John Wilkes Booth. Whether or not you agree with Lincoln's policies regarding slavery and States Rights, you cannot help but wonder what would have happened if the Union hadn't prevailed and the South had seceded successfully, pardon my alliteration.

It's possible that Mexico, with or without the aid of Spain, would have taken back Texas. And, what about the Spanish American War? Would it ever have happened? What would have been the fate of the Philippine Islands in World War Two? After all, Spain was neutral in that conflict and the Philippines was our pathway to Victory in the Pacific. I could go on, but I won't.

The flight and subsequent shooting of his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, is legendary, as is the trial and execution of his co-conspirators. Among them was the first of only two women ever executed by the United States Government. Her name was Mary Surratt. She essentially "ran the nest where the plot was hatched”, in the words of President Andrew Johnson.

But the most significant thing that Lincoln left us as a window into his character is the Gettysburg Address. First shunned here in the U.S. as "lackluster", it was hailed in England and is still considered by many to be amongst the greatest writings of Western Civilization. I am printing it here in the hope that all the people of our nation, currently divided as it is, will read it and fully understand its meaning. This would be the best way to honor the man who kept our Nation whole.

There are five different versions of the Gettysburg Address. This is taken from the one that is on the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C. It contains the words "under God." This is the most notable difference in the five versions.

The Gettysburg Address

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. 

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. 

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—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.

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