Yesterday was Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. I have a soft spot in my heart for him. I think there are several reasons.
First, a bit of history. Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin on the Sinking Spring Farm near Hodgenville, Kentucky. His mother, Nancy Lincoln, died of milk sickness in 1818, leaving his sister, eleven-year-old Sarah, in charge of a household that included her father, nine-year-old Abraham and a nineteen-year-old orphaned second cousin.
About a year later, Abraham’s father married Sally Bush Johnston, a widow from Elizabethtown, Kentucky, with three children of her own. “Here’s the story of a lovely lady…”. I couldn’t help it. It is not noted in research, but I can well imagine the relief and help this was to poor sister Sarah. Abraham became very close to his stepmother, whom he referred to as “Mother”.
As a youth, Lincoln disliked the hard labor associated with the frontier life. Neighbors and family members often dubbed him ‘lazy’ for all his scribbling, writing, ciphering and poetry. He also loved to read.
Lincoln was largely self-taught. His formal schooling from itinerant teachers was intermittent, yet it gave him a lifelong interest in learning.
As he grew into his teens, Lincoln took responsibility for his chores and became adept at using an axe. He was tall and strong and athletic and participated in various wrestling and other competitive matches.
As years continued, Lincoln taught himself law, passing the bar exam in 1836. For the next few years he worked in the newly named capital of Springfield, Illinois, earning the reputation as “Honest Abe”.
He later met and married Mary Todd, the daughter of a wealthy slave-holding family in Lexington, Kentucky.
There is far too much to tell between this time and the date of his first inauguration as President of the United States. I encourage you to read his whole story.
On the personal side, Lincoln was an affectionate, though absent husband and father of four sons. Two of their sons died at young ages, probably of tuberculosis. Abraham and Mary were considered to be very lax in the disciplining of their children, though they loved them dearly.
Even prior to the deaths of his two sons, Lincoln suffered from “melancholy”, a condition which now is referred to as clinical depression.
Like his heroes, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, Lincoln opposed the spread of slavery to the territories, and had a grand vision of expanding United States, with a focus on commerce and cities, rather than agriculture.
In his second inaugural address in 1865, Lincoln addressed the need to reconstruct the South and rebuild the Union: “With malice toward none; with charity for all.”
That is such a great line.
We all know how his story ends. On the night of April 14, 1865, the actor and Confederate sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth, slipped into the president’s box at the Ford Theatre and shot him point-blank in the back of the head. Lincoln was carried to a boarding house across the street from the theater, but he never regained consciousness and died in the early morning hours of April 15.
I see Abraham Lincoln as extremely self-motivated, mentally focused in spite of his depression, kind and gentle, yet extremely bold and courageous. I think what I love most about Lincoln is his humanness. I love his pushing through all of his tough days to reach his goal. I like his writers heart and his love of poetry and even his blues.
My boys and I visited Washington D.C. two summers ago. It was my first time there. I loved that visit. We saw many things in a short amount of time. I had the opportunity to tour Ford’s Theatre, as well as the boarding house across the street, where Lincoln was laid across the bed. It was all very moving.
My very favorite place was the Lincoln Memorial. It is beautiful and massive. It deserves reverence. It feels like a holy place. I actually shed a few tears.
I’m not exactly sure how to wind up this blog. It is solely meant to make you think about Abraham Lincoln, The Great Emancipator. For me, that is probably one of my biggest admirations of him; he loved freedom. He wanted it for all and for all time.
Freedom is one of the sweetest words we know or speak. In Lincoln’s case, and for many others, it often comes at a great price. Let us not forget.
So Happy Belated Birthday to you, Mr. Lincoln. May you be experiencing the truly greatest freedom of all.