Happy Birthday, Mr. President
In December 1808, an uneducated farmer and his pregnant wife purchased 348 acres of farmland in Hardin County, Kentucky, for about $200 and the assumption of a prior mortgage. Less than 60 days later, on February 12, 1809, a son was born – Abraham Lincoln.
There are few historians who do not rank him in the top three or four greatest presidents of our United States. He is a man, who – with only 18 months of formal education – would be admitted to the Illinois bar and, years later, pen a short complex piece of visionary wisdom in writing the Gettysburg Address.
Honest Abe was a prairie lawyer who worked for both the railroad and the riverboat companies, defending “big business” of the time in suits against shareholders. He once defended a man accused of murder by proving, with the Farmer’s Almanac, that the angle of the moon on the night of the murder was too low to illuminate the sky for a lying eye-witness to have seen the event.
He served the people of Illinois in the State House and in Washington, learning the ins and outs of politics on every level. His party of choice, at the time, was the Whig Party. Through his political acumen and the happenstance of time, Abraham Lincoln would become one of the fathers of the Republican Party and later stand as their nominee for president.
Mr. Lincoln didn’t campaign the way we perceive campaigns today. He wasn’t on the road and in hundreds of cities. Yes, he debated in public forums, famously with Stephen Douglas; but most of the campaign work was grassroots work and distribution of flyers by Republicans throughout the northern states.
In 1860 Lincoln won solely on the strength of northern states. He was not even on the ballot in nine southern states and lost overwhelmingly in five others. This was a four-way race for president in a time when war was imminent and the issue of slavery was driving debate; it was not a landslide.
As a leader and innovator, on all levels; he was still a common sense man of the people. He knew that slavery was not right, yet he understood the economic and social impact the emancipation of slaves would have on the lives of families and businesses in the south.
Only Abe Lincoln could have the leadership to make the hard decisions of a war president, yet have the compassion and vision to know that lenience and forgiveness in reconstruction would be the key to rebuilding a nation. This is what made him great; his assassination served to spread the word of his greatness and create a buzz of immortal legend.
The citizens of the United States have commemorated Abraham Lincoln in all ways imaginable. We have towns, counties, cars and children in his honor. We have stamped coins and printed currency. Republicans have honored him posthumously at millions of dinners across the land every year, all of this because he was a great man.
Today I pay tribute to the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. “Happy Birthday #200 – and many, many more.”