“The true rule, in determining to embrace, or reject anything, is not whether it has any evil in it; but whether it has more evil than good.” Abraham Lincoln (16th President 1809-1865)
The thought and decision remain – no human being has the right to buy another. This is the truth now as it was during Abraham Lincoln’s time. Historians view President Lincoln’s greatest contribution to be the preservation of the Union throughout the war (1861-1865) between the States; his championship of democracy and the abolishment of slavery is an everlasting triumph. Through the time of extreme crisis, he showed much strength, determination, and morale fortitude. And faith.
In Jon Meacham’s illuminating book AND THERE WAS LIGHT – ABRAHAM LINCOLN and THE AMERICAN STRUGGLE he writes often in detail about Lincoln’s humanitarian commitment to the American slaves, which earned him the enmity of many and contributed to his assassination. To this day leaders in politics search for a resolve to a long-standing problem.
President Lincoln’s power of analysis, logic, mental activity, and ambition had no parallel. We have read and learned much about this gifted, extraordinary man searching for a freedom-loving man, his family, his vision, and his time. In the book, Jon Meacham, a historian, is telling brilliantly of events, which still touch and are part of our lives. He has given the reader insights into the president’s life, family, friends, and foes. This illuminating portrait tells us of a very human Lincoln, an imperfect man whose moral antislavery vision and commitment began early, essential to the story of justice in America, as he grew up in an antislavery Baptist community, insisting that slavery was a moral evil. His rise, his self-education, his love, his bouts of depression, his deep understanding of loss and pain, his vision, and his political failures, and successes are all part of this great story. Abraham Lincoln loved reading poetry, his favorites were Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), and Walt Whitman (1819-1892) …and he read Shakespeare (1564-1616). His ability to memorize whole passages of his readings was extraordinary…all his life he read and learned.
Here is an excerpt: Lincoln recalled in 1864 “Things had gone on from bad to worse until I felt that we had reached the end of the rope on the plan of operations we had been pursuing; that we had played our last card, and must change our tactics, or lose the game! I now determined upon the adoption of the emancipation policy. As he said many times, to many people, in public and in private, his primary official duty was not to destroy slavery in the short term (though he did seek to end it in the fullness of time) but to save the Union. For much of his life and of his presidency, Lincoln appeared to believe that anti-Black prejudice made a multiracial democracy an impossibility.” Lincoln was attacked for defending a constitution with proslavery elements and for preserving a politics in which racial prejudice was a predominant factor. The implication of such criticism was that Lincoln made a fetish of the Union at the expense of pursuing true justice.
Among the many who believed in the mission of Abraham Lincoln was Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) orator, author, the leader in the abolitionist movement, a former slave, and a friend of the president…as Lincoln himself said. Visiting the President he experienced the following, contrasting one at the White House, which said much about race in America. Lincoln’s respect and friendship for Douglass hinted at the hope of a new order. The near denial of entry spoke to an old order. Of this denial, Douglass wrote:”I have found in my experience that the way to break down an unreasonable custom, is to contradict it in practice. To be sure in pursuing this course I have had to contend not merely with the white race, but with the black one as well. The one has condemned me for my presumption in daring to associate with it, and the other for pushing myself where it takes for granted I am not wanted.”
The personalities of Lincoln’s time, pro and con, came from different corners and parts of America …some were slaveholders, some were abolitionists, some were Black, some White…yet all had a deep-seated wish or even dream to preserve and heal the Union. For many Americans to see Lincoln whole is to glimpse of themselves in parts – hours of triumph and of grace, centuries of failures and derelictions, yet always with a deep desire for a free society. Therefore, his story is neither too old nor too familiar. For as long as we are questioning or doubt the demands of democracy, as long as we struggle to become what we say we already are—the world’s last, best hope, in Lincoln’s phrase – we will fall short of the ideal more often than we meet the mark. It is a fact of America’s history that we are not always good, but that goodness is possible. Not universal, not ubiquitous, not inevitable – but possible.
Democracy matters, freedom matters NOW as it did in other centuries! It is a gift, yet not a permanent one unless it is protected and shielded. We vote and expect resolutions – as people did then to find answers. Answers to leadership, through education, learning, and respecting one another. Moral cowardice has permeated our time, and leaders on the political stage have shown their concession to the malady of our time…it is not the power of the intellect or intelligence but of the money. We cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
“Our greatest glory is not in never failing but in rising up every time we fail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (American poet 1803-1882)