The Influence of Wealth on the Presidency – A Lincoln Perspective

The following is an interesting story ABOUT Abraham Lincoln as a president.

It provides an insight into the influence and power of the wealthy on Lincoln’s political or military decisions.

David Davis Justice of Supreme Court
David Davis (1815-1886) Assoc. Justice of U.S. Supreme Court & U.S. Senator from IL

Judge David Davis, Lincoln’s former campaign manager and a Lincoln appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court, related this incident that occurred in 1862.

From the beginning of the Civil War, some of the people of New York City feared a possible attack and bombardment by the Confederate navy. Public meetings were held to consider the gravity of the situation.

Finally, a delegation of fifty men, all of whom were rich and, in total, were worth hundreds of millions of dollars, were selected to go to Washington and persuade the president to detail a gunboat to protect their property.

Judge Davis agreed to present them to President Lincoln.

Mr. Lincoln listened attentively to their request, apparently much impressed, by the ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ they said they represented, Davis recalled.

When they concluded, Lincoln said:

'Gentlemen, I am, by the Constitution, Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the Navy of the United States, and as a matter of law, I can order anything to be done that is practicable to be done. I am in the command of gunboats and the ships of war; but, as a matter of fact, I do not know where they are. I presume they are actively engaged, and it is therefore impossible for me to furnish you with a gunboat.'

Then Lincoln went on to explain:

'The credit of the Government is at a very low ebb, greenbacks [paper money] are not worth more than forty or fifty cents on the dollar; and in this condition of things, if I were worth half as much as you gentlemen are represented to be, and as badly frightened as you seem to be, I would build a gunboat and give it to the Government.'

Davis said he never saw ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ sink to such insignificant proportions as when that delegation left Abraham Lincoln’s office.

Insignificant indeed!

Food for thought.

Mac

Works Cited

[1] Gross, A., & Lincoln, A. (1912). Lincoln’s Own Stories: Collected and edited by A. Gross. With portrait. New York & London: Harper & Bros. pp. 198-199.

[2] (Editorial Cartoon at the top of the page): Walsh, William Shepard, ed. (1909). Abraham Lincoln and the London Punch; cartoons, comments and poems, published in the London charivari, during the American Civil War (1861-1865). New York: Moffat, Yard and Company. p. 61.

Lincoln’s Lewistown Speech – A Message?

On a hot, summer afternoon in 1858, Abraham Lincoln stood up and gave a two and a half hour campaign speech in Lewistown, Illinois.

It was his reply to Stephen Douglas’ speech, his opponent for the U.S. Senate, given a few days earlier.

Lincoln addressed the points Douglas made against him, and he attacked

Judge Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen A. Douglas, Judge, lawyer, state legislator, U.S. Senator, & 1860 presidential candidate

Douglas’ claims to the Whig Party leadership. Lincoln used the brilliant tactic of reading passages from speeches and letters of Henry Clay, theprevious Whig Party leader and an American icon of the times.

Lincoln, a skillful manipulator of words and phrases, compared Douglasto Henry Clay “as Beelzebub to an Angel of Light” – an earthy but vivid Biblical simile to sear the contrast between the two in the minds of his listeners.

At the end of this speech, Lincoln pulled off an unusual political stunt.

Lincoln took the crowd to school – where they stood – and gave them a lesson on the Declaration of Independence!

He recalled the purpose of the Declaration of Independence, and he interpreted the meaning and intent of the writers and signers in composing the Declaration. In so doing, Lincoln lead his listeners to tie, in their own minds, the document to the issue at hand in 1858 – slavery.

But he wrote the entire part in such a way that it appears relevant today.

So let’s imagine we are the crowd Lincoln is taking to school – on the the “Declaration of Independence!” But we’ll bring our modern viewpoint to his lesson from this point.

[FYI: The pronouns “they” and “their” refer to the writers/signers of the Declaration of Independence. Any bolding is mine for your attention.]

In the first segment, Lincoln uniquely emphasizes the marriage of a higher power (mentioned in the Declaration as ‘…endowed by their Creator…’) with the writers/signers’ philosophy and scope of reach in writing the document.

It was his interpretation that…

...In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity.

So, if we are Americans who believe the Declaration of Independence applies to us, then are we accepting the inherent truth that humans are made in the Divine image?

If we accept that truth, then are we also accepting that ‘nothing stamped in the Divine image was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by it’s fellows?

If we don’t accept ‘the Divine image‘ truth, do we still accept the second premise that no person is ‘sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and inbruted by it’s fellows?’

[Refresher note: With those two truths among others, the writers/signers justified our split with England, and posted those truths to the world as key pillars to the philosophy of our new country’s government.]

Is that still the same philosophy we believe today?

Lincoln uses his words to paint a vivid picture of the Declaration as a strong guiding light for us (and here it appears he really means the people today):

They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children's children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages.

Some day, he goes on to say, if we find ourselves in one of two scenarios, we may need this light. Lincoln explains…

...that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness...

Do either of those scenarios apply to us today?

If they do, Lincoln reminds us that the writers/signers intended that the Declaration is there to serve as the motivator to again take up the fight to keep certain virtues alive in America.

...their posterity [the signers' future ancestors] might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began -- so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane...virtues might not be extinguished from the land; 

Today, are ‘truth, and justice, and mercy…’ threatened in America?

...so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built.[1]

Does Lincoln’s Lewistown speech hold a lesson or a message for us today?

Maybe or maybe not, but it raises quite a few questions doesn’t it?

Food for thought.

Mac

Works Cited

[1] Speech at Lewistown, Illinois, on August 17, 1858, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. v.II:546.

 

 

 

 

‘The Power of Good It Did Sarah Ann’ – Lincoln’s Story on Critics

A Northern political cartoon circa 1864. The artist seeks to scare by suggesting that Lincoln’s policies will destroy the Union and the Constitution.

As the president and as the commander-in-chief during America’s only civil war, Abraham Lincoln endured a tremendous amount of criticism.

The criticism came from almost every corner of the Union – banks, military, business owners, farmers, shipping magnates – if there was a group, Lincoln had a critic in it.

On occasion, when someone asked how he felt about this, Lincoln liked to tell this story.

I feel about that a good deal as a man whom I will call 'Jones,'whom I once knew, did about his wife. He was one of your meek men, and had the reputation of being badly henpecked. At last, one day his wife was seen chasing him out of the house striking him with a switch.

A day or two afterward, a friend of his met him on the street, and said: 'Jones, I have always stood up for you, as you know, but I'm not going to do it any longer. Any man who will stand quietly and take a switching from his wife deserves to be horse-whipped.'

Jones looked up with a wink, patting his friend on the back.

'Now, don't,' he said. 'Why, it didn't hurt me any; and you've no idea what a power of good it did Sarah Ann! [1]

Taking the ‘whipping’ of criticism in silence wasn’t a sign of Lincoln’s weakness; it was his deeper understanding what it did for his critics!

Personal sensitivity and ego-mania are NOT the characteristics of great presidents.

Food for thought.

Mac

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Works Cited

[1] Gross, A., & Lincoln, A. (1912). Lincoln’s Own Stories. Collected and edited by A. Gross. With portrait. New York & London: Harper & Bros. p183.

Unnecessary Lawsuits, Laws, Legislation – A Lincoln Viewpoint

Abraham Lincoln did not like to waste time – especially the court’s or the legislature’s.

Lincoln’s thinking and approach to the law and politics centered around two guiding procedural principles: Prevent unnecessary legal disputes, and don’t clutter up legislative time with unnecessary resolutions for laws or actions.

There’s even an infusion of moral reasoning for doing so.

Regarding legal disputes, Lincoln’s notes (circa 1850) for a law lecture make the point very clearly.

As legal advisors, he told lawyers to:

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser—in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.[1]

In his 1912 work, Anthony Gross tells a story about a man on Lincoln’s circuit travels who asked Lincoln to bring a lawsuit against another local resident for $2.50. The debtor, as the story goes, didn’t have a cent to his name, and Lincoln could not dissuade the creditor from pressing the lawsuit. Lincoln

therefore gravely demanded ten dollars as a retainer. Half of this he gave to the poor defendant, who thereupon confessed judgment and paid the $2.50. Thus the suit was ended, to the entire satisfaction of the angry creditor.[2]

Lincoln lived what he preached. Not all creditors are so easily mollified, of course, or slow on the uptake for that matter.

As an interesting segue, Lincoln also admonished practicing attorneys:

Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this. Who can be more nearly a fiend…to stir up strife, and put money in his pocket? A moral tone ought to be infused into the profession which should drive such men out of it.[1]

As with legal disputes, Lincoln was not a fan of frivolous laws and acts by law-making bodies. This humorous article from early in his career serves as an example.

The Sangamo Journal, January 17, 1835, reported:

January 6, 1835, legislator, Jacob Vandeventer of Schuyler County, Illinois proposed a resolution: “That the nomination of Samuel McHatton, for County Surveyor of Schuyler county…be vacated for the reason that said office was not vacant at the time said nomination was made”[3]

The Journal continued.

Mr Lincoln said, That if, as appeared to be the opinion of legal gentlemen, there was no danger of the new surveyor’s ousting the old one so long as he [the present surveyor] persisted not to die—he

Lincoln in Illinois Legislature
Sketch by unknown artist of Lincoln in the Illinois Legislature

would suggest the propriety of letting matters remain as they were, so that if the old surveyor should hereafter conclude to die, there would be a new one ready made without troubling the legislature.

Following Lincoln’s remarks, the article concluded, the legislators took Lincoln’s humorous advice, and the resolution was tabled.[3]

Lincoln believed in the body politic that was America. As such, he viewed the law and the law-making bodies as vital to protecting and expressing its will. Also, he felt it was equally vital that the people follow the laws enacted.

Therefore, frivolous lawsuits and laws, to Abraham Lincoln, wasted time and jeopardized America as a whole.

Too bad his views aren’t shared today.

Food for thought.

Mac

Works Cited

[1] “Fragment: Notes on a Law Lecture.” Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. vol.II: pp.82-83.

[2] Gross, A., & Lincoln, A. (1912). Lincoln’s Own Stories. Collected and edited by A. Gross. With portrait. New York & London: Harper & Bros. p.24.

[3] “Speech in Illinois Legislature Concerning the Surveyor of Schuyler County – January 6, 1835.” Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. vol.I: p.32.

WWLD? – But Will America Do It?

Responding to a a group of supporters who serenaded him at the White House one evening after his re-election in 1864, Abraham Lincoln conveyed a peculiar message:

Human-nature will not change-- In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good-- Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and...none of them as wrongs to be revenged.[1]

What Lincoln said that night in response to that serenade is true.

Throughout history, human nature always remains the same. It’s the only constant. Technology changes, nations change, even geography changes, but mankind continues to commit similar acts of behavior. That’s why history always appears to repeat itself.

It seems that mankind simply refuses to see these past incidents of human behavior as a philosophy from which to learn wisdom.

For example, even in the 1860s, Lincoln faced today’s issues – refugee bans, emigrations, and an unwanted population – and all in the midst of a civil war!

In fact, as 1862 drew to a close, Lincoln delivered this tidbit of information during his review of the year’s activities in his annual message to Congress. (Here’s an easy-to-read copy [2] of the entire address)

While this lengthy message is better known for some innovative political ideas and his metaphorical “Fiery Trial” ending [shown below], it also contains a

Fiery Trial Portion of Lincoln's Second Annual Message to Congress 1862
A photo of the “Fiery Trial” portion of Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress in 1862.

clarification by Lincoln regarding the status of freed African-Americans.

Their status, to that point, was undefined, vague, and awash in previous servitude – freed slaves. But who were they? What were they?

It comes in the sentence regarding the creation of colonies in other countries for freed African-Americans.

[All bolding is mine for your attention]:

Applications have been made to me by many free Americans of African descent to favor their emigration, with a view to such colonization as was contemplated in recent acts of Congress.[3]

Lincoln, like Congress, was one of those in favor of colonization. He believed that the African-Americans’ future in this country, even after slavery, was destined to be one of continued problems and strife.

But in that opening line, he declares for EVERYONE, his legal perception of the status of this population: “free Americans of African descent.”

The dignity, the gravity, the bearing of Lincoln’s words notified Congress, the nation, the world, and ultimately history of HIS acceptance of this heretofore undefined population into the diverse “community” of America.

FIRST – as free Americans, and THEN – like German descent, Irish descent, Italian descent – as an identifiable segment – other than freed slaves or freemen.

Today, WWLD [What Would Lincoln Do]? That is a relevant question, and in Lincoln’s “order of status” lies the answer.

It is vitally important to the survival of our Democracy in the 21st Century, that our American community and that our politicians who lead us remember his order for ALL the segments of our very diverse population –

FREE AMERICANS of _____________

[fill-in: descent/race, religion, disabilities, gender, education level, sexual orientation, or any other identifier we have].

And accept them.

But will America do it?

It seems that mankind simply refuses to see these past incidents of human behavior as a philosophy from which to learn wisdom.

Food for thought.

Mac

Works Cited

[1] ” Lincoln’s Response to a Serenade, November 10, 1864.” The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.
Retrieved June 6, 2017 from: https://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mal:@field(DOCID+@lit(d3811500))

[2] “Second Annual Message – December 1, 1862, Abraham Lincoln, XVI President of the United States .” The American Presidency Project. Retrieved June 6, 2017 from http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29503

[3] “Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862.” Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln. vol.V:520-521.

Joe Wilson and His Poultry Shed – Lincoln’s Stinky Story

When presidents shake-up or change-up their staff these days, I’m always reminded of this story Abraham Lincoln once told.

The Backstory

After his election in November of 1860, Lincoln attempted to reach out to every faction of his party in an effort to create a cabinet that would unite the Republican Party. [1]

Lincoln’s eventual picks included ALL of his main rivals for the Republican nomination. He was not intimidated about surrounding himself with those whom he fought on the campaign trail, even if their resumes for the presidency were more impressive than his own.

Simon Cameron Lincoln's Cabinet
Simon Cameron, Lincoln’s Secretary of War (1861-1862)

By the time the Civil War entered its second year, it was no secret around Washington that some of Lincoln’s Cabinet still considered him inadequate for the job as president.

In 1862, with the forced resignation of his Secretary of War Simon Cameron because of allegations of corruption and poor management in the War Department, a group of supporters urged Lincoln to use it as an opportunity to reorganize the rest of his cabinet.

Replied Lincoln:

"Gentlemen, when I was a young man I used to know very well on Joe Wilson, who build himself a log cabin not far from where I lived. Joe was very fond of eggs and chickens, and he took a very great deal of pain in fitting up a poultry-shed. 

Having at length got together a choice lot of young fowls [chickens] - of which he was very proud - he began to be much annoyed by certain little black animals with white strips which it is not necessary to name.

One night Joe was awakened by an unusual cackling and fluttering among his chickens. Getting up, he crept out to see what was going on. It was a bright moonlight night, and he soon caught sight of half a dozen of the little pests, which, with their mother, were running in and out of the shadow of the shed.

Very wrathy, Joe put a double charge into his old musket and thought he would 'clean out' the whole tribe at one shot. Somehow he only killed one, and the balance scampered off across the field. 

 In telling the story, Joe would always pause here and hold his nose.

'Why didn't you follow them up and kill the rest?' inquired his neighbors.

'Blast it,' said Joe, 'it was eleven weeks before I got over killen' one. If you want any more skirmishing in that line, you can do it yourselves!'" [2]

Lincoln never reshuffled his cabinet. Five [including Cameron] of the original eight resigned for various reasons over the course of four years, but he asked for no resignations.

Lincoln understood skunks.

Do presidents today?

Food for thought.

Mac

[Like this one? Please click here for more Stories That Abe Told.]

WORKS CITED

[1] Goodwin, Doris Kearns (2005). Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-82490-6

[2] Gross, A., & Lincoln, A. (1912). Lincoln’s Own Stories. Collected and edited by A. Gross. With portrait. Harper & Bros: New York & London. pp.98-99.

A Memorial Day Note of Appreciation to All Veterans & Their Families

ON A DAY FOR REMEMBERING,

To those of you who served:

Mesa Comm. College Veterans, Mesa AZ

THANK YOU FOR PROTECTING US!

To those of you who waited:

“Saying Goodbye to His Family” WW2 Photo

THANK YOU FOR SHARING FOR US!

To those of you who grieve:

WWI & WWII American Cemetery in Ardennes area of Belgium

WE HUMBLY THANK YOU FOR YOUR SACRIFICE THAT WE MAY ONE DAY “ACHIEVE…A JUST AND LASTING PEACE AMONG OURSELVES AND WITH ALL NATIONS!”*

A Grateful American

*Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865

‘…And His Widow and His Orphan…’ A Memorial Day Post

Memorial Day is about war – about the ones who left and didn’t come home – usually. That’s fitting.

But really, this day memorializes much more than that.

"...His comrade leans over and strives to rouse him. He shouts ‘Charlie! Charlie!’ But the words follow upon an ear already deaf to all earthly sounds...”I think to myself how many times has he heard that name in his far-off New England home, from a mother’s, a sister’s, it may be yet dearer lips...The body is borne forward... stretched upon a board and covered with the flag he died to serve...I turn away...The...soldier who had shouted ‘Charlie!’ in the dead man’s ear hands me the ‘descriptive list,’ which he has taken from the pocket of the deceased. I carry it to the light, and read, ‘Charles Myrick, of Co. A, Capt. Perry, 8th regt. Maine Volunteers, enlisted August 23, 1861, at Lowell, Maine, age 21 years.”

This Civil War article was filed by a correspondent of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper February 7, 1863. [1]

The reporter wrote this article to give his readers a sense of the tragedy of war…the feeling of just another slip of paper with a “descriptive list,” so a man’s passing can be marked.

This article and others like it were printed again and again in thousands of newspapers during eight or more wars over the last 150 years. It represents the perfect illustration of what Memorial Day is really all about.

At Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, the Memorial Day

Laying of the Wreath, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington Nat’l Cemetery

ceremony includes placing a wreath at that grave of graves – The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Much ado is made in war of the “Unknown Soldier,” and it should be. A soldier, who’s identity because of the way he or she suffered death in war, is “known only to God.”

But those are not the only “unknowns” of war.

Rereading the article – the ONLY known identity is that person’s who didn’t return – Charles Myrick’s. The unidentified: Charles’ comrade, his mother, sister, or his “dearer lips.”

Those are the other “unknowns” – the other casualties of war.

But they lived – survived – went on – or so we all say.

But while the soldiers like Myrick never got to live a full life, we must not

‘his widow and his orphan’

forget that their families and comrades never did either.

Yes, they lived on after Myrick; but they also lived WITHOUT Myrick. They too died a little, lived a little less, and were denied a full life without his presence.

Memorial Day is the story about the true tragedy of war – the one who didn’t live AND the ones who did.

And Lincoln had it right…

…to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan…” [2]

Food for thought. Have a safe Memorial Day!

Mac

WORKS CITED

[1] “The Soldier’s Funeral.” Published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, February 7, 1863.

[2] Roy P. Basler, editor, “Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865,” Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, v.VIII:332-33.

‘Getting Endwise’ – Lincoln’s Military Story

Many of the men in the community where I grew up served in WWII. Almost all of them were combat veterans. Most of these vets rarely talked about their experiences. However, there were others who were always quick with a funny story about their time as a “sad sack.”

In honor of Memorial Day and these men, I thought I’d look for a story Abraham Lincoln like to tell about his own military exploits.

This is the one he frequently shared.

Chief Black Hawk of Sauk Tribe
Oil Painting of Black Hawk, Chief of Sauk Tribe

During the Black Hawk War in 1832, Lincoln was voted the “captain” by about twenty volunteers from his area in Illinois.

Ironically, Lincoln had NO previous military training.

And this was a tough group of men!

In fact, they all responded to his first order with a shouted “Go to hell!”*

So one day not long after, Lincoln was drilling them, and the men were marching, all twenty of them, in a line across a field. They came to a gate in the fence bordering another field.

Said Lincoln:

"I could not for the life of me remember the proper word of command for getting my company 'endwise,' so that it could get through the gate, so, as we came near the gate I shouted: 'This company is dismissed for two minutes, when it will fall in again on the OTHER side of the gate.'"**

Mr. Gross, on page vii in the “Introduction” to his book, cited below, notes that President Abraham Lincoln “was the genius of common sense…never oppressed with…the self-consciousness of petty things.”**

While quick thinking and problem-solving with your “audience” in mind may be the leadership traits demonstrated by this story, Lincoln just enjoyed telling it to humorously emphasize his absolute lack of military bearing.

“…never oppressed with…the self-consciousness of petty things.”

Food for thought.

Mac

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*Sandburg, Carl. Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years. v.I:154-157, 386. [See also: Catton, Bruce. (1956) This Hallowed Ground. Doubleday and Company, Inc. Garden City, New York. p.27.

**Gross, A., & Lincoln, A. (1912). Lincoln’s Own Stories. Collected and edited by A. Gross. With portrait. Harper & Bros: New York & London. pp.5, vii.

***[Featured image at the top of the page] Life of Abraham Lincoln #19. Oil Painting by Shoji Ohzawa (Billie Trimble Chandler Collection – Del Mar College Library, Del Mar College, Corpus Christi, TX

Dr Hamburgher and the Lame Man – Politics in Lincoln’s Time

Since the world’s going crazy with Trump gaffes, let’s take a moment to enjoy a relevant Lincoln story.

Remember during Trump’s campaign when he mocked or demonstrated a public lack of respect for several disabled people – including one ten-year old boy?

How a person treats all people with disabilities is ALWAYS an indication of that person’s character.

Respect people or, failing that, at least respect the disability.

This was a story Abraham Lincoln enjoyed telling about a lame man who once came to Lincoln’s aid.*

Let’s see what Lincoln thought about the disabled.

In 1858, Lincoln, a Republican, was scheduled for a speech in Cumberland County, Illinois. After he spoke, a Dr. Hamburgher [you can’t make this stuff up!] (a bitter Democrat) rudely jumped up and said he would reply to Lincoln’s speech. So Lincoln took a seat on the outer edge of the platform and listened.

Hamburgher soon went off-topic in his reply and began insulting Lincoln.

At this point a little, insignificant-looking lame man climbed on the side of the platform near Lincoln and quietly said to Lincoln: “Don’t mind him; I know him; I live here; I’ll take care of him, watch me.” And two or three times during Hamburgher’s continuing rant, the lame man leaned over to Lincoln and repeated his promise.

When Hamburgher concluded, the little lame man stood and at once began a reply.

He had spoken only a few minutes when Hamburgher roared out: “That’s a lie!”

“Never mind,” retorted the lame man patronizingly, “I’ll take that from you – in fact, I’ll take anything from you EXCEPT your pills.”

This penetrated the doctor’s thin skin.

“You scoundrel!” he exclaimed, “you know I’ve quit practicing medicine.”

The little lame man instantly dropped to his good knee and, raising his hands in mock worship, he exclaimed: “Then, thank God, the country is safe!”

Lincoln enjoyed telling people stories where he WASN’T the star. This was one of his favorites. That speaks to his character.

Food for thought.

Mac

[Like this one? Please click here for more Stories That Abe Told.]

WORKS CITED

*[Please note: I took the liberty of updating the language to make it more understandable for the 21st Century reader. For the original text, see the following]:

*Gross, A., & Lincoln, A. (1912). Lincoln’s Own Stories. Collected and edited by A. Gross. With portrait. Harper & Bros: New York & London, pp.57-58.

How to Make a Loyalty Decision by Abraham Lincoln

All the hullaballo lately regarding loyalty naturally begs the questions of WHEN to give such loyalty and WHEN to withdraw it.

Good questions – important questions actually.

Many a career [or a life] has crashed and burned over the decisions made regarding the answers to either or both.

Abraham Lincoln gave us a great way to handle those questions.

During a talk about political choice to a crowd in Peoria, Illinois in 1854, Lincoln gave them – and future generations to come – this advice:

“Stand with anybody that stands RIGHT. Stand with him while he is right and PART with him when he goes wrong.”[1]

That seems so simple. But does it work?

Lincoln’s advice, offered in the above quote, is a self-contained sequence of actions or mental processing. If it is performed in the proper manner, it produces an output or decision.

In computer programming parlance today, we call that an algorithm.

Stand or Depart – our dilemma is our loyalty.

Let’s see how this decision-making process of his works as an algorithm, and specific to Lincoln’s advice, we’ll call the output the “Loyalty Decision.”

The decision-making algorithm is a process that requires a list of precise steps to reach a conclusion. The correct order of these steps for processing the data [or facts] is always crucial to the output [or decision].

This is Lincoln’s advice broken down into the six processing steps necessary for his algorithm to reach a “Loyalty Decision:”

Step 1: Create a variable [or area of the brain] to store user's input of facts [hereafter called "data"] about a person's political stand or behavior.

Step 2: Clear variable of old input data.

Step 3: What is/are the new input data about this person?

Step 4: Store input data in the variable.

Step 5: Is data input "right?" [or "wrong"] The computer [or person] evaluates certain parameters to see if data (facts) meet those specifications stipulated in the parameters.

Step 6: User makes a decision:

       1. If Yes = End of processing [Stand by person.]
       2. If No = Return to Step 2 for new input [Part with person or No decision.]

Of course, in Step 5, the key processors used for analyzing the input data [facts] for this decision-making algorithm of Lincoln’s won’t work correctly without some commonly accepted set of parameters for what’s considered “right” or “wrong.”

But that’s the catch with today’s politics isn’t it? There’s no set of commonly accepted guidelines for what’s “right” or “wrong.”

That means Lincoln’s Loyalty Decision algorithm doesn’t work the same for everyone.

Now what?

Food for thought.

Mac

Works Cited

[1] “Peoria Speech, October 16, 1854.”Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. v.II:274

Lincoln on Know-Nothings – A 2017 Commentary?

Most of today’s political controversies were all issues supported by a controversial political party in Abraham Lincoln’s time.

Let’s take a look at a letter Lincoln wrote in 1855:

"...As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal.'' We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes.'' When the Know Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.'' When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty---to Russia, for instance..." [1]

[The respectful term for African-Americans in 1855 was different than it is today. No disrespect is intended by this passage – quite the contrary!]

The “Know Nothings” were an American political party (circa 1855) that was anti-immigrant [they wanted travel bans] especially against Irish and German Catholic families.

The Bottom of a Know Nothing Ballot – circa 1854. (Courtesy Ohio History Central @ ohiohistorycentral.org)

They also stood for a “conditional equality” for Americans based on a person’s skin-color, and/or place of birth, and/or religion. Any one factor was a reason for refusing a person admittance to the country or refusing him voting/property rights.

Their name, comically, came from their thirst for secrecy. When a non-party member asked about the party, a member replied: “I know nothing.”

[Pop-culture trivia: In a bit of twisted, comedic irony, that phrase was made into a pop-culture hit by an actor who played a German soldier on the Hogan’s Heroes TV series in the 1960s!]

Today, America is battered by alleged Russian connections, “America First” rallies, travel bans based on religion, rounding up of bad immigrants, White House tapes, revisionist and/or nonsensical history, an administration bent on keeping meetings and deals secret…and on and on and on.

What would Lincoln think?

When the Know Nothings get control…I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance…

Is our Democracy at stake?

Food for thought.

Mac

WORKS CITED

[1]”Letter to Joshua F. Speed, August 24, 1855.” Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. v.II:p.323.*

Lincoln’s Warning for Us – Can We Read It?

Many folks say all history is old news – pun intended.

However, believe it or not, “history” is also EXACTLY what shaped our present attitudes and mindsets.

Some call it “experience.”

As I mentioned in the Why This Site section, my motivation to begin blogging came from the 2016 Presidential Election. All the misinformation, or “fake information,” [or just plain “wrong information”] that I read or saw circulated during that campaign – especially regarding America’s history – stunned me.

It was apparent this wrong information influenced many people’s attitudes, the candidates’ positions/promises, which issues dominated, and finally, even the election itself.

And this trend still continues after the election – our country’s social and political history lies forgotten or misconstrued – oftentimes ENTIRELY!

There is a danger to this.

Even Lincoln recognized it early on in his political career. He noted in his first Political Announcement in 1832 [ All bolding is mine for your attention]:

Upon the subject of education...I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in. That every man may...thereby be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance...[1]

Even in 1832, Lincoln saw the complicated obstacles to Democracy’s survival looming.

The growing American population, at that time, needed a more thorough education apparatus in place to assure that most of them could at least read. Lincoln felt that with the ability to read, they could study the history of the U.S. and the histories of other nations.

Old High School American History Textbook
U.S. History Textbook (c.1887)

Why history?

Because Lincoln understood that as more generations of our citizens were raised in this free country, the more those citizens would take their freedom for granted, and he knew that complacency destroys vigilance.

Education, to Lincoln, was the answer.

With the ability to study the history of our country, he reasoned, we would glean a more thorough understanding of our “free institutions” – (right to vote, the courts, the legislatures, the presidency, etc.) – how they work, and the evolution of those ideas throughout the history of the world – starting with the Greeks to their birth on our shores and our struggles to keep them.

Then he believed that learning the history of other nations would help our citizens vicariously experience the effects of other non-democratic forms of government, and how they ruled their citizens, rather than risk our freedoms to experiment with those forms.

Through this vicarious experience, Lincoln hoped, would come a greater appreciation for our “free institutions.”

At any rate, knowing history IS vital to a Democracy, and remembering/understanding our true past is essential to moving into a bright, secure future.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential candidate
1860 Photo of Abraham Lincoln taken in Springfield, IL

Does the current administration and its Secretary of Education understand this importance?

OR

Is controlling information/history with regards to what is taught, one of the reasons they advocate the “freedom of choice” for students to pick their school?

During a campaign speech at Lewiston, Illinois in 1858, Lincoln gave an example that points to this very issue of the importance of true information, and indirectly, his earlier point about education.

He said the men who wrote and signed our Declaration of Independence:

...erected a beacon to guide their children...and the countless [others] who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths...[2]

Are Lincoln’s speeches and today’s issues just eerie coincidences, or do his words serve as warnings of a certain, inevitable future?

Good thing we can read history isn’t it?

Food for thought.

Mac

Works Cited

[1] New Salem, March 9, 1832, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. v.I:8.
[2] “Speech at Lewistown, Illinois, on August 17, 1858.” Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. v.II:546.

Trump to Comey – Non Sequitur

[Warning: This is a post that is entirely a non-sequitur – or not. Read it and leave a comment about what you think.]

Abraham Lincoln, in an letter to supporters of Millard Fillmore as a third party candidate in the 1856 presidential election, summed up his arguments why Fillmore wasn’t likely to win in Illinois with an interesting simile: “As plain as the adding up of the weights of three small hogs.” [1]

Did you know that non sequitur is an interesting Latin term that “wears many hats!” It serves as the name of:

  • A writing technique (literary device) – an irrelevant, often humorous comment to a preceding topic or statement;
  • A sequence of missteps in logic (logical fallacy) – a stated conclusion is not supported by its premise and therefore the conclusion is arbitrary;
  • A comic strip (by Wiley Miller) – a comedy strip with political and satirical overtones;
  • A TV episode (Star Trek: Voyager – Season 2; Episode 5) – where a spacecraft accident causes a Voyager crew member to fall into a “time-stream” and enter an alternate reality where he was never a part of Voyager’s crew.

In everyday usage, we use non sequitur to refer to a comment where the last part is totally “out of whack” to the first part – in other words, it doesn’t make sense [a sort of less structured logical fallacy].

For example, the way I began the blog with Lincoln’s quote and then shifted to a Latin term = out of whack!

Another example of this type of non sequitur [out of whack] is the one that is/was a hot news topic – Trump’s presidential letter firing his now former-FBI Director James Comey.

Trump writes [bolding is mine for your attention]:

...I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately.

While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.[2]

[“…their recommendation…” refers to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.]

The term non sequitur wears so many different hats – an episode of alternate reality, a political/satirical cartoon, a sequence of missteps in logic, an often humorous comment about a previous statement, AND an everyday term for an “out of whack” comment that doesn’t fit the conversation.

So, in summary, Trump, his letter for firing Comey, the everyday use of the term non sequitur, as well as all the different uses it has (including the Star Trek plot line) really are NOT unrelated, and that is…

As plain as the adding up of the weights of three small hogs.”

Food for thought.

Mac

Works Cited

[1] “Letter to Supporters of Millard Fillmore (September 8, 1856)”, A Treasury of Lincoln Quotations (1965) by Fred Kerner, p. 255. Also found in: “Form Letter to Fillmore Men” Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. v.II:374.

[2] Balz, D. (2017, May 11). The shocking firing of James B. Comey puts new pressure on Trump and his team.  Https://www.washingtonpost.com. Retrieved May 11, 2017.

Mean What You Say

Welcome to The Log Cabin Sage!

In what interesting times we live!

Have you ever heard someone use the phrase: “Say what you mean; mean what you say?”

That’s the opening line from the rock group Moody Blues’ tune “Say What You Mean” on their 1965 album: The Magnificient Moodies.

The lyrics aside [which ARE great by the way], the meaning of that one line seems so appropriate for this presidency.

Trump’s up and down [“flip-flop”] stances on a multitude of issues during his campaign and during the transition afterward certainly lend themselves to this lyrical twist.

Abraham Lincoln enjoyed a creative turn of the phrase. However, his version of “mean what you say” brooked no such word-play.

I believe it is an established maxim in morals that he who makes an assertion without knowing whether it is true or false, is guilty of falsehood; and the accidental truth of the assertion, does not justify or excuse him.*

Say what you mean OR Mean what you say OR Say only what you know is true.

Given Trump’s accusations, policy changes, and misinformation, in light of his letter excerpt, we know what Lincoln would say.

But the real question is: What should WE say?

Food for thought.

Mac

WORKS CITED

*”Letter to Allen N. Ford – August 11, 1846.” Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln. v.I:384