Monthly Archives: May 2013

Last contents of Lincoln’s pockets on display at Library of Congress

Visitors to the Library can see the items Lincoln had in his coat pockets the night he was shot: some newspaper clippings, two pairs of spectacles, a knife, wallet, watch fob, handkerchief, and a Confederate five-dollar bill.

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Lincoln’s contemporary critics

These days he’s as widely revered as any historical figure, but in his own time Abraham Lincoln dealt with vitriolic attacks on everything from his appearance to his prose.  Mark Bowden’s recent essay for The Atlantic examines this contemporary criticism of Lincoln.

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Gov. Tom Corbett on emulating Lincoln

In his recent commencement address to the graduating class of Villanova Law, Pennsylvania’s Gov. Tom Corbett named Lincoln and Sir Thomas More as worthy of emulation:

Both “chose honor over convenience,” Corbett told 233 graduates and their friends and family at Villanova’s Pavilion.

Corbett, who was state attorney general and had a private practice for many years before becoming governor, gave a short speech exhorting the graduates to work hard, act ethically, think logically, and always look at the facts.

“Leaders who combine these qualites make great lawyers. They make great citizens. And they make great history,” he said.

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Election of 1864 in music

American Pioneer Music has released a new album with some very old material.  It’s a collection of campaign songs from the 1864 presidential election, with the original—and in some cases offensive—lyrics left intact.  Check out the album’s website.

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The isolation of the presidency

In his new book Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America’s Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership, Kenneth Walsh examines the challenges facing leaders whose exalted position cuts them off from the people who elect them. You can get a taste of his ideas by reading his column on the subject.

One of Lincoln’s solutions to this problem of presidential isolation was to use the crowds of petitioners and visitors who flooded the White House to get a sense of popular opinion. Here is how he explained it to Charles Halpine in 1863:

Men moving only in an official circle are apt to become merely official, not to say arbitrary, in their ideas, and are apter and apter, with each passing day, to forget that they only hold power in a representative capacity. Now this is all wrong. I go into these promiscuous receptions of all who claim to have business with me twice each week, and every applicant for audience has to take his turn as if waiting to be shaved in a barber’s shop. Many of the matters brought to my notice are utterly frivolous, but others are of more or less importance, and all serve to renew in me a clearer and more vivid image of that great popular assemblage, out of which I sprang, and to which at the end of two years I must return. I tell you, Major, that I call these receptions my public-opinion baths; for I have but little time to read the papers and gather public opinion that way, and though they may not be pleasant in all their particulars, the effect as a whole is renovating and invigorating to my perceptions of responsibility and duty.

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Nathan Raab on our current “Abraham Lincoln Revival”

Historical autograph dealer Nathan Raab muses on the current Lincoln craze in a piece for Forbes.  “The 16th President, widely admired for so long, is now coming to us via so many compelling and varied interpretations, both popular and scholarly, that it seems to pervade all aspects of our culture,” he writes.  “We have loved him for a long time, but somehow this feels different.”

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