Back then, the Naval Observatory was on 24th Street NW, in Foggy Bottom. It was an easy walk or carriage ride from the White House. On Aug. 22, 1863, Lincoln rode over, and Asaph Hall, the observatory’s astronomer, showed him the moon and the star Arcturus.
A few nights later, Hall heard a knock at the door. It was Lincoln, back with a question: Why had the moon been upside-down in the telescope’s eyepiece?
Hall explained that the observatory’s telescope worked differently from the surveying instruments and terrestrial telescopes Lincoln was accustomed to. Satisfied with the answer, Lincoln gave his thanks and left.
“He was an inquisitive guy,” Kirk said. “He didn’t just blow it off and not worry about it. He wanted to know.”
Tag Archives: Abraham Lincoln
On this date in 1849, Lincoln wrote to Secretary of the Navy William B. Preston to complain about an impending political appointment:
Last night I received letters from different persons at Washington assuring me it was not improbable that Justin Butterfield, of Chicago, Ills, would be appointed Commissioner of the Genl. Land-Office.…Mr. Butterfield is my friend, is well qualified, and, I suppose, would be faithful in the office. So far, good. But now for the objections. In 1840 we fought a fierce and laborious battle in Illinois, many of us spending almost the entire year in the contest. The general victory came, and with it, the appointment of a set of drones, including this same Butterfield, who had never spent a dollar or lifted a finger in the fight. The place he got was that of District Attorney. The defection of Tyler came, and then B. played off and on, and kept the office till after Polk’s election. Again, winter and spring before the last, when you and I were almost sweating blood to have Genl. Taylor nominated, this same man was ridiculing the idea, and going for Mr. Clay; and when Gen: T. was nominated, if he went out of the city of Chicago to aid in his election, it is more than I ever heard, or believe. Yet, when the election is secured, by other men’s labor, and even against his effort, why, he is the first man on hand for the best office that our state lays any claim to. Shall this thing be? Our whigs will throw down their arms, and fight no more, if the fruit of their labor is thus disposed of.
Lincoln’s opposition to Butterfield was rooted in his desire to strengthen the Whigs in his home state of Illinois by assuring loyal members that their efforts on the party’s behalf would be rewarded. Historian Thomas Schwartz examined this episode in a 1986 article for the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, which you can read here.
In Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image, Joshua Zeitz examines Lincoln’s secretaries and their role in shaping his legacy. The San Antonio Express-News published a review of the book a few days ago.
In Wisconsin, the party of Abraham Lincoln will be deciding this weekend whether it favors not only the right to secession but also the right to nullify federal laws.
Delegates at the state Republican convention are set to vote Saturday on a proposed resolution that directs lawmakers to push through legislation nullifying Obamacare, Common Core educational standards and “drone usage in the state of Wisconsin.”
“Be it further resolved,” the proposal concludes, “that we strongly insist our state representatives work to uphold Wisconsin’s 10th Amendment rights, and our right to, under extreme circumstances, secede, passing legislation affirming this to the U.S. Federal Government.”
…The proposal — which has garnered national attention — was originally approved in March by the GOP’s 6th Congressional District caucus and forwarded to the state party’s resolution committee. The panel approved a slightly modified version of the suggested resolution and forwarded it to the full convention.
Rohn Bishop, treasurer of the Fond du Lac County Republican Party, said he was booed at the March caucus meeting when he brought up Lincoln’s name while arguing against the secession and nullification provisions. He said he also noted that the meeting took place two days after the 160th anniversary of the party’s founding in Ripon.
“I was completely blown away that at a Republican Party event, the presidency of Abraham Lincoln would be controversial,” Bishop said Wednesday.
This month marks 150 years since Lincoln signed into law a bill authorizing the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind to award college-level degrees. The institution, located in the District of Columbia, was the forerunner of today’s Gallaudet University. The college is marking the anniversary with a special history exhibit.
An Illinois man named David Kloke is commemorating the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s assassination by building a full-scale replica of the president’s funeral train car. He hopes to recreate part of the 1865 funeral train’s journey, followed by an educational tour with stops across the country. You can learn more at the project’s official website.
In his latest project, The Address, the acclaimed filmmaker focuses on Lincoln’s most famous speech and the efforts of a group of young students to memorize and recite it. Burns recently talked to National Geographic about the documentary, which premieres April 15 on PBS.
Asking what Lincoln would do in a given situation has become a venerable American political tradition. Bill O’Reilly recently criticized President Obama’s appearance on a comedy website, saying, “All I can tell is you is Abe Lincoln would not have done it. There comes a point when serious times call for serious action.” Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer disagreed, telling Media Matters that Obama’s use of a humor site to get his message across “is absolutely in the Lincoln tradition.”
A manuscript dealer asked the Papers of Abraham Lincoln staff to make sense of a mysterious Lincoln letter with an unidentified recipient and subject:
Researchers at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln project concluded Lincoln was writing to an ally to ask him to maintain a secret relationship with a political insider during the 1860 election campaign.
Lincoln asked his cohort to “keep up a correspondence” with the person, a phrase that gave researchers their best clue. They ran it through a searchable database of Lincoln’s papers and found several matches.
One was in a letter to Lincoln from fellow attorney and Republican Leonard Swett of Bloomington, Ill.
The two men, it turns out, were conspiring to keep tabs on a New York political figure. The mystery note was Lincoln’s response to Swett’s letter, the researchers surmised.
The subject of the letter was probably Thurlow Weed, a newspaper publisher and politician who ultimately opposed the president’s emancipation policy.