• mister lincoln •
In Abraham Lincoln’s first public speech, from an address to the people of Sangamon County, in Illinois, on March 9, 1832, he speaks on the subject of education, viewing it, “as the most important subject which we, as a people, can be engaged in. That every man may receive at least a moderate education, and 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–”
Lincoln goes on to say, “With regard to existing laws, some alterations are thought to be necessary — in which case I should feel it both a privilege and a duty to take a stand which, in my view, might tend to the advancement of justice.”
He doesn’t mention the shameful national albatross of institutional slavery, but, in hindsight, it is nevertheless revealing of a man of character willing to go to the mat over an unjust law. It sounds to me that at some point he may have made a solemn promise, at least, to himself, to be the best that he could be.
Then, Mr. Lincoln says, to my mind, for a politician, the most astonishing thing: “However, upon the subjects of which I have treated, I have spoken as I have thought. I may be wrong in regard to any or all of them; but, holding it as a sound maxim that it is better only to be sometimes right than at all times wrong, so soon as I discover my opinions to be erroneous I shall be ready to renounce them.”
A political figure who admits he just might be wrong. Amazing. Already, he would have had my vote.
Thirty years later, on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of bloody civil war, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
“And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”
As the historian, Sarah Vowell, relates the comment of an elderly Black woman, as she descended the steps of the Freedman’s Memorial, “Emancipation Proclamation. Freed the slaves. Amen!” Amen, indeed!
The Proclamation was, in the words of Frederick Douglass, “the first step on the part of the nation in its departure from the thralldom of the ages.”
Abraham Lincoln said, “I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”
Imagine that. He is my all-time hero.
If Abraham Lincoln were alive today, I would vote for him again and again.
~ Tim Burchfield
• mister lincoln •