We learn about Abraham Lincoln almost from the minute we start school. Me too. I remember there were two pictures on the wall at my grammar school, which used to stand where part of the Library in Great Bend is now. One was Lincoln and the other was a print of George Washington that, I guess, the artist never finished, because the bottom part was all white. I’ve come to think that it was there as a reminder that what was started then isn’t finished yet.
Teachers gave us kids all the Lincoln folklore: teaching himself by the light of a fireplace, splitting rails, wrestling, and solving crimes in court. Somehow he went from that to becoming the President of the United States and saving the Union. Freeing the slaves and making everybody equal. That “equal” part took a little longer, far longer than he was alive. But that he did what he did makes most Americans say, “wow.”
I’ve studied Lincoln in more depth the past few years. The deeper I get, the more I say “wow.” Here are three quotes I want to share with everybody in Kansas that seems like Lincoln could also read the future. The first is from a letter Lincoln wrote to a Col. William F. Elkine, on November 21, 1864. You’ll see what I mean.
“We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood...it has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money-power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudice of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicion may prove groundless.”
You almost think Lincoln was writing about today, when the richest few have more wealth than the half of our nation...400 families have more than 150 Million of us. Pretty alarming, right? Here’s more Lincoln:
“The money powers prey upon the nations in times of peace and conspire against it in times of adversity. The banking powers are more despotic than a monarchy, more insolent than autocracy, more selfish than bureaucracy. They denounce as public enemies all who question their methods or throw light upon their crimes. I have two great enemies; the Southern Army in front of me and the bankers in the rear. Of the two, the one at my rear is my greatest foe.”
When he ran for his second term of office, in 1864, the Republican Party had gone nuts, as far as Lincoln was concerned. So he chose a Democrat, Andrew Johnson, as his vice president, and ran on the Union Party ticket. He was killed shortly after winning, and Johnson stayed on the Union Party ticket, the only two presidents we’ve had with that political party affiliation.
If you would, I’d like you to think about all this, nearly 150 years later. Think about the genius of Lincoln. And take one other word of advice from him for whatever you think it’s worth. Lincoln wrote:
“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”