February 16, 2009

Lincoln Ranks #1

It's Presidents Day and a C-Span poll of historians ranked Abraham Lincoln the best president in US history. I actually get misty-eyed when I think of Lincoln. Here was a self-taught man, a deeply complicated individual whose views about slavery evolved as he led the nation through the Civil War. He hated war, yet thought it necessary. One of his biographers talks about him standing in the open in Washington DC during a siege, urged by his men to get down, but he wouldn't. It seemed he hoped a bullet would hit him.

And he spent his adulthood in Central Illinois, just like me. When I read his biographies, I know all those towns he visited as a circuit court lawyer. As a matter of fact, the father of the man who built our house was a fellow lawyer and friend of Lincoln.

So I couldn't resist posting about him today when I read this news. Here's a story from Lincoln's life that I just love. It's told by Billy Brown about his visit to Lincoln in Washington:

"Billy," he says, "what did you come down here for?"

"I came to see you, Mr. Lincoln."

"But you ain't asked me for anything, Billy. What is it? Out with it. Want a post office?" he said, giggling , for he knowed I didn't.

"No, Mr. Lincoln, just wanted to see you--felt kind of lonesome--been so long since I'd seen you, and I was afraid I'd forget some of them yarns if I didn't unload soon." Well, sir, you ought to seen his face as he looked at me.

"Billy Brown," he says, slow-like, "do you mean to tell me you came all the way from Springfield, Illinois, just to have a visit with me? That you ain't got no complaints in your pockets, nor any advice up your sleeve?"

"Yes sir," I says, "That's about it, and I'll be durned if I wouldn't go to Europe to see you, if I couldn't do it no other way, Mr. Lincoln."

Well, Sir, I was never so astonished in all my life. He just grabbed my hand and shook it nearly off, and the tears just poured down his face and he says:

"Billy, you'll never know just what good you've done me. I'm homesick, Billy, just plumb homesick, and it seems as if this war would never be over. Many a night I can see the boys dying on the fields and can hear their mothers crying for them at home, and I can't help it, Billy, I have to send them down there. We've got to save the Union, Bill, we've got to."

At the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Museum in Charleston, Illinois a few years back:

The kids match their heights to Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln with life-sized statues.

Then Peter becomes Mr. Douglas, Meg is Lincoln, and Missa tries on Lincoln's hat and jacket.

Learn the presidents in order with this catchy song from the White House History site.

3 comments:

Karen said...

It's wonderful that you live so close to Lincoln's home. He's my favorite president, too, for the record!

Anonymous said...

When we passed through Illinois several years back, we made lots of "Lincoln" stops along the way. LOVE the picture!

Anonymous said...

I love this picture too...I'd love to bring my kids here some day. The way your kids look here is the way I tend to think of them...isn't it funny how they grow older yet at some point we've stopped! (Except the gray hairs are telling us different of course!)

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