February 12, 1865: Lincoln’s Last Birthday

Lincoln Pardon

Lincoln was a long man.
He liked out of doors,
He liked the wind blowing
And the talk in country stores

He liked telling stories,
He liked telling jokes.
“Abe’s quite a character,”
Said quite a lot of folks.

Lots of folks in Springfield
Saw him every day,
Walking down the street
In his gaunt, long way.

Shawl around his shoulders,
Letters in his hat.
“That’s Abe Lincoln.”
They thought no more than that.

Knew that he was honest,
Guessed that he was odd,
Knew he had a cross wife,
Though she was a Todd.

Knew that he had three little boys
Who liked to shout and play,
Knew he had a lot of debts
It took him years to pay.

Knew his clothes and knew his house
“That’s his office, here.
Blame good lawyer on the whole,
Though he’s sort of queer.

“Sure, he went to Congress, once,
But he didn’t stay.
Can’t expect us all to be
Smart as Henry Clay.

“Need a man for troubled times?
Well, I guess we do.
Wonder who we’ll ever find?
Yes–I wonder who.”

That is how they met and talked,
Knowing and unknowing,
Lincoln was the green pine.
Lincoln kept on growing

Stephen Vincent Benet

 

 

 

One hundred and fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln turned 56, the last birthday he would know in this life, Lincoln having just slightly over two months to live.

Like most adults in the Nineteenth Century, Lincoln never had any celebrations for his birthdays, no cake, no gifts, no ceremony.  February 12, 1865 was just another day for him, filled with the endless burdens and grinding work of being President in a time of civil war.  Yet, during one point in his day, I would wager that Lincoln probably thought momentarily of his long ago childhood.

He wrote out a “pardon” for some misbehaving students.  The note said:  “Let these boys return to their school upon the condition stated by them, and remain so long as they do not misbehave.”

The back story of this note is lost to History.  We do not know who the boys were, what school they attended, or even to whom the unaddressed note was intended for.  However, I do believe that as he wrote out the note, Lincoln recalled his own boyhood, perhaps recalling some prank that landed him momentarily in hot water.  Then he went about his day, time, exemplified by his birthday, separating him from his past as he proceeded into his unknown future.

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Published in: on February 12, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 12, 1865: Lincoln’s Last Birthday  
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