April 13, 1865: Holy Thursday in Washington

 

 

One hundred and fifty-two years ago in the Holy Week so fateful to our nation, General Grant arrived in Washington DC.  Anxious to cut costs, he advised Secretary of War Stanton that military contracts for ordinance and most supplies could be canceled and that troops no longer needed to be recruited or drafted and Stanton issued the necessary order the same day.  Grant after he became President appointed Stanton to the Supreme Court although Stanton died before he could join the Court.  Grant and Stanton had had an up and down relationship during the War, typical of the relationships of most high Union officers with the mercurial Stanton.  It is interesting to read Grant’s assessment of Stanton in his memoir:

He was a man who never questioned his own authority, and who always did in war time what he wanted to do. He was an able constitutional lawyer and jurist; but the Constitution was not an impediment to him while the war lasted. In this latter particular I entirely agree with the view he evidently held. The Constitution was not framed with a view to any such rebellion as that of 1861–5. While it did not authorize rebellion it made no provision against it. Yet the right to resist or suppress rebellion is as inherent as the right of self-defence, and as natural as the right of an individual to preserve his life when in jeopardy. The Constitution was therefore in abeyance for the time being, so far as it in any way affected the progress and termination of the war. (more…)

Published in: on April 13, 2017 at 4:22 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cross Examination the Lincoln Way

 

I have always loved this scene from Young Mr. Lincoln (1939).  Few things are more enjoyable for a trial attorney than a cross examination that is tearing up the opposition case!  Of course in real life in the video above the prosecutor would be on his feet constantly objecting:  Argumentative!  Assumes facts not in evidence!  Mr. Lincoln is using a document that has not been admitted into evidence!  If Mr. Lincoln is going to testify let him be sworn in! Etc.  Of course this was done at a time when most judges tended to give a great deal of lee-way to counsel in their questioning of witnesses, especially in a frontier court and the jury might assume with frequent objections that the prosecutor was attempting to keep the truth from them and vote not guilty as a result.  In any case it is a great scene.

Adlai Stevenson, who would go on to be Vice-President of the United States, when he was young saw Lincoln in action in cross-examination: (more…)

Published in: on March 22, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Cross Examination the Lincoln Way  
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Comments on Lincoln’s Eulogy of Zachary Taylor

 

 

Yesterday I ran a post containing Abraham Lincoln’s eulogy on Zachary Taylor.  Go here to read it.  It is an interesting eulogy and deserves some comment.  It should be noted that Lincoln was disappointed that the Taylor administration did not offer him a post that he had been seeking.  As one of the leaders of the Whig party in Illinois, he felt that this was a slight not only to him but to Illinois Whigs.  Outwardly he remained supportive of the Taylor administration, but privately he regarded Taylor as a weak leader and an immense disappointment.  Thus his eulogy was delivered more out of duty than out of any fondness for a man who turned out to be the last Whig elected president.  On to the eulogy. (more…)

Published in: on February 21, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Comments on Lincoln’s Eulogy of Zachary Taylor  
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Lincoln on Taylor

 

I have never liked Presidents’ Day.  Why celebrate all presidents when only a select few of them, like Washington and Lincoln, deserve to be celebrated?   Officially the date is still the commemoration of George Washington’s birthday, which actually won’t occur until February 22.  However, I will keep up my tradition of writing about presidents on this day.

American presidents all fit into two broad categories:  those who had political careers and held political offices prior to their presidency and those who did not.  Only five presidents held no political office prior to being elected President:  Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Herbert Hoover, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Donald Trump.  Zachary Taylor, the first non-politician to become president, is now an obscure figure to most Americans, his fame in the Mexican War almost entirely forgotten by the oblivion that has largely swallowed that conflict, and his relatively brief time in office ensuring that his administration would be one of the forgotten ones in popular memory.  Ironically, one of our two most famous Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, deliver a eulogy on the death of Taylor.  Tomorrow I will comment on the obituary.  Today, I want us to focus on Lincoln’s words, as we use the eulogy as a springboard to look at “Old Rough and Ready” throughout this week.  Here is Lincoln’s eulogy:

 

EULOGY PRONOUNCED
BY HON. A. LINCOLN,
ON THE LIFE AND SERVICES OF THE LATE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES,
At Chicago, July 25th, 1850

GENERAL ZACHARY TAYLOR, the eleventh elected President of the United States, is dead. He was born Nov. 2nd, [2] 1784, in Orange county, Virginia; and died July the 9th 1850, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, at the White House in Washington City. He was the second [3] son of Richard Taylor, a Colonel in the army of the Revolution. His youth was passed among the pioneers of Kentucky, whither his parents emigrated soon after his birth; and where his taste for military life, probably inherited, was greatly stimulated. Near the commencement of our last war with Great Britain, he was appointed by President Jefferson, a lieutenant in the 7th regiment of Infantry. During the war, he served under Gen. Harrison in his North Western campaign against the Indians; and, having been promoted to a captaincy, was intrusted with the defence of Fort Harrison, with fifty men, half of them unfit for duty. A strong party of Indians, under the Prophet, brother of Tecumseh, made a midnight attack on the Fort; but Taylor, though weak in his force, and without preparation, was resolute, and on the alert; and, after a battle, which lasted till after daylight, completely repulsed them. Soon after, he took a prominent part in the expedition under Major Gen. Hopkins against the Prophet’s town; and, on his return, found a letter from President Madison, who had succeeded Mr. Jefferson, conferring on him a major’s brevet for his gallant defence of Fort Harrison. (more…)

Published in: on February 20, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Abraham Lincoln

 

The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

Abraham Lincoln, Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862

Published in: on February 12, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Quotes Suitable for Framing: Abraham Lincoln  
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Lincoln and Liberty Too

The low clown out of the prairies, the ape-buffoon,

The small-town lawyer, the crude small-time politician,

State-character but comparative failure at forty

In spite of ambition enough for twenty Caesars,

Honesty rare as a man without self-pity,

Kindness as large and plain as a prairie wind,

And a self-confidence like an iron-bar:

This Lincoln, President now by the grace of luck,

Disunion, politics, Douglas and a few speeches

Which make the monumental booming of Webster

Sound empty as the belly of a burst drum.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

Something for the weekend.  Lincoln and Liberty Too, the most stirring campaign song in American history, sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.  Mr. Lincoln’s birthday is on Monday which this year coincides with the state holiday in Illinois.  I always close down the law mines on that day.  Lincoln used to say that Henry Clay was his ideal of a statesman and for me Abraham Lincoln has always filled that role.  Presidents come and Presidents go, but Washington and Lincoln remain, the fixed stars of the better angels of our natures.

Published in: on February 11, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lincoln and Liberty Too  
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March 4, 1865: The Greatest Inaugural Address

lincoln_second-inaugural

Hands down the most moving  inaugural address in American history is the second inaugural address given by President Lincoln, little over a month before his death.  It is short, to the point and powerful.  It is also the most important theological document written by any American President.  Here is the text:

(more…)

Published in: on January 20, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 4, 1865: The Greatest Inaugural Address  
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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Abraham Lincoln

quote-character-is-like-a-tree-and-reputation-like-a-shadow-the-shadow-is-what-we-think-of-it-the-tree-abraham-lincoln-112628

The very next day, somebody was discussing with him the difference between character and reputation, when he said,—with a look at me, as if to remind of what he had been talking about the day before,—perhaps a man’s character was like a tree, and his reputation like its shadow; the shadow is what we think of; the tree is the real thing.

Noah Brooks, newspaper correspondent and friend of Abraham Lincoln, recalling a statement by Lincoln

Published in: on December 1, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Quotes Suitable for Framing: Abraham Lincoln  
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Lincoln’s Premontions of Death

According to Ward Lamon, Marshal of Washington and a former law partner of Abraham Lincoln, three days before his assassination, Lincoln spoke about a strange dream that he had:

“About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers, ‘The President,’ was his answer; ‘he was killed by an assassin.’ Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.”
It is a striking account if true, and appropriate for a Halloween Day.  However, there are problems with it.  First, there was no contemporary mention of it in the aftermath of the assassination.  Surely Lamon would have mentioned such a prophetic statement by Lincoln at the time.  Second, during the time period in question when the dream purportedly occurred, the latter part of March, Lincoln was not at the White House but with the Army of the Potomac.  Third, the story didn’t appear in print until 1895, two years after Lamon’s death, in a book of reminiscences compiled by Lamon’s daughter.
However, I am inclined to believe it based upon this incident involving a Lincoln dream which is well authenticated.  Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, made this notation in his diary regarding the cabinet meeting that occurred at noon on the day of  the assassination of Lincoln: (more…)
Published in: on October 31, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lincoln’s Premontions of Death  
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Lincoln and the Cat

 

lincoln-cats

The county seat for the county, Livingston, in which I live is Pontiac, Illinois.  Abraham Lincoln practiced law there as he rode the circuit with judges and attorneys from courthouse town to courthouse town.  Jesse W. Fell told a story about Lincoln and Pontiac.  An influential businessman, Fell was instrumental in the creation of Livingston County and named the town of Pontiac.  He was a good friend and supporter of Lincoln, and encouraged him to run against Stephen Douglas for the Senate in 1858, the turning point of Lincoln’s life. (more…)

Published in: on September 29, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lincoln and the Cat  
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