Best Lines Ever on March 4th

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 4, 1933


Cooper Union

Abraham Lincoln, a one-term former congressman, spoke at the Cooper Union in New York City on this date in 1860. Many think Lincoln’s “Cooper Union Address” propelled him to the presidency.

American Rhetoric has the speech text, and the audio of a reading in 2004 by Sam Waterston.

Lincoln concluded:

Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is, because that much is due to the necessity arising from its actual presence in the nation; but can we, while our votes will prevent it, allow it to spread into the National Territories, and to overrun us here in these Free States? If our sense of duty forbids this, then let us stand by our duty, fearlessly and effectively. Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored – contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man – such as a policy of “don’t care” on a question about which all true men do care – such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance – such as invocations to Washington, imploring men to unsay what Washington said, and undo what Washington did.

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.


Today We Celebrate Washington’s Birthday

No matter what the stores call their sales, the federal holiday today — the reason there is no mail delivery — is Washington’s Birthday. There is no such federal holiday as Presidents’ Day.

If there had been a calendar on the wall the day George Washington was born, it would have read February 11, 1731. In 1752 however, Britain and her colonies converted from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, the calendar we use today. The change added 11 days and designated January rather than March as the beginning of the year. Accordingly, Washington’s birthday became February 22, 1732.

A federal holiday was celebrated on February 22 from its approval in 18791 until legislation in 1968 designated the third Monday of February the official day to celebrate Washington’s birthday.

The states are not obliged to adopt federal holidays, which only affect federal offices and agencies. While most states have adopted Washington’s Birthday, a dozen of them officially celebrate Presidents’ Day. A number of the states that celebrate Washington’s Birthday also recognize Lincoln’s Birthday as a separate legal holiday.2

14 weeks until the next holiday.

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1 Washington’s Birthday was the fifth federal legal holiday. Only New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day preceded it. There are 10 now, but Labor Day will be eliminated soon.

2 There is no state holiday today in New Mexico. The state chooses to celebrate Presidents’ Day the day after Thanksgiving.


Great Man, Great Words

Our greatest president was born 205 years ago today. It seems a good reason to read, once again, some of his most meaningful words — read them slowly and meticulously, perhaps almost saying them aloud as he did.

The Address at Gettysburg (November 19, 1863):

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met here on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled, here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

And, from his Second Inaugural Address (March 4, 1865):

Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.


Farewell to Springfield

Farewell to Springfield

Abraham Lincoln made these remarks in Springfield before boarding the train for Washington 153 years ago today. He transcribed them on the train — it’s Lincoln’s handwriting at first, then his secretary John Nicolay’s. The movement of the train is seen in the scrawl. Click image for a larger version. The text is below.

My friends—No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe every thing. Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now [2] leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be every where for good, [3] let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell

Lincoln never saw Springfield again.

Information and idea from Farewell to Springfield.


Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1860s

… was born on this date in 1817.

With the headline Death Of Fred Douglass, The New York Times reported his death in 1895. It’s a fascinating contemporary article. An excerpt:

Frederick Douglass has been often spoken of as the foremost man of the African race in America. Though born and reared in slavery, he managed, through his own perseverance and energy, to win for himself a place that not only made him beloved by all members of his own race in America, but also won for himself the esteem and reverence of all fair-minded persons, both in this country and in Europe.

Mr. Douglass had been for many years a prominent figure in public life. He was of inestimable service to the members of his own race, and rendered distinguished service to his country from time to time in various important offices that he held under the Government.

He became well known, early in his career, as an orator upon subjects relating to slavery. He won renown by his oratorical powers both in the northern part of the United States and in England. He had become known before the civil war also as a journalist. So highly were his opinions valued that he was often consulted by President Lincoln, after the civil war began, upon questions relating to the colored race. He held important offices almost constantly from 1871 until 1891.

Mr. Douglass, perhaps more than any other man of his race, was instrumental in advancing the work of banishing the color line.


John Jay

John Jay

John Jay was born this date in 1745. Jay, a delegate from New York, served in the First and Second Continental Congresses. During the War for Independence Jay served as president of the Continental Congress, minister plenipotentiary to Spain, and peace commissioner (in which he negotiated vital treaties with Spain and France). He was Secretary of Foreign Affairs under the Articles of Confederation. During the ratification of the Constitution Jay was author of the Federalist Papers, along with Madison and Hamilton. John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the United States.