Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

They'll Never Be Abe

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

They'll Never Be Abe

Article excerpt

Since Lincoln is my favorite president, I was happy to see a C- Span survey the other day of 58 historians, from across the political spectrum, who had picked the "railsplitter" from Illinois as America's No. 1 president.

These historians ranked Lincoln first for his crisis leadership, administrative skills, vision, pursuit of justice, and "performance within the context of the times." He was followed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Harry S. Truman.

In the midst of the current highly contentious battling among presidential hopefuls, I got to wondering how Lincoln won the nomination of the newly formed Republican Party. So I turned to my favorite Lincoln biographer, Carl Sandburg.

Of course, there were no primaries back in those days. The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 had thrust Lincoln's name forward as a man of presidential caliber. He became a popular speaker, and in 1859 he traveled 4,000 miles to deliver 23 speeches.

But it was Lincoln's Cooper Union speech, delivered in New York City on Feb. 27, 1860, that made him prominent nationally. Here it was that he addressed the slavery question with words like these: "Thinking it [slavery] wrong, as we do, can we yield to them [the South]?" And he finished: "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."

As Lincoln took his seat handkerchiefs waved over a thunderous applause.

Later that year both this speech and the Lincoln-Douglas debates were put into pamphlets that were distributed to millions of people. Soon the Lincoln-for-president movement took wing. People around the country began to "talk Lincoln." As months went on, Lincoln certainly let powerful politicians know that he was interested in running. Indeed, he wrote one delegate that "the taste is in my mouth. …

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