Posts Tagged ‘Lincoln’

h1

Friday Blincoln Blog

June 20, 2008

When Lincoln was running for president he was routinely called “the western candidate” or “the candidate from the West” and other variations. In that time the western states truly were backwaters and the people from the area were often demeaned as hayseeds, rubes, and the like. Casting Lincoln in that role was purposeful baiting. Stephen Douglas, during his historic debates with the future Emancipator, referred explicitly and implicitly to Lincoln’s less-than-cosmopolitan upbringing as a way of turning the crowds against him.

Of course such political liabilities have been turned on their heads in recent years. Contemporary presidents have all made every effort to downplay their elite childhoods or Ivy League educations. Bill Clinton, although a Rhodes Scholar, famously ate at McDonalds during his morning jogs and wore boxers. His nickname was “Bubba.”

George Bush and Ronald Reagan were sure to get photographed on their ranches. Et cetera.

Although we now look back on Lincoln’s childhood in rural Kentucky and Indiana as a kind of moral play–an inspiration for poor children across the country–Lincoln was never proud of it. He refused to romanticize the life of subsistence farming as many of his political contemporaries did, and he was ashamed of his lack of formal education.

But Lincoln was a powerful intellect by any measure. Although he lacked the advantage of a schoolroom, he was sure to provide himself the education he needed. As this Lincoln Bicentennial blog reminds us, Lincoln was a book devourer, famously reading borrowed books by candle and fire lights. He taught himself to write by scratching the alphabet onto the dirt on a shovel, and so on and so on.

But my favorite image of Lincoln’s dogged pursuit of self-edification is one remembered by a colleague of Lincoln’s while they were sharing a room while running the court circuit–of having come home from some event or other that Lincoln was curiously absent from. Returning to their room he opened the door to find Lincoln surrounded by crumpled pieces of paper, his fingers stained with ink. After having worked his way through much of Euclid’s geometry on his own, Lincoln had spent the evening trying to square the circle.

It is hard to think of any modern politicians being so distracted.

Photo from flickr user Angie C used under Creative Commons License.

h1

Friday Blincoln Blog

June 13, 2008

I’m going to get at Lincoln in a very roundabout fashion for today’s Blincoln Blog. I was reviewing the list of the grants that the IHC awarded in its second 2008 round and I noticed that one of them went to the Lew Wallace Study Preservation Society. I thought the name, Lew Wallace, sounded familiar, so I looked him up. And let me just tell you, he’s an impressive cat.

I first learned of Lew Wallace’s Indiana connection when I was working as an intern for the Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness and Sports a few years ago. INShape Indiana’s office was right on The Circle in downtown Indianapolis and that’s when I first began taking an interest in the architecture here.

Several buildings would stand out enough for me to look up after my lunch break was over and the Blacherne was one. Or, more accurately, the Blacherne is a fine looking building but it has it’s name written on it, which makes it easy to remember and look up. And that’s when I learned about Lew Wallace, Civil War general, and architect.

I also learned that tidbit that he is certainly most famous for: He is the author of Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, a book that, Wikipeidia will tell, you has never been out of print in 137 years and has had been adapted to film an incredible four times.

In addition to battlefield and authorial success (and architectural) Wallace also served as governor of the New Mexico territory and as the U.S. Minister to the Ottoman Empire. The list really goes on and on.

He was born in Brookville, Indiana and died in Crawfordsville.

Abraham Lincoln connection:

Well, in addition to serving in the Union Army, he also served on the military commission that tried Lincoln’s assassins.

h1

Why the Humanities Are Important

May 16, 2008

Because you don’t want to the be Fox News intern who lost his job because of this:

Hat tip: Wonkette.

And while we’re on the subject of Lincoln: Have you picked a book to read in honor of the Lincoln Bicentennial yet? I’m reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

This entry was posted by: Jim