Unless you work for the Government you can be excused from realizing today is Presidents day. What at one time were two separate holidays honoring our most famous presidents are now combined into one paid federal holiday. These days few dare to compare themselves to George Washington, but Mr. Lincoln seems to be fair game. Before we can evaluate any comparison we must look to the original to decide if any modern politician measures up.
Abraham Lincoln overcame being born to illiterate parents to become a self taught businessman and lawyer. Early in his political career he belonged to the Whig Party. He became disillusioned with the party when they opted to reach across the aisle to Democrats rather than support his anti-slavery positions. Lincoln joined the rouge Republican Party and ran against Stephan Douglas for senate. Though Lincoln won the popular vote, senators were appointed by the Democratic controlled legislature who opted for the more pro slavery Douglas . When later running for president against Douglas the popular vote mattered and Lincoln won.
Not happy with the popular vote outcome, the southern states voted to break from the union and appoint Democrat Jefferson Davis as their president. This was before Lincoln even took the oath of office. Rather than complain about the mess he inherited he got to work trying to bind the country back together. At extreme political cost he issued the emancipation Proclamation which freed the slaves in the break away states. The next election he paid the cost when Democrats picked up 28 seats in the house and the governorship of New York State. But he still had enough political capital to get the 13th amendment to the constitution passed to completely outlaw slavery over the objections of the Democrats. (55 voted against, two didn’t vote). The price for winning the war and outlawing slavery was much more than political. It was paid that infamous night at the hands of famous actor and democratic political activist John Wilkes Booth.
Who in our political landscape today would be willing to back the 13th amendment which states “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime shall exist within the United States”? Couldn’t slavery, defined as profiting from the work of others without due reward describe our current tax system? Thru our never ending debt aren’t we condemning out children and grandchildren to involuntary servitude to the state?
Is there a leader anywhere who would stand up to the established parties and set us free? Some states have even talked of going back to secession to remove the burdens our current leaders have saddled us with. Others even talk of another civil war not along state lines but the producers against the takers. Yes these might be extremist views but in 1860 was Washington targeting any rights expressly set forth in the Constitution?
Lincoln has been called everything from the great emancipator to a totalitarian; neither can deny he changed the country. If there is a self made man today that could tackle the problems American faces today I don’t see him. But American has been lucky and once again a leader of his caliber may rise to the top. Until that time let us ponder one quote from Mr. Lincoln.