The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Opinion

May 30, 2009

Lots to consider before we make up our minds about Lincoln

I remember reading and studying about President Abraham Lincoln during my school years, and I have read a good bit of information about him since that time. He died in 1865 at the hands of assassin John Wilkes Booth, just 77 years, or three generations before I was born. At the time of my birth, the South and its people, according to many, were still suffering from the Civil War, reconstruction, and harsh retaliation from Northern sympathizers who still considered the South as rebels rather than secessionists. I think many people who are my age never admired Lincoln as the nation's greatest president, probably due to these factors.

I recently read "Team of Rivals," the book about President Abraham Lincoln's cabinet that served him during his first term as the American Civil War raged through this nation. Doris Kearnes Goodwin, a noted presidential historian, compiled the book that has over 900 pages over a 10-year period.

The book tells the story of four men who aspired to be the presidential nominee for the new Republican Party during the 1860 national elections that were held on the eve of the Civil War. They were: William H. Steward, a senator from New York, who was considered the front-runner; Salmon P. Chase, a former governor of Ohio and a senator; Edward Bates, a lawyer and one-term U.S. congressman from Missouri; and Abraham Lincoln, a poor, self-educated Kentucky-born lawyer who resided and practiced in Springfield, Ill.

Lincoln served one term in the U.S Congress, was defeated, then twice defeated in attempts to be elected to the U.S. Senate, and was certainly the dark horse for the nomination. Seward, the obvious choice to defeat the Democrats, thought it was his to have without question. Chase lusted during his entire life for the presidency, and would stoop to any length to secure it. He always attempted to justify his efforts in a moral manner to his equally ambitious daughter. Bates wanted the presidency, but did not seem to be as obsessed as the other three about it.

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