“Lincoln and Liberty,” the song Abraham Lincoln used in his campaign for presidency, opened a fun filled evening on the final night of Coshocton’s Bi-Centennial Chautauqua celebration. Wildwood & Friends got the crowd in the mood with several Civil War era songs, including what they said was Abraham Lincoln’s favorite song, “Old Hundredth,” although some say it was “Dixie.”
When the easily recognized figure of Abraham Lincoln appeared, complete with top hat, he was greeted with a standing ovation. Dr. Richard Johnson, Professor Emeritus at California State Polytechnic University, became for the evening a very believable Abraham Lincoln.
“That reminds me of a story..” was an oft repeated phrase throughout his presentation as he fulfilled his reputation for humorous tales. His first joke was told similar to this, although the exact words were not recorded:
In Washington D.C., they say that I am the homeliest person they have ever seen. This reminds me of a story…a woman I met once told me, “You are the ugliest man I have ever seen.” To which I replied, “I can’t help it.” The woman then said, “You could stay home.”
The Republican party chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for president because he was a great spokesman and a moderate candidate, who they felt could get a lot of votes.
As the Rail Candidate, Abraham Lincoln’s candidacy was depicted as being held up by the slavery issue. In this cartoon characterization, Lincoln says, “It is true I have split Rails, but I begin to feel as if this rail would split me. It’s the hardest stick I ever straddled.” The black man complains, “Dis Nigger strong and willin’ but its awful hard work to carry Old Massa Abe on nothing but dis ere rail!” One of Lincoln’s foremost supporters in the Northeast, Greeley here assures him, “We can prove that you have split rails and that will ensure your election to the Presidency.”
During his election campaign, an eleven year old girl wrote to Mr Lincoln stating that she felt he would look much better with whiskers. Lincoln answered her letter but made no promises; however, shortly thereafter began growing his beard, which is a familiar part of his image everyone recognizes today.
His wife and sons played important roles in Lincoln’s life. Mary, his wife, was an ally in Springfield, but in D.C. was not a good advisor. This perhaps due to the death of their son, Willie, which devastated Mary. At this point she attempted to gain comfort from spiritualists and even conducted seances in the White House.
Lincoln felt the Civil War was worth fighting to protect future children and give them a chance to make something of themselves. The government at that time and their sacrifices made this possible. He called out for freedom in the land, and proclaimed that “We must come back together.”
The evening under the Chautauqua banner would not have been complete without the now famous Gettysburg Address, which received another standing ovation. Later Lincoln said that he composed it in no more than seventeen days, and was actually still working on it when it was delivered.
His career advice to those entering the legal profession seemed very practical: Try to be an honest lawyer. Be honest in what you do. Be respectful of others. Help them when you can.
Very simple advice, but still a wise lesson for us to follow today… as it was for Honest Abe.
Every summer the Ohio Humanities Council in conjunction with Ohio State University’s Humanities Institute provides compelling first person historical portrayals around the state of Ohio. Tune in again next summer for another exciting line-up of influential figures in our country’s history.