Forgetting Famous People

Forgetting Famous People

People who were famous and well known when I was young have faded over the years in my memory. One of those people is Abraham Lincoln. I have read two biographies in the past, both of which centered in the Civil War. Recently, Amazon offered a computer version of William Herndon’s biography of Lincoln in his eBook edition. I think it was originally two volumes in print and does not seem to miss a minute of Lincoln’s life. I have reached his political and lawyerly days.

Herndon sees Lincoln as a complicated, forceful person, even though he was willing to stay in the background and watch and listen. When he was old enough to work, his father hired him out and took his earnings. As soon as he was able he left home. He did not avoid conflict, even physical, if he was in a situation where disagreement reached the point of no return. He traveled up and down the Mississippi several times in his younger years, wearing his one shirt and pair of pants. He and a friend bought a general store and then managed to get rid of it within a year. He basically taught himself to become a lawyer by reading borrowed law books. In between his roustabout days and becoming an attorney he served in the Illinois militia during an Indian war and had the role of regimental commander foisted on him. He was elected to the Illinois legislature. After becoming an attorney, he provided free service to those who couldn’t afford to pay.

He did not take what he regarded as insults easily and had several physical and negotiated confrontations with men who crossed his boundary of what was acceptable. He grew up and lived in the daily life of a developing society. It was from this background that he became President of the United States in a very disordered time.

And, now there is Donald Trump!

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