Legendary Lincoln – Part 2

Shomit Sengupta

Shomit Sengupta

“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln.

Oh, before you proceed any further, make sure you you have read the 1st part of this three-part story. To read more such short articles, please visit our library.

“If I saw a venomous snake crawling in the road, any man would say I might seize the nearest stick and kill it; but if I found that snake in bed with my children, that would be another question. I might hurt the children more than the snake, and it might bite them. . . . But if there was a bed newly made up, to which the children were to be taken, and it was proposed to take a batch of young snakes and put them there with them, I take it no man would say there was any question how I ought to decide. . . The new Territories are the newly made bed to which our children are to go, and it lies with the nation to say whether they shall have snakes mixed up with them or not!” …..


So in Legendary Lincoln Part 1, we learned that Lincoln had a habit of using anecdotes and stories to drive home his point. He used the above story in the year 1855 to explain to the people why the Kansas Nebraska act (the one that favored the extension of slavery into new states by popular vote) was inhumane. This was also the moment in 1855 when people started to realize that Lincoln was probably more than just your average Springfield Lawyer. His speeches were backed by logic so sound that even pro-slavery nationals were left dumbfounded.   He would address an issue with such clarity that his audience seldom had a choice other than to give in to his statements.

So Lincoln literally scraped through the 1860 elections and took all his political rivals by surprise. After all, compared to the likes of William Seward, Salmon Chase and Edward Bates, he was a newbie to politics. Yet, he was a cut above the rest. His light-hearted demeanor often gave people the impression that he was in the wrong profession; “I think he’d make a good comedian”, one would say, while another would joke about his physical appearance – a tall, skinny, and awkward figure towering above the rest. Nonetheless, Lincoln had a way of easing tension by cracking jokes on his stature and appearance. His storytelling skills and sense of humor won him followers, while his dogged determination and keen wit won him the election.

The months that followed post the electoral victory were among the darkest days for Lincoln and the entire nation. The United States had just started splitting up internally and a Civil war was in the making. There were the Northern states that believed that slavery needed to be abolished without delay and there were the Southern states that desired nothing more than to preserve the institution of slavery. Of course, the southerners had their reasons too – since Southern states such as Maryland, Virginia and Georgia greatly depended on manual labor to support their agriculture intensive economy, they needed slaves to toil in the plantation fields, otherwise, what would they eat, right?

Shortly after Lincoln won the elections, seven states decided to split from the Union and form their own group – the Confederate States of America. They did this because they viewed Lincoln as one of the greatest threats to the institution of slavery, and they wanted nothing to do with him. Shortly after, four more southern states decided to join the newly formed group. Lincoln certainly had a herculean task cut out ahead of him – he had to abolish slavery (his personal goal), convince the confederates that they better rejoin the Union, and of course, put an end to the Civil war that was about to break all hell loose.

Over the course of the next two years, the eleven confederate states and twenty three Union states engaged in bitter clashes of arms. The civil war was well underway, and there would be no respite from the war until one side either surrendered or lost all its troops. Lincoln knew he had no time to waste. He had to end the war and he had to end it soon. He observed that the confederates used their vast slave population to their advantage, by urging them to join the battle against the Union. However, he was in a dilemma about what to do. If he passed an amendment to abolish slavery, it would add more fuel to the already raging fire; on the contrary, if he chose to sit still, the confederates would surely win the war. Besides, they had the better commanders and the larger fleet.

Lincoln spent most of his time during the Civil war encouraging and motivating his troops. He would visit them at the nursing center when they were gravely wounded and talk to them for hours. In addition to that, he would visit the troops before and after every battle to do what he was best at doing – easing the environment and lifting spirits. He would recite anecdotes and jokes to the troops and they would all laugh merrily, with Lincoln laughing the loudest. On first impression, he would appear aloof and melancholic, all thanks to those deep, sunken eyes. However, once triggered, his face would light up like that of a little boy who couldn’t wait to share all his goofy jokes and stories. And he always did share them. Such was the nature of the 16th President of the United States. He was a friend before a President.

Thus, the United States had reached the midway point in the historic civil war. Lincoln had an ace up his sleeve, but was waiting for the perfect moment to play it. Timing was of utmost importance; one small mistake and the entire nation would have to pay.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Shiwangi tripathi

    A gread read indeed🙏

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