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The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
03-12-2013, 10:36 AM
Post: #1
The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
He was amazing when you think about it. Lincoln had less than a year of formal education- he was mostly self-educated. Yet, as we all know, he rose to great heights in the world. Even so, could it have been a life-long concern for him that he didn't "measure-up" to others? He had to deal with politicians, ministers, and career officers-many of whom had impressive credentials and formal education. How awkward and ill-prepared he might have felt at times. How self-aware he must have been when it came to this issue.

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03-12-2013, 02:00 PM
Post: #2
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
If only half of our senators and congressmen today were as "uneducated" as Lincoln.

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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03-12-2013, 02:26 PM
Post: #3
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
You got that right Gene!

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03-12-2013, 03:46 PM
Post: #4
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
(03-12-2013 10:36 AM)LincolnMan Wrote:  He was amazing when you think about it. Lincoln had less than a year of formal education- he was mostly self-educated. Yet, as we all know, he rose to great heights in the world. Even so, could it have been a life-long concern for him that he didn't "measure-up" to others? He had to deal with politicians, ministers, and career officers-many of whom had impressive credentials and formal education. How awkward and ill-prepared he might have felt at times. How self-aware he must have been when it came to this issue.

Interesting topic! I actually don't think Lincoln had any doubts about his abilities. That is, he was certainly aware that there were subjects he wasn't educated in, particularly when it came to the "art of war," but he just studied what he needed to to be able to communicate with his commanders and (where necessary) make suggestions or give orders.

Think about how, just a couple of weeks into Lincoln's first term, Seward, who thought he was going to be running the show, essentially told Lincoln as much in a written communication in which he complained that the administration had "no policy" and that he, Seward, would set the policy. Lincoln set him straight with a long memo, letting him know who was boss. Other than Seward's behind-the-scenes shenanigans having to do with which naval vessels were going to be sent to Fort Sumter and which to Fort Pickens, Seward never again presumed to overstep his authority. Seward's "no policy" communication to Lincoln could have shaken a less confident man, but Lincoln seems to have had the ability to think clearly about each situation he was faced with and make carefully reasoned decisions, regardless of the stature, knowledge or experience of whomever he was dealing with.

Think about that letter early in Lincoln's administration that Seward drafted to the British concerning British dealings with the Confederacy. Lincoln, without any foreign policy experience or knowledge, understood that Seward's letter was written in a dangerously angry and belligerent way and rewrote parts of it to make it much less potentially offensive. He also provided directions to the U.S. ambassador to Britain to not give the British the letter but just to read certain parts of it to them. Anyway, it appears that Lincoln's editing of Seward's letter prevented a serious confrontation between the two countries. Lincoln had only been in office for a few weeks and still seemed to have a better foreign policy sense than the supposed expert, Seward.

Think about the "Trent Affair," late in 1861, in which a U.S. naval captain boarded a British vessel and detained two Confederate officials who were on their way to Europe to represent the Confederacy as an independent nation. Obviously, the British were extremely annoyed, and Northerners were itching to stand up to the British. Despite a huge amount of political pressure not to give up the Confederates, Lincoln understood enough about international law to know that the U.S. was technically in the wrong, and ordered them released. This was not a politically popular thing to do, but he could not be figuratively "bludgeoned" into doing something just because there was a great clamor for it.

In general, Lincoln was also very adept at learning about all sorts of things simply by questioning visitors or those individuals he himself was visiting. I get the impression that elected officials, members of the military, and other diverse individuals were often surprised that he never or rarely asked their "opinion" about issues or situations. It apparently never occurred to them that all the while they talked with Lincoln he was gathering information; he may not have asked them what they thought, but usually got what he needed from them, anyway.

John Hay wrote in a letter to Billy Herndon after the war that Lincoln was not a "humble man," that no "great man" is humble, that Lincoln knew that he could handle whatever came up and that it was his "arrogance," or "unconscious assumption of authority" (I'm using quotes, but this is from memory), that drove people like Salmon Chase and Charles Sumner crazy. Now I don't agree with John Hay that Lincoln was arrogant (although Hay may not have meant that in a pejorative way, since he really loved and admired Lincoln), but I agree with him that Lincoln was supremely self-confident.

Lincoln also strongly disliked the ostentatious trappings of status or high office and conducted himself in a humble way regardless of his self-regard. He was happy to stop and talk to anybody on the street (not to mention in his office) about anything. He would sit on the steps of the White House to sign an autograph for a soldier. When Lincoln and Seward were walking toward the telegraph office one day, Lincoln allowed a black woman to pass him, rather than insist that she should yield to him due to his stature as President and/or as a white person. Seward announced this little episode to the occupants of the telegraph office when they arrived, as if it were a big deal (and I suppose, given the state of race relations in those days, it was), and Lincoln explained that he'd just been trying to avoid a collision.

There is also that story about the British ambassador (I believe) unfurling a scroll in Lincoln's presence in the White House and reading a long-winded announcement about the marriage or engagement of some member of the Royal Family. Lincoln listened politely, but reportedly said, when the ambassador had finished, "Go thou and do likewise."

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03-12-2013, 03:47 PM
Post: #5
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
How right you are Gene. In the world we live in today I think our own Mr. Lincoln would step back and say what the HELL is going on here? We live in a world that Lincoln could not have even imagined. But I would still choose him hands done if I needed legal help or needed to vote someone into office.
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03-12-2013, 05:56 PM
Post: #6
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
(03-12-2013 03:46 PM)Liz Rosenthal Wrote:  
(03-12-2013 10:36 AM)LincolnMan Wrote:  He was amazing when you think about it. Lincoln had less than a year of formal education- he was mostly self-educated. Yet, as we all know, he rose to great heights in the world. Even so, could it have been a life-long concern for him that he didn't "measure-up" to others? He had to deal with politicians, ministers, and career officers-many of whom had impressive credentials and formal education. How awkward and ill-prepared he might have felt at times. How self-aware he must have been when it came to this issue.

Interesting topic! I actually don't think Lincoln had any doubts about his abilities. That is, he was certainly aware that there were subjects he wasn't educated in, particularly when it came to the "art of war," but he just studied what he needed to to be able to communicate with his commanders and (where necessary) make suggestions or give orders.

Think about how, just a couple of weeks into Lincoln's first term, Seward, who thought he was going to be running the show, essentially told Lincoln as much in a written communication in which he complained that the administration had "no policy" and that he, Seward, would set the policy. Lincoln set him straight with a long memo, letting him know who was boss. Other than Seward's behind-the-scenes shenanigans having to do with which naval vessels were going to be sent to Fort Sumter and which to Fort Pickens, Seward never again presumed to overstep his authority. Seward's "no policy" communication to Lincoln could have shaken a less confident man, but Lincoln seems to have had the ability to think clearly about each situation he was faced with and make carefully reasoned decisions, regardless of the stature, knowledge or experience of whomever he was dealing with.

Think about that letter early in Lincoln's administration that Seward drafted to the British concerning British dealings with the Confederacy. Lincoln, without any foreign policy experience or knowledge, understood that Seward's letter was written in a dangerously angry and belligerent way and rewrote parts of it to make it much less potentially offensive. He also provided directions to the U.S. ambassador to Britain to not give the British the letter but just to read certain parts of it to them. Anyway, it appears that Lincoln's editing of Seward's letter prevented a serious confrontation between the two countries. Lincoln had only been in office for a few weeks and still seemed to have a better foreign policy sense than the supposed expert, Seward.

Think about the "Trent Affair," late in 1861, in which a U.S. naval captain boarded a British vessel and detained two Confederate officials who were on their way to Europe to represent the Confederacy as an independent nation. Obviously, the British were extremely annoyed, and Northerners were itching to stand up to the British. Despite a huge amount of political pressure not to give up the Confederates, Lincoln understood enough about international law to know that the U.S. was technically in the wrong, and ordered them released. This was not a politically popular thing to do, but he could not be figuratively "bludgeoned" into doing something just because there was a great clamor for it.

In general, Lincoln was also very adept at learning about all sorts of things simply by questioning visitors or those individuals he himself was visiting. I get the impression that elected officials, members of the military, and other diverse individuals were often surprised that he never or rarely asked their "opinion" about issues or situations. It apparently never occurred to them that all the while they talked with Lincoln he was gathering information; he may not have asked them what they thought, but usually got what he needed from them, anyway.

John Hay wrote in a letter to Billy Herndon after the war that Lincoln was not a "humble man," that no "great man" is humble, that Lincoln knew that he could handle whatever came up and that it was his "arrogance," or "unconscious assumption of authority" (I'm using quotes, but this is from memory), that drove people like Salmon Chase and Charles Sumner crazy. Now I don't agree with John Hay that Lincoln was arrogant (although Hay may not have meant that in a pejorative way, since he really loved and admired Lincoln), but I agree with him that Lincoln was supremely self-confident.

Lincoln also strongly disliked the ostentatious trappings of status or high office and conducted himself in a humble way regardless of his self-regard. He was happy to stop and talk to anybody on the street (not to mention in his office) about anything. He would sit on the steps of the White House to sign an autograph for a soldier. When Lincoln and Seward were walking toward the telegraph office one day, Lincoln allowed a black woman to pass him, rather than insist that she should yield to him due to his stature as President and/or as a white person. Seward announced this little episode to the occupants of the telegraph office when they arrived, as if it were a big deal (and I suppose, given the state of race relations in those days, it was), and Lincoln explained that he'd just been trying to avoid a collision.

There is also that story about the British ambassador (I believe) unfurling a scroll in Lincoln's presence in the White House and reading a long-winded announcement about the marriage or engagement of some member of the Royal Family. Lincoln listened politely, but reportedly said, when the ambassador had finished, "Go thou and do likewise."

Wonderful reply-enjoyed reading it very much.

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03-12-2013, 06:18 PM
Post: #7
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
What Bill said, Liz. Excellent.

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03-12-2013, 06:50 PM
Post: #8
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
Liz,You certainly a great journalist and Historian.I enjoy your posts! Seward was certainly not a saint.
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03-12-2013, 06:58 PM (This post was last modified: 03-12-2013 06:59 PM by Liz Rosenthal.)
Post: #9
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
Thanks, Bill, Jim and Herb! I'm flattered.

This is the kind of thing I enjoy - that is, discussing the living Lincoln rather than his assassination, which I find incredibly depressing and awful. Shy

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03-12-2013, 07:55 PM
Post: #10
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
Liz,

The one thing I love about this forum is that it appeals to all interests. Frankly, I have never been interested in analyzing Lincoln and his politics, so I know very little about the subject. I have enjoyed reading most of the posts on this forum, however, because it has been a learning experience for me. Plain old Lincoln history will never be my favorite topic - sorry, I'm an assassination nut -but, when I'm learning something, I'm happy. I hope all of our posters feel the same way.
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03-13-2013, 09:44 PM
Post: #11
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
(03-12-2013 07:55 PM)L Verge Wrote:  Liz,

The one thing I love about this forum is that it appeals to all interests. Frankly, I have never been interested in analyzing Lincoln and his politics, so I know very little about the subject. I have enjoyed reading most of the posts on this forum, however, because it has been a learning experience for me. Plain old Lincoln history will never be my favorite topic - sorry, I'm an assassination nut -but, when I'm learning something, I'm happy. I hope all of our posters feel the same way.

It may just be me, but I don't understand how you can be a Lincoln assassination buff without having an interest in Lincoln the man. In fact, I think it's kind of sad that the assassination threads on this symposium are so incredibly active but the other parts of the symposium tend to be comparatively underutilized.

Also, I realize that this is just my opinion, but I believe that there is more value in studying the live Lincoln than the dead one. There's a reason that, by far, there have been more books examining some aspect of Lincoln's life or political philosophy than books about any other other U.S. president.

I'm going to be away for a few days, so in case I've touched off a firestorm, I won't be around till Sunday evening to reengage. If I haven't touched off a firestorm, though, I won't be disappointed. Cool

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03-14-2013, 08:23 AM
Post: #12
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
Liz, thank you for sharing your thoughts. And, no, you certainly didn't start a firestorm. Your first sentence of your second paragraph perfectly defines my feelings toward President Kennedy - I have plenty of interest in his life and accomplishments, but I have no real interest in the story of his assassination. We are all unique in our interests, I suppose.

I am a Lincoln "generalist." I have interest in all aspects of his life, although I am most interested in the Illinois years. I am also very interested in his family. I find it all fascinating. I have a very strong sub-interest in the assassination.

Until the 1960's I had no interest whatsoever in the Lincoln assassination. Then, one day in c. 1967, my wife and I were on the third(?) floor of Chicago's downtown Marshall Field's where that company had a huge book department. There was a large table filled with oversized books, and one was called Twenty Days. The book covers the 20 days from April 14, 1865, to May 4, 1865 (actually many more as it covers the trial, too). I leafed through it and told my wife I was going to buy it.

The book changed my life. Never has a single book had such an impact on me as it describes the incredibly dramatic days that surrounded our nation's first presidential assassination. The book is richly illustrated. It is my favorite of all the Kunhardts' books. Yes, it is sad in many parts, but it also has some uplifting stories such as how Lincoln, his heart crushed after Willie's death, was able to get his mind back on his work.

Soon thereafter I purchased a copy of Jim Bishop's The Day Lincoln Was Shot. Then I bought Theodore Roscoe's The Web of Conspiracy.

Nowadays, I own about 400 Lincoln-related books; about 70 of these are about the assassination.

Liz, are you willing to give the assassination a chance? Have you ever read Twenty Days? If not, would you be willing to give it a try? If you can spend a few days with that book and still not see why the assassination fascinates so many of us, I will fully respect and understand your feelings. That is exactly the way I feel about the Kennedy assassination. I have seen some things...read some things...but nothing inspires me to want to delve into the study of Kennedy's death. My interest remains Kennedy's life, not his death. But I feel just the opposite about the Lincoln assassination. I am not sure how I can explain that; I am just telling you the way I am.
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03-14-2013, 08:41 AM
Post: #13
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
Liz: I'm am also a Lincoln "generalist" as well. In fact, I actually didn't care too much to study the assassination for many years.

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03-14-2013, 08:55 AM
Post: #14
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
(03-13-2013 09:44 PM)Liz Rosenthal Wrote:  I'm going to be away for a few days, so in case I've touched off a firestorm, I won't be around till Sunday evening to reengage. If I haven't touched off a firestorm, though, I won't be disappointed. Cool

Have a nice time away, and it's OK Liz, we can wait till you get back Rolleyes

It's not just the act of assassination that is fascinating. It's the history, the location , the magnitude of the event, the culmination of events, but mostly, it's learning about the the people. (Did I get enough commas in there Laurie)

So when is this "Old Enough To Know Better" supposed to kick in?
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03-14-2013, 09:44 AM
Post: #15
RE: The amazing uneducated/self-educated Abraham Lincoln!
I live by a motto of "'To each his own,' said the old lady as she kissed the cow." I don't cause firestorms over what other people think; but likewise, I don't expect them to put me down for what I'm interested in. As I said before, that is why I love this forum. We don't all think alike, but we remain civil with each other as we discuss - or ignore - our differences.

I read every post (if at all possible), and in most cases, I'm able to pull something of interest and something new out of each. If I don't, or if it doesn't interest me, I move on to the next post. I think most of us feel that way. It is not my purpose on this forum to convince everyone that they have to enjoy discussing the assassination. However, it is my primary field of interest and expertise, so I feel welcome to express my opinions on it -- just as you are welcome to express your ideas on Lincoln the man.

As I said in my first post, I have learned quite a bit about Mr. Lincoln in general by participating in this forum - some things that I probably would not have known without this form of communication because I find most of the books long and tedious. Since I am willing to learn from Lincoln students, I would hope that they would attempt to learn from us assassination students. The two subjects are not at odds with each other.

Note to Gene: You get an A in comma control. You even got your apostrophes correct. I'm so proud - another example of a learning experience from participating in this forum...
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