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This article is the third installment of my series If They Had Lived. The first two articles examined what our world and/or nation might be like if Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) and John F. Kennedy (JFK) had survived. In this article, we will consider what our nation might be like if Abraham Lincoln had lived? Imagine what our world might be like if “Honest Abe” had survived the assassination attempt against his life and lived to fulfill his destiny? How might his survival alter the course of the nation and our country’s history? What would our world look like if Lincoln had lived?
Lincoln, our 16th President of the United States, is immortalized on the country’s legal tender (the $5 bill and penny), the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., and he is one of the four presidents carved into Mount Rushmore, along with fellow Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt. Between Oct. 4, 1927, and Oct. 31, 1941, architect Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers sculpted the 60 foot (18 m) high carvings of each president to represent the first 130 years of American history. These four presidents were selected for Mount Rushmore by Borglum because of their roles in preserving the union and expanding its territory.
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.
Lincoln was an autodidact who had little formal schooling due to his constant need to work, in order to help support his family. The self-taught Illinois lawyer, postmaster, storekeeper, and legislator was also known for his eloquent speaking abilities, especially as an opponent of slavery. The towering figure (at 6′ 4″) and adroit observer shocked many when he successfully claimed the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1860. His election that November pushed several Southern states to secede from the union by the time of his inauguration in March 1861 and the Civil War commenced just one month later. Contrary to what many expected, Lincoln proved to be a capable fiscal manager, military strategist, and savvy leader during what became the costliest and bloodiest war, as well as the greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis ever fought on American soil.
In addition to the Civil War, some of the other landmark events that occurred during his administration included the Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued on Sept. 22, 1862, and put into effect on Jan. 1, 1863, freed all slaves in the rebellious states. It paved the way for the abolition of slavery across the nation and the issuance of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution in July of 1868. Moreover, it also earned him the nickname of “The Great Emancipator.” Meanwhile, his Gettysburg Address, which was on Nov. 19, 1863, stands as one of the most famous and influential pieces of oratory in American history. In fact, it has become one of the most quoted speeches in the nation’s history. It also firmly established him as one of the most impressive statesmen and greatest orators in American history. What he managed to accomplish with these two historic speeches altered the course of mankind and the nation. Just imagine what Abraham Lincoln might have achieved if he had lived.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
—Abraham Lincoln (Gettysburg Address)
Following the wartime president’s landslide re-election in 1864, under the new Union Party affiliation and the Confederate forces, under General Robert E. Lee, surrendering to Union General and future President Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox on Apr. 9, 1965, the Civil War was effectively over. This is when well-known actor and Confederate sympathizer, John Wilkes Booth, along with his group of co-conspirators, revised their original plan to kidnap President Lincoln, and instead, decided to assassinate the world leader in order to reinvigorate the Southern war effort and derail Lincoln’s plans to expand rights for African-Americans.
Much to Booth’s dismay, while his efforts to assassinate the president at Ford’s Theater on Apr. 14, 1865, were ultimately successful, the attempts on the lives of Vice President Andrew Johnson (replaced Hannibal Hamlin who served as Lincoln’s first vice-president (1861-1865)), Secretary of State William Seward, and General Grant all failed. Subsequently, Honest Abe died as a martyr for the cause in the preservation of liberty and the nation. Meanwhile, Booth would become the most hated and reviled man in the nation. At that time, the subsequent 12-day manhunt for his capture was the largest and most aggressive police action to date. He ended up dying at the time of his capture and went down in history as a notorious political assassin, as opposed to the defender of the Confederate cause that he had envisioned.
If Lincoln had lived, the Great Emancipator surely would have ushered in the Civil Rights Movement much earlier than it occurred, as evidenced by his Emancipation Proclamation and Gettysburg Address, as well as his speech on Apr. 11, 1865, in which Lincoln promoted voting rights for freed African-Americans. It was this speech, just before his death, that prompted Lincoln’s attackers to enact their lethal plot against him. Imagine if he had survived the assassination attempt, or if circumstances allowed for his detail to prevent it. What if Booth had failed to gain access to the world leader and Lincoln would have lived to fulfill his destiny? What feats he might have accomplished if he had survived boggles the mind.
In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
During his time in the Oval Office, Lincoln led the United States through its Civil War and lived to see its virtual conclusion, preserved the Union, strengthened the Federal Government, abolished slavery, and modernized the national economy. This forward-thinking Republican-turned-Union Party progressive proved to be a resilient and adept leader in the face of adversity. What would our world look like if Abraham Lincoln had lived? The answer to that question holds a special relevance for this author, who is related to the legendary statesman and historic figure. He was my uncle via marriage as his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was my great-great-great-great aunt on my mother’s side. Alas, the answer will likely remain a mystery, but we can envision a nation based upon the principles he lived and died for, and imagine what our world might be like if Lincoln’s potential was fully realized. Stay tuned to Guardian Liberty Voice for more articles in my continuing series, If They Had Lived.
Opinion and Blog Written & Edited by Leigh Haugh
Personal Observations and Opinions of the Author
Featured and Top Article Images Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons – Creative Commons License
Inline Image Courtesy of Ben Sutherland’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License