Abraham Lincoln is remembered for changing the course of American history. His greatest contributions include uniting a divided nation and putting a decisive end to the practice of slavery.
In addition to the changes he was able to implement, he is well-known for his oratory, in particular, the Gettysburg Address. History professionals or Lincoln enthusiasts can view — even purchase — some of his documents and other historical items from the Raab Collection. These pieces can not only be a part of our country’s past, but they can also be a part of the future. Lincoln stands in a select group of our country’s past presidents. Unlike modern Presidents who have a team of professional speechwriters and read off a teleprompter, Lincoln came up with his own ideas, crafted his own words, and spoke from memory.
In fact, for generations, American schoolchildren have been introduced to Lincoln’s remarkable life by memorizing the Gettysburg Address. It is believed to be the finest piece of oratory ever delivered by a leader to a nation.
Many historians view him as the greatest President ever to lead the United States.
The Greatest American President
Here are six primary characteristics historians have traditionally used to determine the quality of a presidency:
- · Leadership skills
- · Accomplishments
- · Crisis management
- · Political savvy
- · Appointments
- · Character and integrity
Using this criteria, Abraham Lincoln is at the top of the list compared to many other illustrious American presidents.
The following presidents are generally considered the most memorable presidents of the United States because they led the nation through the most critical times:
- · Franklin Roosevelt
- · George Washington
- · Theodore Roosevelt
- · Thomas Jefferson
- · Andrew Jackson
- · Woodrow Wilson
- · Harry Truman
- · John F. Kennedy
While there is no doubt that all these presidents accomplished remarkable things, they don’t measure up to Abraham Lincoln.
He even compares more favorably than George Washington or Franklin Roosevelt.
George Washington may have liberated the nation from the British, but he lacked political savvy. If it were not for Benjamin Franklin, the French would never have funded the American Revolution.
Franklin Roosevelt, who led the United States during World War II, did not have as much character and integrity. Although married, he had two mistresses.
Based on the judgment of historians, Abraham Lincoln excelled in every measure applied to judge the value of a presidency.
Winning Over a Divided Nation
Theoretically, Lincoln’s assassination by Confederate sympathizers could have turned the tide for the South. The intent of the assassination was to send the Union government into a state of chaos–but, Lincoln’s words and deeds as a President had so impressed the nation, winning over hearts and minds, that even when he died, the force of change that he had set into motion could not be stopped.
After his assassination, he was immediately canonized as the greatest president of his time.
At that time, extravagant eulogies were the norm and Lincoln was compared to Jesus Christ, hailed as a self-made man, praised as the liberator of slaves, and worshiped as the savior of the Union. He was even referred to as “Father Abraham” and a “Masterpiece of God.”
The Greatest American Activist
While historians don’t elevate Lincoln to the mythic proportions ascribed by popular culture, they still accord him a high level of respect and praise.
Lincoln catapulted the presidency into a powerful position. As the commander-in-chief and the chief executive, he made the President more powerful than the Constitution allowed, acting without congressional approval or the consent of the court. His unilateral action included spending $2 million, expanding the army and navy, and declaring the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Lincoln declared that the nation was in a state of emergency, and it was nonsensical “to lose the nation and yet preserve the Constitution.”
In retrospect, if he had relied on the designated power of the presidency, he would not have been able to preserve the Union, vindicate democracy, abolish slavery, and grant all citizens equal rights. The drastic executive authority of the President that he seized did not continue after his death.
A More Subtle Legacy
Lincoln overcame impoverished beginnings. He was self-educated and taught himself grammar and oratory to become a lawyer. He struggled as a lawyer and a politician, witnessed the death of his 11-year-old son, and suffered from overwhelming depression. Despite all these trials and tribulations, both private and public, he saved the union and freed the slaves. He was a humanist in a world where man’s inhumanity to man was considered the norm. He embodied the virtues of humility even at the height of his powers.Consequently, another legacy left behind by Lincoln was of a more personal nature.
Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving because he declared it a national holiday in the Fall of 1863. So, in a very tangible way, he continues to inspire generations of Americans on how to practice gratitude and other virtues.