Abraham Lincoln is generally regarded as this country’s greatest president. It follows, then, that his last words, if we but knew what they were, would be of compelling interest—not merely to historians, but to all Americans.
As it happens, we do know what Lincoln’s last words were. In an interview in 1882, Mary Lincoln, the president’s widow, confided that in the box at Ford’s Theatre, scant seconds before John Wilkes Booth fired the fatal Derringer ball into her husband’s brain, Lincoln had turned to her and whispered: “We will visit the Holy Land and see those places hallowed by the footsteps of the Savior.” And then: “There is no place I so much desire to see as Jerusalem.” Continue reading Lincoln’s Last Words→
“What did you think of it?” President Abraham Lincoln asked friends after delivering his second Inaugural Address. Like an indie movie director, he was confident in his creation but nervous about public tastes. “I believe it is not immediately popular,” he wrote.
Of course, he needn’t have worried. The second-shortest Inaugural Address became one of the most widely quoted. It helped usher in the modern age of political communication. Its final paragraph is a touchstone of American compassion and leadership.
The autumn of 1863 was an unlikely time for a national thanksgiving. The nation was tearing itself asunder in a bloody Civil War that would ultimately cost over 600,000 lives. The outcome was still very much in doubt. Even if the Union were preserved, no one could tell whether we would truly be one nation again.
Nevertheless, President Lincoln chose that time, of all times, to remind Americans that we should count our blessings, repent our transgressions and remember the less fortunate. His Thanksgiving Proclamation is reprinted here in its entirely Continue reading Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation→