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Party of Lincoln Celebrates His Day

Posted: February 18, 2008 9:29 p.m.
Updated: April 20, 2008 5:04 a.m.
 
The Republican Party is first and foremost the party of Lincoln, yet what does this actually mean to those of us living today in the Santa Clarita Valley? The answer requires a reflection upon our political roots as we wend our way deeper into the 21st century.

All of us can kind of remember a few facts about Abraham Lincoln. He was born in a log cabin, wrote the Gettysburg Address, and freed the slaves. If pressed, most can recall that the actor John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln while he was watching a play at Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC.

We know that Lincoln's face is on the penny and the five-dollar bill. In school plays, we sometimes see a kid wearing a fake beard, a jacket with long coattails, and a stovepipe hat playing the recognizable role of Honest Abe. Do we, however, really know that much about this man we all claim to so revere? Allow me a brief, yet hopefully informative, journey into our not-too-distant history.

Abraham Lincoln was born Feb. 12, 1809, near Nolin Creek, Kentucky. His family was poor; therefore, in his childhood Lincoln had to learn to hunt for food, plow the land for farming, and chop wood for fuel.

Shortly after the Lincolns moved to Indiana in 1819, his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, passed away. About a year later his father, Thomas, was remarried to Sarah Bush Johnston. The family moved again in 1830 to Macon, Illinois.

While Lincoln's mother and stepmother both encouraged him to read, write, and do basic math, his total formal schooling amounted to only about one year. As a young man, Lincoln had several occupations. He was a farmer, a log-splitter, a deckhand on a flatboat, a storekeeper, a postmaster and a surveyor.

Abraham Lincoln first ran for the Illinois House of Representatives in 1832. He lost. Undeterred, he ran again in 1834, and was elected. He knew that his lack of education could be a detriment to his political career, so he borrowed textbooks and studied them. Ultimately, Lincoln, a self-taught lawyer, was admitted to the Illinois State Bar in 1837. (Oh, if that were only possible today!)

In 1842, Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd, a wealthy woman from Kentucky. This marriage helped to enhance his political career. After failing in two attempts, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1847, but only served for two years.

During this brief time in Washington D.C., Lincoln noticed that near the grounds of the U.S. Capitol was an area he thought to be a stable. Upon a closer view, he found that it was a holding area for slaves. People were herded together like animals and kept in tight quarters while awaiting their journey to the southern, slave-owning agrarian states.

This discovery was so abhorrently offensive to him that the first law Lincoln drafted was called "A Bill to Abolish Slavery in the District of Columbia." It later became a part of the 1850 Compromise.

Even though Lincoln's opposition to the Mexican War (1846-1848) may have cost him re-election, he seemed satisfied to accept a career of practicing law. As the issue of slavery versus anti-slavery began to dominate the national political scene, his newfound contentment waned.

Lincoln's political reawakening occurred about 1854 when the Kansas-Nebraska Act became law. This legislation, sponsored by Lincoln's longtime rival, Stephen Douglas, practically assured the westward movement of slavery. It also spawned the birth of a new political party, the Republican Party. This party was established as an anti-slavery party loosely based upon the beliefs of Thomas Jefferson and his former Democratic-Republican Party.

Lincoln's innate belief that "all men are created equal" clearly overshadowed his political ambitions. He not only strongly objected to slavery because of his deeply held religious views, but he also opposed it for humanitarian reasons. He was convinced that the continuation of slavery in the United States circumvented our moral principles and imperiled our nation's very existence.

Abraham Lincoln lost his U.S. Senate bid to Stephen Douglas in 1858. Ironically, two years later, in 1860, he was elected president of the United States. Today, during this the 199th anniversary of his birth, Lincoln remains at the top of almost everyone's list of "best presidents," regardless of political party.

As we travel further into this new millennium, it is important to hold the greatness of this man in our hearts and minds. As Republicans, we sometimes are sidetracked by our need to ensure that our unique democracy not be overrun by Big Government in its race towards universal socialism. Although our zeal at lowering taxes, keeping our military strong, and preserving family values is sometimes misconstrued by the liberal media, we know that the truth lies in the preservation of this great democracy in which we are all so fortunate to abide.

No one, however, should confuse or forget our Republican heritage. It is a political party founded upon inclusion and equal rights and - dare I say - compassion. So on Presidents' Day, ask Mom to please pass the apple pie, then rally 'round the flag, and strike up the band. We are Republicans, the party of Abraham Lincoln!

Paul B. Strickland Sr. is a resident of Santa Clarita. His column reflects his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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