John W. Eyster: What if Abraham Lincoln had lived?


“Now he belongs to the ages.” – Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War about 7:22 am, Saturday, April 15, 1865 announcing the death of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.

Let me alert you to the outstanding “Between the Lines” feature by Anna Marie Lux, “History in hand: April 1865 letter recalls horrors of Abraham Lincoln's death” published Tuesday. The column tells readers about Georgia Kestol-Bauer who lives in the Town of Richmond having a letter from Julius Steenson to his cousin Mary Kestol about the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Exciting to read the reproduction of that historic letter printed on page 1 of today's Janesville Gazette! I wanted to be sure you were aware of this local tie with the 150th anniversary of the death of President Lincoln.

Today numerous historians are asking, “Does Abraham Lincoln STILL belong to the ages?” What do YOU think? I hope YOU will comment because I value reading comments.

We KNOW that Abraham Lincoln is generally rated as the BEST PRESIDENT of the U.S. As we are reflecting on the 150th anniversary of the end of our CIVIL WAR these days – President Lincoln's visit to Richmond, VA on April 4 after the Confederate troops abandoned the South's former capital, the surrender of Lee to Grant at Appomattox on April 9 with the amazingly generous settlement which General Grant gave following what he understood to be President Lincoln's wishes and now, today – April 15, the death of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination while attending a play at Ford's Theater on GOOD FRIDAY, April 14, we are assessing and discussing the meaning of our Civil War with its consequences and aftermath.

To me, the MOST haunting question of all is: What if Abraham Lincoln had lived? What if? Would Lincoln's policy of “with malice toward none, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right” articulated in his 2nd Inaugural Address on Saturday, March 4, 1865, have been pursued and implemented? I would assert that it was implemented with the surrender agreement which General Grant gave to General Lee. What is YOUR assessment as to what would have been our history IF President Lincoln had lived? Again, I'll be reading with interest YOUR comments, so please comment.

As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the death of ABRAHAM LINCOLN, WE THE PEOPLE of JANESVILLE, WI area have significant historic ties with ABRAHAM LINCOLN. You will find very informative reminders in Chelsey Lewis' “Wisconsin Trails” column, “Follow Lincoln's travels in southern Wisconsin,” which includes extensive report about the Lincoln-Tallman House in Janesville complemented by other places in the area with specific report about Lincoln's attendance for the service with the Tallman family at First Congregational United Church of Christ, Janesville, on Sunday, October 2, 1859. I urge you to read this column because of its very complete description of Abraham Lincoln's travels in Wisconsin.

The 150th anniversary of that event was celebrated at the Janesville First Congregational United Church of Christ on Sunday, September 27, 2009. You can watch that celebration on JATVMedia, “The 150th Anniversary of Lincoln's Visit to Janesville, Wisconsin.”

Also, if YOU are interested in a general video featuring Lincoln and our area, Glen Loyd posted a video with his Gazette “community blog” in 2011. You can use this link to that video, “Lincoln and the Rock River.”

Abraham Lincoln has been a key historical person influencing me throughout my life. I have read numerous books about Lincoln, but know that I've read a small per centage. I got a stark reminder when I was at the Ford's Theater Center for Education and Leadership across the street from Ford's Theater in Washington, DC with the Discovering Democracy VI field study group about 3-weeks ago on Thursday, March 26 and saw the 3-story high tower of LINCOLN BOOKS. The number reported by the Center is 15,000. If you want to see pictures of this tower of Lincoln books, there are several taken on February 10, 2012 on FreshPics.

Based on my strong conviction that Abraham Lincoln is a key person in our American history, I focused the official opening and closing of my WASHINGTON SEMINAR field study each year starting with the first field study in 1973. I considered Abraham Lincoln the “patron saint” of WASHINGTON SEMINAR. “The Lincoln Award” became the annual award for the outstanding seminar student as selected by the students and staff of each seminar group.

I was very excited when my former student, Val Crofts, the AP US Government & Politics teacher at Milton High School, developed his own field study program for Washington, DC based on his 1989 experience on WASHINGTON SEMINAR. He has identified his outstanding field study program, “Discovering Democracy.” This year I was in DC with the 6th annual Discovering Democracy field study. Mr. Crofts created a “Lincoln Award” for “Discovering Democracy” to recognize the outstanding student as selected by the students and staff of Discovering Democracy. The first award was made by the 5th annual Discovering Democracy group last year. I was shocked when it was announced that the group had identified the award when it was presented last year, “The John W. Eyster Abraham Lincoln Award.”

Persons interested in the research of the Discovering Democracy VI students are welcome to the Discovering Democracy VI Research Fair from 7 – 9 pm on Thursday, May 21 at Milton High School. I've attended each of these research fairs and appreciated opportunity to talk with the students about the significant public policy issues which they have studied through the school year, including the field study research in D.C. I encourage persons interested in various significant public policy issues to come to the Discovering Democracy VI Research Fair to benefit from discussing the issues with students who have researched the issues. I use the theme, “Live and learn.”

As I conclude this blog reflecting on the 150th anniversary of the death of President Abraham Lincoln, I choose to use the same closing as I have used many times when opening and closing WASHINGTON SEMINAR field study weeks, used in closing programs I have shared with various groups on President Abraham Lincoln and/or WASHINGTON SEMINAR and in previous WE THE PEOPLE blog posts. I want to remind you of the 3 challenging resolutions called for by Lincoln as he completed his Gettysburg Address on Thursday, November 19, 1863:

“'It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve –

(1) that these dead shall not have died in vain—

(2) that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and

(3) that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.'”

Here we go… does not condone or review every comment. Read more in our Commenter Policy Agreement

  • Keep it clean. Comments that are obscene, vulgar or sexually oriented will be removed. Creative spelling of such terms or implied use of such language is banned, also.
  • Don't threaten to hurt or kill anyone.
  • Be nice. No racism, sexism or any other sort of -ism that degrades another person.
  • Harassing comments. If you are the subject of a harassing comment or personal attack by another user, do not respond in-kind. Use the "Report comment abuse" link below to report offensive comments.
  • Share what you know. Give us your eyewitness accounts, background, observations and history.
  • Do not libel anyone. Libel is writing something false about someone that damages that person's reputation.
  • Ask questions. What more do you want to know about the story?
  • Stay focused. Keep on the story's topic.
  • Help us get it right. If you spot a factual error or misspelling, email or call 1-800-362-6712.
  • Remember, this is our site. We set the rules, and we reserve the right to remove any comments that we deem inappropriate.

Report comment abuse