Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy 200th B-day Abe & Charles

Last night we watched the fascinating PBS documentary Looking for Lincoln which helped me see our 16th President in a completely different light! It was two-hours well spent.

Today I logged onto the LOOKING FOR LINCOLN web site and learned that you can view the documentary online! Thanks to public media provider WNET.ORG. It is playing a major role in the nationwide Lincoln Bicentennial celebration in 2009, which besides the documentary is providing outreach project that explores the life and legacy of the man widely considered one of our best and most enigmatic presidents.

The documentary, presented and written by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (African American Lives, Oprah’s Roots), addresses many of the controversies surrounding Lincoln – race, equality, religion, politics, and depression – by carefully interpreting evidence from those who knew him and those who study him today.

Professor Gate's quest to piece together Lincoln’s complex life takes him from Illinois to Gettysburg to Washington, D.C., and face-to-face with people who live with Lincoln every day – relic hunters, re-enactors, and others for whom the study of Lincoln is a passion.

Lincoln was not the man we learned about in school, the man we deify. He was much more complex, much more human. Somehow, his frailties and flaws make him more approachable. It makes his accomplishments even more astonishing.

The biggest surprise to me:

The man known as “The Great Emancipator” was not always intent on the abolishment of slavery.

Lincoln was raised to hold anti-slavery views and was against the expansion of slavery, but didn’t think that the Constitution gave the federal government the right to interfere with slavery in the states. After all, slaves were property--property protected by the Constitution.

His views on slavery were developed mostly for political and economic reasons. Additionally, in the mid-19th century it would have been an unwise political strategy to hold strong abolitionist views – if he had, Lincoln may never have been elected president!

The intentions of the Emancipation Proclamation are also steeped in ambiguity – did it actually free any slaves? The language of the document indicated that slaves would be freed in those states currently rebelling against the Union, but those states did not recognize Lincoln’s authority and thus did not adhere to the Proclamation.

It’s suggested that the Emancipation Proclamation was intended as a political maneuver to preserve the Union, and had little to do with the slaves. Regardless of Lincoln’s earlier views and intentions, he did ultimately sign into effect the 13th Amendment, permanently ending slavery in the United States.

Another great man was born on the same day in the same year as Abraham Lincoln.

Charles Darwin was an English naturalist who published on a variety of biological subjects. When he began his education in Cambridge, he was studying to become a clergyman for the Anglican Church. In his pursuit of knowledge about where species come from and how they are related, Darwin traveled the globe making detailed observations of plant and animal life.

Charles Darwin has contributed more to our understanding of the world around us than any other person in the last 2,000 years of Human History.

He is entombed at Westminster Abbey in London along with royalty, poets, scientists, philosophers, naturalists, admirals, and dignitaries of all sorts.

Here is a list of Darwin's pall-bearers:

George Campbell - The 9th Duke of Argyll

William Cavendish - The 7th Duke of Devonshire

Edward Henry Stanley - The 15th Earl of Derby

James Russell Lowell - The American Ambassador to Britain

William Spottiswoode - Mathematician, physicist, the Queen's Printer, and friend of Darwin

Joseph Dalton Hooker - Darwin's close friend and champion of his Theory of Evolution

Thomas Henry Huxley - Darwin's close friend and champion of his Theory of Evolution

Alfred Russel Wallace - Darwin's friend and the co-founder of Natural Selection

Sir John Lubbock - The 1st Baron of Avebury, Darwin's next door neighbor and close friend


You both changed the world.


Anna said...

Excellent post, and thanks for sharing about Lincoln, I new some stuff but it will be good to learn more. Darwin is my favorite scientist too. Excellent educational post, and btw very nice blog theme, I like it a lot. Anna :)

Keri(th) said...

I'm definitely going to watch the documentary about Lincoln! Thanks for the info. on where I can see it. Every time I visit your blog, I feel slightly more educated. Makes a gal feel good!

TravelinOma said...

I'm all caught up with your blog now, and I loved this post on Lincoln. Flaws in people make them more likable and believable to me. And it gives hope to know what great things imperfect people can accomplish.