Wax family

          The Lincoln Center in Springfield, Illinois, is a flashy, Disney-style museum. In the grand foyer, a visitor has the pleasure of seeing the Lincolns, hopeful and excited as they arrived at the White House in March of 1861.  We see the oldest, Robert, 18 years old who needed special tutoring to pass the entrance exams for Harvard. Next oldest is eleven-year-old sweet Willie who has just one more year to live.  He died in February of 1862 of a wasting fever—perhaps typhoid or malaria.  The youngest son, eight-year-old Tad outlived his father, but died of heart failure at age 18.
          Mary outlived three of her four sons. Eddie had died at age 4, probably of tuberculosis more than a decade earlier.  Abraham Lincoln is just 52; Mary Todd Lincoln is a mere 43 as they enter the fateful years when our country’s very existence hung in the balance.


The Wit and Wisdom of President Abraham Lincoln

History deems our 16th President one of the greatest the United States has ever known. I place him second only to George Washington himself. Washington carved out our nation. Abraham Lincoln kept it whole.

In his own time he was reviled and cursed, not only by his enemies, but often by his closest colleagues. At the same time, he won the highest office in the land--twice--so a great many people must have deemed him more worthy than any of his rivals. How did he manage to win hearts and minds at the same time he was fighting two monumental wars?

Today, we study one of these wars in excruciating detail--our great Civil War which saw untold brutality, suffering, and the deaths of 620,000 soldiers. Much less is offered about Lincoln's clandestine war on the down-and-dirty battlefield of politics. I humbly suggest that the political war was by far the more important. Losing Lincoln's powerful leadership would have meant an about-face in the shooting war. I shudder to think how much more bloody and divisive a second Civil War would have been--with a lesser man at the helm. And make no mistake. A different outcome in the Civil War would have led inexorably to another Civil War.

In Program number 7, I am proud to showcase a small fraction of President Lincoln's Wit and Wisdom.


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Victorian Verity

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Marguerite McNair

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Jessie Benton Fremont
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Mrs. McBustle

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Speaking Dates

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Land and Locomotives


I couldn't resist one final quip.

During the war, petitioners beseiged Lincoln. Each wanted something--a job for a friend or a pardon for a relative.

Once a fellow who'd already asked for many favors begged to take the place of the newly deceased Chief of Customs. Lincoln replied, "It's fine with me if the undertaker doesn't mind."

Capitol Building
of the
United States of America


Replica of Thomas Lincoln's Illinois home

For a cabin that was destroyed by fire long before Honest Abe became President, Lincoln’s birthplace has sure seen lots of reincarnations.  Lincoln’s son Robert always maintained that the original burned in 1840.  Even so, “Lincoln’s authentic birthplace” was featured in 1876 centennial celebrations—and was reconstructed at various expositions long after that.  In 1909, a cobbled together cabin at Hodgonville Kentucky was hallowed as genuine when Theodore Roosevelt slapped on the first mortar of a new shelter to house this icon of Americana.  This replica of Thomas Lincoln’s cabin lays no claim to authenticity. When his father moved the family to Lerna, Illinois in 1837, Abe was already working as a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois. Abe visited a cabin like this one, but never ever lived in it. I like this little cabin. It’s as unpretentious as Abraham Lincoln himself.

red horse

Come Frolic on the Fringe of FEAR!

Follow the Red Horseman link to learn about a delightfully deft and daffy discourse on The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And what a deal! During these days when everyone is looking for a bargain, Mrs. McBustle throws in a fifth horseman for free!

October 13, 1858 in the next to last debate at Quincy, a pine board platform was built in Washington Square for the occasion. It held up, but two benches were not so well constructed. One collapsed with dignitaries and the other with ladies.

Lincoln debated his long time rival, Stephen A. Douglas—a noted orator—and the 5’4” man who eventually beat the 6’4” Lincoln to represent Illinois for a second term in the United States Senate.

In every one of their seven debates, the pair hotly contested The Dred Scott Decision. The Supreme Court ruled slavery was acceptable everywhere in the country. Douglas had wanted Popular Sovreignty—allowing states and territories to be able to choose slavery or reject it. Douglas even sponsored the Kansas Nebraska Bill of 1854—which was struck down by the Dred Scott Decision of 1857. The Little Giant wasn’t willing to admit defeat. Lincoln made fun of his refusal to listen to reason:

 “I ask you is this not running this popular sovereignty doctrine to death till it has got as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that was starved to death? But when you come to look at it, there is not even that thin soup...The Dred Scott decision covers the whole ground and while it stands, there is no room for even the shadow of a starved pigeon to occupy the same ground.”







in Alton,

scene of
their last

October 15, 1858

Lincoln Banner


In his first Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861, new President Abraham Lincoln tried to calm the fears of those who swore seccession if he were elected. We might do well to follow his plea today and all seek to find the better angels of our nature.

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."