Monday, 16 March 2009

See A Grown Man Cry

(The above image is of Lewis Thornton Powell, also known as Lewis Payne, one of the conspirators in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. He attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate United States Secretary of State William H. Seward on the same evening that Booth shot Lincoln. Payne was one of four people hanged for the Lincoln assassination conspiracy)

Last Tuesday I was killing time, after seeing a show at my alma mater, my train to Taunton wasn't for ages, so I decided to have a burger and some onion rings at the Fine Burger Company on Finchley Road.

As I tucked in, I was eager to finish reading the utterly exceptional and compelling book, that I mentioned here, entitled "Team of Rivals". It documents the rise and genius of perhaps the greatest US President, Abraham Lincoln but obviously, as the book draws to its inevitable and horrible close, the death of this great man fast approaches.

The book moves with pace as it recounts the events of that fateful night and as the death of Lincoln came and went and the eulogies from those that knew him were documented, I felt the sudden rush of tears to my eyes.

I found myself sobbing, utterly distraught that such a giant amongst humans, indeed perhaps one of the greatest to have ever walked the Earth, had been stolen by such cruel and desperate violence. Even one such as he was not above being taken by humanity's basest instincts and petty madness. The grief felt all encompassing but I had to gather myself, settle the bill and make my way to Paddington.

I'll leave you with my favourite part of the book, which is the moment of Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation:
As the parchment was unrolled before him, he "took a pen, dipped it in ink, moved his had to the place for the signature" but then, his hand trembling, he stopped and put the pen down. "I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right, than I do in signing this paper" he said. "If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it." His arm was "stiff and numb" from shaking hands for three hours, however. "If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation," Lincoln said, "all who examine the document hereafter will say, 'He hesitated.' " So the president waited a moment and then took up the pen once more, "slowly and carefully" writing his name.
Now he belongs to the ages...

18 comments:

  1. I know Abraham Lincoln has now eclipsed George Washington as America's favorite president and more books on Lincoln than any similar subject are rushing into print... but the lionization must stop.

    The greatest human animal to walk the earth. Oh, good lord.

    Funny joke: Upon being informed that they had just freed the slaves, Union troops said, "We did WHAT, now?"

    That slays me. Anyway, Lincoln was OK in my book. I run by his Memorial every weekend.

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  2. I don't know, I think that modern cynicism is best left in the here and now and with characters like Lincoln.

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  3. It is as far as I'm concerned undisputed Lincoln was the best US president.

    I asked a therapist, why cry when reading a novel, and not during a news report of a massacre or catastrophe? Because the book or movie has a face.

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  4. I like George Washington and I like Abraham Lincoln...but which one's the best? There's only one way to find out...

    FIGHT!

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  5. Ren:

    I do cry at the news and events such as that also but I suppose, I felt like I'd been following Lincoln for so long and then he was stolen away.

    Darren:

    I think Washington would hege it, he was a soldier after all but both were tough old bats.

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  6. I look forward to reading this. Living in Mississippi, I'm not likely to be cynical about Lincoln.

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  7. Yes please do read it Brent, it's a tome but well worth it and hearing you on the cynicism front.

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  8. I love history ..
    And i love Lincoln, he really did agonize over doing the right things.

    Im tired of cynicism , everyone does it and Im even prone to it .
    I'm trying to be softer and more accepting ..

    I want to be all gee whiz and wow :)

    morons always seem happy yanno?

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  9. Hi Cynnie, history is indeed lovely and Lincoln's thought process and time dedicated to thinking through the situation in full really comes across in the book.

    I think a healthy dose of cynicism is all good, it's when it becomes all there is that we have an issue.

    And yes, morons are always happy, that and the ignorant.

    Nice to have you here.

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  10. Washington was more reluctant, than Lincoln to step in his place in history.

    No comparison between Lincoln and Washington.

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  11. Ahhh, but then George W Bush has superior shoe-ducking abilities. When the history books are written, Dubya's superiority will shine through and eclipse those two losers. You know I is right.

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  12. I love men who cry in public places.

    I recently finished a book that had me weeping on the tube.

    Hohum.

    Oh, yes, Lincoln had class.

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  13. I'm sure had someone seen you crying you could have glossed yoru way out of it... "these onion rings are really strong"...something like that!

    I was saying to a friend recently that I'd like to know more about the US presidents. I'm not sure what has piqued my curiosity but this book sounds like a very good starting point.

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  14. Ren:

    I agree boss.

    Darren:

    I miss your humour you prog rock lord.

    Ellie:

    You have it down.

    Beth:

    Thanks for visiting, please read it, it's a grand book.

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  15. Daniel! long time! I read "Lincoln the Unknown" in 1998, which was written by Dale Carnegie. Tears also welled to my eyes after his assassination. Much later, I read and heard of what one might call post-modern explanations of his attitude to slavery, and how it wasn't really that he abhorred the practice, but he felt it was a way of ending the war. In short, it was a practical move. The moral ambiguity surrounding this only serves to remind us how human he was alright. Despite that, I still believe the narrative of the 16th president of the US is noteworthy. I love his speech "with malice towards none."

    I need to read more biographies! Thanks for sharing and letting us know. Was there much about Stonewall Jackson in the book?

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  16. Emmanuel:

    Long time indeed brother. How are you? Glad to hear that I'm not the only weeper on such things. As for a modern interpretaion of Lincoln's actions, I think that's flawed thinking. None of us can go back and judge a man or woman by actions from a time where attitudes on a whole raft of issues were so very different.

    Jackson doesn't get much of a mention I'm afraid, good general though, died in a bizarre way, enemy fire wasn't it?

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  17. I forget how he died, but with a name like that, I'm surprised he even died at all!;-)

    Good to "see" you again:-))

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  18. i believe Barack Obama will be the best also..peace

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