I pray no American isn’t aware of this, but 200 years ago today Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was born in Hardin County, Kentucky. He was a great man at a time when our nation needed a great man and it’s hard to imagine what our nation would look like if he hadn’t been there.
He is also a man of great paradoxes. If you haven’t read Team of Rivals I suggest that you do. Doris Kearns Goodwin is an superb writer and she gives an excellent portrait of Lincoln. The point of her book is that when newly elected President Lincoln was choosing his cabinet he chose the men who ran against him for the Republican nomination. They were more than simple rivals: they disliked him and never took him seriously as an opponent. The fact that Lincoln selected them and eventually won them over shows how secure a man he was.
On the other hand, he had deep periods of depression earlier in life. The love of his life, Ann Rutledge died at 22. Lincoln was sent into a depression so deep that his friends put him on what we would call a suicide watch. In 1841 he wrote this to his first law partner John Stuart: “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I can not tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better, it appears to me.”
After Ann’s death he married Mary Todd Lincoln and they had four sons; only one survived into adulthood and there are no living descendants of Lincoln. More is the pity as this was a gene pool that would have benefitted the world.