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[Opinion] Resurrecting Lincoln

Posted June. 29, 2005 06:01,   


Most Americans think Abraham Lincoln is the “greatest U.S. President” in history, but some write him down as “a homosexual and a syphilitic patient.” He didn’t write an autobiography. There are only 10 pages left by him. With little record about him, he became a “legend” after he was assassinated in April 15, 1865 right after the end of the Civil War. With the 200th anniversary of his birth coming in 2009, in the U.S. there is currently a rage to revisit his human aspect. What’s great about him is that he “learned from failures, agonized over the gap between the principle and the reality, and compromised between them,” according to Lincoln researchers.

One of the criticisms about Lincoln is that he was not for emancipation of slaves. His often-quoted remark is “I have no intention to treat white and black people equally in political and social terms.” Indeed, he was critical of the slavery itself, but he opposed the anti-slavery movement that is outside the framework of the Constitution. In 1863, he announced the emancipation of slaves because he wanted black slaves of the Southern army, “war materials,” to break away according to some analysts. However, the established theory is that he just waited for the maturity of public opinion.

When he was a member of the state government and the Whig Party, he wrote more than 200 letters anonymously criticizing his political enemies to local newspapers. When he wrote anonymously a letter blaming an auditor who belonged to Democratic Party in 1842, it was revealed that the letter was from Lincoln and he was challenged to a duel. After the life-threatening incident, he stopped speaking ill of his political enemies.

Unfortunately, he lost his mother at the age of nine and two sons in his middle age. However, he overcame those painful experiences with patience and generosity. During the Civil War, he once went to a chief commander’ barracks and waited for two hours to see him but in vain, because the chief commander went right to bed. Not only does President Roh Moo-hyun but also Fidel Castro, president of Cuba, respects Lincoln. To learn patience and generosity from Lincoln is probably the true respect for him.

Lee Dong-kwan, Editorial Writer, dklee@donga.com