By Chris Barber
A portrait of President Nixon in the Oval Office. A bust of President Lincoln sets the background.
To commemorate the 205th birthday of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, The New Nixon takes a look at the great figure and savior of the Union through the lens of one of his great admirers– Richard Nixon, our 37th President.
At a very early age, RN cultivated a budding admiration for Lincoln, suggested by a short piece he wrote as an eleven year-old boy. In his brief biography of the storied President and his sons, a young Richard Nixon notes on the assassination of Lincoln: “After the war the Lincolns went to the theater with the Grants. He was shot by Boothe and he soon died. The martyred patriot, President of our country.”
On Feb. 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born. When a young boy his father moved to Indiana. Lincoln did not have much education and what he did have he got from his mother. When he was nine years old his mother died. Lincoln was very sad. He afterwards said, “all that I have and all that I know I owe to my angel mother.”
His father again married, this time a wealthy widow. She gave him more education and he began to read. John Hanks, his stepmother said that when he got home from work, he would grab a piece of corn bread, get a book, sit down by the fire and begin to read.
When Lincoln was getting to be a young man a friend of his asked him to go down the river with him. Lincoln gladly consented and on the way he saw a slave auction. he said, “if I ever get a chance to hit that thing I’ll hit it hard.”
Soon after Lincoln went in partnership with another man, keeping a store. One day he walked six mile to pay a woman back three cents and earned the name of “Honest Abe.” One day he bought a barrel that contained some law books. He was interested in law and one day when he was defending a man, his opponent said that he saw the man commit the murder by the moon light. Lincoln said that the moon was not shining that night.
Lincoln was opposed to the Kansas, Nebraska bill and started to debate with Douglas, the founder. He rose so high in popularity in this debate that he was elected president of the United States.
Just about as soon as he was elected, the south left the Union and the Civil War started. Lincoln had four children but all die except one, Tad. Tad would write funny letters to his father. About the time that the Battle of Gettysburg was over, Lincoln made his great speech. He did not think that it was good but he learned that it was so fine that the people could not clap for it.
After the war the Lincolns went to the theater with the Grants. He was shot by Boothe and he soon died. The martyred patriot, president of our country.
On his thirteenth birthday, RN was given a gift by his much beloved grandmother, Almira Burdg Milhous. It was a framed picture of Lincoln, graced with her handwritten words from Longfellow’s “Psalm of Life:
Lives of great men oft remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sand of time.
To the day he passed from this world, RN held dearly to the gift of which he called one of his fondest possessions.
As a representative and later guardian of the party birthed at the ascension of Abraham Lincoln, RN often referenced the words and philosophies of the great President. As a precursor to the 1966 campaign season, RN urged his Republican peers to be Lincoln Republicans in hopes of spurring a renewed image of a battered party.
Upon taking office, RN found himself at the helm of a country divided and crises ridden–a state of America not seen since the Civil War. It would come as no surprise then, that when RN gripped the helm of a fledgling ship and tried to steer his country to peace and prosperity, he looked to the posthumous council of President Lincoln. In a letter to Congressman Robert McClory of Illinois written on February 12, 1972–Lincoln’s 163rd birthday–RN aptly personified the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, a spirit that runs deep in the lore of American perseverance.
His forthright and honest words sank deep into the understanding of every listener, and what he said of Henry Clay, a man he deeply admired, could well be applied to Lincoln himself:
He loved his country partly because it was his own country, but mostly because it was a free country; and he burned with a zeal for its advancement, prosperity and glory, because he saw in such, the advancement, prosperity and glory of human liberty, human right and human nature. He desired the prosperity of his countrymen partly because they were his countrymen, but chiefly to show to the world that freemen could be prosperous.