"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
"The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
— Abe Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States between 1861 and 1865. That guy who won the American Civil War
, proclaimed the slaves free, delivered the Gettysburg Address, and was born in a log cabin
which he built with his own two hands
. (Old joke.) He did it all in a single term, and was a shoe-in for a second when he was shot dead in a theatre.
He's also known for wearing a top hat
and being impressively tall (the tallest president ever, at 6'4"). When he for a brief time took direct control of the Union army, showed himself to be a talented military strategist as well.
A genial and charming speaker, Lincoln had an uncanny ability to explain complex issues in layman's terms, and his speeches are among the most famous in American history. Considered an untested and possibly radical figure, he is famous for Growing the Beard
in office. In many ways he's the only post-Founding Fathers/ pre-Teddy Roosevelt
President who's thought of at all
. He is almost universally considered to be one of the greatest (if not the
greatest) Presidents in American history.
Emphasis on "almost." There is a minority
of Lost Cause followers, neo-Confederates, libertarians and anti-federalists who hold different views on the man, claiming that he was, at best, a benevolent dictator
who trampled on civil liberties and states' rights, set the stage for the centralization of executive power in America, and launched the American Civil War not out of his moral opposition to slavery, but to install himself in the pantheon of Great Presidents. (Hey, you don't see Grover Cleveland's face on a big rock.)
There are also a number of folks who think Abe Lincoln was a fundamentally good guy, and had the nation's best interests at heart, but that America would be better off today if he had let the South go, arguing that the North and the South are two fundamentally different places. In addition, he had won the election without a single Southern electoral vote — in some states, he wasn't even on the ballot. (The South was pretty miffed
over his opposition to slavery.) He was pretty widely reviled and despised among certain segments of the Northern population as well- particularly Irish-Americans, who alleged (with some justification
) that they were being used as cannon fodder
for "Lincoln's War".
It is also relevant, if somewhat uncomfortable to admit, that Lincoln was by today's standards a racist
. He considered blacks to be inferior to whites. Though he was abolitionist, he was willing at least in principle to allow slavery to continue, if only because it was constitutionally protected in established states, believing that it would end on its own if it could be kept from spreading. Early in his Presidency he said that he would back any solution to the slavery question that preserved the Union, whether it was freeing all the slaves, freeing none of them, or freeing some and leaving others enslaved. but he had already chosen option 1 by then apart from exempting the Border States initially. His anti-slavery views became stronger over time, however, eventually crystallizing in two famous quotes: "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free," and "Whenever I hear anyone arguing over slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."
His memorial in DC is a very popular spot for "inspirational" moments in media, and is much hardier than most other memorials
. He is also the only non-British Empire citizen to have a statue in Parliament Square in London.
Was famously born in a log cabin, but not the one you can get tours of (despite what the guides will tell you); that one was built 8 years after he was born. As Stephen Fry
once put it, it is dangerously close to the legendary schoolboy gaffe quoted above.
It is also said that his ghost
haunts The White House
. His presence is sometimes made clear by appearing, if briefly, before some Presidents and other guests during times of great crisis.
Incidentally, in contrast to most modern-day Badass Baritone
depictions, Lincoln's voice was actually somewhat high-pitched and nasal
. For something approaching what's considered to be more accurate, consider this feature
, filmed for Time Magazine. Daniel Day-Lewis
became the first actor to break away from the deep-voiced tradition with his portrayal of the 16th President in 2012's Lincoln
; this alone was considered a huge
expose, nevermind that pesky 'obstruction of justice' stuff.
The last living person to witness Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theater was Samuel J. Seymour, who sat in the balcony box across from the Lincolns at age five, and appeared on the game show ''I've Got A Secret''
to relate his story 91 years later in 1956. He died several months later.
One of the things which allegedly mellowed Lincoln out on the issue of race was his unlikely friendship
with escaped slave and civil rights leader Frederick Douglass, along with the extreme polarization of the public on the issue, as hundreds of thousands died During the War
. After unexpectedly winning re-election in a stunning turnaround, in his Second Inaugural Address (only slightly longer than the one at Gettysburg) Lincoln famously delivered one of the greatest speeches of all time.
Lincoln's Speech (excerpt)
All knew that (slavery) was somehow the cause of the war... It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged
. The prayers of both could not be answered. ..."Woe to that man by whom the offense cometh."
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come... and that He gives to (us) this terrible war as the woe due... Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether!"
Note that he went on to say:
The war was won weeks later. Coincidence? Probably.
Fact: Abraham Lincoln
can and, if needed, will, beat you in a fight.
Even if you're Batman
. Or Bigfoot
. In some ways, Abraham Lincoln is almost as much a Memetic Badass
as Chuck Norris
. In fact, this is where you can go to watch them have a rap battle.
Some would count him as the only president to be more Bad Ass
than Theodore Roosevelt
(and maybe Andrew Jackson
, if you ignore the politics
). On the other hand, Cracked doesn't even count him among the top five,
though the same author later acknowledged the oversight and made an article devoted strictly to Lincoln called Abraham Lincoln: Portrait Of A Crazy Badass.
It really depends on how much weight you give the Badass Beard
Also Fact: In 1842 Abraham Lincoln
was once challenged to a duel by political rival, state auditor James Shields. In dueling, the challenged party selects the place of the duel, and the weapons to be used. Since Lincoln felt the situation was ridiculous he stated that he wanted to use "Cavalry Broadswords of the largest size
". He also added that he wanted the duel to be carried out in a pit 10 feet wide by 12 feet deep with a large wooden plank dividing the square in which no man was allowed to set foot over. Shields was going to go through with it, but then saw Lincoln clearing branches with a broadsword and realized how insane the situation had became and backed down.
Also Also Fact
- NB: The fencing treatise "By the Sword" notes that Lincoln's apparently ridiculous rules for the duel belie a cunning tactician's mind: By choosing long, heavy weapons and dividing the dueling ground to prevent his opponent from closing distance, the much taller Lincoln ensured that he—with his nearly 6 inch longer reach—could attack with impunity and/or (more likely) effectively stalemate the duel without drawing blood.
- NBB: Lincoln felt the situation was so ridiculous that, when Shields first challenged Lincoln to choose the duelling weapons, Lincoln initially chose "cow pies." Lincoln only switched to broadswords when Shields rejected this idea.
- This has been called one of the most bizarre episodes in Lincoln's life, involving his using a female persona (with input from Mary and a friend) to write a witty letter for a widely read Illinois paper, mocking Shields' personal appearance and reputation with the ladies along with his policies. A followup letter — actually by the women — caused Shields to challenge.
- Some historians think that Lincoln and Shields set this up to get publicity.
: Abraham Lincoln, 140 years before its first usage by The Undertaker
, frickin' invented the chokeslam
. During his youth as a "wrassler", one of Lincoln's opponents made the mistake of stomping on Lincoln's instep with the heel of his boot. As recounted by noted Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg, "This exasperated Lincoln so that he lost his temper, lifted Armstrong up by the throat and off the ground, shook him like a rag, and then slammed him to a hard fall, flat on his back."note
Lincoln was also the other kind of inventor, also held a patent for a device intended to help boats navigate shallows. He was also a licensed bartender and co-owned a pub for a while before entering politics. Thus when Lincoln quipped that he wished he could serve all his generals what his skilled General Ulysses S. Grant
was drinking, he was in a position where he could have done that legally and literally
Lincoln is also one of the few presidents to have an aircraft carrier
named after him. As well as the capital of Nebraska, a make of luxury car, and toy logs.
Tropes relating to President Lincoln:
- The American Civil War
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Very, very early in his career, which started with a run for the Illinois state legislature. People respected him as much for his ability to break up crowd fights as for his short, clear speeches.
- Badass Beard
- Badass Bookworm
- Bi the Way: Some biographers allege that Lincoln was occasionally caught in bed with army officers during the course of the war, while his wife was in a near catatonic state after the death of their son. These are very disputed.
- The Chessmaster: He worked behind the scenes of every major government decision during his presidency. Nothing got by him.
- Dark Horse Victory: More or less. He wasn't really well-known until his debates with Douglas in 1858.
- Deadpan Snarker: Lincoln's brand of witty, self-deprecating humor is probably one of the most celebrated of any President's. At one point, a political opponent accused him of being two-faced, to which Lincoln replied "If I was two-faced, do you think that I would be wearing this one?"
- A story that Lincoln told about his youth had a man approach him with a gun and tell him that he had been searching for the ugliest man in the state in order to kill him. The future President looked at the man and said "sir, if I am uglier then you, then pull that trigger!"
- Lincoln took a few well-documented jabs at the series of ineffective military commanders that led the union army prior to U.S. Grant's arrival. Once telling the overly-cautious General George McClellan: "If you are not using the army, I should like to borrow it for a short while."
- Later, when Grant turned out to be the best general Lincoln had in his military and certain people criticized him as a drunk, Lincoln replied, "Find out what he's drinking and send a case to my other generals."
- The Determinator
- Folk Hero: A Real Life one.
- Genius Bruiser: Famously he was a self-taught frontier lawyer, who in his youth did all the hard manual labor that living on the frontier required. He also used to wrestle in his younger days, and may very well have invented the choke-slam!
- Ideal Hero
- Large and in Charge
- Magnum Opus: The Gettysburg Address is the most quoted and acclaimed speech in American history.
- Nice Hat: He's well-known for his stovepipe hat
- One Head Taller: Lincoln was 6'4'', his wife was around five feet tall.
- Spooky Seance: Mary Lincoln attended some, to talk to her dead children. Abe came along a few times, mostly out of curiosity. He personally consulted teenage medium Nettie Colburn Mayne once, about the timing for release of the (already written) Emancipation Proclamation.
- What Could Have Been: How would Reconstruction have turned out if he had not died? Historians have debated this question for over a century.
Honest Abe in fiction:
- A series of Geico ads use the trope Is The Answer To This Question Yes?. One of the questions is "Was Abe Lincoln honest?" Lincoln's wife is shown asking him "Does this dress make my backside look big?". Lincoln, after struggling with himself for a while answers "Perhaps."
- The producers went to commendable effort to make that clip look like a period film, if they'd had film in the 1860s. (He'd have had to live another thirty-some years to be in the first silent films.)
- A new Diet Mountain Dew ad has Lincoln as a professional wrestler.
- And of course he shows up every Presidents' Day for the big sales.
- Lincoln is one of Bill and Ted's collection of historical figures in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
- The whacked-out Chinese movie Fantasy Mission Force opens with several World War II generals being captured. One of them is Lincoln. And he clearly identifies himself as such - even in the original Chinese.
- In 1935's The Littlest Rebel, Virgie (Shirley Temple) visits Lincoln (Frank Mc_Glynn Sr.) asking him to pardon her dad and his C.O., who are falsely accused of spying and sentenced to death.
- In the 1939 film, Young Mr Lincoln, he's portrayed by Henry Fonda.
- Tyler Durden of Fight Club wants to fight him, because he's a big guy, with big reach. And besides, skinny guys fight 'til they're burger. He becomes an unlockable character in the Video Game version.
- In Gangs of New York, an actor portrays him in a production of Uncle Tom's Cabin and he is greeted with jeers, food throwing, and shouts of "Down with the Union!" This is a pretty good reflection of how working-class New Yorkers actually felt about President Lincoln; New York City mayor Fernando Wood even proposed that the city secede from the Union and become an independent country.
- Raymond Massey had a popular, Oscar-nominated turn as Lincoln in the 1940 film Abe Lincoln in Illinois. If you ever see Massey in anything and think "that guy sounds like Abraham Lincoln", that's because the popular conception of Lincoln's molasses-like voice stems from Massey's performance.
- A major character, and a surprisingly sympathetic one, in the outrageously racist 1915 film Birth Of A Nation.
- In Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian the statue from the Lincoln Memorial comes to life.
- In the Wild Wild West movie, Dr. Loveless makes a grand appearance at his party by hiding inside a statue of Lincoln, whose head explodes.
- In C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, he loses the Civil War. He attempts to flee to Canada with Harriet Tubman disguised as a black man, but is captured by Confederate forces. After a two year imprisonment, Jefferson Davis, hoping to ease tension in the newly conqured North, pardons him and exiles him to Canada, where he dies a lonely man in the early 1900s. All history remembers him for is being the man that lost "the War of Northern Agression".
- In Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Jefferson Smith goes to the Lincoln Memorial several times. Visits to the Lincoln Memorial are practically a Trope in their own right.
- At the climax of Black Dynamite, when Richard Nixon grabs John Wilkes Booth's pistol to shoot BD, the ghost of Lincoln appears and kung-fus the gun out of Nixon's hand.
- In The Master of Disguise, Pistachio's grandfather tells about how the Disguisey family made impact on history. Abraham Lincoln was such a boring speaker, so a disguised Lincoln helped him become elected president by partying and dancing while I Like to Move It by Reel to Real is played.
- Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, based on the book of the same name, portrays him as a secret vampire hunter.
- Abraham Lincoln Vs Zombies is a Mockbuster made by The Asylum about a secret mission where Abe hunts the undead.
- He's played by Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg's long-gestating biopic Lincoln, opposite Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Lincoln's son, Robert, and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. Day-Lewis won an Academy Award for his performance.
- In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Lincoln appears with a variety of other dead characters when the narrator snidely suggests that the film just resurrect everyone.
- At the end of Happy Gilmore, he's seen alongside the alligator that ate Chubbs' hand and Chubbs himself waving at Happy from Heaven.
- In a few of the Flashman books, Lincoln appears as a rare example of a Magnificent Bastard with completely good motives who also has some similarity with the "Atticus Finch" "simple country lawyer" type. He is notable as one of the few characters who sees right through Flashman.
- Gore Vidal's bestselling historical novel Lincoln takes place over the span of the Civil War. The book doesn't presume to know what Lincoln is thinking, instead switching between the perspectives of his advisers (plus John Wilkes Booth's accomplice). The author caught the ire of historians for including third-party anecdotes regarding Abe's bout with syphilis, among other things. Vidal's rebuttal was that U.S. Historians tend to gloss over the imperfections of their idols, leaving us with only a faint impression of the men they really were.
- One of the plots in the NUMA Series book Sahara concerns Lincoln.
- In the Alternate History novel How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove, Lincoln is a main character (having been a one-term president after losing the Civil War). Inspired by the writings of Marx, Lincoln becomes a travelling speaker lecturing about the rights of man and the benefits of socialism. Lincoln also leads a faction of the splintering Republican Party into defecting to the Socialist Party, causing the Socialists to eventually eclipse the Republicans as one of the nation's two major political parties.
- Lincoln plays a smaller part in Turtledove's The Guns Of The South, where he surrenders after the Confederates, equipped with AK-47s by time travelers, win the war. The next (and last) time we see him is April 15, 1865, where he delivers a speech trying to convince Kentucky to stay with the United States; this date is, as pointed out later in the book, the day he was assassinated in the regular timeline.
- In the novel Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter he...well, you can probably work out the rest.
- Lincoln's Dreams, a novel by Connie Willis, has Lincoln's dreams of his own assassination as a major plot point.
- Oscar Lewis' novella The Lost Years portrays a never-named president known affectionately by his staff as "The Shogun", who is badly wounded at Ford's Theater but recovers. He completes his second term, returns to Illinois and later visits California. An encounter with a little girl who is being ostracized because her father fought for the South turns into a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming. (Lincoln was actually known by his staff as "Taikun", the polite term of address for a real shogun.)
- Since the musical Assassins deals with presidential assassinations, Lincoln naturally makes an appearance.
- A giant statue of Abraham Lincoln, actually from the Memorial to said man, is the Antagonist in one of the Sam And Max Freelance Police episodes. He appears later as merely a giant head and falls in love with one of Sam and Max's neighbours, Sybil Pandemik. They later marry and have a child. A running gag in the series is that he claims not to be one good for speeches; he had absolutely nothing prepared when he made the Gettysburg Address, and was just winging it at the time. At one point in the second season the real Lincoln appears as a zombie.
- Lincoln is the leader of America in Civilization 1, 2 and 3. He is added as a leader in an Expansion Pack for Civilization 4.
- In the Beyond The Sword expansion pack to 4, the intro cinematic shows him briefly giving the Gettysburg Address. This then Match Cuts to the Lincoln Memorial, where Cold War-era spies are going about their business.
- One of the subplots of Fallout 3 is the struggle between slavers and freedmen to control Lincoln's legacy. Several of his artifacts, including his hat and rifle, can be found and equipped in the game.
- In Team Fortress 2, he was the original Pyro.
- According to the backstory of Assassin's Creed, Booth was killed off by the Assassin Order, implying that Lincoln may have affiliations with the Assassins himself.
- Dealt In Lead takes place in a very strange world, where the Lich-Emperor Abraham Lincoln has risen from the dead to continue the war against the south.
- The ending of Conduit 2 has Abe Lincoln and George Washington in Powered Armor showing up as reinforcements for the protagonist.
- In Bioshock Infinite, Abraham Lincoln is demonized by the citizens of Columbia for the Emancipation Proclamation while Booth is revered as a hero for assassinating him by the Order of the Raven, a Klan-like society. In turn the opposing faction, the Vox Populi, revere Lincoln, albeit for the wrong reasons, such as seeing him as a role model for glorifying violence and conflict.
- In Decades Of Darkness, Lincoln's family moved from Kentucky to New England soon after his birth, and he eventually becomes President of the Republic of New England, though the fact he is limited to a single four-year term means he doesn't achieve all he wanted in office. In an Allohistorical Allusion, while he is in power, the rump United States is governed by President Jefferson Davis, and the two men are rivals. However, when Davis is assassinated, Lincoln attends his funeral.
- He goes up against Chuck Norris in the Epic Rap Battles Of History.
- He makes a return during the Mitt Romney vs Barack Obama battle, and schools them both. "OF THE PEOPLE! BY THE PEOPLE! FOR THE PEOPLE! EAGLE!"