Recently my bride and I took a few days off from our busy work schedules to visit our two youngest offspring who are living in Madison, Wis. On the way to the great state of Wisconsin we made a stopover in Springfield, Ill., to visit the historical sites of the 16th President of the United States.
Trivia: the birthplace of the Republican party is Ripon, Wis.
In Springfield we learned a great deal about President Abraham Lincoln while visiting the Lincoln Museum and Library, and the only home that Lincoln ever owned. This was an interesting and educational trip for anyone that I highly recommend. Plus, Springfield is not that far away, a short drive — less than three hours away.
The electoral college has been in the news recently with many confused and ignorant representatives on the Democrat side of the aisle wanting to eliminate it because Donald Trump won the electoral college without winning a majority of the popular votes.
A fact that I was unaware of, before this trip —although Lincoln won both the electoral vote and the popular vote he was not elected by a majority of the voters. I know this seems impossible.
Let me explain. Unlike modern day presidential elections, the 1860 election was a four-way race. The race was between Lincoln (Republican), John Breckinridge (Southern Democrat), John Bell (Constitutional Union) and Stephen Douglas (Northern Democrat). Lincoln received only 39.8 percent of the popular vote, meaning over 60 percent of the voters did not vote for him.
Interestingly, Douglas received the second most votes, 29.5 percent, but only 12 votes from the electoral college, carrying only two states. The two states he won — New Jersey and Missouri.
Breckinridge received 18.1 percent of the popular vote and 72 electoral votes — mostly from the southern states. The third place finisher in the electoral college with 39 votes was Bell with 12.6 percent of the popular vote.
You may not know this but Lincoln was very unpopular when he was president. While in office, many of the American people not only thought he was doing a horrible job but also considered him to be a complete fool. He did not become respected, unfortunately, until after his assassination.
Strike one: like our current president, he was not elected by a majority of the voters.
Strike two: also, like President Donald Trump, Lincoln was an outsider.
Strike three: he was from a relatively small town in the midwest. Plus, he looked funny.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library in Springfield is divided into two main sections. The first area covers Lincoln’s boyhood and young adult life. The second area concerns his time in the White House.
The first room when you enter White House era is called the “Whispering Room.” In this room you hear voices insulting Lincoln as you observe editorial cartoons mocking him on the surrounding walls.
Of course in the 1860s there was no CNN or MSNBC to attack our president and blame him for everything. It was left up totally to the print media. And, looking at these walls one realizes that the major publications of that day were not supportive of honest Abe.
Among other things, Lincoln was called a beast and “the Illinois Ape.” He was accused of being gay in one cartoon. Abe was portrayed as an ogre king stomping on freedom of the press.
His wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, like Melania Trump, didn’t escape scrutiny either. Even though she was raised in a wealthy family and spoke fluent French Mary Todd was also attacked in the press.
The press, and many people, even hated his speeches. One Chicago Times writer said: “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly flat dishwatery utterances of a man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States.” He was referencing the Gettysburg Address — now revered as one of the greatest speeches of all time.
In the end all presidents are better judged after the passage of time.
Before we left the city famous for Lincoln’s home we stopped by the local airport and visited a hanger full of interesting and historical aircraft. The private collection included one of two airworthy P-51 Mustangs left in the United States that saw combat in World War II and a Vought F4U-5N Corsair that flew combat operations during the Korean conflict.
This was worth the trip by itself.