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Letters to the Editor

The Obvious Lincoln

November 17, 2019

In reviewing my copy of the Kunhardt book, Lincoln –Life Size, I was surprised to see the selection of a Lincoln photo taken during his first inauguration travel to Philadelphia on February 22, 1861, by Frederick Debourg Richards, (page 76) enlarged to an unrecognizable blob on page 77. As I looked further through the book I noticed another photo of the same scene in the addendum on page 166 which was not used for enlargement. However, that image of Lincoln was obviously recognizable to me and I do not understand why it was not selected. Could it have been because the length of Lincoln’s hair, purportedly the longest he had ever worn it, camouflaged his yet-to-be furrowed visage?

I cropped the scene from page 166 to allow better close-up comparison with another photo of Lincoln taken during the same time frame. The studio pose by Alexander Gardner from February 24, 1861, (page 78) shows Lincoln’s extensive mane which nearly covers his entire right ear. I have superimposed this cropped image on the Philly shot. On the Philly photo Lincoln appears on the viewer’s far left side of the stage directly above the banner’s first star. He might be sitting on a stool as his height is not evident, but it may be due to the vantage point above the stage level. He appears to be waiting, scripted speech in hand, with his gaze directed toward his son, Tad, who stands more in the middle of the stage peering out at the crowd. Lincoln’s long hair has been blown a bit out of place as it cascades down the right side of his forehead having been parted on the left side per Gardner’s later studio image. Even so, the visage of Lincoln’s heavy brow, prominent nose and high cheekbone is still well displayed under the flipped over bangs.

The scene captures a poignant moment as Lincoln casts down a thoughtful parental glance at his most likely enthralled son before offering this speech at Independence Hall.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
February 22, 1861

Mr. Cuyler:

I am filled with deep emotion at finding myself standing here, in this place, where were collected together the wisdom, the patriotism, the devotion to principle, from which sprang the institutions under which we live. You have kindly suggested to me that in my hands is the task of restoring peace to the present distracted condition of the country. I can say in return, Sir, that all the political sentiments I entertain have been drawn, so far as I have been able to draw them, from the sentiments which originated and were given to the world from this hall. I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence. I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who assembled here, and framed and adopted that Declaration of Independence. I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army who achieved that Independence. I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together. It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the motherland; but that sentiment in the Declaration of Independence which gave liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but, I hope, to the world, for all future time. It was that which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men. This is a sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence. Now, my friends, can this country be saved upon that basis? If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world, if I can help to save it. If it cannot be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful. But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, I was about to say I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it.

Now, in my view of the present aspect of affairs, there need be no bloodshed and war. There is no necessity for it. I am not in favor of such a course, and I may say, in advance, that there will be no bloodshed unless it be forced upon the Government, and then it will be compelled to act in self-defence.

My friends, this is wholly an unexpected speech, and I did not expect to be called upon to say a word when I came here. I supposed it was merely to do something toward raising the flag. I may, therefore, have said something indiscreet. (Cries of “No, no”) I have said nothing but what I am willing to live by and, if it be the pleasure of Almighty God, die by.