February 12, 2009
As you must know, today is the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.
Lincoln is rightly regarded as possibly our greatest president for preserving the union and freeing the slaves. But many of the myths surrounding Lincoln are just that: myths. He freed some of the slaves, but not all. He regarded blacks as inferior to whites and late into his presidency still considered deporting them to other countries. He used the “n” word in speeches until late in life. Yet he believed that slavery was morally wrong.
Frederick Douglas rightly praised him and said he was the first black man’s president, while noting that Lincoln was far from perfect on race.
Lincoln quoted a lot of scripture, but his personal faith is difficult to pin down. He often attended New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, but never joined. He said he would join any church that lived up to the Sermon on the Mount. There are stories about his baptism, which reliable historians have never confirmed. But that’s up to God. Lincoln, as was said on his deathbed, belongs to the ages and to all Americans.
Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist based in Washington, D.C.