Writer’s Block: A journey to learn about 16th president

Two weeks ago, I traveled with my father to Springfield, Ill., to see where Abraham Lincoln and his family lived before they moved to the White House after the 1860 presidential election.

Eric Hagen
Eric Hagen

One of my favorite past times is travel. I have been lucky to travel to some great locations the past few years, but it has probably been 20 years since I took a vacation with my father.

We always had a great time on our family trips across the country, so I thought this would be a great way to celebrate his 65th birthday.

It felt weird only having a cell phone for a camera because my dad always had a video camera rolling while my mom snapped pictures. My father taped everything, even the exterior and lobby of the hotels where we were staying.

I don’t remember him doing this, but we have the vacation videos to prove it. We had a good laugh while watching one video when he said the price of the hotel for the night and proclaimed it to be “a good deal.”

We were some of the most obvious tourists around.

History teaches us lessons if we pay attention and a quote at the Lincoln presidential museum that stuck with me was, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

While I doubt there will be a Civil War as there was from 1861-1865, partisan politics are tearing this country apart today and somehow there needs to be more compromises on big issues.

Lincoln spoke these words derived from a Bible verse when he was accepting nomination from the newly formed Republican party for the U.S. Senate seat.

He later lost this seat to Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, who had designed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 to allow each U.S. state and territory to decide for themselves whether they would allow slavery.

This repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 where the U.S. government said where slavery would and would not be allowed and led the country down the path of war.

Political satire is nothing new. It actually became more reasonable. One long hallway in the museum is lined with political cartoons, many of which depict Lincoln as a satanic figure.

Lincoln was obviously an unpopular figure in the South, but some abolitionists did not care for him either. Frederick Douglass said the Emancipation Proclamation passed in 1863 did not do enough to free slaves.

It allowed Union troops to free slaves in the South so they could fight against the Confederacy, but slaves in border states were not freed and slavery was already outlawed in the North.

Steven Spielberg’s movie “Lincoln” shows how Lincoln questioned the legality of this proclamation and how it would stand after the Civil War ended, which is why he pushed for the 13th Amendment to the Constitution to abolish slavery.

Lincoln was questioned by many once again about the timing of this.

It cannot be debated that Lincoln was a progressive thinker for the time. After he learned that he was elected president, he ran across town from his election headquarters to his Springfield home, walked into the living room where his wife Mary was pacing and told her “we” were elected, not “I” was elected.

Mary was not really happy that Lincoln liked to bring home stray cats and play with them on the floor, but she figured it was his own unique hobby.

Lincoln loved to tell a good story and loved the sound of his boys laughing as they ran around his law office, but he endured many tragedies in his life.

His mother died when he was nine and he lost two sons before he was assassinated.

I learned so much more about this great president, but I only have so much space for this column.

Some details I already knew, but there are many other personal facts about his life I found fascinating.

In short, I am thankful that my father and I had the opportunity to get to know this great American leader.