O.K., strike Washington-Lincoln Day… what about JUST “Lincoln Day” in Virginia?

Posted on January 29, 2012 by


I really didn’t want this to go to a point-counterpoint discussion (as there is a growing number of blogs bringing this to our attention; most recently, Brooks Simpson’s “Battlin’ Bloggers” post), but I’ve got some additional thoughts.

Yes, last week, I expressed my thoughts that I like the idea (and that hasn’t changed) of recognizing a day, in Virginia, to recognize Abraham Lincoln’s connections… direct and indirect… to the Commonwealth. It is interesting stuff, but, I have to admit, it can be complicated and complex matter as far as historical memory goes.

Putting that aside for now, since Richard Williams pointed out the exact wording of the template proclamation, I’m taking issue with it (all Richard’s other points about Lincoln aside… as I think Brooks handled each of them, in detail… and yes, I’m also aware of all of the “other history” associated with Lincoln, having taken, for example, considerable interest in the newspaper clip that I found in a Hagerstown newspaper that details a fascinating exchange between Lincoln and border-state politicians).

The wording of the proclamation template seems… I don’t know… historically awkward. I’m really not surprised, as I don’t have a lot of faith in politicians who dabble in history, and then lay the offspring of that dabbling on the general public.

Now, in defense of one part of the proclamation, I have to say, however, that Richard is reading it differently (at least in this one section) than I.

Here’s the part in question…

During the Civil War, Lincoln’s family in Virginia were slave owners and Confederate

Richard’s take on it is…

Hmmm . . . slave-owning and ‘rebellion’ were part of Lincoln’s legacy here in Virginia yet we’re being asked to ‘honor’ that legacy?

No, I don’t see it that way. I take it that they’re trying to make more obvious the irony in the connection between Pres. Lincoln, and the line of Lincoln family that remained in Virginia. Of course, Pres. Lincoln never had personal association with the Virginia Lincoln line… although he knew of them, and, of course, knew his father (as awkward a relationship as that may have been) who was Virginia-born.

I can appreciate their taking the time to mention this because it IS ironic, and does catch the attention of the reader, but… well… let’s see…

I understand that Dr. Stone is behind the proposal likely helping to provide critical historical info in support of the wording… and he knows Lincoln history… however, I’m left skeptical about the manner in which the words were arranged (and, because of Dr. Stone’s knowledge, I’m skeptical that he has had a hand in the way it is worded), delivering historical information that might not be entirely true. Specifically, I have doubts that ALL the Lincoln descendants who remained in Virginia owned slaves and supported the Confederacy. Now, granted, my knowledge of the Virginia branch of the Lincoln fam goes only so far, but I think the proclamation may be a bit narrow-scope in focus. You WILL find the graves of slaves within the fenced-in cemetery on the Lincoln Homestead, in Rockingham County, but… all of the Virginia Lincoln line? And, what about the associated Virginia lines from which President Lincoln also descends… such as the Herring and Hanks family (o.k., I guess we can’t include her as she was born in nearby Hampshire County, bordering on the Shenandoah Valley, and not the post-Civil War defined Virginia). I just think that if it isn’t all-encompassing, that little plug for “wow factor” is in critical need of adjustment.

Sure, this might seem a very minor detail to some, but it’s at this point where I’m dying to find a footnote, detailing the facts, but, of course, it’s not there, and won’t be there (obviously, you won’t see them in government proclamations)… which, actually leads me to think that, “ya know… maybe that’s a problem with all historically-related government proclamations. Think about it… we’re left to assume that the stuff flowing down hill is accurate.  Do we simply open brain and consume? Perhaps there should, indeed, be more concern coming from the historical community on the matter… but at that point, I wonder if any historically-related proclamations should be made by government bodies to the public. Perhaps there are deeper questions here than just adding significance of one day to the calendar.

Keep it up long enough, and I may talk myself out of giving support to any government issued historically-related proclamation. In fact, well, I dunno… perhaps we’re better left with historical markers and local events that mark the significance of the event to the people of that place… after all, the politicians have other things to do, like… no, I’m not going to start down that path…*

*And, as fair and friendly warning, a reminder to some folks not to take this post, or others on this blog, down that path either.