February 12, 1809 – Birth of President Lincoln – How Would He Have Fared in the Polls?

Although Lincoln’s reputation is currently quite elevated, he wasn’t so popular while in office. The caliber of insults leveled at him was shocking both in tone and intensity. As President Nixon noted at Lincoln’s birthday ceremony in 1974:

“No President in history was more vilified during his time in the presidency than Lincoln.”

Upon Lincoln’s election, for example, the most esteemed orator in America, Edward Everett, wrote in his diary:

“He is evidently a person of very inferior cast of character, wholly unequal to the crisis.”

[Two years later, Everett spoke right before Lincoln did at Gettysburg. No one remembers what Everett said.]

Lincoln was jeered at for his accent, his clothes, his voice, his story-telling, and his appearance, not to mention, most importantly and subject to the most vituperation, his policies. He was called imbecilic (per Edwin Stanton); idiotic, a coward, and a gorilla (per General McClellan), and newspapers in both the North and the South showed him no respect whatsoever. They condemned him as a traitor, a dictator, “Massa Linkums,” a weakling, pusillanimous, and a murderer.

It is only with his assassination that his popularity ascended.

And now, over 200 years later, he is our hero.


One must feel happy for the young man of thirty-one, who, profoundly depressed and even suicidal, made a confession to his friend Joshua Speed. Years later, in 1866, Speed recalled:

“He said to me that he had done nothing to make any human being remember that he had lived — and that to connect his name with the events transpiring in his day & generation and so impress himself upon them as to link his name with something that would redound to the interest of his fellow man was what he desired to live for…”

Now, Lincoln’s likeness is everywhere: there are around 200 statues and sculptures of Lincoln in America, which amounts to almost one third of the more than 600 memorials and statues of American presidents. The number of books about him is legion. In fact, a stack of over 15,000 titles was erected in the lobby of the Ford’s Theatre Center for Education and Leadership, and reaches some 34 feet in height.


He even, in 2013, won an Oscar….



About rhapsodyinbooks

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13 Responses to February 12, 1809 – Birth of President Lincoln – How Would He Have Fared in the Polls?

  1. bookingmama says:

    Great post. I had heard a few of those things about Lincoln before. Isn’t it sad that he never realized how much of a difference he made?

  2. jama says:

    Loved this post. Learning these things about him makes me admire and respect him even more — if that’s even possible :)!

  3. Beth F says:

    Awesome post! That photo of the books about him is impressive.

  4. I’m sure he wouldn’t fare any better today, I’m sad to say. Being President is a thankless job – I can’t imagine why anyone would want it.

  5. zibilee says:

    It makes me sad that people didn’t regard Lincoln with respect during his time, because he so radically changed the world, and should have been praised and valued. I am glad that he is remembered fondly now though. It gives me a great feeling to see all those books about him stacked there like that.

  6. Sandy says:

    I often wonder if there will ever be a person/President that can emerge from an election period as a hero. Are there any heroes out there that would even DARE to run? Like Kathy said, who the hell would want it? I find that very very sad.

  7. Trisha says:

    I wonder how many people who radically changed the world were actually respected during their life – no one was universally respected I am sure, but popularly? Interesting.

  8. Time makes everyone better!! 😀

  9. Athira says:

    It’s depressing that he was vilified so much when he was alive. Wish he had a taste then of some of the immense respect that he receives today. Great post!

  10. It is funny to think that many of the great politicians, artists, and, sometimes authors, were once vilified during their lives. People hate change and Lincoln was all about that and got raked over the coals for it. This is a great post. I hope you don’t mind if I feature it tomorrow!

  11. sagustocox says:

    I think any political figure can receive some esteem in hindsight.

  12. Jenners says:

    That one of him in the wifebeater … classic!

  13. stacybuckeye says:

    I’ve always thought that the office of the president should be repected no matter who is in it, but whenever I read of the vile from the very first elections on I realize that it is a fantasy. One I will continue to extol.

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