Monthly Archives: November 2008

Lincoln speech headed for the auction block

Looking for a unique Valentine’s Day gift for next year?  A recent news item might be of interest.  On Feb. 12, 2009 Christie’s will auction a handwritten manuscript of a speech Lincoln delivered on the occasion of his re-election.

For those of us who aren’t obscenely wealthy, the speech is available in Basler’s Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln and is well worth reading.  It’s a fine expression of Lincoln’s belief that the Civil War was fundamentally a test of representative government:

It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence, in great emergencies.…[The election] has demonstrated that a people’s government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war.  Until now it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility.¹

The Collected Works also includes a footnote with Lincoln’s own assessment of his speech, as recorded by his secretary: “‘Not very graceful,’ he said, ‘but I am growing old enough not to care much for the manner of doing things.'”²  He was being a bit too modest; the manuscript of his “ungraceful” remarks will likely go for several million dollars.

¹Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 8:100-01.

²Ibid., 102.

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Filed under Abraham Lincoln, Civil War

Michael Crichton, 1942-2008

“I am certain there is too much certainty in the world.” — Crichton, State of Fear

Someday we’re going to find that modern mankind’s most pressing problem has been our failure to appreciate the limits of human understanding.  When that happens, we’ll appreciate Michael Crichton for what he was: the indispensable writer of the last half-century.

(The image is from this news story.)

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Can’t see the forest for the–um, Forrest

The debate over whether to change the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest High School in Jacksonville, FL (discussed in this post) is over, at least for now.  Yesterday the Duval County School Board voted to leave things be.  Here’s a news story with the gritty details.

From the above-mentioned news item: “The board listened to passionate arguments from those on both sides.  More than 140 people crowded into the meeting room, with another 20 watching the meeting on a television in the lobby.”  Sounds like a matter of pressing importance.  Meanwhile, the school “has received two consecutive ‘F’ grades on state assessment tests.”

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Filed under Civil War, History and Memory

National Museum of American History almost ready to re-open

Large ImageAfter extensive renovations, the National Museum of American History re-opens on Nov. 21.  You can follow the progress on a fascinating blog that’s running on the museum’s website.
The NMAH is one of the newer buildings in the Smithsonian chain, but this revamped interior was badly needed.  I’ve always found the old floor plan extremely hard to navigate.  From what I’ve seen online, the new design promises to be much more open than the old interior’s dark corridors and low ceilings.
When I was a kid, the Smithsonian was about as close to Mecca as you could get, although I was usually more interested in the Nationl Museum of Natural History than the NMAH.  For a five-year-old, a fossil gallery and a preserved squid carcass in the same building is pretty hard to beat.  I’m still a dinosaur fanatic, but I’ve mellowed enough to spend a few hours with the historical artifacts down the road.
Museums serve their visitors by teaching them, but also by simply bringing them face-to-face with the raw materials of history.  In terms of the significance of its holdings, the NMAH isn’t just a museum, it’s our national temple.
(The image of the Star-Spangled Banner is from the NMAH’s website.)

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Filed under Museums and Historic Sites