Friday, December 23, 2016

1860-64: Christmas and President Lincoln

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed reading presidential Christmas proclamations. Some are more prominent than others.   
President Washington always stands out because he set the table for others to follow.    
Then there is President Roosevelt in 1941 after Pearl Harbor.   
President Truman in 1945 or the first peace time Christmas in a few years.   
More recently, President Bush in 1991 or President GW Bush after 9-11.
They are all significant and a reminder that Christmas is a lot more than a day off or a vacation day for federal employees. There is a religious meaning to the season no matter how much we try to replace it with secular messages. 
We think of Lincoln as the greatest president. How did Lincoln spend Christmas week as president and president-elect? Let’s remember:
“In 1860, as President-elect, Lincoln received callers such as Thurlow Weed in Springfield, Illinois, and dealt with Cabinet issues. He was especially concerned that federal forts had been taken in the South. 
On December 20 he received the stunning news that South Carolina had seceded from the Union. 
In 1861 President Lincoln was deeply involved in Civil War problems such as the Trent affair, but found time on December 22 to attend services at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church.
On Christmas morning he held an important Cabinet meeting, but was able to entertain a large number of dinner guests by evening.
In 1862 President Lincoln again was absorbed with military matters and was preparing the final draft of the Emancipation Proclamation.
On December 23 he wrote to Fanny McCullough, whose father had been killed in action and had been a long-time friend of his. Both Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln visited Washington hospitals on Christmas Day.
In 1863 President Lincoln reassured the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society he had no intention of retracting the Emancipation Proclamation.
On Christmas Day he discussed the constitutionality of the draft with John Hay, one of his private secretaries.
In 1864 President Lincoln received the following dispatch from General Sherman, who had captured Savannah, Georgia:
“I beg to present you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah with 150 heavy guns & plenty of ammunition & also about 25000 bales of cotton.”
On December 26 Lincoln gave a Christmas reception at the White House.”
Christmas 1860 must have been especially troubling as the President elect could see some very hard times ahead.  
Merry Christmas or Feliz Navidad, as I grew up saying!
P.S. You can listen to my show (Canto Talk) and follow me on Twitter.



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