Everyone knows that President Lincoln was assassinated on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, while attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, as the Civil War was drawing to a close, but what you may not know is that this was not the first attempt on Abraham Lincoln’s life. The first attempt came one August night in 1864, just under a year before the successful attempt by John Wilkes Booth. It is unknown who the would-be assassin was in that earlier attempt, just that they very nearly succeeded.
President Lincoln and his family often stayed at the Soldiers’ Home during the summer months due to the unbearable heat at the White House. President Lincoln often made the 4 mile trip from the White House to the Soldiers’ Home alone, and often late at night, an unheard of situation these days, with the secret service officers always shadowing the presidents, vice-presidents, and their families. As Lincoln was riding along that night, a shot rang out. Private John W Nichols, who was stationed at the Soldiers’ Home, rushed to the aid of the president, whom he found well, but missing his hat. President Lincoln told the private that the horse jerked upon hearing the gunshot, and his hat went flying. The private went to retrieve the hat for the president, and went he examined it, he found that it now had a bullet hole in it. It was an extremely close call, but President Lincoln requested that the matter be kept quiet, and Private Nichols didn’t tell the story until 1867. His tall hat had saved his life by causing the would be assassin to aim too high to hit his head.
For America, this missed shot changed history. Had Lincoln been killed on that August night…even just that much earlier would have had devastating consequences for America. Hannibal Hamlin would have become a lame duck president. Hamlin was already off the Union ticket for vice president, having been replaced by Andrew Johnson. Hamlin would have faced strong opposition, because at the time, the Radical Democracy Party…an offshoot of the Republicans…and their nominee, John Fremont, had not yet dropped from the race. The Radical Democracy Party were even more strongly opposed to slavery than Lincoln, which is what led to their formation. Had the assassin aimed a bit lower in 1864, the election in November would likely have pitted Hamlin against Fremont and McClellan, the Democratic nominee, with Johnson perhaps running on the Union ticket.
Presidential elections always rest on who can win in an election, and in this case the winner would have turned 1864 America into a mess. Had the earlier would-be assassin’s shot been just a little lower, Lincoln, would have been succeeded by Hannibal Hamlin which may have given the upcoming election to Lincoln’s overly cautious former commander, General George McClellan. How either Hamlin, had he actually won re-election, or McClellan would have carried on the last year of the war, much less dealt with southern reconstruction, is a source for debate. Lincoln’s death, if combined with a lame-duck Hamlin and a conciliatory McClellan, might have encouraged the South to hold on just a while longer and resulted in an armistice rather than a victory, dramatically changing the history of America. I don’t think that anyone but Lincoln could have freed the slaves at that time.
I think that anyone who has seen pictures of Washington DC, knows about the monuments that are there. One of those monuments, dedicated to our first president is quite unique in its design…the Washington Monument. The Washington monument was completed on December 6, 1884 when the capstone was set in place, but was not dedicated until February 21, 1885 and didn’t officially open until October 9, 1888. In the six months following the dedication ceremony, over 10,000 people climbed the nearly 900 steps to the top of the Washington Monument. Today, an elevator makes the trip far easier, and more than 800,000 people visit the monument each year. Upon its completion, it became the world’s tallest building…at that time anyway…standing 554 feet 7 11/32 inches, and is made of some 36,000 blocks of marble and granite. A city law passed in 1910 restricted the height of new buildings to ensure that the monument will remain the tallest structure in Washington, DC…a fitting tribute to the man known as the “Father of His Country.”
The Washington Monument is an obelisk on the National Mall. First conceived in 1832, the Washington Monument took decades to build. By law, it is the tallest structure in the District of Columbia, and is twice as tall as any other obelisk in the world. Among memorials in Washington, it is unique. Whereas people visit memorials to Lincoln and Jefferson to see giant statues of the men they commemorate, the highlight of the Washington Monument, is the monument itself. The smaller statue of Washington that sits inside the monument almost goes unnoticed. As John Steele Gordon wrote in his book, Washington’s Monument and the Fascinating History of the Obelisk, “The obelisk, silent as only stone can be, nonetheless seems to say as nothing else can, ‘Here is something significant.’”
The monument’s construction began in 1848, but was halted from 1854 to 1877 due to a lack of funds, a struggle for control over the Washington National Monument Society, and the intervention of the American Civil War. The stone structure was finally completed in 1884, but internal ironwork, the knoll, and other finishing touches were not completed until 1888. A difference in shading of the marble, visible approximately 150 feet or 27% of the way up, shows where construction was halted and later resumed with marble from a different source. The original design was by Robert Mills, but he did not include his proposed colonnade due to a lack of funds, proceeding only with a bare obelisk. Despite many proposals to embellish the obelisk, only its original flat top was altered to a pointed marble pyramidion, in 1884.
Anytime a structure is made of stone, you can expect that while it is very strong for the most part, things like tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes can cause significant damage. Washington Monument was damaged during the 2011 Virginia earthquake and Hurricane Irene in the same year and had to be closed to the public while the structure was assessed and repaired. After 32 months of repairs, the National Park Service and the Trust for the National Mall reopened the Washington Monument to visitors on May 12, 2014. Then, as of September 2016, the monument had to be closed indefinitely due to reliability issues with the current elevator system. On December 2, 2016, the National Park Service announced that the monument would be closed until 2019 in order to modernize the elevator. The project is expected to run as much as $3 million to complete.
Over the years, my family and I have spent many vacations and weekend trips, especially the 4th of July, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. We love the area, and it’s close enough to home to get there even for a three day weekend. Bob and I mostly love to hike the many trails there, as opposed to the tourist attractions, since we have been there many times. Nevertheless, there are a few places that we usually go and things we usually do, like the 1880 Train, Keystone, and of course, Mount Rushmore. Being patriots, Bob and I are very much impressed by the carvings on Mount Rushmore. I think most people know that four United States Presidents, who were instrumental in making this country great, are carved in the granite face of the mountain. If you go there, you will see, President George Washington, President Thomas Jefferson, President Theodore Roosevelt, and President Abraham Lincoln, looking out across the land, making a majestic tribute to these men and to our nation as a whole. These four presidents were chosen because they represent the first 130 years of American history well. These presidents were selected by Borglum because of their role in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory. I can’t go there, or even drive by the monument, without feeling a deep sense of pride and awe. It’s almost like you can feel history when you are there.
On March 5, 1925, the Governor of South Dakota, Carl Gunderson signed the Mount Harney bill, which would allow the carving of a monument in Custer State Park. The mountain was chosen as the sight for the carvings by Gutzon Borglum, the artist in charge of the project, and really the visionary of what it would become. It was dedicated on October 1, 1925, as the sight for the carving that South Dakota state historian Doane Robinson first dreamed of seeing in the Black Hills, back in 1923. On October 7, 1927, the actual carving began. The project took 14 years and 400 men to complete the carving of the mountain. The conditions were harsh and dangerous, yet no one died during the project. Over 90% of Mount Rushmore was carved using dynamite. That is probably one of the facts about Rushmore that most people find most intriguing. The blasts removed approximately 450,000 tons of rock. If you walk on the President’s Trail, you can still see the drill marks used for the dynamite. The fine details were finished with jackhammers and hand chisels. It really isn’t what you would have expected at all.
George Washington was dedicated on July 4, 1930. Then work began on Thomas Jefferson, but many people thought it was Martha Washington for a time…a drawback of an artists work being done so much in the public eye. Thomas Jefferson was dedicated on August 30, 1936. Abraham Lincoln was dedicated on this day, September 17, 1937, and Theodore Roosevelt was dedicated on July 2, 1939. The Hall of Records was never finished because of dangerous working conditions. Gutzon Borglum died suddenly on March 6, 1942, and the work on the mountain was finished by his son, Lincoln Borglum. With the onset of the US involvement in World War II, the mountain was declared complete on October 31, 1941. So ended the work on the mountain, and I really never get tired of hearing the story.
Imagine a world without income taxes. I’m sure a lot of us would love to do just that. I don’t know what the taxes are called in other nations, but suffice it to say that the name doesn’t mean a thing…it’s still a tax, and it still has to be paid. In the United States…for many years, there was no income tax, at least not until August 5, 1861, when President Lincoln imposes the first federal income tax to help pay for the Civil War costs. The tax started when President Lincoln and Congress agreed to impose a tax of 3% on annual incomes over $800.00. I’m sure that the people were as unhappy about that as we would be today about gun control. The whole thing seemed unfair and for many unconstitutional.
The constitutionality of a federal income tax, was something President Lincoln checked into thoroughly, and I’m sure that it was the last thing he wanted to do, because that kind of thing can be political suicide, and in this case…I have to wonder if it played a part in Lincoln’s assassination, although it was said that John Wilkes Booth killed him because he disagreed with his stance on slavery.
Sometime, around March of 1861, Lincoln began to look at the government’s ability to wage a war against the South, and found that it was lacking. He sent letters to cabinet members Edward Bates, Gideon Welles, and Salmon Chase. Lincoln wanted to get their opinions as to whether or not the president had the constitutional authority to “collect [such] duties.” According to the documents, and their interpretations, which are now housed in the Library of Congress…Lincoln was very concerned about maintaining federal authority over collecting revenue from ports along the southeastern seaboard…as they might fall under the control of the Confederacy.
The Revenue Act was broadly written to define income as gain “derived from any kind of property, or from any professional trade, employment, or vocation carried on in the United States or elsewhere or from any source whatever.” The comparable minimum tax as of 2003 would have put the minimum taxable income at about $16,000. The Income Tax went into effect, and the Civil War was funded. Then in 1871, Congress repealed Lincoln’s tax law, but in 1909, they passed the 16th Amendment, which made Income Tax a permanent tax, and the one we use today. The 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913. Sometimes, I wish they hadn’t done that, but I suppose it is necessary, though maybe not always fair.
For me, there is no more perfect way to celebrate Independence Day that to come to the Black Hills of South Dakota. I can’t think of a more patriotic place that is close enough to my home in Wyoming to be able to go to each year. The Black Hills is a shrine to patriotism. Mount Rushmore…home to the faces of four presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln…brings home that spirit of patriotism that lives inside me. I love going to Mount Rushmore, and every time I go, I feel a sense of awe. These great men did the things necessary to make our country great. We don’t often think about the sacrifice a president made, but George Washington was a great soldier before he was president. He, along with the help of an ancestor of my husband, Bob’s, Henry Knox worked out a strategy to win the Revolutionary War, thereby winning our independence. Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence. Abraham Lincoln was the man responsible for ending slavery in the United States, and Teddy Roosevelt was chosen because of his contributions to business, conservation and the creation of the Panama Canal. These were four men who saw just how great this nation could be, and who worked to make sure that it always would be a great Constitutional Republic.
For most of us, the Independence Day celebration would not be complete without a grand fireworks display. I have been to a lot of fireworks displays in my lifetime, but few can match the display that takes place every year in Custer, South Dakota. They start by doing the roll call of the states. I have been amazed over the years that almost every state is represented. Then the fireworks begin, with synchronized music, that is the best mix I have ever heard. Of course, every patriotic song in existence is sung, and the display seems to go on for hours. By the time the evening is over, you truly feel like you have celebrated our nation’s birth. I always walk away feeling more patriotic than when I arrived…if that’s possible.
I believe that the United States of America is one of the greatest countries on earth, and in the past few years, people have been trying to tear it down, and make us believe that we are not a great nation with great people. I don’t like that. I don’t like that our government tries to take away our rights, and tries to change the fabric of this nation into a nation of whiney babies that I hardly recognize. I hate to make Independence Day a story about the election, but it’s time to “Make America Great Again.” It’s time to fight for our Constitution, and the freedoms it provides. If we don’t fight for those rights now, they will be gone forever, and with them would go the nation we love. I pray that you all have a very safe and happy Independence Day!!
Americans are a people who have no problem speaking their minds. I suppose it all goes back to the reasons we left England in the first place. We were only allowed to believe certain things, and if we chose to be different, we could have been killed or imprisoned. It is what our nation was built on in more ways than just religion. The point was supposed to be that we were free to live our lives as we chose to, within a very few certain guidelines. For the most part, things went along smoothly…until November of 1860, when President Lincoln was elected to the presidency, that is. The people of the Deep South felt that their way of life was being threatened, in that they held slaves, and Lincoln was against slavery, as were the Northern states, or most of the people in the Northern states anyway. Of course, this whole issue brought our nation to war, a really sad thing when two sides of a nation war against each other.
It is a difficult thing when so many people have such differing beliefs about the same issue. And sometimes it gets so ugly, that I have to wonder about the sanity of some people. When people burn or otherwise deface our flag, sometimes in horribly disgusting ways, or do the same to Bibles and other religious books, it is disrespectful. What I find especially disturbing is that these same people want respect for their cause or lifestyle, but they will not give the same respect for the cause or lifestyle of others. It really is a two way street. I know that a lot of people are calling for the removal of the Confederate Flag from…everywhere, but in reality it is a part of our history. We need to remember that because they lost the battle, it does not mean they were not brave in the fight. Lately, I have seen some shocking displays in this nation. Digging up the graves of a general and his wife, because he fought for the South, and taking shows off the air because they have a reference to a Confederate Flag in them. Political Correctness has tipped the balance of this nation to the point of insanity. It must stop, or we will have another war here. We have already had a threat of states wanting to secede from the union. It is a sad state for this great nation to be in.
In the end of the Civil War, the South lost the war, the slaves were freed, and given their proper rights. No, it wasn’t the last of the battles over this issue, unfortunately, but the healing of this nation began. The eleven states that had seceded from the Union…Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, were returning one by one. Change was coming and it would slowly come to be accepted. I suppose that, as in the Civil War, the people who are fighting for their rights these days, consider the battles well worth the outcome, and maybe they are, but in many ways, we have forgotten that the people of the other side of the issue have rights too. The country was largely founded on a live and let live way of life…whether you agree with them or not. This may not be the perfect way for our nation to be, but it is as close as we can get. As with the eleven states who returned to the Union, I think it is important to consider the feeling of those who have lost the battle you felt the need to win, because in most cases, they are good people too. On this historic day, as our nation became united again, Georgia became the last state to be readmitted to the Union. They returned, because whether they agreed with every thing this nation stood for or not, they still knew that this was a great nation, and one they wanted to be a part of. I believe that was the case of the Cowboys and Indians. We all know that the Indians lost to the cowboys, but that does not make them any less a proud people, nor does it make them any less brave. They deserve respect, as do all the people who have lost the battles that have gone on in this nation about political correctness, policy change, or the battle of the North and South. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Whether we agree with things or disagree, we must stand united…lest we forget that the rights we take from another today, could be taken from us tomorrow.
When a United States president is assassinated, it sends shock waves around the world. When one is shot and lives, it sends waves of shock too…and then relief. I was a little girl when John F Kennedy was shot and killed on November 22, 1963, and I will never forget where I was when I found out about it. At the tender age of just seven years, I don’t really think that I fully understood the gravity of the situation. When President Ronald Regan was shot in the chest, on March 30, 1981, I was a married twenty five year old mother of two daughters, and I fully understood the gravity of the situation, and how it could have affected our nation and the world. It was however, the reason he was shot that totally baffled me. I mean, I know what John Hinkley Jr’s deranged reasons were, but it still made no sense to me…especially that he would think that somehow he would win Jodie Foster’s love by shooting the president. I suppose that is simply how the deranged mind works.
In the years that the United States has been a nation, sixteen assassination attempts on our presidents. Of those, there have been four successful Presidential assassinations. They were Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy. I really never thought there might have been that many attempts, but I can see that people get distraut with how things are going, and if they are at all unstable, they might attempt to shoot the president.
President Reagan’s shooting was probably one of the most strange, because he appartently didn’t feel the .22 caliber bullet that entered his chest, narrowly missing his heart, and hit his lung. There were three attendants with him, who were also hit. They were White House Press Secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy, and DC police officer Thomas Delahaney. Hinkley was then overpowered and pinned against a wall. Reagan was shoved into the car and taken to the hospital for treatment. He made a complete recovery, which was amazing, considering that he was 70 years old at the time. He even insisted on walking into George Washington University Hospital under his own power. He was in good spirits and visiting with his wife, Nancy while waiting for surgery. He laughingly said, ”Honey, I forgot to duck,” and to his surgeons, “Please tell me you’re Republicans.”
The next day, he resumed some of his executive duties and even signed a piece of legislation from his hospital bed. He returned to work at the White House on April 11, 1981. He returned even more popular that he already was, and received a hero’s welcome by Congress. His highly successful economics plan was passed with several Democrats breaking ranks to back his plan. Nevertheless, President Reagan felt the effects of the shooting for years afterward. The other men eventually recovered, but James Brady suffered permanent brain damage and later became an advocate for the “Brady Bill” requiring a five day waiting period and background checks before the purchase of a gun, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. John Hinkley received a verdict of “not guilty by reason of insanity” bringing with it outrage among the people of this nation. He has been incarcerated at Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital since that time, but more recently has been allowed supervised home visits with his parents. I suppose that one day, he could be released, since they have said that his mental illness is in remission.