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Who was the most important person of the 19th century? Of all the persons whose lifework took place in that hundred years, who had had the most impact on our world of today?

Interesting question. To my way of thinking, two men stand out above all others, no one else even coming close, and it is impossible to set either of them above the other.

Those two are Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. By the oddest of coincidences, those two great men were born on the same day. February 12 of this year marks the 200th anniversary of their births. And in their honor we will take our words and our quotations from Lincoln – he being more suitable for quotation –it being understood that no disrespect to Darwin is intended.

From a very early Lincoln address, shortly after a St. Louis mob burned a negro to death:
    Thus, then, by the operation of this mobocractic spirit, which all must admit, is now abroad in the land, the strongest bulwark of any Government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed--I mean the attachment of the People.
    – Address Before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, January 27, 1838
mobocracy – a condition in which the lower classes of a nation control public affairs without respect to law, precedents, or vested rights
 
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There's a goodly and relevant article in the current issue of the Smithsonian Magazine, one of the few print periodicals which I still receive. Online version: (link).


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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I'm not so sure about Lincoln... Wordcrafter might be a little US-centric here.

While there is little doubt that he helped make the US what it is today, it is entirely possible that a USA not torn apart by the civil war might have become a superpower even earlier. If the Southrons had won, Ward Locke's world might have come into being.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Speaking of "-cracy," we've have "mobocracy" above, and we all know "aristocracy," but it's not too often we the antonym, as below:



"More good news for Dems: only 58% agree that 'no matter how bad things are, Congress can always find a way to make them worse.'

Maybe the rulers of our kakistocracy don't need to worry about infuriated crowds closing in on their castle with torches and pitchforks — for another month or so."


RJA
 
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From a Lincoln speech, closing his criticism of his opponent, Stephen Douglas.
    Whenever, if ever, he and we can come together on principle so that our cause may have assistance from his great ability, I hope to have interposed no adventitious obstacle. But clearly, he is not now with us – he does not pretend to be – he does not promise ever to be.
adventitious – acquired or added externally, often by accident or chance; accidental

The quote is from Lincoln's famous "House Divided" speech of June 16, 1858. For his bicentennial, I offer crucial, stirring passage.
    "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

    I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new – North as well as South.
 
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And in nursing/medicine we talk about "adventitious" breath sounds.

Of course we in Illinois are very excited about the 200th birthday of Lincoln. This editorial in the Tribune reprints 3 editorials from Lincoln's day: February 16, 1860, May 23, 1860, and when he died, April 17, 1865. For a word board, it is interesting to read those old columns; they were written much differently than we'd see today. Times seemed a lot tamer, too. This is from one of the articles:
quote:
He never drinks intoxicating liquors of any sort, not even a glass of wine. He is not addicted to tobacco, in any of its shapes. He never was accused of a licentious act in all his life. He never uses profane language. A friend says that once, when in a towering rage in consequence of the efforts of certain parties to perpetrate a fraud on the State, he was heard to say "They shan't do it, d-n'em!" but beyond an expression of that kind, his bitterest feelings never carry him.
 
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RI's Judge Frank Williams holds himself out as one of, if not "the", leading historians on Lincoln. Dkruing a Washington tribute to Abe, Williams was to recite the Gettysburg Address. Unfortunately, the wind blew away one of his cards and apparently he, the expert, couldn't recite it from memory which I, the clown, can do.

I was very surprised to learn that not one Chicago paper mentioned that Lincoln was our first Jewish president.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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On February 22, 1842 Lincoln, just turned 33, spoke on the 110th anniversary of George Washington's birth. He analyzed why the tactics of older temperance reformers, opposing alcohol, had little success.
    [T]he benefits of a reformation were too remote in point of time, to warmly engage many in its behalf. Few can be induced to labor exclusively for posterity. Posterity has done nothing for us; and practically we shall do very little for it. Great distance, in either time or space, has wonderful power to lull and render quiescent the human mind.
    (ellipses omitted)
quiescent – in a state or period of inactivity
 
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Lincoln used today's word in a discussion of language, which seem appropriate for this forum.

fogy – a disrespectful name for a man advanced in life; esp. one with antiquated notions, an old-fashioned fellow, one ‘behind the times’

This definition is from OED. But note that in Lincoln's usage it has nothing to do with being 'behind the times', and is in no way 'disrespectful'. It simply means, "a man from long ago".
    But speech alone, valuable as it ever has been, and is, has not advanced the condition of the world much. … Writing – the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye – is the great invention of the world. … The precise period at which writing was invented, is not known; but it certainly was as early as the time of Moses; from which we may safely infer that its inventors were very old fogies.
    – Lecture on Discoveries and Inventions (delivered several times, in 1858 and 1859)
 
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I've always spelled it "fogey," which I see is a variant. I suppose one might call me an "old fogy." If so, I'll just call him a "young whippersnapper," which we have discussed before.
 
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Lincoln's "House Divided" speech notes how effectively various recent laws, favoring slavery, "fit" together:
    We cannot absolutely know that all these exact adaptations are the result of preconcert. But when we see a lot of framed timbers, different portions of which we know have been gotten out at different times and places, and by different workmen, – Stephen, Franklin, Roger, and James, for instance – and when we see these timbers joined together, and see they exactly make the frame of a house or a mill, all the tenons and mortices exactly fitting, and all the lengths and proportions of the different pieces exactly adapted to their respective places, and not a piece. too many or too few, even scaffolding, – or, if a single piece be lacking, we see the place in the frame exactly fitted and prepared yet to bring such piece in, – in such a case, we find it impossible not to believe that Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood one another from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan or draft drawn up before the first blow was struck.
preconcert – a previous agreement to a common plan (transitive verb: to make such an agreement)
mortise; mortice – a cavity designed to receive a corresponding projection on another piece, to form a joint between the two pieces
tenon – the projection made to fit into a mortise [French tenir to hold]
 
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proselyte – (usually used in the religious sense:)
noun: a convert; a person who has changed from his/her religion, opinion, party, etc.
verb: intrans.: to become a religious convert, or, to make (or seek to make) such converts, or intrans.: to convert (or seek to convert) someone

The use as a noun is much more common, but Lincoln used this word as a verb in his last public address (ellipses omitted), delivered April 11, 1865.
    Some twelve thousand voters in the heretofore slave-state of Louisiana have sworn allegiance to the Union, held elections, organized a State government, adopted a free-state constitution, giving the benefit of public schools equally to black and white, and empowering the Legislature to confer the elective franchise upon the colored man. These twelve thousand persons are thus fully committed to the Union, to the very things the nation wants – and they ask the nation's recognition and its assistance to make good their committal. If we recognize, and sustain the new government of Louisiana [w]e encourage the hearts, and nerve the arms of the twelve thousand to adhere to their work, and argue for it, and proselyte for it, and fight for it, and feed it, and grow it, and ripen it to a complete success.
This was the first time Lincoln publicly supported black suffrage. John Wilkes Booth was in the audience, and commented to his companion, "That means nigger citizenship. Now, by God, Ill put him through. That is the last speech he will ever make."

Three days later Lincoln lay dead by Booth's bullet.
 
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