Lincoln’s legacy will be celebrated during Dover Days

DOVER — Thinking about Abraham Lincoln in between headlines and deadlines …

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As bells rang Thursday in Dover in remembrance of the 150th anniversary of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender, this editor wondered what the mood must have been like around the State House in Dover back then.

Delaware was not much of a friend to President Lincoln.

Twice, the state’s vote went to his opponents in presidential elections.

The state’s leaders vowed not to leave the Union, but politically sounded Southern sympathies.

One of Delaware’s U.S. senators called him an “imbecile” on the Senate floor.

Our state legislature rejected his idea to compensate slave owners in return for their emancipation.

On Wednesday, America will observe the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln’s death. It came on April 15, 1865, a day after John Wilkes Booth shot him in the Ford Theater in Washington, D.C.

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This year’s Dover Days celebration, April 26-May 3, has a Lincoln theme and will include several opportunities in celebration of his presidency and historical looks at the Civil War.

Among the offerings are two talks by Dan Pritchett, a Lincoln expert who taught American history to eighth-graders in the Capital School District for 34 years.

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 27, he will present “With Malice Toward None: Abraham Lincoln, Words & Pictures.”

And at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2, he will discuss “The Lincolns as a Family.”

The programs, each an hour long, will be held in the Dover Public Library.

“Abraham Lincoln’s words are still as powerful today as they were 150 years ago,” said Mr. Pritchett.

His first program will include visuals and quotations, including some lines from President Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

“That really was his greatest speech,” said Mr. Pritchett, noting how President Lincoln tried to come to terms with the Civil War. “Lincoln thought that the only way he could explain all those deaths was that it was divine punishment for the sin of slavery.”

The final line of the second inaugural speech:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

The speech was made about a month prior to his assassination.

“Whenever historians are asked to rate the presidents, he always comes out first because he dealt with that great crisis,” said Mr. Pritchett.

He managed a war and conflict with generals despite little military experience, he said, and he refused to compromise on the issue of slavery.

“He was a genius politician,” Mr. Pritchett said. “Keeping the North together, with the different parties and all the different factions, that was not easy.”

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In Nov. 1861, Delaware Congressman George P. Fisher (People’s Party), who apparently was a slave owner himself, was asked by President Lincoln to pitch the idea of compensation in return for emancipation.

The feds would have paid $500 for each of the 1,800 slaves in Delaware.

The state legislature never considered the idea. Slavery in Delaware didn’t end until the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in 1865.

Another wild story from the era was U.S. Sen. Willard Saulsbury’s drunken rant on the Senate floor in 1863. “I never did see or converse with so weak imbecile man as Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States,” the Democrat said.

Sen. Saulsbury refused Vice President Hannibal Hamlin’s call for order. Before all was said and done, Sen. Saulsbury had brandished a gun and threatened to shoot the sergeant at arms.

Reach Executive Editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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