Posted by: cochinblogger | February 19, 2010

Lincoln and Gandhi

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“It is often argued that Lincoln’s abiding reputation is the result of his martyrdom. And certainly the assassination, occurring as it did on Good Friday, propelled him into reverential heights. Speaking at a commemoration at the Athenaeum Club in New York City on April 18, 1865, three days after Lincoln died, Parke Godwin, editor of the Evening Post, summed up the prevailing mood. “No loss has been comparable to his,” Godwin said. “Never in human history has there been so universal, so spontaneous, so profound an expression of a nation’s bereavement.” He was the first American president to be assassinated, and waves of grief touched every type of neighborhood and every class—at least in the North. But the shock at the murder explains only part of the tidal wave of mourning. It is hard to imagine that the assassination of James Buchanan or Franklin Pierce would have had the same impact on the national psyche. The level of grief reflected who Lincoln was and what he had come to represent. “Through all his public function,” Godwin said, “there shone the fact that he was a wise and good man…. [He was] our supremest leader—our safest counsellor—our wisest friend—our dear father.””
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“Across much of the South, of course, Lincoln was hated, even in death. Though Robert E. Lee and many Southerners expressed regret over the murder, others saw it as an act of Providence, and cast John Wilkes Booth as the bold slayer of an American tyrant. “All honor to J. Wilkes Booth,” wrote Southern diarist Kate Stone (referring as well to the simultaneous, though not fatal, attack on Secretary of State William Seward): “What torrents of blood Lincoln has caused to flow, and how Seward has aided him in his bloody work. I cannot be sorry for their fate. They deserve it. They have reaped their just reward.”
Four years after Lincoln’s death, Massachusetts journalist Russell Conwell found widespread, lingering bitterness toward Lincoln in the ten former Confederate states that Conwell visited. “Portraits of Jeff Davis and Lee hang in all their parlors, decorated with Confederate flags,” he wrote. “Photographs of Wilkes Booth, with the last words of great martyrs printed upon its borders; effigies of Abraham Lincoln hanging by the neck…adorn their drawing rooms.” The Rebellion here “seems not to be dead yet,” Conwell concluded.”
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“In August 1908, riots broke out in Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, Illinois, after a white woman, Mabel Hallam, claimed she had been raped by a local black man, George Richardson. (She later admitted to making up the story.) On Friday, August 14, two thousand white men and boys began to attack African-Americans and set fire to black businesses. “Lincoln freed you,” rioters were heard to yell. “We’ll show you where you belong.” The next night, the mob approached the shop of William Donnegan, a 79-year-old African-American shoemaker who had made boots for Lincoln and at whose brother’s barbershop Lincoln used to mingle with African-Americans. Setting fire to Donnegan’s shop, the mob dragged the old man outside and pelted him with bricks, then slashed his throat. Still alive, he was dragged across the street into a school courtyard. There, not far from a statue of Abraham Lincoln, he was hoisted up a tree and left to die.”

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Assassination. Brutal lynchings. Massacres. The parallels between Lincoln and Gandhi did not strike me until I read this piece, but I later found an article on the theme.

http://www.thehindu.com/2009/02/19/stories/2009021951872400.htm

Posted from Diigo.

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