Looking for Lincoln from within

Lincoln by Brady

We have never met him, nor have we ever heard him speak yet we all feel as though we want to be like him, to embrace him, to live up to his standards. Such a man was Abraham Lincoln, a person from humble beginnings who became the President of the United States. His relevance today is applicable for the same reasons he was relevant to his contemporaries; he was a man of integrity, determination, and honesty.

Are these not the attributes that we wish to instill in children? Regardless of differences and similarities one cannot dispute that Lincoln was a leader with human qualities that each of us can find some connection to. He reminds us that it is okay to be who you are, that it takes hard work to make a difference, that not everyone will believe your way is the right way, but rather to live and try your best is a more noble route than to pursue an easier servile path.

The list of reason why Lincoln is relevant today are clearly demonstrated in the stories and speeches he left behind. Great men with great souls will forever remain relevant, and for Abraham Lincoln, from his Kentucky beginnings to his tragic death in Ford Theater, he will live among us forever. As long as those from humble beginning and not so humble beginnings continue to pass along his knowledge,passion, and legacy, we will continue to inspire the rising “Lincolns” among us.

Image: Lincoln-portrait by Brady, Matthew B. Photographs (1864)

Animal crusader: Henry Bergh

llama small signed

We are all too familiar with the quotes “Dog is Man’s Best Friend”; however, despite these bits of sentimentality we also must acknowledge that not all people agree with these statements. In the underlayer of humanity, there exists a cruelty to animals. Hoofed, pawed, web footed, and winged; animals regardless of their species are often mistreated.  They are the voiceless creatures whose barks and meows, neighs, and brays are often not ever heard. Only when they are physically abused do their human counterpart sense their despair. Fortunately, there is an organization that hears their voices, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It is their mission to “to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States.” So, when you hear the idiom, “Crying crocodile tears”, it just might mean something different than you think to the crocodile.

Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Henry Bergh (1813-1888) aka “Angel with at Top Hat”. Philanthropist, animal crusader, founder of the ASPCA, he was born in New York into a wealthy family. His father, a highly successful shipbuilder, died when he was young leaving his son to inherit a fortune. Bergh’s notoriety grew in social circles that included the political elite of his time as well.  He supported abolitionist positions and gained appointment to Lincoln’s cabinet as an American Delegate to Russia. As a result, he traveled extensively. It was during his travels that he became greatly impacted by what he saw, cruelty to animals. In Russia he witnessed peasants beating horses and was shocked by the violence of Spanish bullfighting.

Henry bergh

Driven by this suffering and injustice of the treatment to animals around the world and in the United States he decided to devote himself to these “mute servants of mankind”. In 1866 he drafted a Declaration of the Rights of Animals, proposed a society to protect animals. these creatures and offered his proposal at Clinton Hall. On April 10, 1866, a charter incorporating the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was signed and the following week, an anti-cruelty law was passed granting ASPCA the power to enforce such laws. The ASPCA agents were often referred to as “Berghsmen”.

His work for animals did not stop with the ASPCA, he soon earned the moniker of “meddler” when he installed drinking fountains for working horses and fought to put an end to dog fighting and cock fights. He also invented the clay pigeon, to spare live birds from sport shooters and carried on a high-profile dispute with P.T. Barnum over the treatment of the animals in his menagerie.  However, Bergh’s persistence and integrity eventually turned Barnum into a friend.

Second image: photomechanical print : halftone

Benjamin Franklin and advice

Advice

As long as there have been generations advice has been passed from elder to child and those who bestowed such information were looked upon as sage-like and wise. Older individuals were assumed to have accrued knowledge and wisdom from their own personal trials and tribulations. It became a perfectly natural set of circumstances that parceling out answers to a child’s question or giving advice was the job of a parent and grandparent; a responsibility they inherited from the previous generation of elders…

However, that was once the course of action taken from the beginning of time until we have turned over the pages of the calendar to the present. Alas, today, finding and retrieving information, getting an answer to a question, seeking advice, these missions have all has been usurped and supplanted by the internet.

We live in an age where there is not only a demand but an expectation for instantaneous results; where retrieval is met with little patience for wait time. Just a “google away” one can eliminate the “middle man; no longer does a child have to wait for a parent to come home from work or interrupt their reading of the newspaper to get an answer. Now they are able to bypass this hierarchal position that has been “outsourced” by the internet.

So unfortunate does it appear to be for parents who yearn to be adviser and confidant… however, before one laments take heed… for in fact it is the child who we should be sad for. The internet may be able to answer with lightning speed, but it remains to be a rather cold and unaffectionate replacement for these sages.

Today’s post brings you the esteemed thinker: Benjamin Franklin (170Benjamin franklin6-1790), one of America’s “Founding Fathers”. The list of his accolades are so numerous that it shall be limited here to statesman, philosopher, inventor, publisher, scientist, and sage.  Barely rivaled, his illustrious career and writings make him a favored celebrity in America’s lively history.  Born in Boston, Massachusetts, his father, Josiah, had come to the British colony and set up shop as a candle maker, while his mother, Abiah Folger, took care of the home and ten children. His parents could not afford to get him an education, so Benjamin had only two years of formal schooling, however, his curiosity and thirst for learning kept him reading anything he could get his hands on, culminating in a most illustrious life.

His work in the sciences included shaping our understanding of electricity with inventions such as the lightening rod. As a statesman during the time when the United States was finding its own voice and independence, he was one of five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence (1776).

And so, I bring you back to the early days when writing was the only way of communicating to those who were not in speaking distance. From his autobiography, Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin (1834) we will see that even such a great and wise man as he was took time to listen and reflect on his father’s advice.

“… I suppose you may like to know what kind of a man my father was. He had an excellent constitution, was of a middle stature, well set, and very strong: he could draw prettily, was a little skilled in music; his voice was sonorous and agreeable, that when he played on his violin and sung withal, as he was accustomed to do after the business of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had some knowledge of mechanics, and, on occasion, was very handy with other tradesmen’s tools; but his great excellence was his sound understanding and solid judgment in prudential matters, both in private and public affairs. It is true, he was never employed in the latter, the numerous family he had to educate and the strictness of his circumstances keeping him close to his trade: but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading men, who consulted him for his opinion in public affairs, and those of the church he belonged to, and who showed great respect for his judgment and advice: he was also much consulted by private persons about their affairs when any difficulty occurred, and frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties. At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbour to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavour, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind, so that I was brought up in such a perfect inattention to those matters as to be quite indifferent as to what kind of food was set before me. Indeed, I am so unobservant of it, that to this day I can scarce tell a few hours after dinner of what dishes it consisted. This has been a great convenience to me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites…”

First image: Created / PublishedNew York : Published by S. Zickel, No. 19, Dey-Street, c1871.

Second image: Benjamin Franklin: reproduction (1913) by Charles Willson Peale, 1741-1827, artist

 

P.T. Barnum and debt

debtIf you wanted to know where to look for advice you would only have to twist your head from side to side for it rests on both of your shoulders. Advice are those “either or suggestions” that we grapple with; they are the suggestions we often do not know which one to adhere to. For when we are in need, both sides can be ever so convincing.

Advice is the food we feed our indecisions, sometimes it is fattening…filled with saturated fats and sugars….not very good for us but very satisfying; and then there is the more nutritious proposals, not as immediately fulfilling but in the long run more wholesome. And there lies the problem, which advice to ignore and which one to adopt; for as we twist our head from side-to-side, our hunger for contentment amplifies. Perhaps this is why many a person has succumbed to advice that grants immediate rewards… deciding to attend to the details later. But when “later” comes round such advice heaves and sighs under the weight of debt and disappointment. And with poor advice it is often too late to realize that like unwanted calories, debt increase at a rate where suddenly we are quite a bit stouter.

Alas, the burden of deciding which advice to take is not easy. And wouldn’t it be nice if there was the proverbial crystal ball that could tell us which side of our head to listen to. But like the little devil and angel on either shoulder, we can only hope our choice is correct.

Barnum circus posterToday’s post returns to you a man who presumes to have the right advice: the esteemed thinker: P.T. Barnum (1801-1891). Although the Barnum name is part of the American circus legacy, Mr. Barnum was 61 years old when the circus collaboration was presented to him. It was in his marketing ingenuity and genius that brought him to the forefront of 19th century society. He crafted his life by taking chances and making changes. He was mostly successful in business although at times suffered for under his miscalculations

From his book The Art of Money Getting, I have extracted some words of advice in the essay, “Avoid Debt”.

“Young men starting in life should avoid running into debt. There is scarcely anything that drags a person down like debt. It is a slavish position to get in, yet we find many a young man, hardly out of his “teens,” running in debt… Grunting and groaning and working for what he has eaten up or worn out, and now when he is called upon to pay up, he has nothing to show for his money; this is properly termed “working for a dead horse.” I do not speak of merchants buying and selling on credit, or of those who buy on credit in order to turn the purchase to a profit…

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master. When you have it mastering you; when interest is constantly piling up against you, it will keep you down in the worst kind of slavery. But let money work for you, and you have the most devoted servant in the world. It is no “eye-servant.” There is nothing animate or inanimate that will work so faithfully as money when placed at interest, well secured. It works night and day, and in wet or dry weather…”

Esteemed thinker: William Cobbett

lovers Advice is something we often receive freely even if we want it or not. Most people readily hand it over and wish nothing more in return except perhaps to be acknowledged that they are “correct”. It can be solicited without our intention such as through one’s appearance; “Your hair would look better combed,” or it can open up a world of advice by way of a simple question such as…. “Do you think I could wear this to the office?”

Advice is given in many forms. It can be written, spoken, and even offered as a gesture. For example rather than saying “my advice to you is ….” one may receive a “thumbs down”.

Those seeking advice have relied upon the famous such as Anne Landers and Dear Abby, the curious such as palm readers, and even the impersonal such as horoscopes. Yet no matter the advice one receives, no matter the way it is given, ultimately it becomes the decision of the seeker to make, and for that we bid “good luck!”

NPG 1549,William Cobbett,possibly by George Cooke Today’s blog introduces a lesser known English political journalist, the esteemed thinker: William Cobbett (1763-1835). Born in Farnham, Surrey County England, this author, satirist, journalist, and editor may not be a household name today, however it is to be noted that he was a champion of the people; fighting for reforms and exposing corruption in both the Church and Parliament during 18th and 19th century England. Through his writing in pamphlets, newspapers, and books he called for radical reform regarding poor working conditions for laborers and farmers.

Cobbett’s newspaper journal, The Political Register, was widely read by the working class people. As a result of his public outcries, he became an enemy of the government and fled to the United States in 1817 rather than being arrested for “sedition”. Here he lived on Long Island and wrote his most famous work, Grammar of the English language. Upon his return to England, in 1831 he continues to publish his radical newspaper and though running for the House of Commons, is defeated.

And so, we will now turn over the post to William Cobbett. The selection takes a bit of a turn from his political activism. From his series of Letters Advice to Young Men, and (incidentally) to Young Woman, you may be surprised to see that he too has some thoughts for those seeking love.

“… There are two descriptions of Lovers on whom all advice would be wasted; namely, those in whose minds passion so wholly overpowers reason as to deprive the party of his sober senses. Few people are entitled to more compassion than young men thus affected: it is a species of insanity that assails them; and, when it produces self-destruction, which it does in England more frequently than in all the other countries in the world put together, the mortal remains of the sufferer ought to be dealt with in as tender a manner as that of which the most merciful construction of the law will allow.

The other description of lovers, with whom it is useless to reason, are those who love according to the rules of arithmetic, or who measure their matrimonial expectations by the chain of the land-surveyor. These are not love and marriage; they are bargain and sale. Young men will naturally, and almost necessarily, fix their choice on young women in their own rank in life; because from habit and intercourse they will know them best. But, if the length of the girl’s purse, present or contingent, be a consideration with the man, or the length of his purse, present or contingent, be a consideration with her, it is an affair of bargain and sale…

Let me now turn from these two descriptions of lovers, with whom it is useless to reason, and address myself to you, my reader, whom I suppose to be a real lover, but not so smitten as to be bereft of your reason. You should never forget, that marriage, which is a state that every young person ought to have in view, is a thing to last for life; and that, generally speaking, it is to make life happy, or miserable; for, though a man may bring his mind to something nearly a state of indifference, even that is misery, except with those who can hardly be reckoned amongst sensitive beings. Marriage brings numerous cares, which are amply compensated by the more numerous delights which are their companions. But to have the delights, as well as the cares, the choice of the partner must be fortunate…”

First image: The lovers: New York : Published by N. Currier, c1846 lithograph, hand-colored.
Second image: National Portrait Gallery UK Painted circa 1831 by artist George Cooke (1781-1834)