A gentle reminder ...

The goal of this blog initially was for Mr. Mc to show his students and friends what he doing while in Pennsylvania and DC in 2011. Now it's being used as a place for him, travelling colleagues and former students to discuss edumacation and history related "stuff" as well as ... well, anything which pops into his head. Mr. Mc would never knowingly embarrass either the school he loves or the family he is devoted to. By joining in the discussion, he expects the same of you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"A strange little document..."

Transcription: This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so co-operate with the President elect, as to save the Union between the election and the inauguration; as he will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards.
A. Lincoln [signed on the reverse: William H Seward, W. P. Fessenden, Edwin M Stanton, Gideon Welles, Edwd. Bates, M Blair, and J. P. Usher]
Dr. Pinsker showed us this document today and I am intrigued. The memorandum was written by Lincoln in August 1864. It was then folded and his cabinet was instructed to sign the back of it without ever having seen its reverse. Seven do.

The memo is pretty straightforward: Lincoln has reconciled the fact that he will probably not win re-election. He acknowledges that the new president can not, in all reality, continue the war as it is currently being fought. Lincoln has from election in November 1864 to inauguration in March 1865 to complete the war and is enlisting his replacement to assist in the endeavor to "save the Union." If the two leaders can partner together to end the war before the new President's innauguration, the new administration can manage peace and not the end of a predacessor's conflict.

I am smitten with the document.
I like the covert aspect: written, folded, blindly signed on the reverse. As a teacher, I can see that action being recreated for my students–I wonder if they will sign blindly like the cabinet or blanch at the uncertainty of it.
I like the emotion of it: Lincoln is agonizingly honest and you can sense the distress.
I like the dissonance it will create for my students. On this side of history, we know Lincoln wins in 1864 handily and Lincoln’s worries will be unfounded.  It is helpful, however, to help our young women and men see that history is lived ‘in the moment’ and Lincoln’s moment in August 1864 looks bleak.
That “in the moment” aspect can help make history come alive for my students. When you don’t know how it will turn out, it makes the action more honest, makes the action more profound, more brave.

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