Historic Abraham Lincoln re-election speech to be auctioned at Christie’s on February 12th
By Renee Harrison Drake
On the eve of one of the nation’s most symbolic inaugurations, when an African-American will be sworn in as 44th president, Americans will see the dream of an iconic president become reality. Abraham Lincoln’s belief that all of his countrymen were equal was put to the ultimate test in the recent election. As President-elect Barack Obama said in his historic election night speech, “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founding fathers is alive in our times, who still questions the power of democracy, tonight is your answer.”
Lincoln became president in March, 1861. Like Obama, he was an Illinois lawyer who had a short résumé of governmental experience, and he would take the oath of office during a time of turmoil. While seeking re-election in the summer of 1864, he faced defeat. His popularity was waning due to dissatisfaction with his Civil War policies and mounting casualties. The Democrats were rallying behind popular former Army Gen. George McClellan, who was calling for a cease-fire and peace with the Confederacy. The defining victory of the Union Army in Atlanta by Gen. William T. Sherman that August was instrumental in turning the electoral tide in Lincoln’s favor. Thousands of Union troops were permitted to cast absentee ballots on Election Day and others were granted furloughs to vote in their home states. The result was an overwhelming victory for Lincoln, who tallied 55 percent of the popular vote.