Saturday, February 6, 2021

Abraham Lincoln Abhorred the Name "Abe."

Abraham Lincoln liked to be called Lincoln, just Lincoln, as one of his Illinois law associates reported. He was Mr. Lincoln to his wife, Mary, and she also called him Father—he affectionately called her Mother or Molly.

He was called the 'Tycoon' to his wartime secretaries John M. Hay and John G. Nicolay. In a Civil War marching song, he was Father Abraham. 
He also loathed the formal title, Mr. President. As though to mediate between the different possibilities, he signed his name as 'A. Lincoln.'
Honest Old Abe, Buffalo Commercial Advertiser Newspaper


But to the millions, Lincoln was Abe. Honest Abe; Old Abe; Uncle Abe; or Abe the rail‑splitter.

In the John Nicolay papers at the Library of Congress and the Nicolay-Hay collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, are interviews Nicolay held with cabinet members, senators, congressmen and others who dealt with the president during the Civil War. 

A handful of them are preserved in an idiosyncratic (somewhat unusual) shorthand that was, mercifully, readable by an expert. One translated passage was especially intriguing. During an interview with a Pennsylvania politico (a politician or person with strong political views), Nicolay recorded a description of that man's visit with Lincoln in Springfield to urge the appointment of Simon Cameron, a major player in the Republican Party in Pennsylvania to a cabinet post. The document recounts, in longhand, how Lincoln resisted this pressure, then switches into shorthand just as the president-elect is about to utter his true feelings.

Here is the shorthand transcription of Lincoln's words about Simon Cameron: "All through the campaign my friends have been calling me 'Honest Old Abe,' and I have been elected mainly on that cry. What will be thought now if the first thing I do is to appoint Cameron, whose very name stinks in the nostrils of the people for his corruption?" 

Simon Cameron eventually became the 26th U.S. Secretary of War (March 5, 1861 – January 14, 1862), a job he botched.

Lincoln did not like the nickname Abe at all, but he understood that without the nickname of Abe he would not have won the presidency in 1860. His image as Abe, the approachable everyman from the West, was promoted everywhere that year, and it swept him into office. 

The Hartford [Connecticut] Courant Newspaper declared that “One of the strongest arguments in favor of the election of Lincoln to the Presidency was his 'HONESTY' and “old-fashioned integrity and firmness.”

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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