The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Remember way back on Monday, when I talked about Lincoln by Thomas Keneally. I decided to make a note of a few facts that I learned from the book that I thought were crazy.

General Scott had stationed troops along Pennsylvania Avenue and around the Capitol with the specific instructions, for the first time in American history, to protect the incoming president’s life.

 

Near the east portico of the Capitol, a rostrum had been built, with barriers to separate the inauguration party from the public, again for the first time in history. The old republican piety of the president’s being merely the first among citizens had come under threat of the assassin’s bullet, a threat that would never leave the American political scene.

 

That successor was Gen. Ambrose Burnside, a robust six-footer with ferocious “sideburns,” as people had begun to call those flourishes of facial hair in whimsical regard for the general.

 

Similarly, a flat 3 percent tax on all incomes over eight hundred dollars per year was introduced, and though it produced at first an insubstantial flow of revenue, it marked the beginning of the fiscal world twentieth-century Americans would inherit.

When Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address another man, Edward Everett (a classical scholar), spoke before him. Everett spoke for TWO HOURS, and his speech was considered “enormously successful, brilliant in the eyes of contemporaries.” After that speech Lincoln gave his now very famous address. And according to one historian, Garry Wills, it changed things.

In its exalting of vernacular and biblical oratory over Everett’s Greek Revival tour de force, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address made the traditional rhetoric of its day suddenly obsolete. “[A]ll modern political prose descends from the Gettysburg Address.”

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