Abe Lincoln in Illinois

by John J. Hopkins |
Apr. 30, 2005, 5:35am

For many people, the best movie about our 16th President was the 1940 classic, “Abe Lincoln in Illinois.”

With a dead-on performance by Raymond Massey in the lead role, and based upon Sherwood Anderson’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, the film traces Lincoln’s life as a prairie lawyer and politician--his time for the ages has yet to come. Ending with his farewell to Springfield as he leaves for the White House, “Abe Lincoln in Illinois” is an inspiring portrait of a beloved leader’s early days.

The Lincoln legacy is much in the recent news. First with the dedication of the library and museum and a presidential visit, the nation’s attention was once again focused on Illinois' most famous son.

Years in the making, the complex in Springfield is a storehouse of knowledge for the scholarly and the curious befitting the Great Emancipator.

But that’s not the only time the Lincoln legacy has been in the recent news…

It seems that the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, the Illinois Civil Justice League and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce- have conscripted the image of Lincoln into their latest barrage of anti-lawsuit propaganda.

In print and radio adds that claim “Honest Abe would be Ashamed,” this “Un-Holy Trinity” attempt to justify the unjustifiable by the mere use of Lincoln’s image.

Moreover, while the talk is the same, the new wrinkle of invoking Lincoln as an unauthorized spokesman is so abundantly wrong that it borders on criminal.

The very soul of compassion, Lincoln would indeed be ashamed to see and hear his image and likeness used in such a merciless scheme, trying to camouflage corporate greed with the blanket of his inherent goodness…Lincoln would be more than ashamed at such a conspiracy. He would be downright angry.

Moreover, Lincoln loved the law, loved being a lawyer and carried his admission to the Bar as a matter of lifetime pride. The attack by the puppets of the few on rights of us all would disgust and dismay him. Ashamed?

He would be repulsed.

Would the author of “With malice toward none; with charity for all; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan” turn a blind eye to suffering in favor of enhancing corporate profits? I think not.

Would the man who fought so hard, endured so much and triumphed in victory to preserve the Union, abandon the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing a right to trial by jury in a civil case, finding restricted access to the courts of law an acceptable way of life? I think not.

If Lincoln were indeed around today, he would defend his chosen profession of the law by repeating the final words for the February 1860 Cooper Union speech.

”Neither let us be slandered from our duty by the false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by the menaces of destruction to the government nor of the dungeons to ourselves...

"Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

Before embarking on their latest slander mission, the Tres Amigos of the Chamber might have been well served if they actually read some of Lincoln’s works. They might have come across this quote, “You can fool some of the people all the time, and all of the people some of the time. But you can not fool ALL of the people ALL of the time.”

The truth will win out over lies.

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