Friday, April 1, 2011

what is your secret history?

If we could read the secret history of our enemies we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
often, wise words are pearls thrown to swine; trampled underfoot, just as often being turned against you, rending flesh from bone... but it's also amazing what those pearls can teach you... teach you about the world; history; mankind; yourself.

i often get sidetracked by details... details often are as important, if not more so, than the larger context... it's often said "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link"... and that is true of chains, buildings, and people... and when the first link breaks, the chain (or person) is not what it once was... it is changed on a fundamental level.

i happened across the above quote by Longfellow quite by accident... and it taught me much in an instant... but, as i dwell on details, i wanted more... i accepted it at face value, but i wanted the detail of what Longfellow was saying... i wanted context in which to place the detail... i wanted to see the jewelry to which this particular pearl was set.

what i found were more pearls.

Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer... he was a good lawyer (if such a thing exists)... he was known and liked in his area by lawyers and by judges... it was for this reason that George Harding hired Lincoln as co-counsel on a case in which the presiding judge was familiar and friendly toward Lincoln... George Harding, himself, has been called the greatest U.S. patent attorney of the 19th century, having argued before the Supreme Court, with Edwin Stanton, only four years after passing the Bar, and only two years later successfully defending Samuel Morse's telegraph patent... but when Lincoln's case was moved to another locale and a different judge, Harding hired a different co-counsel... Harding hired Stanton.

neither Harding nor Stanton told Lincoln of this.

in fact, some say they shunned him, even speaking ill of him... Stanton, it is generally accepted, went so far as to compare Lincoln to a "long-armed" ape... historians generally note Stanton as being a gruff and often rude individual.

but, when Lincoln became the President of the United States, he appointed Stanton to his cabinet... during his presidency, Stanton continued to speak ill of Lincoln; once in a letter to a General noting "the painful imbecility of Lincoln."

"Not everyone knows, as I do, how close you stood to our lost leader, how he loved you and trusted you, and how vain were all the efforts to shake that trust and confidence, not lightly given and never withdrawn," wrote presidential aide John Hay to Stanton after President Lincoln's death.

why would Lincoln appoint such a man as Stanton, with all he had done to and said about him?... moreover, when Stanton tried to resign his post three years later, why did Lincoln refuse?

perhaps, Lincoln new Stanton's secret history.

Stanton, it is said, began his life as a good humored man... this, however, was not to last... Stanton suffered from asthma his entire life... his first wife died before their first aniversary... later, in three years he lost a daughter and a second wife; one to scarlet fever and the other to "billious fever"... within two more years, a brother to whom he was very close commited suicide... the nature of the suicide was horrific... Stanton was forever a changed man.

a link was broken.

how often do i judge a person on what i know about them?... how often does a person's secret history influence who a person appears to be?

how many links are broken?

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