As we remember the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on April 14th, it is hard to forget his effect on our country and the way in which he was viewed in his own time. Lincoln is credited with abolishing slavery, strengthening the federal government, keeping the union, and bolstering the American economy to play on the world scale. He led the United States through it’s bloodiest war, the Civil War. These feats of leaderships led to Lincoln becoming the savior, the virtual Christ, of the United States. The people of the time worshiped him as a deity come to earth, especially after his death. What was it about him that brought this imagery into the minds of Americans? Well, first there is the obvious. He died saving the union of the country, the most important ideological object to many Americans. So, we have a direct comparison to Christ dying for humanity’s sins but what other parts of Lincoln’s life were comparable to legend.
Let us start at his birth. He had a humble beginning, making a name for himself as a business owner and politician. This not only put him on the level of many Americans, it made his success appear that much more miraculous. Later, even the date of his birth would be considered a fateful day if only because Charles Darwin was born the same day. Two men who would later change the world in their own respective ways were born half a world apart. The pieces of the legend of Lincoln are beginning to come together now. However, what cemented the view of Lincoln as the savior was the day of his death.
As we have seen, his death for the Union is in parallel with Christ’s death for humanity but this view came about mainly because Lincoln was shot on Good Friday, the day on which Christians mourn the death of Christ. He died a day later, on Holy Saturday, and the next morning, Easter Sunday, priests, reverends, and pastors across the United States preached about the death of Lincoln and it’s biblical parallels. Some of these sermons can be seen in Lehigh’s Special Collections and in the online “Lincolniana” Exhibit. Putting together the coincidentally important day of his birth, his amazing feats as the leader of America, and the biblical parallels of his death, it is safe to say that the story of Abraham Lincoln should not only be remembered as the story of a great leader but as the stuff of legend.