Today is a day of greatness celebrated. Two individuals were born on this date on different parts of the world and their effect on history in both cases was most profound.
Abraham Lincoln, born to backwoods farmers in the Kentucky wilderness. From this impoverished beginning, he rose to be the president of the United States in its most desperate hour. Largely self-educated, he taught himself law. He was know as a good wrestler and a good man with an ax, earning the nickname "Rail Splitter." He did not hunt or fish, since he disliked killing animals for either sport or even for food. He was in every respects what exemplifies an American, a self-made man, who in spite of hardship and obstacles, rises above them to succeed.
In his law practice, Lincoln represented many persons and entities. He won a case for a railroad concerning its failure to pay property taxes only to have to sue them for failing to pay their legal fees to him. His most famous criminal case was when he defended William Armstrong pro bono in a murder case. He was able to acquit his client by pointing out that the only eyewitness was lying when he stated he saw Armstrong commit the murder by the full moon. Lincoln presented an almanac which proved that the moon had already set by the time the witness claimed the murder had occurred. His client was freed and his reputation was sealed. In his time on the Illinois Circuit, he tried over 5000 cases and was an able and competent lawyer. His friends on that circuit convinced him to run for the presidency and he defeated his nemesis Stephen Douglas to gain that post in 1860.
His time of trial in that war that split our nation was compounded by his wife, who in all likelihood suffered from what is called now Bi-polar syndrome, the deaths of his children from disease especially Willie who died in his time in the White House. He was reviled in many respects by a large segment of the country because of his efforts in the war which was not universally popular as one would think in this day when we can look so dispassionately on the events of the era. His assassination turned him into a political martyr, the first American President to be killed while in office by an itinerant actor who had sympathized with the cause of the opposition the Union had vanquished.
In this day and age, he is now revered as a great statesman and lawgiver. An orator unparalleled beyond measure in spite of the fact that some sources suggest he had a rather strange voice. His opposition to the Mexican War cost him his seat in the US House early in his career. His opposition to slavery was on the grounds that slaves were people and deserved an honest days wages for an honest days work. Slavery was against what America had fought against in the Revolution, that all men were created equal and that the Declaration of Independence defined what America was.
A great man, who brought his country together in its darkest time, today we celebrate his birthday.
The other man, whose life began on the exact same day 200 years ago as our esteemed President. Charles Darwin is known for his writings on Evolution and the Origin of the Species. His family was one of wealth and his father was a doctor. His religion was Unitarian, although his family did participate in the Anglican church and he was baptized into that church. He didn't want to become a doctor, neglecting his studies to the point that his father sent him to college to become an Anglican Parson. After graduating from this, he was fascinated by the natural world and continued to study and collect. He signed on to an expedition which was to be his claim to fame.
In December of 1831, the HMS Beagle left England on a scheduled two year expedition to map the coast of South America the two year voyage stretched into a five year one, and Darwin collected many observations and specimens. Journeying about not only South America, but Africa, India, New Zealand and Australia, he spent the years at sea giving thought to how things came to be. After returning home, his book "Voyage of the Beagle," gave him wide renown as a writer. His observations, geologic and biologic, led to his conclusion that animals and plants evolved from more primitive forms and led to his writing of the Origin of the Species.
Darwin's views were accepted by the educated in his time eventually, but have proved controversial of late. Science is there. Its interpretation may change over the years, as new discoveries and the genius of man enable us to break the secrets of nature. However, many still deny the existence of gradual change over the years as the origin life in the present day on Earth.
We are causing evolution even as some are denying its existence. There is a certain species of bacteria in Japan that has evolved to eat Rayon, an artificial fiber created by man in the 20th century. Is this God, or is it part of His plan? Who can say. God doesn't tell me what He is planning as much as the next man. Except maybe those eccentrics who are wandering the streets claiming to hear God. There is a fundamental difference between people like this. A preacher can claim to have heard God speak, yet he is not put into an institution. A mass murderer or a "cult" leader can claim to hear God and that person is put on trial or condemned. Whats the difference?
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