The assassination of Abraham Lincoln occurred 155 years ago today. A lot of history has occurred since then but in many ways we are still struggling with the same issues. President Lincoln struggled with the role of government in society, institutional racism, and how to preserve the Union. These are still problems we deal with today. Perhaps it would be useful to examine what the now mythical figure of Lincoln carried in his pockets on the night of his assassination to gain some insight into humanity. He carried two pairs of spectacles and a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a watch fob, a linen handkerchief, a brown leather wallet containing a five-dollar Confederate note, and eight newspaper clippings, including several favorable to the president and his policies.
How does this provide insight into humanity? Simply by looking at how common these items were. Many of them were held by the man himself as a reminder of his humanity and things that should not be forgotten. Each of us carries everyday items whether they are physical objects, artifacts, of things to be remembered or mundane things to help us get through the day it is the mundane that link us together.
I don’t agree with everything Lincoln had done as president. He was faced with challenges that no normal man could endure. But it is the preservation of his humanity despite it all that should be reflected on for this 155th anniversary of his tragic death.
The final contents of Lincoln’s pockets are held by the Library of Congress and a short video of them can be found here.