February 07, 1887

Hannibal Hamlin Calls for Making Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday a National Day of Observance

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It would seem that the earliest known observance of Lincoln’s birthday was in 1866, when Congress gathered for a memorial address; but the federal government, neither then nor now, has never seen quite fit, somehow, to give its most popular president a national day of observance. Hannibal Hamlin, in his day, thought this wrong: writing here to decline an invitation to the Republican Club of New York's First Annual Dinner celebrating Lincoln’s birth, he says:

Your club has well and wisely acted in making this the commencement of an annual observance of  Mr. Lincoln's Birthday. The day should be made national like the Birth day of Washington. Let events be appropriately observed, as one of the best things to inculcate upon those who, in the ages, shall come after us. It is patriotic to do so, and it serves to promote a love of country and keep alive and fresh a memory of Patriotic men.


When Hamlin did attend a Republican Club of New York celebratory banquet, in 1891, he said pretty much the same thing, only adding that Congress ought to make Lincoln’s birthday a legal holiday.
 
Hamlin, it is impossible not to note, though Lincoln’s Vice-President, barely saw him. Just weeks into his term, he recognized that he was now “the most unimportant man in Washington,” ignored by all, and so went home to Maine. Indeed, at one point during his Vice-Presidency, he was so at a lack of things to do, and so wanting to do something, that he actually enlisted in the Maine Coast Guard as a cook. He did return to Washington, however, to open the sessions of Congress. When replaced in 1864 by Andrew Johnson, he left Washington disgusted, the papers said, with everything and every one in public life - except Lincoln. “I always gave [President Lincoln] my views, and when asked, my advice,” he recalled. “His treatment of me was on his part that of kindness and consideration.”

Autograph Letter Signed, 2 pages, recto and verso, quarto, Bangor, Maine, February 7, 1887. To James P. Foster of the New York Republican Club.

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Transcript

Bangor Me Feb 7 1887.

James P. Foster Esq.
V. Prest. of The Republican Club N.Y.

Dear Sir,

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 2d inst inclosing an invitation to me to attend the First Annual Dinner to be given February the twelfth, the anniversary of Lincoln's Birthday at Delmonico's.  I regret exceeding[ly] my inability to be present on that occasion. I would be glad to testify by my presence my high appreciation of Mr. Lincoln and pay homage to his memory and worth, but my engagements are such that I cannot do so.

Your club has well and wisely acted in making this the commencement of an annual observance of  Mr. Lincoln's Birthday. The day should be made national like the Birth day of Washington. Let each be appropriately observed, as one of the best things to inculcate upon upon [sic] those who, in the ages, shall come after us. It is patriotic to do so, and it serves to promote a love of country and keep alive and fresh a memory of Patriotic men.

In haste Yours truly

HANNIBAL HAMLIN