Thursday, February 12, 2009

200-year-old Abe and Depression

I wonder if someone was blogging about Thomas Lincoln's and Nancy Hanks' bouncing baby boy that was born 200 years ago today in a one-room log cabin in Hardin County Kentucky.

I doubt it. But it was on Feb. 12, 1809 that little Abraham Lincoln came bouncing into this world. Fifty-one years later, he would become the 16th U.S. President, presiding over the Civil War and the worst period in American history.

Lincoln usually leads the short list of the greatest presidents ever, which include the Roosevelts, Teddy and Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Ronald Reagan. I would imagine msnbc would also include Barack Obama.

Lincoln was our tallest president at 6-feet-4. He was also color blind. His in-laws despised him (now that's a long list). And more than 16,000 books have been written on him.

Maybe the most noteworthy is Lincoln rose to such prominence despite battling depression nearly his whole life. If the the term were around in the mid-1800s, Lincoln would have been diagnosed as clinically depressed.

While a storyteller and joke teller, he would often go into bouts of deep depression, which was called "melancholy" in the day. While some historians like that to genetics, others link it to many tragedies he encountered when he was young.

As an adult, Lincoln often wept in public, recited sentimental poetry and spoke of suicide. "No element of Mr. Lincoln's character," said his associate Henry Clay Whitney, "was so marked, obvious and ingrained as his mysterious and profound melancholy. It literally dripped off him when he walked."

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