George Washington stared blankly into the computer screen, apparently overwhelmed by the information he was still digesting. He pulled himself together and replied.
“I see Mr. Jenson. How horrific that our generation left the next with such an insurmountable problem. We knew the injustice of slavery but could not abolish it in our time without tearing our infant nation apart. We established a time when the trade would end and believed it would result in the eventual demise of slavery itself. I even wrote in my own will that upon my death, slaves under my direction must be set free. Please assure me they were.” Shaken, Mr. Washington turned to Mr. Anders.
“We did. Did we not? We believed slavery would fade away once the trade was removed. How shameful that we failed, but you must understand we were of a just mind.”
For one of a handful of times in his life, Josh Anders was at a loss for words as he stared at the first president. The others remained silent while the father of our country endured a sudden moral crisis right before their eyes.
After a minute of solemn silence, a choked up Washington cleared his throat. “You all spoke of the president during this terrible war who would be assassinated. Please gentlemen, tell me about this extraordinary man.”
Historian Jack Murray moved toward the microphone. The Civil War discussion couldn’t wait. “Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the United States. He was born to a poor family in the state of Kentucky, became a lawyer and was eventually elected president of the United States in 1860 as the Civil War loomed.”
Mr. Washington peered into the sunken eyes and deep lines of the face on the five-dollar bill in his hand.
Murray reiterated that like the founders, Lincoln had been torn between abolishing slavery and the threat of the country being destroyed by war; ultimately, Lincoln knew that the country could not survive divided.
Murray felt his throat tighten and voice quiver. As he spoke he thought about the horrors of slavery and the thousands of young men who were killed defending and opposing the terrible institution. He looked over at his boy Todd sitting innocently next to his mother and momentarily felt a twinge of resentment that the problem of slavery, like so many today, was “kicked” to another generation to solve….
Since learning of the Civil War earlier in the day, Mr. Washington had been thinking about Lincoln. He was haunted by Lincoln’s weary and prematurely aged face. What kind of a man was he? Did Mr. Washington and his founding brothers fail? Lincoln was not a founder, but perhaps he was more of a founder than the revolutionaries themselves. Mr. Washington sensed Providence would reveal her intentions at the memorial to this great man.