Shedding presidential light in Greencastle

February 15, 2002

Shedding presidential light in Greencastle

Greencastle, Pa.

By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

George Washington never spent one day in school.

Abraham Lincoln had three brothers-in-law who were generals in the Civil War - on the Confederate side.

These are little-known facts about two men who were considered by many to be this country's greatest presidents - men whose birthdays will be celebrated Monday with Presidents' Day sales in shopping malls and automobile dealerships.

The two presidents were the topic of remarks Thursday night before members of the Allison-Antrim Museum at the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Presidential historians and authors Jerry Holsworth and Gordon Leidner spoke on "Washington and Lincoln the Indispensable Men."

Holsworth, a former National Park Service ranger, spoke on Washington; Leidner, a nationally known Lincoln scholar, discussed the 16th president.

Washington, Holsworth said, "is the perfect example of the new man in the new world. He went into the wilderness, bought land, worked hard and built himself up. He was not born to the manor, but when he died he was the wealthiest man in America."


If Washington were alive today he would be an online investor, losing millions one day and making millions the next, Holsworth said. He was asked to preside over 13 independent states and form one country under a government of laws.

"It was Washington's prestige that pushed it through. We have a Constitution because of him. If George Washington had not been the first president we would not have had a second president," Holsworth said.

"He didn't create a perfect union. Four score and seven years later it collapsed," he said.

"Lincoln was the great preserver," Leidner said. Lincoln resolved the differences between the Declaration of Independence which allowed slavery, and the Constitution which banned it. He did it by fighting the Civil War.

Many people, including members of his own cabinet, told Lincoln that he should let the South secede. "He said no. He was committed to one nation. He had started to come into greatness," Leidner said.

Lincoln fought the war to preserve the union, not to end slavery, something that didn't come until after the Battle of Antietam and the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, Leidner said.

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