Return to The horse that freed the slaves (idea)

          "In his tenth year he was kicked by a horse,
          and [apparently|apparantly] ([sic]) killed for a time."

This quoted phrase comes from a short [a portrait of the artist as a young man|campaign biography] [Abraham Lincoln] was asked to write in June of 1860. His flawed spelling is heartening and his awkward use of the [third person] reveals a man looking at himself from the outside.

[Lincoln's pocket contents|History doesn't remember] the horse's name but the reference to gender is definite. She was an [shod|unshod] [mare], hitched to a circular mill, grinding corn or sugar cane. [the worm has turned|The ten year old boy] grew impatient with her plodding pace and commented to a friend that, "his dog could eat the meal as fast as the mill could grind it."

He shouted, "Git up, you old [hussy]; git up, you old hussy," whacking her with a stick, "git up..."

The boy was halted in mid-sentence by the hoof to his head. He remained unconscious for many hours and those attending him feared that he suffered [ford's theatre|a mortal wound]. When he regained consciousness the next day, his first words were the conclusion of his [truncated] command.

"... you old hussy."

[sawbones|The nearest doctor] was many miles away so the boy received no medical attention for his injury and he apparently recovered without [civil war|serious after-effects]. [X-ray] photography had not yet been invented so they could not have known that he sustained [turning the other cheek|a severe skull fracture] just above his left eye.

Doctors were able to [forty acres and a mule|study the injury] nearly a century later through examination of a life mask made of the boy grown to manhood. The depth of the skull fracture indicated that his left [frontal lobe] was certainly damaged, which in a [right-handed] right-eyed person could have modifying effects on his personality. [AMA|The scientific report] concluded that:

        "A person with this type of [cerebral] lesion, in order to keep
        mentally alert, would have to be involved, or keep himself
        involved, in emotionally stimulating situations...such as a
        passion for legal justice for all people. Lincoln did just this,
        as a humorist seeking happiness and as a [humanist] seeking
        justice, in an endless fight to overcome the tendency to lapse
        into a rut of sad, gloomy, [suicidal] preoccupations." †

Perhaps [Mr. Lincoln's dream|the most significant of his symptoms] was the tendency to lapse into a lower state of consciousness or mental detachment. His friends and associates described his facial expression during these episodes as "withdrawn" or "sad and abstract." These trances were fleeting but frequent and his law partner reported that he would sometimes emerge from them in a [woke up laughing|burst of laughter], for no apparent reason.

A cause and effect relationship between a kick to the head and [Mahatma Gandhi|Mr. Lincoln]'s humanity would be difficult to establish beyond conjecture but I like to believe that one exists. The evident punishment for his childhood cruelty to a beast of burden was a life defined by solemn introspection. It is historical fact that this introspection led to [the emancipation proclamation|the emancipation] of the sad millions who had been rendered human beasts of burden.

When [mary todd lincoln|Mary Lincoln], the daughter of Kentucky slave-owners, questioned the [President] about the [abolition] of [slavery], his response was enigmatic.

"I am under orders," he told his wife, "[john wilkes booth|I cannot do otherwise]."

† [american medical association|A.M.A]. Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, April 1952, Volume 67, Number 4, Pages 419-433. Copyright 1952
Additional sources: "Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years" and "Abraham Lincoln: The War Years" by Carl Sandburg and "Life of Lincoln" by William Herndon and Jesse Weik