The press demeaned him. His fellow Republicans worried about his competence. The influential people of the day called him an idiot, a yahoo, even “the original gorilla”.
He was described as “weak as water”. His leadership ability was regularly ridiculed by the talking (writing) heads of the day.
His first military leader of the war effort, General McClellan, actively worked to obstruct his commands. Lincoln had to tell him “you’re fired!”.
Both of his inaugural addresses were panned as simplistic and inarticulate, even though they are included in the pantheons of American history. His Gettysburg address was scoffed at by the elites, despite it connecting so perfectly with the common people who elected him.
His words from these speeches are now engraved on the walls of the Lincoln Memorial. They are exemplars of Americana, revered across the globe.
If you would have listened to the naysayers of the time, you would have believed him to be a sorry excuse for a president. Some even called for his assassination, long before that April night at Ford Theater, when a famous actor pulled the trigger on history.
Lincoln was deeply hurt by the criticism, but throughout his presidency, he trudged ahead, convinced of the correctness of his vision, and dedicated to serving his nation.
The people who considered themselves influential and wise spewed an infinite variation of insults on the same theme: We hate this guy, and we’re sorry he was elected by the illiterates and the ignoramuses. He needs to be replaced by someone who is qualified in the traditional sense.
If this seems eerily familiar, there’s a good reason for that. History repeats itself. This civil war is different, but the tactics remain the same.