Happy Birthday, Mr. Lincoln

Some amazing facts about one of America’s most towering and complex figures, Abraham Lincoln, born on this day in 1809.

Abraham Lincoln

He Was a Really Good Wrestler

Wrestling is an ancient sport, and it’s remained popular throughout the history of Western civilization, including the 1800s…when Lincoln was an outstanding grappler. He reportedly won approximately 300 matches and lost just once. He even talked a big talk before and after his bouts, much like a present-day WWE wrestler would. Lincoln once told a crowd of wrestling spectators, “I’m the big buck of this lick. If any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns.” For all of this and more, Lincoln was named to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

He Was a Dirty Politician

Honest Abe is almost universally regarded as America’s finest and most dignified president. But he was a human being, after all, and a politician…so he’s not quite the saint history has made him out to be.  As part of his campaign to secure the Republican nomination for president in 1860, Lincoln bought a German-language newspaper. Why? So it would run a bunch of pro-Lincoln editorials and news items and secure the large German immigrant voting bloc. And just before the quadrennial Republican National Convention, Lincoln’s team secretly met with Republican delegates and promised them government jobs—including cabinet positions—in exchange for their support of Lincoln in his quest for the nomination. As one final move to cinch it for Lincoln, his campaign printed and distributed 5,000 fake tickets to the RNC to overwhelm the convention hall with his supporters.

He Had a Complicated View of Slavery

Lincoln presided over the U.S. during the Civil War, fought in large part over the issue of slavery—he banned it with the Emancipation Proclamation, but the Confederacy fought for the right to enslave people kidnapped and shipped from Africa. While Lincoln the man definitely believed that slavery was inhumane, immoral, and wrong, Lincoln the politician wasn’t quite sure what to do with slaves after they were freed. The Proclamation didn’t grant citizenship to African-Americans, for example. In and 1854 anti-slavery speech, he even advocated sending freed slaves “back to Africa.”

He Created the Secret Service

The Secret Service is best known as the security force that protects the President of the United States. But it was initially formed in 1865 to fight and shut down the massive counterfeiting of money that was happening in the country both during and after the Civil War. The legislation to create the agency was signed by President Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Sadly, and ironically, the unprotected president was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth as he watched a play in Washington, D.C. that same day. In 1901—after the assassinations of President James Garfield and President William McKinley—the Secret Service was tasked with protecting the Commander-in-Chief.