Washington’s birthday/Presidents Day

Washington’s Birthday is a United States federal holiday celebrated on the third Monday of February in honor of George Washington, the first President of the United States, who was born on February 22, 1732. It can occur between February 15 through February 21 inclusive. The day is also now widely known as Presidents’ Day and is often an occasion to honor the incumbent president and all persons who have served as president, not just George Washington. The day is a state holiday in most states, with official names including Washington’s Birthday, Presidents’ Day, President’s Day, and Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthday. Depending upon the specific law, the state holiday might officially celebrate Washington alone, Washington and Abraham Lincoln (whose birthday is February 12), or some other combination of U.S. presidents (such as Washington and the third president Thomas Jefferson, who was born in April)

George Washington was born on February 11, 1731 at his parents’ Pope’s Creek Estate near Colonial Beach in Westmoreland County, Virginia. At the time, the entire British Empire, including its North American possessions, was on the Julian calendar; the Empire, not being bound to the Catholic Church, had not yet adopted the modern Gregorian calendar that Catholic countries had adopted in 1582. Consequently, by the 1730s, the Julian calendar used by Britain and the Colonies was eleven days behind the Gregorian, due to leap year differences. Furthermore, the British civil year began on March 25 rather than January 1, so that dates in February (such as this one) ‘belonged’ to the preceding year. (See Dual dating). In 1752, The British Empire switched to the Gregorian calendar; since then, Americans born prior to 1752, including Washington, have typically had their birthdays recognized under what their birthday would have been under the Gregorian calendar (“New Style” dates). Since, during the 1700s, February 11 under the Julian calendar would fall as February 22 on the Gregorian, Washington’s birthday has been generally recognized as February 22, 1732. The federal holiday honoring Washington was originally implemented by an Act of Congress in 1879 for government offices in Washington (20 Stat. 277) and expanded in 1885 to include all federal offices On January 1, 1971, the federal holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act

The first attempt to create a Presidents Day occurred in 1951 when the “President’s Day National Committee” was formed by Harold Stonebridge Fischer of Compton, California, who became its National Executive Director for the next two decades. The purpose was not to honor any particular president but to honor the office of the presidency. It was first thought that March 4, the original inauguration day, should be deemed Presidents Day, but the bill recognizing March 4 stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee (which had authority over federal holidays). The committee felt that, given its proximity to Lincoln’s and Washington’s Birthdays, three holidays so close together would be unduly burdensome. But meanwhile the governors of a majority of the states issued proclamations declaring March 4 Presidents’ Day in their respective jurisdictions.

An early draft of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act renamed the holiday “Presidents’ Day” to honor the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln, which would explain why the chosen date falls between the two, but this proposal failed in committee, and the bill was voted on and signed into law on June 28, 1968, keeping the name “Washington’s Birthday”. By the mid-1980s, with a push from advertisers, the term “Presidents’ Day” began its public appearance. In Washington’s adopted hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, celebrations are held throughout February.

A food traditionally associated with the holiday is cherry pie, based on the legendary chopping down of a cherry tree in Washington‘s youth.Until the late 1980s, corporate businesses generally closed on this day, similar to present corporate practices on Memorial Day or Christmas Day. However, after having been moved to the third Monday, most businesses remain open with many offering sales other promotions. Federal and state government services close (U.S. Postal Service, state Departments of Motor Vehicles, federal and state courts). Class schedules at universities and colleges vary depending on the school. Public elementary and secondary schools are generally closed, but some school districts, such as New York City, may close for an entire week as a “mid-winter recess”.

The holiday is also a tribute to the general who created the first military badge of merit for the common soldier. Revived on Washington’s 200th birthday in 1932, the Purple Heart medal (which bears Washington’s image) is awarded to soldiers who are injured in battle.

Community celebrations often display a lengthy heritage. Washington’s hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, hosts a month-long tribute, including what is claimed to be the nation’s longest-running and largest George Washington Birthday parade, while Eustis, Florida, continues its annual “GeorgeFest” celebration begun in 1902.[35] In Denver, Colorado, there is a society dedicated to observing the day. At the George Washington Birthplace National Monument in Westmoreland County, Virginia, visitors are treated to birthday celebrations on the holiday, while at Mount Vernon, they last throughout the holiday weekend and through February 22. Since 1862 there has been a tradition in the United States Senate that George Washington’s Farewell Address be read on his birthday. Citizens asked that this be done in light of the ongoing Civil War.

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Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday, is the first day of Lent in Western Christianity. It occurs 46 days (40 fasting days, if the six Sundays, which are not days of fast, are excluded) before Easter and can fall as early as February 4 or as late as March 10. Ash Wednesday is observed by many Western Christians, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics. According to the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter. Every Sunday was seen as a commemoration of the Sunday of Christ’s resurrection and so as a feast day on which fasting was inappropriate. Accordingly, Christians fasted from Monday to Saturday (six days) during six weeks and from Wednesday to Saturday (four days) in the preceding week, thus making up the number of 40 days. Orthodox do this 40 days in a row.

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of blessing ashes made from palm branches blessed on the previous year’s Palm Sunday, and placing them on the heads of participants to the accompaniment of the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.

Ashes are ceremonially placed on the heads of Christians on Ash Wednesday, either by being sprinkled over their heads or, in English-speaking countries, more often by being marked on their foreheads as a visible cross. The old formula, based on the words spoken to Adam and Eve after their sin, reminds worshippers of their sinfulness and mortality and thus, implicitly, of their need to repent in time. Various manners of placing the ashes on worshippers’ heads are in use within the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the two most common being to use the ashes to make a cross on the forehead and sprinkling the ashes over the crown of the head. Originally, the ashes were strewn over men’s heads, but, probably because women had their heads covered in church, were placed on the foreheads of women. In the Catholic Church the manner of imposing ashes depends largely on local custom, since no fixed rule has been laid down. Although the account of Ælfric of Eynsham shows that in about the year 1000 the ashes were “strewn” on the head, the marking of the forehead is the method that now prevails in English-speaking countries and is the only one envisaged in the Occasional Offices of the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, a publication described as “noticeably Anglo-Catholic in character”. In its ritual of “Blessing of Ashes”, this states that “the ashes are blessed at the beginning of the Eucharist; and after they have been blessed they are placed on the forehead of the clergy and people.” The Ash Wednesday ritual of the Church of England, Mother Church of the Anglican Communion, contains “The Imposition of Ashes” in its Ash Wednesday liturgy.

On Ash Wednesday, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome, traditionally takes part in a penitential procession from the Church of Saint Anselm to the Basilica of Santa Sabina, where, in accordance with the custom in Italy and many other countries, ashes are sprinkled on his head, not smudged on his forehead, and he places ashes on the heads of others. The Anglican ritual, used in Papua New Guinea states that, after the blessing of the ashes, “the priest marks his own forehead and then the foreheads of the servers and congregation who come and kneel, or stand, where they normally receive the Blessed Sacrament. Pre-1970 editions had much more elaborate instructions about the order in which the participants were to receive the ashes. The 1969 revision of the Roman Rite inserted into the Mass the solemn ceremony of blessing ashes and placing them on heads, The Book of Blessings contains a simple rite. While the solemn rite would normally be carried out within a church building, the simple rite could appropriately be used almost anywhere. While only a priest or deacon may bless the ashes, laypeople may do the placing of the ashes on a person’s head. Even in the solemn rite, lay men or women may assist the priest in distributing the ashes. In addition, laypeople take blessed ashes left over after the collective ceremony and place them on the head of the sick or of others who are unable to attend the blessing.

Those who attend such Catholic services, whether in a church or elsewhere, traditionally take blessed ashes home with them to place on the heads of other members of the family. The Catholic Church and the Methodist Church say that the ashes should be those of palm branches blessed at the previous years Palm Sunday service. while a Church of England publication says they “may be made” from the burnt palm crosses of the previous year. Where ashes are placed on the head by smudging the forehead with a sign of the cross, many Christians choose to keep the mark visible throughout the day. The churches have not imposed this as an obligatory rule, and the ashes may even be wiped off immediately after receiving them. traditional Ash Wednesday church service may include Psalm 51 (the Miserere), prayers of confession and the sign of ashes. The Anglican Church’s traditional Ash Wednesday service, titled A Commination, contains the first two elements, while the Catholic Church’s traditional service has the blessing and distribution of ashes but, while prayers of confession and recitation of Psalm 51 (the first psalm at Lauds on all penitential days, including Ash Wednesday) are a part of a traditional Ash Wednesday

In the mid-16th century, the first Book of Common Prayer removed the ceremony of the ashes from the liturgy of the Church of England and replaced it with what would later be called the Commination Office. This was headed: “The First Day of Lent: Commonly Called Ash-Wednesday”. The ashes ceremony was not forbidden, but was not included in the church’s official liturgy and was replaced by the reading of biblical curses of God against sinners, to each of which the people were directed to respond with Amen. Ashes were used in ancient times to express grief. When Tamar was raped by her half-brother, “she sprinkled ashes on her head, tore her robe, and with her face buried in her hands went away crying” (2 Samuel 13:19).

The gesture was also used to express sorrow for sins and faults. In Job 42:3–6, Job says to God: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” The prophet Jeremiah calls for repentance by saying: “O daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes” (Jer 6:26). The prophet Daniel recounted pleading to God: “I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). Just prior to the New Testament period, the rebels fighting for Jewish independence, the Maccabees, prepared for battle using ashes: “That day they fasted and wore sackcloth; they sprinkled ashes on their heads and tore their clothes” (1 Maccabees 3:47. Examples of the practice among Jews are found in Numbers 19:9, 19:17, Jonah 3:6, Book of Esther 4:1, and Hebrews 9:13. Jesus is quoted as speaking of the practice in Matthew 11:21 and Luke 10:13: Christians continued the practice of using ashes as an external sign of repentance. Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225) said that confession of sin should be accompanied by lying in sackcloth and ashes.

Saint Valentine’s Day

St. Valentine’s Day traditionally celebrates Romance and love and takes place annually on 14 February. Saint Valentine (in Latin, Valentinus) is the name of several martyred saints of ancient Rome. The name “Valentine”, derived from valens (worthy, strong, powerful), was popular in Late Antiquity. Saint Valentine was martyred and buried on the Via Flaminia north of Rome on February 14. Born April 16, Martyr Valentinus the Presbyter and those with him at Rome” remains in the list of saints proposed for veneration by all Catholics. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Saint Valentine the Presbyter is celebrated on July 6, and Hieromartyr Saint Valentine (Bishop of Interamna, Terni in Italy) is celebrated on July 30. Notwithstanding that, conventionally, members of the Greek Orthodox Church named Valentinos (male) or Valentina (female) celebrate their name on February 14.

The feast of St. Valentine was first established in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among those “… whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.” As Gelasius implied, nothing was known, even then, about the lives of any of these martyrs. The Saint Valentine that appears in various martyrologies in connection with Feb 14 and is described either as: A priest in Rome, A bishop of In Terrama (modern Terni), or A martyr in the Roman province of Africa. The first representation of Saint Valentine appeared in the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493); alongside the woodcut portrait of Valentine, the text states that he was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius II, known as Claudius Gothicus. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. At first Claudius took rather a liking to Valentinus and gave him a chance to make amends and redeem himself. However he pushed his luck a bit too far when he tried to convert the Emperor to Christianity, whereupon he was condemned to death. First He was beaten with clubs then he was stoned (and not in a good way), then he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate (which was not particularly good either). Being beaten up, stoned and beheaded doesn’t sound particularly romantic to me, anyway….

In the Middle Ages, two Roman churches were dedicated to Saint Valentine. One was the tenth-century church Sancti Valentini de Balneo Miccine or de Piscina, which was rededicated by Pope Urban III in 1186. The other, on the Via Flaminia, was the ancient basilica S. Valentini extra Portam founded by Pope Julius I, though not under this dedication. Hagiographical sources also speak of a Roman priest and a bishop of Terni each buried along the Via Flaminia outside Rome, at different distances from the city, with each venerated on February 14th. The basilica appellatur Valentini, “is called Valentine’s” This, the earlier and by far more important of the churches, is dedicated to the less prominent of the two saints, Valentine, presbyter of Rome. There is also the Basilica S. Valentini extra Portam, the “Basilica of Saint Valentine beyond the Gate” which was situated beyond the Porta Flaminia (the Porta del Popolo.

Many of the current legends that characterise Saint Valentine were invented in the fourteenth century in England, notably by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when the feast day of February 14 first became associated with romantic love. However there are those who say that the traditions associated with “Valentine’s Day”, documented in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules and set in the fictional context of an old tradition, had no such tradition before Chaucer. In 1836, some remains that were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina, then near (rather than inside) Rome, were identified with St Valentine; placed in a casket, and transported to the Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland, to which they were donated by Pope Gregory XVI. To this day Many tourists visit the saintly remains on St. Valentine’s Day, when the casket is carried in solemn procession to the high altar for a special Mass dedicated to young people and all those in love.

Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day

Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day) is the day preceding Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Shrove Tuesday is observed mainly in English speaking countries, especially Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand and Canada but is also observed in Philippines and Germany. Shrove Tuesday is linked to Easter, so its date changes on an annual basis. In most traditions the day is known for the eating of pancakes before the start of Lent. Pancakes are eaten as they are made out of the main foods available, sugar, fat, flour and eggs, whose consumption was traditionally restricted during the ritual fasting associated with Lent

Pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent because they were a way to use up rich foodstuffs such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent. The liturgical fasting emphasized eating plainer food and refraining from food that would give pleasure: In many cultures, this means no meat, dairy, or eggs. In Canada, Australia, England, Ireland and New Zealand among Anglicans, Lutherans, some other Protestant denominations, including ethnic British communities, as well as Catholics, this day is also known as Pancake Tuesday, as it is customary to eat pancakes. In Newfoundland and Labrador small tokens are frequently cooked in the pancakes. Children take delight in discovering the objects, which are intended to be divinatory. For example, the person who receives a coin will be wealthy; a nail that they will be (or marry) a carpenter, and such (unless they swallow it) 😀

In England, as part of community celebration, many towns held traditional Shrove Tuesday football (‘Mob football’) games, dating as far back as the 12th century. The practice mostly died out in the 19th century, after the passing of the Highway Act 1835, which banned playing football on public highways. However A number of towns have maintained the tradition, including Alnwick in Northumberland, Ashbourne in Derbyshire (where it is called the Royal Shrovetide Football Match), Atherstone (called the Ball Game) in Warwickshire, Sedgefield (called the Ball Game) in County Durham, and St Columb Major (called Hurling the Silver Ball) in Cornwall.

It was once known as a ‘half-holiday’ in England. It started at 11:00am with the signalling of a church bell. On Pancake Day, pancake races are held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom. The tradition is said to have originated when a housewife from Olney was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake.Since 1950 the people of Liberal, Kansas, and Olney have held the “International Pancake Day” race between the two towns. The two towns’ competitors race along an agreed-upon measured course. The times of the two towns’ competitors are compared, to determine a winner overall. A similar race is held in North Somercotes of Lincolnshire in eastern England. Scarborough celebrates by closing the foreshore to all traffic, closing schools early, and inviting all to skip. Traditionally, long ropes were used from the nearby harbour. The town crier rings the pancake bell, situated on the corner of Westborough (Main Street) and Huntress Row. The children of the hamlet of Whitechapel, Lancashire keep alive a local tradition by visiting local households and asking “please a pancake”, to be rewarded with oranges or sweets. It is thought the tradition arose when farm workers visited the wealthier farm and manor owners to ask for pancakes or pancake fillings. In Finland and Sweden, the day is associated with the almond paste-filled semla pastry.

Red Hand Day

Red Hand Day, takes place annually on February 12. The purpose of Red Hand Day is to draw attention to the plight of Child Soldiers throughout the world and highlight the problem of children who are forced to serve as soldiers in wars and armed conflicts, and to call for action against the practice, and to support children affected by it. Children have been used repeatedly as soldiers in recent years in armed conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire, Myanmar, Philippines, Colombia, and Palestine. Rehabilitation for child-soldiers returned to their communities ranges from inadequate to non-existent.

Red Hand Day was started in 2002 after the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict entered into force on February 12, 2002. This protocol was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in May 2000 and currently has signatures from over 100 different nations. A number of international organizations are active against the use of children as soldiers. These organizations include, the United Nations Child Fund (UNICEF), Amnesty International, Terre des Hommes or the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The worldwide number of child soldiers is estimated to be around 250,000 a third of whom are girls, in at least 17 countries, however it is difficult to know the correct number, as most of them are deployed in armed rebel groups.

Armed groups and even some governments recruit children as soldiers because of their their diminished capability to distinguish between right and wrong, as well as between reality and an adventurous game. Up to a certain age, children don’t have a full grasp of the finality of death and the severity of the act of killing a human being. They lack the ability to correctly identify dangers and to assess the risks of specific situations. Children are also easy to influence and be made to follow a specific cause.

The military use of children is addressed by a number of international legal norms. These include International human rights law and International humanitarian law. According to the Additional Protocols I and II to the Geneva Conventions, adopted in 1977, children who have not attained the age of 15 years shall neither be recruited in the armed forces or groups, nor allowed to take part in hostilities. For persons older than 15 but younger than 18 years, the State Parties to the Geneva Conventions shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest. The “Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict”, adopted in 2000, stipulates that its State Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure that persons below the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities, and that they are not compulsorily recruited into their armed forces. In addition to these legal norms, The Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention of the International Labour Organization, adopted in 1999, includes forced or compulsory recruitment of children (under 18) for use in armed conflict as one of the worst forms of child labour.

Shrove Monday

Shrove Monday, is is the Monday before Ash Wednesday every year and is also known as Collopy Monday, Rose Monday, Merry Monday or Hall Monday. Shrove Monday is part of the English traditional Shrovetide celebrations of the week before Lent, the Monday precedes Shrove Tuesday. As the Monday before Ash Wednesday, it is part of diverse Carnival celebrations which take place in many parts of the Christian world, from Greece, to Germany, to the Mardi Gras and Carnival of the Americas.

The word shrove is the past tense of the English verb shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of confession and doing penance. Thus Shrovetide gets its name from the shriving that English Christians were expected to do prior to receiving absolution immediately before Lent begins. Shrove Tuesday is the last day of “shrovetide”, somewhat analogous to the Carnival tradition that developed separately in countries of Latin Europe. The terms “Shrove Monday” and “Shrove Tuesday” are no longer widely used in the United States or Canada outside of liturgical traditions, such as in the Lutheran, Anglican, and Roman Catholic Churches.

Collopy Monday is named after Collopy the traditional dish of the day. This consists of slices of leftover meat (collops of bacon) along with eggs. It is eaten for breakfast and is part of the traditional Lenten preparations. In addition to providing a little meat, the collopys were also the source of the fat for the following day’s pancakes. In east Cornwall, it is sometimes called Peasen Monday or Paisen Monday after the custom of eating pea soup on that day. Shrove Monday is also part of the German, Danish, and Austrian Carnival calendar, called Rosenmontag. In the Rhineland, as part of the pre-lenten Fasching festival (or Feast of Fools), it is part of the parade season, a day of marching, revelry, and satirical floats. In the Carnival in Denmark, it is called Fastelavn.

In the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar, the start of (Eastern) Lent is called Clean Monday. This is not identical to Shrove Monday, which precedes the start of (Western) Lent by two days. Clean Monday is the first day of “Great Lent”, and is traditionally considered the beginning of spring in Greece and Cyprus, where it is a Bank Holiday. Different traditions take place in different localities. In the town of Tyrnavos, for instance, feasts are followed by songs and dances with Bacchic overtones.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was born February 12, 1809. He was the serving President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln successfully led the United States through its greatest constitutional, military, and moral crisis – The American Civil War – preserving the Union. Reared in a poor family on the western frontier, Lincoln was mostly self-educated, and became a country lawyer, a Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator during the 1830s, and a one-term member of the United States House of Representatives during the 1840s.

After a series of debates in 1858 that gave national visibility to his opposition to the expansion of slavery, Lincoln lost a Senate race to his arch-rival,Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln, a moderate from a swing state, secured the Republican Party presidential nomination in 1860. With almost no support in the South, Lincoln swept the North and was elected president in 1860. His election was the signal for seven southern slave states to declare theirsecession from the Union and form the Confederacy. The departure of the Southerners gave Lincoln’s party firm control of Congress, but no formula for compromise or reconciliation was found. Lincoln explained in his second inaugural address: “Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the Nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.”

When the North enthusiastically rallied behind the national flag after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, Lincoln concentrated on the military and political dimensions of the war effort. His goal was now to reunite the nation. As the South was in a state of insurrection, Lincoln exercised his authority to suspend habeas corpus, arresting and temporarily detaining thousands of suspected secessionists without trial. Lincoln averted British recognition of the Confederacy by skillfully handling the Trent affair in late 1861. His efforts toward the abolition of slavery include issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, encouraging the border states to outlaw slavery (mostly as a war policy), but did nothing to help push through Congress the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which finally freed all the slaves nationwide in December 1865. Lincoln closely supervised the war effort, especially the selection of top generals, including commanding general Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln brought leaders of the major factions of his party into his cabinet and pressured them to cooperate. Under Lincoln’s leadership, the Union set up a naval blockade that shut down the South’s normal trade, took control of the border slave states at the start of the war, gained control of communications with gunboats on the southern river systems, and tried repeatedly to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia. Each time a general failed, Lincoln substituted another until finally Grant succeeded in 1865.

An exceptionally astute politician deeply involved with power issues in each state, Lincoln reached out to War Democrats and managed his own re-election in the 1864 presidential election. As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican party, Lincoln found his policies and personality were “blasted from all sides”: Radical Republicans demanded harsher treatment of the South, War Democrats desired more compromise, Copperheads despised him, and irreconcilable secessionists plotted his death. Politically, Lincoln fought back with patronage, by pitting his opponents against each other, and by appealing to the American people with his powers of oratory. His Gettysburg Address of 1863 became the most quoted speech in American history. At the close of the war, Lincoln held a moderate view of Reconstruction, seeking to reunite the nation speedily through a policy of generous reconciliation in the face of lingering and bitter divisiveness. Six days after the surrender of Confederate commanding general Robert E. Lee, however, Lincoln was assassinated by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln’s death was the first assassination of a U.S. president and sent the nation into mourning. Lincoln has been consistently ranked by scholars and the public as one of the three greatest U.S. presidents, with scolars voting for George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the public favoring Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.