Ambition, political savvy, women and pain are common to Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, said a professor who has studied the lives of America's most popular leaders.
Johanna Shields, who teaches American history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, has traced the lives of the presidents, being honored with President's Day on Monday."The most interesting part of these men is the relationships between the reputations that they have and what they actually tried to accomplish in their own lives," Shields said.
Although nearly 100 years seperated the administrations of our first and 16th presidents, both times were troublesome and neither man enjoyed being president, Shields said.
Lincoln has been called the common person's president, although both he and Washington came from poverty with little formal education, Shields said.
The desire to succeed dominated both. "They both had a sense of themselves as great or potentially great figures."
Physically, Lincoln and Washington were towering figures for their times. Both appeared to have suffered significant health problems. Washington's violent headaches prompted removal of his teeth. Lincoln reportedly suffered from depression.
While Lincoln appeared somewhat awkward, Washington was regal and graceful, Shields said.
The world taught the men about politics.
Washington was aware that the eyes of the world were upon him, and he was fighting for respect and dignity.
Lincoln, meanwhile, played the game of politics well but appears to have been a man tortured by guilt and anxiety, Shields said. External gratification, apparently did not drive Lincoln, she said.
In matters of the heart, Shields said both men were madly in love with other women before they married. "But both men made marriages that advanced their social position and wealth," she said. Lincoln and Washington knew what was necessary to rise in the world and did those things to gain power, including marrying the `right' women.
Both men appeared religious, although not devout Christians, Shields said. Washington attended Episcopalian services and is believed to have said religion was good for the common man.
Thoughtful and reflective in public, Lincoln constantly referred to God in his speeches during the Civil War.
Lincoln was a great speaker, while Washington was not, she said. "But both men were aware that religion and morality were necessary to the republic," she said.