President of the United States 1861–1865
Finding an Abraham Lincoln Sculpture in Parliament Square London was a treat. He stands in front of the Middlesex Guildhall and was sculpted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens and erected in July 1920.
Abraham Lincoln: The Man (also called Standing Lincoln) is a larger-than-life size bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. The original statue is in Lincoln Park in Chicago, and several replicas have been installed in other places around the world (one is located at Parliament Square in London). Completed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens in 1887, it has been described as the most important sculpture of Lincoln from the 19th century.Abraham Lincoln II, Lincoln’s only grandson, was present at the unveiling in Chicago, IL.
The sculpture depicts a contemplative Lincoln rising from a chair, about to give a speech.
The Location! Buildings looking upon the square include the churches Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s, Westminster, the Middlesex Guildhall which is the seat of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Government Offices Great George Street serving HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs, and Portcullis House.
The History! Parliament Square was laid out in 1868 in order to open up the space around the Palace of Westminster and improve traffic flow, and featured London’s first traffic signals. A substantial amount of property had to be cleared from the site. The architect responsible was Sir Charles Barry. Its original features included the Buxton Memorial Fountain, which was removed in 1940 and placed in its present position in nearby Victoria Tower Gardens in 1957. In 1950 the square was redesigned by George Grey Wornum. The central garden of the square was transferred from the Parliamentary Estate to the control of the Greater London Authority by the Greater London Authority Act 1999. It has responsibility to light, cleanse, water, pave, and repair the garden, and has powers to make bylaws for the garden.
The east side of the square, lying opposite one of the key entrances to the Palace of Westminster, has historically been a common site of protest against government action or inaction. On May Day 2000 the square was transformed into a giant allotment by a Reclaim the Streets guerrilla gardening action. Most recently, Brian Haw staged a continual protest there for several years, campaigning against British and American action in Iraq. Starting on 2 June 2001, Haw left his post only once, on 10 May 2004 – and then because he had been arrested on the charge of failing to leave the area during a security alert, and returned the following day when he was released. The disruption that Haw’s protest is alleged to have caused led Parliament to insert a clause into the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 making it illegal to have protests in Parliament Square (or, indeed, in a large area reaching roughly half a mile in all directions) without first seeking the permission of the Metropolitan Police Commissioner. The provisions of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act relating to Parliament Square were repealed by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, which provides for a different regime of “prohibited activities”.
As well as sparking a great deal of protest from various groups on the grounds of infringement of civil liberties including the European Convention on Human Rights, the Act was initially unsuccessful in accomplishing its goals: Brian Haw was held to be exempt from needing authorisation in a High Court ruling, as his protest had started before the Act came into effect (though any new protests would be covered); Haw remained in Parliament Square. Later, the Court of Appeal overturned this ruling, forcing Haw to apply for police authorisation to continue his protest.
So all that to say finding an American President’s sculpture in such a historic place is pretty darn cool. He did a great deal for my country.
In surveys of scholars ranking Presidents since the 1940s, Lincoln is consistently ranked in the top three, often #1. A 2004 study found that scholars in the fields of history and politics ranked Lincoln number one, while legal scholars placed him second after Washington. Of all the presidential ranking polls conducted since 1948, Lincoln has been rated at the very top in the majority of polls: Schlesinger 1948, Schlesinger 1962, 1982 Murray Blessing Survey, Chicago Tribune 1982 poll, Schlesinger 1996, CSPAN 1996, Ridings-McIver 1996, Time 2008, and CSPAN 2009. Generally, the top three presidents are rated as 1) Lincoln; 2) George Washington; and 3) Franklin D. Roosevelt, although Lincoln and Washington, and Washington and Roosevelt, occasionally are reversed.
President Lincoln’s assassination made him a national martyr and endowed him with a recognition of mythic proportion. Lincoln was viewed by abolitionists as a champion for human liberty. Many, though not all, in the South considered Lincoln as a man of outstanding ability.
Yeah, I cried when I saw the sculpture. He’s right up there with Churchill in our (USA) book. What he did for my country during the darkest days of the Civil War and battle fiercely for the Emancipation Proclamation (taking notes from William Wilberforce!). Absolute heroic guy. Thanks, UK, for putting him in such a historic location as Parliament Square. He did good by us.
To find out more about him, see the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation.