Our guest speaker Wednesday was George Buss of Freeport, Illinois. Buss has spent years portraying President Abraham Lincoln. He resembles Lincoln in height, weight and facial hair. Buss was also our very own TJ Egan’s high school teacher!
“President Lincoln” filled our program with various historical elements about wrestling with the issue of slavery. There were a variety of compromises in the mid 1800s that kept the institution of slavery alive in the South and in additional states as they joined the Union. These included the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act. There were even thoughts of expanding slavery throughout new countries of the Western Hemisphere!
The Freeport (Illinois) Doctrine was also a piece of this puzzle which said that local that slavery could only exist in places with support from local police regulations. Lincoln said in 1858, “a house divided cannot stand….this government cannot endure half slave and half free”. Lincoln’s historic debates with Stephen Douglas in 1858 for the right to be a US Senator from Illinois further outlined his position on slavery. He favored a gradual retreat from the enslavement of African Americans, in an attempt to avoid bloodshed in the country. Seven southern states seceded from the Union prior to Lincoln’s inauguration in 1861.
George will portray President Lincoln in November to deliver the Gettysburg Address at the Gettysburg National Battlefield. This year will be the fifth year that he has had this honor. George also intermingled the slavery debate with the Rotary Four Way Test- “of the things we think, say, or do: is it the truth, is it fair to all concerned, will it build goodwill and better friendships, will it be beneficial to all concerned”.