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Common links between Abraham Lincoln and Benito Juarez

Abraham Lincoln’s birth date, February 12, by government decree has been folded in with George Washington’s birth date, February 18, to constitute something called President’s Day.   Living in the 1960s in a society that some said had too many national holidays, prompted the view that the United States could trivialize (and commercialize) anything.  Anthropologists had suggested this concept much earlier.

In the spirit of fastening unique things together, historians were popularizing the idea that Benito Juarez (1806-1872) and Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) had much in common.  It was common in the 1960s, for instance to call Juarez “the Mexican Lincoln.”  That is intellectually a much more profitable exploration.
Lincoln, a fledgling politician when he opposed President James K. Polk’s war on Mexico (April 24, 1846 to February 2, 1848), not only sympathized with Juarez’s cause, but was angered by France’s intention (partially concealed but very real) of imposing a Hapsburg Emperor, Ferdinand Maximilian, on the newly created Mexican “empire.”  This audacious move not only violated the United States’ Monroe Doctrine but also posed a more immediate threat: French aid to the Confederate cause.   Napoleon III bet that Lincoln, tangled in the tragedy of the Civil War (1861-1865) and his resources spread thin, could not come to Juarez’s aid.  Napoleon launched an all-out war against the Mexican government – aided by the wealthy Mexican elite, large landowners and the Catholic Church.  Many of these factions were blinded by their Francophilia, which would persist until the 1910 Revolution exploded and sent them running. 
But the doomed if bloody French occupation of Mexico prompted Lincoln, after a few early victories, to be confident enough to begin sending contingents of troops (most of them poorly commanded) to the U.S.-Mexican border, and, more successfully, sending arms across the border to juarista guerrillas.  Europe’s “greatest” army found that they only conquered the ground they stood on at any one time.  Meanwhile, Juarez, in his black coach, moved his government to San Luis Potosi, then to Saltillo, and onward, eventually successfully persisting in his fragile, persistent crusade to bring a lawful government to Mexico. 

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