2011 David Hirsch Speech at National Archives II (video).
2010 Virtual Book Signing (at Abraham Lincoln Book Shop). December 10 (Part 1) December 10 (Part 2) December 10 (Part 3) December 10 (Part 4)
Ever since his school days, David Hirsch felt there was a connection between mathematics and language. In study halls Hirsch played with word equations, trying to make the connection algebraically. This led to dead ends. For decades the "project", an apparent joust with a windmill, was dormant.
In 2007 Hirsch went to Springfield, Illinois, to research a column for the ABA Journal, an American Bar Association publication. The purpose of the research was to determine how Abraham Lincoln might have functioned practicing law in today's technological setting. The two-page article came to the conclusion that Lincoln would have done just fine in today's legal environment. Perhaps more significantly, the trip hooked Hirsch on Lincoln.
Accompanying Hirsch on the Springfield trip were his wife Esther, and Dan Van Haften. Van Haften and Hirsch met decades ago, in the first grade. After touring the first Lincoln & Herndon law office, Hirsch remarked, "You know, practice in Lincoln's time was not that different from small-town midwestern legal practice when I started in the early 1970's." A tour of Lincoln's home reinforced that conclusion. Other than the gaudy decoration, the kitchen, and the lack of indoor plumbing, the house seemed comfortable and attractive.
Dan suggested going to the small train station where Lincoln embarked to Washington as President-elect. It was locked. More important than the inside, was the plaque outside containing Lincoln's Springfield farewell address. Hirsch read the short speech and said, "What a remarkable, beautiful speech."
The other facilitating event regarding the book was Dan's late 2007 retirement from Alcatel/Lucent.
Everything was in place. The book's purpose was to compare the American legal system in Lincoln's time to now. The original plan was to exclude Lincoln's presidential years and Lincoln's speeches.
Dan stated the first thing he wanted to do was read the complete Lincoln/Douglas debates, and the Cooper Union speech. David thought this was a peculiar beginning, but made no comment. Dan took seven legal sized pages of handwritten notes on the debates, and presented them to David. David focused on one paragraph, a Lincoln reference to Euclid. David went "bananas". Sensing that this was the key to Lincoln's speeches, he said to Dan, "Find out everything you can in Lincoln literature regarding Euclid and Lincoln." It was a monumental research assignment. Lincoln literature is massive. The advantage the authors had was the fact that they were not Lincoln scholars. They had no preconceptions. They innocently went wherever the evidence led.
Dan's review of Lincoln literature produced countless references to Euclid. They all pretty much said the same thing. Lincoln read Euclid, mastered Euclid, took Euclid's Elements with him while riding the Circuit. Not much substantive other than a loose statement that Lincoln read Euclid to find out how to "demonstrate".
So David said to Dan, "Read Euclid's Elements, and do what Lincoln did; find out what it means to 'demonstrate'." Then David added, "When you figure it out, find something Lincoln wrote or spoke that confirms it."
Time went by. Finally Dan said, "I've got it." David responded, "And do you have an example to prove it?" Dan responded affirmatively. "What?", David inquired. "The Cooper Union speech," Dan said.
The rest is history. One discovery led to another: The Thomas Jefferson connection, the legal system itself, and more.