CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thank you for, in the June 16 Sunday Gazette-Mail "Perspective" page, printing a photo of Lincoln's proclamation that affirmed the act of Congress making West Virginia a state. That was 150 years ago today, on June 18, so I am celebrating our Sesquicentennial as I write this.How come?Lincoln, a learned, lettered and literate lawyer, signed the proclamation on April 20, 1863, stating, "I . . . declare and proclaim that the said act shall take effect and be in force from and after sixty days from the date hereof."Let's do some arithmetic.
Thirty days hath April. The 20th through the 30th of April is 11 days.May always has 31 days.Thirty-one in May, plus 11 in April totals 42.To arrive at the "60 days" Lincoln declared, one must add 18 days in June.
Now, as a rough rule of thumb, we generally think of a month as having 30 days, on average, so someone who does a quickie mental calculation on April 20, might surmise that June 20 is 60 days hence. That's probably the mistake one of our ancestors made and no one has caught it until now?Two months is 60 days only in leap years and only if one adds the 31 in January or March to the 29 in February. Otherwise, at no time does the number of days in adjacent months add up to 60.June 20 is unarguably two months from the date of Lincoln's signing, but the proclamation does not say "two months." It is a binding legal document making permanent law, and it plainly says "sixty days."As we have seen, 60 days, including the signing date, takes us to June 18.Even if some legal-eagle sharpshooter tries to somehow stretch the interpretation to exclude the signing date (which Lincoln did not), we still can't reach June 20.So Montani Semper Liberi! and happy belated June 18 Sesquicentennial, my fellow West Virginians! Melius tarde, quam nunquam
. (Better late than never.) Shall we change the State Seal art, which shows June 20? The West Virginia Day holiday? Or get a new "birth certificate" from President Obama that "adjusts" the wording?Non credis alienis calculos.
(Never trust other people's math.)
Cook is an author, artist and inventor who lives in Hurricane and learned arithmetic in public schools of both Virginias.