Abraham Lincoln eBook

George Haven Putnam
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 191 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln.
himself to believe.  He possessed also by nature an exceptional capacity for the detection of faulty reasoning; and his exercise of the power of analysis in his work at the Bar proved of great service later in widening his influence as a political leader.  The power that he possessed, when he was assured of the justice of his cause, of convincing court and jury became the power of impressing his convictions upon great bodies of voters.  Later, when he had upon his shoulders the leadership of the nation, he took the people into his confidence; he reasoned with them as if they were sitting as a great jury for the determination of the national policy, and he was able to impress upon them his perfect integrity of purpose and the soundness of his conclusions,—­conclusions which thus became the policy of the nation.

He calls himself a “mast-fed lawyer” and it is true that his opportunities for reading continued to be most restricted.  Davis said in regard to Lincoln’s work as a lawyer:  “He had a magnificent equipoise of head, conscience, and heart.  In non-essentials he was pliable; but on the underlying principles of truth and justice, his will was as firm as steel.”  We find from the record of Lincoln’s work in the Assembly and later in Congress that he would never do as a Representative what he was unwilling to do as an individual.  His capacity for seeing the humorous side of things was of course but a phase of a general clearness of perception.  The man who sees things clearly, who is able to recognise both sides of a matter, the man who can see all round a position, the opposite of the man in blinders, that man necessarily has a sense of humour.  He is able, if occasion presents, to laugh at himself.  Lincoln’s capacity for absorbing and for retaining information and for having this in readiness for use at the proper time was, as we have seen, something that went back to his boyhood.  He says of himself:  “My mind is something like a piece of steel; it is very hard to scratch anything on it and almost impossible after you have got it there to rub it out.”

Lincoln’s correspondence has been preserved with what is probably substantial completeness.  The letters written by him to friends, acquaintances, political correspondents, individual men of one kind or another, have been gathered together and have been brought into print not, as is most frequently the case, under the discretion or judgment of a friendly biographer, but by a great variety of more or less sympathetic people.  It would seem as if but very few of Lincoln’s letters could have been mislaid or destroyed.  One can but be impressed, in reading these letters, with the absolute honesty of purpose and of statement that characterises them.  There are very few men, particularly those whose active lives have been passed in a period of political struggle and civil war, whose correspondence could stand such a test.  There never came to Lincoln requirement to say to his correspondent, “Burn this letter.”

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Abraham Lincoln from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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