Abraham Lincoln, Volume II eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 377 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, Volume II.
doubt, be largely a question of the personal sympathies of the observer.  But Lincoln stands apart in striking solitude,—­an enigma to all men.  The world eagerly asks of each person who endeavors to write or speak of him:  What illumination have you for us?  Have you solved the mystery?  Can you explain this man?  The task has been essayed many times; it will be essayed many times more; it never has been, and probably it never will be entirely achieved.  Each biographer, each writer or speaker, makes his little contribution to the study, and must be content to regard it merely as a contribution.  For myself, having drawn the picture of the man as I see him, though knowing well that I am far from seeing him all, and still farther from seeing inwardly through him, yet I know that I cannot help it by additional comments.  Very much more than is the case with other men, Lincoln means different things to different persons, and the aspect which he presents depends to an unusual degree upon the moral and mental individuality of the observer.  Perhaps this is due to the breadth and variety of his own nature.  As a friend once said to me:  Lincoln was like Shakespeare, in that he seemed to run through the whole gamut of human nature.  It was true.  From the superstition of the ignorant backwoodsman to that profoundest faith which is the surest measure of man’s greatness, Lincoln passed along the whole distance.  In his early days he struck his roots deep down into the common soil of the earth, and in his latest years his head towered and shone among the stars.  Yet his greatest, his most distinctive, and most abiding trait was his humanness of nature; he was the expression of his people; at some periods of his life and in some ways it may be that he expressed them in their uglier forms, but generally he displayed them in their noblest and most beautiful developments; yet, for worse or for better, one is always conscious of being in close touch with him as a fellow man.  People often call him the greatest man who ever lived; but, in fact, he was not properly to be compared with any other.  One may set up a pole and mark notches upon it, and label them with the names of Julius Caesar, William of Orange, Cromwell, Napoleon, even Washington, and may measure these men against each other, and dispute and discuss their respective places.  But Lincoln cannot be brought to this pole, he cannot be entered in any such competition.  This is not necessarily because he was greater than any of these men; for, before this could be asserted, the question would have to be settled:  How is greatness to be estimated?  One can hardly conceive that in any age of the world or any combination of circumstances a capacity and temperament like that of Caesar or Napoleon would not force itself into prominence and control.  On the other hand, it is easy to suppose that, if precisely such a great moral question and peculiar crisis as gave to Lincoln his opportunity had not arisen contemporaneously with his years of vigor, he
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Abraham Lincoln, Volume II from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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