Abraham Lincoln eBook

George Haven Putnam
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 609 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln.
and yet insufferably monotonous.  But that is not what they mean.  They had better not seek to express themselves by too definite instances.  They will be understood and believed when they say that to them America, with its vast spaces from ocean to ocean, does present itself as one country, not less worthy than any other of the love which it has actually inspired; a country which is the home of distinctive types of manhood and womanhood, bringing their own addition to the varying forms in which kindness and courage and truth make themselves admirable to mankind.  The soul of a single people seems to be somewhere present in that great mass, no less than in some tiny city State of antiquity.  Only it has to struggle, submerged evermore by a flood of newcomers, and defeated evermore by difficulties quite unlike those of other lands; and it struggles seemingly with undaunted and with rational hope.

Americans are fond of discussing Americanism.  Very often they select as a pattern of it Abraham Lincoln, the man who kept the North together but has been pronounced to have been a Southerner in his inherited character.  Whether he was so typical or not, it is the central fact of this biography that no man ever pondered more deeply in his own way, or answered more firmly the question whether there was indeed an American nationality worth preserving.



1. Life at New Salem.

From this talk of large political movements we have to recall ourselves to a young labouring man with hardly any schooling, naturally and incurably uncouth, but with a curious, quite modest, impulse to assert a kindly ascendency over the companions whom chance threw in his way, and with something of the gift, which odd, shy people often possess, for using their very oddity as a weapon in their struggles.  In the conditions of real equality which still prevailed in a newly settled country it is not wonderful that he made his way into political life when he was twenty-five, but it was not till twenty years later that he played an important part in events of enduring significance.

Thus the many years of public activity with which we are concerned in this and the following chapter belong rather to his apprenticeship than to his life’s work; and this apprenticeship at first sight contrasts more strongly with his fame afterwards than does his boyhood of poverty and comparatively romantic hardship.  For many poor boys have lived to make a great mark on history, but as a rule they have entered early on a life either of learning or of adventure or of large business.  But the affairs in which Lincoln early became immersed have an air of pettiness, and from the point of view of most educated men and women in the Eastern States or in Europe, many of the associates and competitors of his early manhood, to whom he had to look up as his superiors in knowledge, would certainly

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Abraham Lincoln from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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