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monial of diplomacy,” and “ touches the heart of nations."
" I never,” says his assistant Secretary of War, “ heard him say anything that was not so." He could refrain from speaking at all, but when the time came he told the truth. In his later years experience had so mellowed him that he saw the truth almost without moral indignation; but in his early days, before the burden of the world had chastened him, he could, as we have seen, "skin defendant." One law case he refused with these words, “I could set a neighborhood at loggerheads, distress a widowed mother and six fatherless children, and get you the $600, which, for all I know, she has as good a right to as you have; but I will not do it.”
“ There are,” said Phillips Brooks, “men as good as he, but they do bad things. There are men as intelligent as he, but they do foolish things. In him goodness and intelligence combined and made their best result of wisdom.' Strangely mingled wisdom of Æsop and of the apostle, it was sought most willingly in the lowliest haunts and applied with fitness in the highest. When Sherman came to the River Queen from his march to the sea, what Lincoln asked him about with particular zest was the “bummers" on the routes, and the devices to collect food and forage. He cared little for great men, not overmuch for great books; but from Shakespeare, the Bible, sentimental ballads, American humorists, and above all from the ebb and flow of daily life, he learned the essential lessons. Pomp and ceremony were tiresome, ludicrous, or unnoticed. He wrote messages of moment to generals and secretaries on cards and slips of paper. A long letter about a law case, containing a desire to retain him, he returned with the indorsement: “ Count me in. A. Lincoln." His first spectacles, which he bought in 1856 in a tiny jewellery shop in Bloomington, with the remark that he “had got to be forty-seven years old and kinder needed them,” cost him 374 cents. At one o'clock, on a night after Lincoln had been away for a week, his Springfield neighbor heard the sound of an axe. Leaving his bed he saw Lincoln in the moonlight chopping the wood for his solitary supper.
Thus, from whatever angle we approach this nature, we glide inevitably from the serious to the amusing, and back again from the homely to the sublime. The world no longer sees the leisure and manners of a few as a compensation for the suppression of the many. The law of universal sympathy is upon us.
Some imagine that in this levelling lies the loss of poetry, of great natures, of distinction, the impressive and stirring being laid upon the altar of a gloomy right. To them the life of Lincoln need have
little meaning. Others rejoice in the new truth, and trust the world, and smile at prophecies. For them Lincoln represents soundness. For them his rule is as full of pictures and inspiration as anything in the past, as full of charm as it is of justice, and his character is as reassuring as it is varied. He had no artificial aids. He merely proved the weapon of finest temper in the fire in which he was tested. In the struggle for survival in a social upheaval he not only proved the living power of integrity and elasticity, but he easily combined with his feats of strength and shrewdness some of the highest flights of taste As we look back across the changes of his life, - see him passing over the high places and the low, and across the long stretches of the prairie; spending years in the Socratic arguments of the tavern, and anon holding the rudder of state in grim silence; choosing jests which have the freshness of earth, and principles of eternal right; judging potentates and laborers in the clear light of nature and at equal ease with both; alone by virtue of a large and melancholy soul, at home with every man by virtue of love and faith, — this figure takes its place high in our minds and hearts, not solely through the natural right of strength and success, but also because his strength is ours, and the success won by him rested on the fundamental purity and health of the popular will of which he was the leader and the servant. Abraham Lincoln was in a deep and lasting sense the first American. All the world can see his worth, but perhaps only we who know the taste of the climate, the smell of the prairie, the tone of fresh and Democratic life, can quite appreciate his flavor. General and President Washington, who, standing firm, with wisdom and power, gave the opportunity to build a nation, has left a name that grows with the onward march of his country. Abraham Lincoln, nearly a century later, found the nation grown, about to test the sufficiency of its creed, and with the comprehension of lifelong intimacy helped it to understand itself. His fame also has risen, and will rise, with the fortunes of his country. His deeds stand first, but his story becomes higher through the pure and manifold character which accomplished them and the lastingly fair and vital words in which he defended them.