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AN APPRECIATION OF LINCOLN

AN APPRECIATION OF LINCOLN

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Written by Hunter   
Wednesday, 08 October 2008 01:19

To these qualifications of high literary excellence, and easy practical
mastery of affairs of transcendent importance, we must add as an
explanation of his immediate and world-wide fame, his possession of
certain moral qualities rarely combined in such high degree in one
individual. His heart was so tender that he would dismount from his
horse in a forest to replace in their nest young birds which had fallen
by the roadside; he could not sleep at night if he knew that a
soldier-boy was under sentence of death; he could not, even at the
bidding of duty or policy, refuse the prayer of age or helplessness in
distress. Children instinctively loved him; they never found his rugged
features ugly; his sympathies were quick and seemingly unlimited. He was
absolutely without prejudice of class or condition. Frederick Douglass
[Footnote: Frederick Douglass: a noted orator and journalist. He was
born (a slave) in 1817 and died in 1895.] says he was the only man of
distinction he ever met who never reminded him, by word or manner, of
his color; he was as just and generous to the rich and well-born as to
the poor and humble--a thing rare among politicians. He was tolerant
even of evil: though no man can ever have lived with a loftier scorn of
meanness and selfishness, he yet recognized their existence and counted
with them. He said one day, with a flash of cynical wisdom worthy of a
La Rochefoucauld, [Footnote: La Rochefoucauld: Francois La Rochefoucauld
was a French writer and moralist of the seventeenth century.] that
honest statesmanship was the employment of individual meanness for the
public good. He never asked perfection of any one; he did not even
insist, for others, upon the high standards he set up for himself. At a
time before the word was invented he was the first of opportunists. With
the fire of a reformer and a martyr in his heart, he yet proceeded by
the ways of cautious and practical statecraft. He always worked with
things as they were, while never relinquishing the desire and effort to
make them better. To a hope which saw the Delectable Mountains of
absolute justice and peace in the future, to a faith that God in his own
time would give to all men the things convenient to them, he added a
charity which embraced in its deep bosom all the good and the bad, all
the virtues and the infirmities of men, and a patience like that of
nature, which in its vast and fruitful activity knows neither haste nor
rest.

--JOHN HAY.

[Footnote: Do you know any facts of Lincoln's life that would support
some of these statements? What has come to be the universally accepted
estimate of Lincoln? What qualities of Lincoln seem most to impress the
writer? Can you point to anything in Lincoln's addresses that proves the
correctness of the popular judgment of him? Point out instances of
contrast in this selection. Do you know anything about the "Lincoln
Mythology" that has grown up since the war?]
 
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