Lincoln, Abraham by Faye Huntington

Of course; who should it be if not our Lincoln? The name is a household word in all our homes, and I doubt if I can tell you anything which you do not already know about this great man; the story of his life and his deeds are familiar to every schoolboy. His features are well known to you all, for there is scarcely a home that has not his portrait upon its walls.

In 1809 Abraham Lincoln was born in a lonely cabin on the banks of a small river or creek in Kentucky; born to poverty, hardship and obscurity, born to rise from obscurity, through poverty, hardship and toil to the highest point of an American boy's ambition. He early learned the meaning of privation and self-denial. The accounts of his early life are somewhat meagre, but he has told us himself that he had only about one year of school-life. Think of that, you boys who are going steadily forward year after year, from the primary school through all the intermediate grades up to the advanced, then to the academy, thence to college, and afterwards to law and divinity schools, think of Abraham Lincoln's school privileges and be thankful for your own. And more, show your appreciation by your improvement of your advantages.

Like many of our great men, Lincoln was what we style a self-made man, and yet it seems that he owed something of his making to his stepmother. His own mother died when he was a small boy, and the new mother who sometime after came into the family was very helpful to the boy, encouraging him in his love of books, and under her guidance he became a great reader, devouring every book he could lay his hands upon. Did it ever occur to you that it might be an advantage to some of us if we had fewer books? Driven back again and again to the few, we should read them more carefully and make the thoughts our own, and perhaps the stock of ideas gathered from books would even exceed that which we gain from the multitude of books we have in these days of bookmaking. Whether you read much or little, few books or many, boys, read with careful thought. Take in and digest thoroughly the thoughts presented to you.

Well, this young man had but few books, but he seems to have laid by a number of ideas which should develop in time into acts which were to startle the world and overthrow existing institutions. He worked through his early manhood and boyhood with his hands, sometimes on a farm, sometimes as a clerk in a country store. Now as a boatman, now at clearing up and fencing a farm.

It was while engaged in this last-mentioned employment that he earned the title afterwards given him in derision by his political opponents, "The rail splitter;" but I suspect that he could have answered as did the boy who in the days of prosperity was taunted with having been a bootblack, "Didn't I do it well?"

At length the way opened—or, as I think, he by his exertions forced a way to study law, and he began his practice of the profession in Springfield, Ill.

I ought to have told you, however, that before his admission to the bar he served in the Black Hawk War as captain of a company of volunteers. He soon gained distinction as a lawyer, but presently became interested in politics.

And from that time his history is closely identified with that of his country. To tell you of the leading incidents even of his career would be to give you in a nutshell the history of the United States for that period. His noted contest with Stephen A. Douglas, his election to the presidency, his re-election, his celebrated Emancipation Proclamation, all these matters belong to the story of the stirring events of those years of our history. Then came the sad ending of this noble life; the cruel assassination of the beloved President, and the great man of the time.

Boys, you who have studied his character, can you tell me what made Abraham Lincoln great?