What were the forces which elevated Abraham Lincoln into his unique position in history and the hearts of men? What drew forth (educated) in him a sagacity and statesmanship which finally, under God, solved the problem of our Nation's slavery or freedom? Whence came that influence which Lincoln wielded which welded as the heart of one man the loyal North in its struggle for union and liberty? What processes of life evolved that enduring strength of will which bore this nation through our Civil War? What made him the mightiest among the lowly, and the lowliest among the mighty, and the incarnation of unselfish devotion to country? What gave him that transcendent character which made Abraham Lincoln-
Greatest yet with least pretense
Foremost leader of his time,
Rich in saving common sense
And as the greatest only are
In his simplicity sublime.
What university did the Educator of the Universe choose for the training of His elect son? Not a Harvard or a Princeton nor a Yale, not even a Miami or a Hanover or a Wabash. Not any literary center, classic shade, academic grove or guarded cloister with its scientific culture or philosophic thought. Sometimes,
God's school is a wondrous thing,
Most strange in all its ways,
And of all things on earth
Least like what men agree to praise.
There is a Divinity which shapes our ends,
Rough hew them how we will.
This divinity selected rough experiences in which to shape
the soul of Abraham Lincoln.
The first school in which we may say his infancy was rocked, all his primary instructions received, was the log cabin of Poverty. The Saviour of the world was born in a lowly condition. How Bethlehem's cave mocks all the nurseries of imperial Rome! So the saviour of our country. Better though harder than riches poverty wrought into Lincoln's vitality virtues untold courage to face and to bear scanty living-sympathy with the poor and the suffering, who constitute the majority of mankind. Poverty made Lincoln the foe of oppression and the deliverer of the oppressed.
This divinity chose as the secondary school frontier life in the West.
Being a western man I have observed and almost experienced how rough its hewings were. They were far unlike the picturesque slang descriptions of Bret Harte, et id omne genus. The reality included the first removes from the primitive savagery of the neighborhood of Indians, impenetrable forests, impassable swamps, bridgeless creeks and rivers, roadless trails and thickets. These were the outward symbols of life hardened and toughened in the pioneers of the Northwest. These environments, rough hew them as they would, were shaped by the divinity into the boy Lincoln's self-control, power to endure, fortitude, independence, modest manliness, and made him as a youth long-jawed, strong-clawed and sufficiently thick-skinned to meet the thorns and briers of life.
Lincoln was early promoted into the High School of Work. For years and years he labored with his hands to help support himself and his home folks. Does it not unavoidably recall how the Divine Man of Nazareth toiled to support his blessed mother Mary? Form a mental picture of the favorite scholar of the divinity. It will be a plain realistic photograph of a Kentucky farmer boy, dissolving into that of the woodchopper, the railsplitter of the woods of Indiana and Illinois. There has recently been discovered a remarkable saying of the Christ, not contained in the New Testament. The Saviour says:
Raise the stone and thou shalt find me,
Cleave the wood and there I am.
Lincoln found God and greatness in honest work.
All these years, however, like another still greater one, Lincoln enjoyed a love, a care, a companionship which in itself was better than a so-called liberal education. Americans will forever honor the memory of Lincoln's noble, lovely mother, and that of his second mother, less lovely perhaps, but equally faithful.
Time would fail us to examine Lincoln's library, chiefly remarkable for its fewness of books. Even this had the educational value of compelling him to do his own thinking, instead of being surfeited with the thoughts of other men.
We must now pay our highest tribute to that noble profession which literally and liberally trained our great War President. Lincoln faithfully studied and Practiced Law. What higher, better discipline can be found for the human spirit?
We would utterly fail to appreciate Lincoln's intellectual abilities were we not to realize that within the limitations of his state he was a great lawyer.
Then came the training of politics. Lincoln knew nothing of that Pharisaic contempt so often affected by the kid glove dilettante of today for political activity. He threw himself with true whole heart into the political conflicts of his county and his state. For many years he labored as a legislator of Illinois. For two years he served as a member of Congress at Washington.
Then came the crowded hours of the glorious strife of the Debate of 1858, with Senator Stephen A. Douglas, in which a candid, impartial world gave the first prize to Abraham Lincoln.
As that debate closed and as the great Convention at Chicago nominated him for President, as his fellow citizens elected him, that same divinity which had shaped his ends from the beginning placed in his hands the diploma of the University of Life, and Providence sent forth Abraham Lincoln, the best educated, the best equipped man for the best mission-the preventing of the government by the people, of the people, and for the people from perishing from off the face of the earth.
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Pennsylvania Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
Worden, D.D. 1907. The Education of Abraham Lincoln. Paper Read at the Pennsylvania Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States's Lincoln Birthday Ceremonies, February 13, 1907, pp 85-89. IN Cavanaugh, M.A. (Complier). 1995. Military Essays and Recollections. of the Pennsylvania Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, 1904-1933, Volume 2. Broadfoot Publishing Company, Wilmington, North Carolina. XXXp
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