Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
 
Abraham Lincoln
By Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810–1903)
 
[Born in Madison Co., Ky., 1810. Died at Richmond, Ky., 1903. Memoirs, Writings, and Speeches. 1886.]

WE all know Mr. Lincoln was not learned in books; but he had a higher education in actual life than most of his compeers. I have always placed him first of all the men of the times in common sense. He was not a great projector—not a great pioneer—hence not in the first rank of thinkers among men; but, as an observer of men and measures, he was patient, conservative, and of sure conclusions. I do not say that more heroic surgery might not have put down the Rebellion; but it is plain that Lincoln was a man fitted for the leadership at a time when men differed so much about the ends as well as the methods of the war. The anti-slavery element in these States was never, and is not now, great. The Americans, like the English, are ever much in favor of their own liberty. Only when the slave-power projected universal dominion was the North aroused; and only when it was the death of Slavery, or the death of the Union, did the great mass of Americans assent to its destruction. So Lincoln was not indifferent to slavery, as some of his superficial critics assert; but he was a type of the majority of Americans who, whilst conscious of the evils of slavery, were not yet so enthusiastic as to desire to grapple with its difficulties. But Lincoln was not only wise, but good. He was not only good, but eminently patriotic. He was the most honest man that I ever knew. Religiously, he was an agnostic; but practically, as the responsibilities of his position increased, his devotion to duty increased. So, like the great leaders of all times, he became more conscious of the weakness of Man and the power of God.
  1
  These sentiments are variously characterized,—with Cyrus it was the gods; with Cæsar and Napoleon it was individuality and destiny; and with Lincoln it grew more and more into a lively belief in the personal government of God. This I inferred not so much from his words as his acts, and that sad submission to events and close observance of duty which seemed to rise above all human power over events. I think, therefore, that morality and religion gain nothing by a perversion of facts; and the noblest heroism of all the ages has followed close on to Theism. For then are the highest faculties of the mind, and the noblest aspirations of the soul, moving in the same direction to the grandest results of human achievements. Lincoln’s death only added to the grandeur of his figure; and in all our history no man will ascend higher on the steep where—
 “Fame’s proud temple shines afar.”
  2
 
 
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