Granny's Notes - the writing of Sue Gerard

Treasures found in strange places

How did Abe Lincoln describe himself in 1858 when he was asked to write a sketch of his life for the Dictionary of Congress?

He put it all in a nutshell: "Born Feb.12, l809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. Education Defective. Profession a Lawyer. Have been a Captain of Volunteers in Black Hawk War. Postmaster in a very small office. Four times a member of the Illinois Legislature, and a member of the Lower House of Congress. A. Lincoln."

Shortly before the election for president, Lincoln called Newton Bateman into his office in the state Capitol in Springfield, Ill. Their offices shared a side door, and the men often talked there in solemn moments. The candidate was particularly concerned on this day and as he had locked all of the doors to his office, he confided in Bateman, a man Lincoln profoundly respected.

Here’s a shortened version of Bateman’s story: "Lincoln began: ‘Let us look over the results of the canvas of the voters of Springfield. I wish particularly to see how the ministers are going to vote.’ After careful tabulation of ministers, church elders and leaders, Lincoln sat silently for some minutes, ‘regarding the memorandum in front of him.’

"Finally, with a face full of sadness, he said, ‘Here are 23 ministers of different denominations, and all but three are against me. A large majority of the church leaders are against me.’

"He took a Bible out of his pocket and said, ‘I am not a Christian. … I read but do not understand this book. These men well know that I am for freedom … as free as the Constitution and the laws will permit, and that my opponents are for slavery. They know this and yet, with this book in their hands, in the light of what human bondage cannot live a moment, they are going to vote against me. I do not understand it at all.’

"Here Lincoln paused, his face charged with emotion. Then he paced up and down the reception room in an effort to regain his self-possession. Stopping at last, he said, with trembling voice and cheeks wet with tears, ‘I know there is a God and that he hates injustice and slavery. … I see the storm coming, and I know that His hand is in it. If He has a place and work for me, and I think He has, I believe I am ready, I am nothing, but Truth is everything.’ After a long pause, Lincoln continued: ‘Douglas doesn’t care whether slavery is voted up or down, but God cares and humanity cares and I care; and with God’s help I shall not fail.’

"After further discussion of the belief of God in history, the conversation turned upon prayer. He freely stated his belief in the duty, privileges and efficacy of prayer and intimated, in no unmistakable terms, that he had sought in that way Divine guidance and favor."

As the two men were about to separate, Bateman remarked, "I have not supposed that you were accustomed to think so much on this class of subjects. Certainly your friends are ignorant of the sentiments you have expressed to me."

Quickly, Lincoln replied, "I think more on these subjects than upon all others, and I have done so for years; and I am willing you should know it."


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