Modest Abe


A political enemy once accused Abraham Lincoln of being two-faced. Abe laughed and said, "Now, do you think that if I had another face I’d be wearing this one?"

Lincoln, who rose from a Kentucky log cabin to the White House, showed the world what humility really means. In spite of his great power as president he never lost touch with the people he grew up with, or claimed to be something he wasn't. He never tried to impress people.

One of Lincoln's last acts before he left Springfield, Illinois, to go as president to Washington, D.C., was to visit his old law office and say goodbye to his partner, William Herndon. After they finished discussing business, the new president lay down on the office sofa and stared at the ceiling.

"Billy," Abe asked, "how long have we been together?"

"More than 16 years."

"We've never had a cross word, have we?"

They talked about the many funny things that had happened through the years, and then, as Abe picked up his books to leave, he pointed to the signboard swinging on its rusty hinges at the foot of the stairway.

"Let it hang there," he said. "I want the people to know that the election of a president makes no change in the firm of Lincoln and Herndon. If I live, I'm coming back sometime, and we'll go right on practicing law as if nothing had happened."

Most politicians from the East thought of Lincoln as an ignorant frontier lawyer. They were sure he could never handle the problems of a nation. They knew he could never fit in with the educated, polished people of Washington.

Abe never argued about that. He didn't change his homely way of speaking. He kept right on telling his funny stories and didn't worry about whether people admired him or not. "My course," he said, "is as plain as a turnpike road. It is marked out by the Constitution. I am in no doubt which way to go."

Although many people didn't like having this long, lean rail-splitter for president, they couldn't help seeing honesty and a natural dignity in his face. He never tried to pretend to be what he wasn't, and he never forgot the humble background from which the Lord had brought him. 

 Jeanne Larson and Ruth McLin