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Training For Greatness
by [?]


In pronouncing a eulogy on Henry Clay, Lincoln said: “His example teaches us that one can scarcely be so poor but that, if he will, he can acquire sufficient education to get through the world respectably.”

Endowed as he was with all the qualities that make a man truly great, Lincoln’s own life teaches above all other things the lesson he drew from that of Henry Clay. Is there in all the length and breadth of the United States to-day a boy so poor as to envy Abraham Lincoln the chances of his boyhood? The story of his life has been told so often that nothing new can be said about him. Yet every fresh reading of the story fills the reader anew with wonder and admiration at what was accomplished by the poor backwoods boy.

Let your mind separate itself from all the marvels of the twentieth century. Think of a time when railroads and telegraph wires, telephones, great ocean steamers, lighting by gas and electricity, daily newspapers (except in a few centers), great circulating libraries, and the hundreds of conveniences which are necessities to the people of to-day, were unknown. Even the very rich at the beginning of the nineteenth century could not buy the advantages that are free to the poorest boy at the beginning of the twentieth century. When Lincoln was a boy, thorns were used for pins; cork covered with cloth or bits of bone served as buttons; crusts of rye bread were used by the poor as substitutes for coffee, and dried leaves of certain herbs for tea.

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809, in a log cabin in Hardin County, now La Rue County, Kentucky. His father, Thomas Lincoln, was not remarkable either for thrift or industry. He was tall, well built, and muscular, expert with his rifle, and a noted hunter, but he did not possess the qualities necessary to make a successful pioneer farmer. The character of the mother of Abraham, may best be gathered from his own words: “All that I am or hope to be,” he said when president of the United States, “I owe to my angel mother. Blessings on her memory!”

It was at her knee he learned his first lessons from the Bible. With his sister Sarah, a girl two years his senior, he listened with wonder and delight to the Bible stories, fairy tales, and legends with which the gentle mother entertained and instructed them when the labors of the day were done.

When Abraham was about four years old, the family moved from the farm on Nolin Creek to another about fifteen miles distant. There the first great event in his life took place. He went to school. Primitive as was the log-cabin schoolhouse, and elementary as were the acquirements of his first schoolmaster, it was a wonderful experience for the boy, and one that he never forgot.

In 1816 Thomas Lincoln again decided to make a change. He was enticed by stories that came to him from Indiana to try his fortunes there. So, once more the little family “pulled up stakes” and moved on to the place selected by the father in Spencer County, about a mile and a half from Gentryville. It was a long, toilsome journey through the forest, from the old home in Kentucky to the new one in Indiana. In some places they had to clear their way through the tangled thickets as they journeyed along. The stock of provisions they carried with them was supplemented by game snared or shot in the forest and fish caught in the river. These they cooked over the wood fire, kindled by means of tinder and flint. The interlaced branches of trees and the sky made the roof of their bedchamber by night, and pine twigs their bed.

When the travelers arrived at their destination, there was no time for rest after their journey. Some sort of shelter had to be provided at once for their accommodation. They hastily put up a “half-faced camp”–a sort of rude tent, with an opening on one side. The framework of the tent was of upright posts, crossed by thin slabs, cut from the trees they felled. The open side, or entrance, was covered with “pelts,” or half-dressed skins of wild animals. There was no ruder dwelling in the wilds of Indiana, and no poorer family among the settlers than the new adventurers from Kentucky. They were reduced to the most primitive makeshifts in order to eke out a living. There was no lack of food, however, for the woods were full of game of all kinds, both feathered and furred, and the streams and rivers abounded with fish. But the home lacked everything in the way of comfort or convenience.