How American history would dwindle if that name were taken out of it! Washington was great. Grant was great. Lee was great. Many others have been and are great in all the walks of life. But Lincoln, who came out of the lowly heart of the people, will come back nearer to that heart than any other man probably that the nation has known. There have been men of war and there have been men of peace, but there has been no such man of peace in war as Lincoln.
Why is it we never tire of thinking of Mr. Lincoln personally, nor of speaking of him and his deeds? Is it not because "he was indeed one of the most unique figures in history, and one of the most remarkable surprises of the age?" What has he been called by those who knew him best? "The greatest of patriots, the wisest of rulers, the ablest of men."
What led to his greatness and caused him to hold such an extraordinary sway over the people during the most tumultuous of times, when seven states had seceded and the rebellion was well under way at his inauguration, and when a bloody and fiercely contested war was fought during his administration? I will let one more competent than myself answer. Bishop Fowler, of the First M. E, Church of New York, said:
"What, then, were the elements of Lincoln’s greatness? To begin with, ‘he was not made out of any fool mud,’ and then he thoroughly understood himself and knew how to handle his resources. His moral sense was the first important trait of his character, his reason the second, and the third was his wonderful ‘commonsense,’ the most uncommon thing found even among the great.
"These are the three fixed points on which his character hung. Without the first, he had been a villain. Without the second, a fool. Without the third, a dreamer. With them all he made up himself—Abraham Lincoln."
It is wonderful how many stories President Lincoln told, and still more wonderful how many stories are told of him. The late Senator Voorhees, of Indiana, said that Lincoln had more stories than any other man he had ever met. He had a story for every occasion, and he illustrated everything by anecdote. Some of the best stories current to-day originated with Lincoln and hundreds of his best stories have never been published. Senator Voorhees had preserved a number which he expected to use in lectures which he was preparing at the time he died. He had hoped to live long enough after his retirement from public life to write a book on his personal recollections of the martyred President, among which would have been included many stories.
The late David Davis, of Illinois, before whose court Lincoln practiced so often, once said that there were but three men in the world who thoroughly understood Abraham Lincoln—himself, Leonard Swett, of Chicago and Daniel W. Voorhees. All these three men are dead.
In gathering material for this work the editor has exercised due care in accepting only such stories as bore the impress of truth. It is his hope that this little volume will be eagerly welcomed in every home which venerates the name of Abraham Lincoln, and that it will be an inspiration to every boy of the land who, in looking to Lincoln for an ideal, should ever remember that
Honor and shame from no condition rise;
Act well your part; there all the honor lies.