Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties|
Including Personal Reminiscens of
Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902
In person Abraham Lincoln was tall and rugged, with little semblance of any historical portrait, unless he might seem in one respect to justify the epithet which was given to an early English monarch. His countenance had even more of a rugged strength than his person. Perhaps the quality which struck most at first sight was his simplicity of manners and conversation, which were without form or ceremony of any kind. His hand writing has the same simplicity. It was as clear as Washington's, but less florid. He was naturally inclined to pardon and never remembered to hard things said to him. He was always good to the poor and his dealings with them were full of those little words which are of the same blood as good and holy deeds. Such a character awakened instinctively the sympathy of the people. They saw his fellow feeling with them and felt the kinship. As when he was president the idea of republican institutions, where no place is too high for the humblest, was perpetually manifested so that his mere presence was like a proclamation of equality of all men. While social in his nature and enjoying a good flow of conversation, he was often singularly reticent. Modesty was natural to such a character, as he was without affectation. He was without pretense or jealousy. No person - civil or military - can complain that he appropriated any honor belonging to another. To each and all he gave the credit that was due. His humor has almost become a proverb. Sometimes he insisted that he had no invention, but only a memory. He did not forget the good things that he had heard, and was never without a familiar story to illustrate his meaning. At times his illustrations had a homely argument, which he always enforced with a certain intensity of manner and voice. He was original in mind as in character and his style was his own. It was formed from no model, but sprung directly from himself. While often failing in correctness, it was unique in beauty and sentiment. There are passages of his which will live always. His Gettysburg speech will live in the world's oratory as long as time shall last. Such passages will make an epoch in state papers. No president's message or speech from a throne ever had such a touching reality. While these speeches were uttered from the height of power, they reveal a simple trust in Almighty God, and speak to the people as equal to equal. There was one theme in which he was disposed to conduct the public mind. It was the treatment of the rebel leaders. His policy was never announced, but it was well known that at the very moment of his assassination he was much occupied with thoughts of pardon. He was never harsh. Even in regard to Jefferson Davis a few days before his end, one who was privileged to speak in that way, said: "Do not allow him to escape the law. He must be hanged." The president calmly replied in the words that he adopted in his last inaugural address: "Judge not that ye be not judged." And when pressed again by the remark that the sight of Libby Prison made it impossible to pardon him, he repeated twice the words, unmistakably revealing the generous sentiments of his heart.
Transcribed by:Brenda Hamilton Johnson