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PERTH NAMES. Lincoln of Lincoln-street By Cygnet.
LINCOLN of Lincoln-street was that Abraham Lincoln who, born in a log cabin, and with every disadvantage of birth and breeding, of upbringing, education, and opportunity, rose to be come the sixteenth President of the United States of America, and to scrawl his name in giant letters across the sky for all the ages to glorify as one of the greatest of men amongst men, as the surest friend the common people of this world have ever known "God must have liked the common people (he told them once) or he would not have made so many of them."
Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809. His father was Thomas Lincoln. a wandering woodsman of no fixed abode, ignorant, uncouth. His mother was Nancy Hanks, the illegitimate daughter of Lucy Hanks by some person unknown, but presumed to have been a "gentleman" on the strength of Nancy's niceties of manner and behaviour which were frequently remarked on, albeit she was as uneducated as her husband, and unlearned to the extent of not being able even to write her own name.
Of such material was Abraham Lincoln made, and under such unpromising conditions did he grow up; yet he lived to confound the world with his ideals and his courage, and he died to make the world safe for individual liberty for the meanest of mankind. Uneducated in the sense of school learning, he voiced sentiments that are as unsurpassed for grandeur of diction and easiness of phrase as they are unequalled for their nobility of purpose and their loftiness of expression. And he stands almost alone In this world, the supreme example of the triumph not only of right and justice over the agents of wrong-doing and injustice, but of common sense over humbug generally.
SOME people are born with silver spoons in their mouths. Abraham Lincoln was literally born with an axe in his hand, and he chopped trees with it for a living until he changed that occupation for the equally humble and hardly less exalted calling of boatman and ferryman. But this was a passing phase, for a few years later we find him once again wielding his axe, this time as a rail-splitter, until finally he dropped it to enter the realm first of politics and then of law. In his hands, however, the axe had proved to be no common woodsman's weapon; it had also been endowed with the magic properties of a pen, for during those years of his teens and early manhood as he carved his way with it through the forests It had been slowly but surely writing on his brain those incisive phrases which were soon to rouse a nation into manhood and become so many beacon lights along the road of human progress.
This may be metaphor run mad, but the facts are no less fantastic. For we have it on his grandmother's testimony that "little Abe," in the absence of pen and paper and the presence of the urge to write, was compelled to learn his letters by scribbling on a board smoothed for the purpose, and which had in turn to be smoothed again for the next lesson!
A pen-portrait of Abraham Lincoln as his compatriots saw him is no less fantastic when it is realised that it applies to a man whose name is but another word for fame. He was 6 feet 4 inches in height, with arms and legs even longer than a man of that size demanded. In build he was loose, and in his movements ungraceful and awkward, with no touch of what is under stood by the word dignity. His dress was a battered stove pipe hat, his tall coat was rusty and hung sloppily and ill-fitting from his shoulders, his trousers were always too short, his collar and stock were crumpled, his boots never polished. As to his face, it was crowned by a mass of tousled, untidy hair; his brow was craggy and deeply furrowed; his melancholy, grey eyes, peered out under lowering arches through lids which were mostly half closed; his cheeks sagged and were sunken deeply; his lips were heavy. There was no redeeming feature; he was of an oddity indescribable, yet he hypnotised millions by the wizardry of his quaint manner and the charm of his smile.
EXCEPT in his early youth it is doubtful if Abraham Lincoln ever knew the real meaning of the word happiness. His domestic life was discordant from the first note - and he struck that note when he failed to present himself at the altar where the bride, Mary Todd, was waiting for him in all her bridal finery. But she got him a little later. Of love there was none in the marriage, and if she was a passable wife in the first years of their wedded life, she was little less than a horror when he went to the White House and she became in word, though certainly not in effect, the first lady in the land. At once she was bitten by the germ of jealousy, and there was not one with whom she came in contact whom she did not insult. Strangely enough her jealousy was responsible for saving General Grant's life the night her husband was shot; for Mrs. Grant kept the general away from the theatre on that occasion to save any possible squabble lest the President should show her any attention. Poor Mary Todd! She was to know the inside of a mental hospital after the tragedy of her husband's death, a state of mind for which must also be blamed the fact that she had lost three of her brothers fighting in the Southern ranks and against her husband's policy.
As to any happiness in his public life, he knew none. His own Cabinet members were false to him - one even ran as a presidential candidate against him under cover. Lincoln's revenge later, when he had been re-elected, was to appoint this man Chief Justice and to call on him to swear him into office as President for his second term! The common people for whom he lived alternately howled him down and cheered him even up to the last moment of the Civil War; but always the howling and discontent was far greater than the cheering and the gratitude. In death, however, they saw with clearer eyes: for the first time they had a moment in which to look leisurely on the past hectic years of strife and internecine warfare, and their eyes saw clearly at last.
Cygnet [Cyril Bryan], Lincoln of Lincoln Street, West Australian 5 November 1938: 5.
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