WE CELEBRATE ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S birthday
(February 12), and we should. Lincoln was one of the few great
men who really was great. Before he became president, Lincoln
spent twenty years as an unsuccessful Illinois lawyer
at least he was unsuccessful in financial terms. But when you
measure the good he did, he was very rich indeed. Legends are
often untrue, but Lincoln was the real thing. George Washington
never chopped down a cherry tree, but Abraham Lincoln was
honest. During his years as a lawyer, there were hundreds of
documented examples of his honesty and decency.
For example, Lincoln didnt like to
charge people much who were as poor as he was. Once a man sent
him twenty-five dollars, but Lincoln sent him back ten of it,
saying he was being too generous.
He was known at times to convince his clients
to settle their issue out of court, saving them a lot of money,
and earning himself nothing.
An old woman in dire poverty, the widow
of a Revolutionary soldier, was charged $200 for getting her
$400 pension. Lincoln sued the pension agent and won the case
for the old woman. He didnt charge her for his services
and, in fact, paid her hotel bill and gave her money to buy a
He and his associate once prevented a con
man from gaining possession of a tract of land owned by a mentally
ill girl. The case took fifteen minutes. Lincolns associate
came to divide up their fee, but Lincoln reprimanded him. His
associate argued that the girls brother had agreed on the
fee ahead of time, and he was completely satisfied.
That may be, said Lincoln,
but I am not satisfied. That money comes out of
the pocket of a poor, demented girl; and I would rather starve
than swindle her in this manner. You return half the money at
least, or Ill not take a cent of it as my share.
He was a fool, perhaps, by certain standards.
He didnt have much, and it was his own fault. But he was
a good human being by anyones standards and Im glad
we celebrate his birthday.
Honesty makes you feel good about yourself
and creates trust in others. It improves your relationship with
yourself and with others. Its not much in fashion these
days to talk about the benefits of honesty and decency, but the
benefits are there and they are valuable and worth the trouble.
Lincoln didnt talk much about religion,
even with his best friends, and he didnt belong to any
church. But he once confided to a friend that his religious code
was the same as an old man he knew in Indiana, who said, When
I do good, I feel good, and when I do bad, I feel bad, and thats
Honesty. It may be corny, but its
the finest force for good in the world, and it always will be.
Do some honest good in the world.