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   Chapter 34 THE AMERICAN LESSON LEARNED FROM THE GREATEST LEADERS IN THE MAKING OF AMERICA

The Wonderful Story of Washington By Charles M. Stevens Characters: 3613

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


Washington was no prodigy, and it belittles both him and Lincoln to be rated as miracles. The study of their lives teaches us above all things that there was no accident about them. They built themselves up out of the material of their experiences and circumstances into manhood and character, ready for the tasks of their human world.

No man of colonial times lived more under English aristocratic influence than Washington, and yet it only served as a contrast in which to define his principles of liberty, his meaning of manhood and his vision of humanity. So, also, no man of his times was more under the belittling trivialities of frontier destitution and ignorance than Abraham Lincoln, but it only served as inspiration and revelation for his moral duty in the supreme crisis of the American nation.

The lives of these two great men, from such widely different origins, and yet coming to oneness in such a mutual cause and character, are vital inspiration to every aspiring youth, showing that the value of character is in every one's own hands if he will but look around and get the true measure of what are life, and mind, and humanity. Those careers show that the rights of man are never found in fragments, nor exclusive in parties or single nations.

Larned says, in his "Study of Greatness in Men," that "A man more perfectly educated than Abraham Lincoln, in the true meaning of education, did not exist in the world. When the time came for his doing a great work, he had perfected his powers, and the simple story of the simple methods of self-culture and self-training, by which he was nature-led to that perfect result, holds the whole philosophy of education."

Washington's life was a fine human model through all the periods of his career, but the heartening lesson of Lincoln

was in his unconquerable struggle to master a way of life, in the course of which could appear his worthy human task.

Lincoln's man-making process especially proves, even as Washington's life had already shown, that there must be a fundamental honesty of purpose in building up the mind or no one can ever arrive at manhood, character or more abundant life.

Washington and Lincoln were continuously expressing themselves in word or deed, but always striving for the reasonable in a clear-minded way. Their mind-making was always the process of achieving a humanity-mind capable of clear world-wisdom. In that kingdom alone is the Americanism that is human liberty, the rights of man and the moral redemption of the world.

The cruel martyrdom of Lincoln's death no doubt threw a glamor of hero-worship over Lincoln, which does him more injustice than honor, for the simple reason that the merit of his life belongs to his own heroic soul, and its desperate struggle up to the light. Washington's real life and character have been much obscured by the romance of his times and the hero-worship which so much prevailed in the literature of his period. It is doubtless of more real value to American patriotism, personal character and moral humanity, for both the heroic and the trivial to fade from our interest in the lives of Washington and Lincoln, and from the meaning of their lives for the rights of man. We need to appreciate the human struggle within themselves that made them admirable men, and we need to know it in relation to the human work around them that made them admirable Americans. More and more we can see in their earnest endeavor for the right-minded way, not only the making of men and the making of Americans, but also the making of America and the making of the World.

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