As we celebrate 150 years of Lincoln keeping us together, it was none other than George Washington who taught young Abe to cherish Union.
From That Nation Might Live
“I’d ask him to explain all about his book(Life of Washington). Was the only way I was to hear his voice it seemed. I’d concoct somewheres in my fool head a question such like, ‘I always heard that Washington made them redcoats run for life. Why were they called redcoats?’ Abe said it was because they wore coats of that color. I expect that they looked splendid, though they likely didn’t feel very splendid after they got whupped. One night as we set by the fire, I wanted to hear my boy speak his thoughts, so I fire a question at Abe about why the Revolutionary soldiers would march ragged such they leave bloody footprints in snow, and I said to Abe, ‘Such privations! They’d been better off not fighting a’tall I reckon.’”
“Well, that lit quite a fire under Abe. He spoke with a look like fury in his eyes, saying there was a cause far greater than comfort. My dear boy spoke of the greater part of Christendom as a mess of horrors, of bloody wars atween kings and queens. Spoke of the mass of people crushed to the earth with a bayonet right under them. Garments of their children soaked in blood. I can recite his words he said them nuff and I turn them over in my memory nuff. Would you like me to recite, Mr. Herndon?”
Rewarded for my encouragement – the old woman stands without assistance, returns the sleeping babe to Tildy – speaks:
“And here, merciful God! What scenes are rising before the eyes of horror-struck imagination? Mamas mute with grief, and looking through swelling tears on their boys, as they gird on the hated swords—shaking with strong fits, and, with their little children, filling their houses with lamentations for tearing themselves away for the dismal war, whence theyare to return no more!” (Mrs. Lincoln returns to her chair) “I known right then, Mr. Herndon. Abe was going to be a great man some day. I never let the children pester him; wasn’t to have him hindered.” Mrs. Lincoln requests Chapman retrieve Abe’s copy of Weem’s Life of Washington. Upon inspection I asked Mrs. L. if she would permit me to transcribe a portion. My question unanswered, I discover she sleeps now. My attention is focused upon a passage underscored by the famous stepson of present company, the faded lines beneath the text are my guide. It reads: “Hear the voice of the Divine Founder of your republic from the lips of his servant Washington. Above all things hold dear your national union. Accustom yourselves to estimate its immense, its infinite value to your individual and national happiness. Look on it as the palladium of your tranquility at home; of your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; and even of that very liberty which you so highly prize!