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Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations. 1989.

NUMBER: 1110
AUTHOR: Thomas Vernor Smith (1890–1964)
QUOTATION: No man made great by death offers more hope to lowly pride than does Abraham Lincoln; for while living he was himself so simple as often to be dubbed a fool. Foolish he was, they said, in losing his youthful heart to a grave and living his life on married patience; foolish in pitting his homely ignorance against Douglas, brilliant, courtly, and urbane; foolish in setting himself to do the right in a world where the day goes mostly to the strong; foolish in dreaming of freedom for a long-suffering folk whom the North is as anxious to keep out as the South was to keep down; foolish in choosing the silent Grant to lead to victory the hesitant armies of the North; foolish, finally, in presuming that government for the people must be government of the people and by the people.

Foolish many said; foolish many, many believed.

This Lincoln, whom so many living friends and foes alike deemed foolish, hid his bitterness in laughter; fed his sympathy on solitude; and met recurring disaster with whimsicality to muffle the murmur of a bleeding heart. Out of the tragic sense of life he pitied where others blamed; bowed his own shoulders with the woes of the weak; endured humanely his little day of chance power; and won through death what life disdains to bestow upon such simple souls—lasting peace and everlasting glory.

How prudently—to echo Wendell Phillips—we proud men compete for nameless graves, while now and then some starveling of Fate forgets himself into immortality.
ATTRIBUTION: THOMAS VERNOR SMITH, memorial address, the Illinois State Senate, February 12, 1935, the 126th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.—Smith, Lincoln, Living Legend, pp. 3–5 (1940).

Smith later served in Congress 1939–1941. The striking final paragraph is unverified in the works of Wendell Phillips.
SUBJECTS: Lincoln, Abraham (1809–1865)