February 12 is the birthday of Abraham Linco ln, born in 1809 in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky. Long before he became president, Lincoln’s friends and acquaintances called him “Honest Abe.”
When he was a boy in Indiana, he borrowed a book about George Washington from a neighbor, Josiah Crawford. After rainwater ruined it, he went straight to Crawford, owned up to what had happened, and spent three days in Crawford’s cornfield working to pay for the book.
When Lincoln was a young storekeeper in New Salem, Illinois, he accidentally shortchanged a customer by six and a quarter cents. As soon as he discovered the error, he closed the shop and walked six miles to pay the money back.
Lincoln’s store was not a success. He and his partner, William Berry, went into debt trying to make a go of it. The store “winked out” anyway, as Lincoln put it, and left him owing a great deal of money, especially after Berry died. He could have done what so many others in similar situations did – simply head west for new frontiers and leave the debt behind. But he resolved to stay. For a young man of his means, it was a large burden. He called it, with grim humor, his “national debt.” It took him several years, but he paid it all back.
His reputation as a lawyer caused people to say, “He’ll be fair and square.” One time he forced a law partner to give back half the fee the man had charged a client. “That money comes out of the pocket of a poor, demented girl,” he said, “and I would rather starve than swindle her.”
It is no coincidence that one of our most beloved presidents was a man who held himself to the highest standards of truthfulness.