Lincoln and the Tools of War

Lincoln and the Tools of War

Lincoln and the Tools of War

Lincoln and the Tools of War

Excerpt

Behind the solemn, furrowed countenance of Abraham Lincoln was an inquisitive mind. It ranged over the abstract and the infinite, the absolute and the immediate. It was philosophical, and at the same time intensely practical.

On the practical level Lincoln's curiosity directed itself, among other things, to mechanical devices. A fellow lawyer remembered that whenever Lincoln encountered a new piece of farm machinery on his rounds of the old Eighth Circuit, "he would carefully examine it all over, first generally and then critically; he would 'sight' it to determine if it was straight or warped; if he could make a practical test of it, he would do that; he would turn it over or around and stoop down, or lie down, if necessary, to look under it; he would examine it closely, then stand off and examine it at a little distance; he would shake it, lift it, roll it about, up-end it, overset it, and thus ascertain every quality and utility which inhered in it, so far as acute and patient investigation could do it."

As a young man seeking to improve his education, Lincoln acquired a fondness for mathematics. The months he spent surveying roads, bounding farms and platting town sites taught him to respect the exactness and precision of the trained engineer. His taste for mechanics carried over into the law, making him proficient in handling patent cases. He took out a patent of his own on a device for lifting vessels over shoals. He prepared and delivered a lecture on "Discoveries and Inventions." Living on the periphery of the machine age in America, he was keenly aware of the technological advances that were taking place about him. He pondered on the impact of those advances on mankind.

The war came, and Lincoln the President, in whatever time he could spare from other duties, turned his mechanical bent to the im-

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