Peter Cartwright, Abraham Lincoln, & Final Farewell at Springfield, Illinois

Circuit-riding preacher Peter Cartwright and Lincoln's last farewell to Springfield, Illinois.

Peter Cartwright (1785-1872) was ordained by the Methodist circuit-riding preachers Rev. Francis Asbury and Rev. William McKendree.

He served as a chaplain during the War of 1812.

Cartwright became one of the most famous Methodist camp meeting evangelists during the Second Great Awakening Revival.

As a circuit-riding minister, he preached nearly 15,000 sermons and baptized almost 12,000 converts.

Peter Cartwright planted churches in the Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Illinois.

He helped found McKendree College in Lebanon, IL, the oldest college in the State of Illinois.

He also helped found Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, IL, and MacMurry College in Jacksonville, IL, one of the oldest institutions of higher learning for women in America.

In recalling his own conversion, Peter Cartwright shared:

"I went with weeping multitudes and bowed before the preaching stand, and earnestly prayed for mercy. In the midst of a solemn struggle of soul, an impression was made upon my mind, as though a voice said to me: 'Thy sins are all forgiven thee.'"

In 1824, Peter Cartwright left Kentucky and Tennessee because of his disdain for slavery, and moved to Illinois, where he was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in 1828.

Cartwright was re-elected in 1832, defeating a Kentucky store clerk named Abraham Lincoln.

In 1846, Peter Cartwright ran for the U.S. Congress, but this time, was defeated by Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln was born in 1809 in Kentucky and grew up on the frontier.

His family moved to Indiana. When he was 9 years old, his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln died.

A year later, his father married Sarah Bush Johnston, whom Lincoln called "Mother."

Being self-educated, he read and reread the King James Bible, Aesop's Fables, John Bunyan's The Pilgrims Progress, Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Mason Locke Weems' The Life of Washington, and The Autobiography of Ben Franklin.

In 1830, his family moved west of Decatur, Illinois.

He moved further west to New Salem, Illinois, where he worked as a store clerk.

There, Lincoln fell in love with Ann Rutledge, but was heartbroken when she died of a fever that swept through town.

He served as a captain in the Black Hawk War of 1832.

Studying Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries of the Laws of England, he become a lawyer in 1836.

Lincoln served 8 years in the Illinois General Assembly.

In 1840, he began courting Mary Todd.

They became engaged and scheduled the wedding in 1841, but Lincoln called it off at the last minute. A year later, they reconciled and married in Springfield, Illinois.

Together, they had four children, though sadly only one lived to reach adulthood.

Lincoln was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1847, and served one term before returning to practice law.

When the Republican Party was started in 1854, Lincoln stood against Democrats who wanted to expand slavery into western territories acquired after the Mexican-American War.

He gained national prominence by debating Stephen Douglas for the U.S. Senate in 1858.

He was nominated as the Republican candidate for President, and won in 1860.

Lincoln warned, January 27, 1838:

"At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad.

If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time, or die by suicide."

Lincoln stated at Edwardsville, Illinois, September 11, 1858:

"What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence?

It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling sea coasts, our army and our navy. These are not our reliance against tyranny. All of those may be turned against us ...

Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which prized liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere.

Destroy this spirit and you have planted the seeds of despotism at your own doors ... you have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you."

Lincoln wrote to William Dodge, February 23, 1861:

"Freedom is the natural condition of the human race, in which the Almighty intended men to live. Those who fight the purpose of the Almighty will not succeed."

Reflecting on the slavery in the Southern Democrat states, Lincoln wrote to H.L. Pierce on April 6, 1859:

"This is a world of compensation ... Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and under a just God, cannot long retain it."

Lincoln's words were echoed later by President Ronald Reagan, who wrote in "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation" (The Human Life Review, 1983):

"Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some men could decide that others were not fit to be free and should be slaves ...

Likewise, we cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion."

Lincoln closed a debate with Judge Douglas, 1858:

"That is the issue that will continue in this country when these poor tongues of Judge Douglas and myself shall be silent.

It is the eternal struggle between these two principles -- right and wrong -- throughout the world.

They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time, and will ever continue to struggle."

Lincoln stated in his First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861:

"If the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made ... the people will have ceased to be their own rulers."

Abraham Lincoln addressed the question as to whether the courts are masters over the people, or are the people masters over the courts (The Political Debates Between Lincoln and Douglas, 1897):

"The people of these United States are the rightful masters of both Congresses and Courts."

Thomas Jefferson made a similar statement to William Johnson in 1823:

"But the Chief Justice says, 'There must be an ultimate arbiter (umpire) somewhere.' True, there must ... The ultimate arbiter is the people."

Lincoln stated at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, February 22, 1861:

"I have never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence.

I have often pondered over the dangers which were incurred by the men who ... adopted that Declaration of Independence --

I have pondered over the toils that were endured by the officers and soldiers of the army ... I have often inquired of myself, what great principle or idea it was that kept this Confederacy so long together.

It was not the mere matter of the separation of the Colonies from the mother land; but something in that Declaration giving liberty, not alone to the people of this country, but hope to the world for all future time.

It was that which gave promise that in due time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance ..."

He continued:

"This is the sentiment embodied in that Declaration of Independence.

Now, my friends, can this country be saved? ...

If it can, I will consider myself one of the happiest men in the world, if I can help to save it.

If it cannot be saved upon that principle, it will be truly awful.

But if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle ... I would rather be assassinated on this spot than surrender it."

On February 11, 1861, newly elected as President, Abraham Lincoln left Springfield, Illinois for Washington, D.C., never to return. He stated:

"I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington.

Without the assistance of that Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail.

Trusting in Him who can go with me and remain with you, and be everywhere for good ...

Let us all pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now."

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