Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wisdom from Abe Lincoln : A Letter to His Step Brother

Dear Johnston:--

Your request for eighty dollars, I do not think it best to comply
with now. At the various times when I have helped you a little, you
have said to me, "We can get along very well now," but in a very
short time I find you in the same difficulty again. Now this can
only happen by some defect in your conduct. What that defect is, I
think I know. You are not _lazy_, and still you _are_ an _idler_. I
doubt whether since I saw you, you have done a good whole day's
work, in any one day. You do not very much dislike to work, and
still you do not work much, merely because it does not seem to you
that you could get much for it. This habit of uselessly wasting
time, is the whole difficulty; and it is vastly important to you,
and still more so to your children, that you should break this
habit. It is more important to them, because they have longer to
live, and can keep out of an idle habit before they are in it
easier than they can get out after they are in.

You are now in need of some ready money; and what I propose is,
that you shall go to work, "tooth and nail," for somebody who will
give you money for it. Let father and your boys take charge of
things at home--prepare for a crop, and make the crop; and you go
to work for the best money wages, or in discharge of any debt you
owe, that you can get. And to secure you a fair reward for your
labor, I now promise you that for every dollar you will, between
this and the first of next May, get for your own labor either in
money or in your own indebtedness, I will then give you one other
dollar. By this, if you hire yourself at ten dollars a month, from
me you will get ten more, making twenty dollars a month for your
work. In this, I do not mean you shall go off to St. Louis, or the
lead mines, or the gold mines, in California, but I mean for you to
go at it for the best wages you can get close to home, in Coles
County. Now if you will do this, you will soon be out of debt, and
what is better, you will have a habit that will keep you from
getting in debt again. But if I should now clear you out, next year
you will be just as deep in as ever. You say you would almost give
your place in Heaven for $70 or $80. Then you value your place in
Heaven very cheaply, for I am sure you can with the offer I make
you get the seventy or eighty dollars for four or five months'
work. You say if I furnish you the money you will deed me the land,
and if you don't pay the money back, you will deliver possession--
Nonsense! If you can't now live _with_ the land, how will you then
live without it? You have always been kind to me, and I do not now
mean to be unkind to you. On the contrary, if you will but follow
my advice, you will find it worth more than eight times eighty
dollars to you.

Affectionately your brother,


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