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Perseverance – showing courage and determination in the face of defeats and loss

Examples of Lincoln’s Perseverance from his Life


  • Despite being made fun of for his clothes, his dialect, his lack of money, and other things, he did not let it all get him down.

  • His fortitude in overcoming the deaths of his mother, sister, friend Ann Rutledge, and two sons.
  • His ability to overcome political losses in 1832, 1854, and 1858 with a magnanimous attitude

Abraham Lincoln Quotations Regarding Perseverance


  • “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing.” –Abraham Lincoln to Isham Reavis, November 5, 1855

  • “This too shall pass away. Never fear.” – Abraham Lincoln to friend Norman Judd following Lincoln’s 1858 U.S. Senate race loss to Stephen Douglass
  • “The power of hope upon human exertion and happiness is wonderful.” – Abraham Lincoln, Fragment on Free Labor, September 17, 1859
  • “You cannot fail, if you resolutely determine that you will not.” – Abraham Lincoln to George Latham, July 22, 1860
  • “Adhere to your purpose and you will soon feel as well as you ever did. On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life. Take the advice of a friend, who, though he never saw you, deeply sympathizes with you, and stick to your purpose.” – Abraham Lincoln to Quintin Campbell, June 28, 1862
  • “Lincoln replied that he was more than willing to die, but that he had “done nothing to make any human being remember that he had lived, and that to connect his name with the events transpiring in his day and generation and so impress himself upon them as to link his name with something that would redound to the interest of his fellow man was what he desired to live for.” – Joshua Speed, Abraham Lincoln’s good friend, recounting Lincoln’s melancholy in 1841


Stories in Lincoln’s life regarding Perseverance



In February, 1862, Mr. Lincoln was visited by a severe affliction in the death of his beautiful son, Willie, and the extreme illness of his son Thomas, familiarly called “Tad.” This was a new burden, and the visitation which, in his firm faith in Providence, he regarded as providential, was also inexplicable. A Christian lady from Massachusetts, who was officiating as nurse in one of the hospitals at the time, came to attend the sick children. She reports that Mr. Lincoln watched with her about the bedside of the sick ones, and that he often walked the room, saying sadly: “This is the hardest trial of my life; why is it? Why is it?”

In the course of conversation with her, he questioned her concerning his situation. She told him that she was a widow, and that her husband and two children were in heaven; and added that she saw the hand of God in it all, and that she had never loved him so much before as she had since her affliction.

“How is that brought about?” inquired Mr. Lincoln. “Simply by trusting in God and feeling that he does all things well,” she replied. “Did you submit fully under the first loss?” he asked. “No,” she answered, “not wholly; but, as blow came upon blow, and all were taken, I could and did submit, and was very happy.” He responded: “I am glad to hear you say that. Your experience will help me to bear my affliction.”

On being assured that many Christians were praying for him on the morning of the funeral, he wiped away the tears that sprang in his eyes, and said: “I am glad to hear that. I want them to pray for me. I need their prayers.” As he was going out to the burial, the good lady expressed her sympathy with him. He thanked her gently, and said: “I will try to go to God with my sorrows.”

A few days afterward she asked him if he could trust God. He replied: “I think I can, and will try. I wish I had that childlike faith you speak of, and I trust he will give it to me.” And then he spoke of his mother, whom so many years before he had committed to the dust among the wilds of Indiana. In this hour of his great trial the memory of her who had held him upon her bosom, and soothed his childish griefs, came back to him with tenderest recollections. “I remember her prayers,” said he, “and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.”

From Lincoln’s Life, Stories and Speeches by Paul Selby



In the fall of 1818, the scantily settled region in the vicinity of Pigeon Creek—where the Lincolns were then living—suffered a visitation of that dread disease common in the West in early days, and known in the vernacular of the frontier as “the milk-sick.” . .

Early in October of that year, Thomas and Besty Sparrow fell ill of the disease and died within a few days of each other. Thomas Lincoln performed the services of undertaker. With his whipsaw he cut out the lumber, and with commendable promptness he nailed together the rude coffins to enclose the forms of the dead. The bodies were borne to a scantily cleared knoll in the midst of the forest, and there, without ceremony, quietly let down into the grave. Meanwhile Abe’s mother had also fallen a victim to the insidious disease. Her sufferings, however, were destined to be of brief duration. Within a week she too rested from her labors. “She struggled on, day by day,” says one of the household, “a good Christian woman, and died on the seventh day after she was taken sick. Abe and his sister Sarah waited on their mother, and did the little jobs and errands required of them. There was no physician nearer than thirty-five miles. The mother knew she was going to die, and called the children to her bedside. She was very weak, and the children leaned over her while she gave her last message. Placing her feeble hand on little Abe’s head she told him to be kind and good to his father and sister; to both she said, ‘Be good to one another,’ expressing a hope that they might live, as they had been taught by her, to love their kindred and worship God.” Amid the miserable surroundings of a home in the wilderness Nancy Hanks passed across the dark river. Though of lowly birth, the victim of poverty and hard usage, she takes a place in history as the mother of a son who liberated a race of men.

Herndon’s Lincoln, William H. Hcrndon and Jesse W. Weik, Vol. I, page 22.



The start on the memorable journey was made shortly after eight o’clock on the morning of Monday, February n. It was a clear, crisp winter day. Only about one hundred people, mostly personal friends, were assembled at the station to shake hands for the last time with their distinguished townsman. It was not strange that he yielded to the sad feelings which must have moved him at the thought of what lay behind and what was before him, and gave them utterance in a pathetic formal farewell to the gathering crowd, as follows:

“My Friends,—No one not in my position can appreciate the sadness I feel at this parting. To this people I owe all that I am. Here I have lived more than a quarter of a century; here my chil dren were born, and here one of them lies buried. I know not how soon I shall see you again. A duty devolves upon me which is, perhaps, greater than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington. He would never have succeeded except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same Divine aid which sustained him, and in the same Almighty Being I place my reliance for support; and I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive that Divine assistance, without which I cannot succeed, but with which success is certain. Again I bid you all an affectionate farewell.”

Memoirs of Henry Villard, Vol. I, page 149.



Abraham’s sister Sarah was warmly attached to her brother. “It is said that her face somewhat resembled his. In repose it had the gravity which they both, perhaps, inherited from their mother, but it was capable of being lighted almost into beauty by one of Abe’s ridiculous stories or rapturous sallies of humor. She was a modest, plain, industrious girl, and is kindly remembered by all who knew her. She was married to Aaron Grigsby at eighteen, and died a year after. Like Abe, she occasionally worked out at the houses of the neighbors. She lies buried, not with her mother, but in the yard of the old Pigeon Creek Meeting-house.”

The Every-Day Lift of Abraham Lincoln, F. F. Browne, page 71.



Thomas Lincoln loved his children, but he had a Spartan way of concealing the fact—especially toward his son. He considered the time wasted that Abe spent in study. It was a sign of “laziness.” It was through the stepmother’s influence with his father that Abe was permitted to read as much as he did. The boy had such a thirst for knowledge that it is doubtful if his father could have prevented Abe’s reading if he had tried harder to stop it.

Though bashful with women, Abraham was free and easy with those of his own sex. Dennis Hanks tells that Abe was always ready with an answer, whether addressed or not. Sometimes he would engage in long discussions with passing strangers. His father had doubtless heard of his wasting his employers’ time and hindering the other help by telling stories and making speeches. Thomas Lincoln naturally felt called upon to discourage this “forward” spirit, for Dennis relates that his father once knocked Abe down off the fence which he had mounted to answer the question of a passer-by. Thomas Lincoln did not live to see his son achieve much more than local renown.



It was the custom of those days, and of that country, to have a funeral sermon preached by way of memorial, any time within the year following the death of a person. So, as soon as the good mother was buried, Abraham Lincoln composed what he used to say was his first letter, and addressed it to Parson Elkin, the Kentucky Baptist preacher who had sometimes tarried with the Lincolns in their humble home in Kentucky. It was a great favor to ask of the good man; for his journey to preach a sermon over the grave of Nancy Lincoln would take him one hundred miles or more, far from his customary “stamping ground.” But, in due time, Abraham received an answer to his letter, and the parson promised to come when his calls of duty led him near the Indiana line.

Early in the following summer, when the trees were the greenest and the forest was most beautiful, the preacher came on his errand of kindness. It was a bright and sunny Sabbath morning, when, due notice having been sent around through all the region, men, women and children gathered from far and near to hear the funeral sermon of Nancy Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln and the Downfall of American Slavery, Noah Brooks