Lincoln Heritage Museum remains open for normal operating hours (Tuesday-Friday 9 am to 4 pm and Saturday 1 pm to 4 pm), despite the closure of Lincoln College in May of 2022.



Responsibility – willingness to work hard and to do one’s duty as a citizen

Examples of Lincoln’s Responsibility from his Life


  • The pride he took in working hard and earning his first dollar in helping man a flatboat down the Mississippi
  • His physical and civic contributions to his neighbors as a resident of New Salem and Springfield
  • Acknowledging his duty to speak out on the moral evils of the slavery in the 1850s

Abraham Lincoln Quotations Regarding Responsibility


  • “Wanting to work is so rare a merit, that it should be encouraged.” – Abraham Lincoln to George Ramsay, October 17, 1861
  • “The proudest ambition he could desire was to do something for the elevation of the condition of his fellow man.” – Abraham Lincoln in a letter to John Conness, November 13, 1863
  • It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.” – Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863



Stories in Lincoln’s Life Regarding Responsibility



The following interesting story was told by Mr. Lincoln to Mr. Seward and a few friends one evening in the Executive Mansion at Washington. The President said: “Seward, you never heard, did you, how I earned my first dollar?”  “No,” rejoined Mr. Seward.

“Well,” continued Mr. Lincoln, “I belonged, you know, to what they called down South the ‘scrubs.’ We had succeeded in raising, chiefly by my labor, sufficient produce, as I thought, to justify me in taking it down the river to sell.  “After much persuasion, I got the consent of mother to go, and constructed a little flatboat, large enough to take a barrel or two of things that we had gathered, with myself and little bundle, down to the Southern market. A steamer was coming down the river. We have, you know, no wharves on the Western streams; and the custom was, if passengers were at any of the landings, for them to go out in a boat, the steamer stopping and taking them on board

“I was contemplating my new flatboat, and wondering whether I could make it strong or improve it in any particular, when two men came down to the shore in carriages with trunks, and looking at the different boats singled out mine, and asked, ‘Who owns this?’ I answered, somewhat modestly, ‘I do.’ ‘Will you,’ said one of them, ‘take us and our trunks out to the steamer?’ ‘Certainly,’ said I. I was very glad to have the chance of earning something. I supposed that each of them would give me one or two or three bits. The trunks were put on my flatboat, the passengers seated themselves on the trunks, and I sculled them out to the steamboat.

“They got on board, and I lifted up their heavy trunks, and put them on deck. The steamer was about to put on steam again, when I called out that they had forgotten to pay me. Each of them took from his pocket a silver half-dollar, and threw it on the floor of my boat. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I picked up the money. Gentlemen, you may think it was a very little thing, and in these days it seems to me a trifle; but it was a most important incident in my life. I could scarcely credit, that I, a poor boy, had earned a dollar. The world seemed wider and fairer before me. I was a more hopeful and confident being from that time.”

Abraham Lincoln, His Life and Public Services, Mrs. P. A. Hanaford, page 156.



Mrs. Lincoln, not long before her death, gave striking testimony of his winning and loyal character. She said to Mr. Herndon: “I can say, what scarcely one mother in a thousand can say, Abe never gave me a cross word or look, and never refused in fact or appearance to do anything I asked him. His mind and mine—what little I had—seemed to run together I had a son John, who was raised with Abe. Both were good boys, but I must say, both now being dead, that Abe was the best boy I ever saw or expect to see.”

Abraham Lincoln: A History, John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Vol. I, page 35.AN ABSURD DUEL AVOIDED



It is interesting to recall the fact that at one time Mr. Lincoln seriously took into consideration the project of learning the blacksmith’s trade. He was without means, and felt the immediate necessity of undertaking some business that would give him bread. It was while he was entertaining this project that an event occurred which in his undetermined state of mind seemed to open a way to success in another quarter.

A man named Reuben Radford, the keeper of a small store in the village of New Salem, had somehow incurred the displeasure of the Clary’s Grove Boys, who had exercised their “regulating” derogatives by irregularly breaking his windows. William G. Greene, a friend of young Lincoln, riding by Radford’s store soon afterward, was hailed by him, and told that he intended to sell out. Mr. Greene went into the store, and offered him at random four hundred dollars for his stock. The offer was immediately accepted.

Lincoln happening in the next day, and being familiar with the value of the goods, Mr. Greene proposed to him to take an inventory of the stock, and see what sort of a bargain he had made. This he did, and it was found that the goods were worth six hundred dollars. Lincoln then made him an offer of a hundred and twenty-five dollars for his bargain, with the proposition that he and a man named Berry, as his partner, should take his (Greene’s) place in the notes given to Radford. Mr. Greene agreed to the arrangement, but Radford declined it, except on condition that Greene would be their security, and this he at last assented to.

Berry proved to be a dissipated, trifling man, and the business soon became a wreck. Mr. Greene was obliged to go in and help Mr. Lincoln close it up, and not only do this but pay Radford’s notes. All that young Lincoln won from the store was some very valuable experience, and the burden of a debt to Greene which, in conversations with the latter, he always spoke of as the national debt. But this national debt, unlike the majority of those which bear the title, was paid to the utmost farthing in after years.

Six years afterwards, Mr. Greene, who knew nothing of the law in such cases, and had not troubled himself to inquire about it, and who had in the meantime removed to Tennessee, received notice from Mr. Lincoln that he was ready to pay him what he paid for Berry—he (Lincoln) being legally bound to pay the liabilities of his partner.  It took Lincoln close to a decade to pay off his national debt as he called it, but he paid back every penny of the $1000 he owed.

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



The next autumn, John Hanks, the steadiest and most trustworthy of his family, went to Illinois. Though an illiterate and rather dull man, he had a good deal of solidity of character and consequently some influence and consideration in the household. He settled in Macon County, and was so well pleased with the country, and especially with its admirable distribution into prairie and timber, that he sent repeated messages to his friends in Indiana to come out and join him. Thomas Lincoln was always ready to move. He had probably by this time despaired of ever owning any unencumbered real estate in Indiana, and the younger members of the family had little John Hanks to bind them to the place where they saw

The steadiest and most trustworthy nothing in the future but hard work and poor living. Thomas Lincoln handed over his farm to Mr. Gentry, sold his crop of corn and hogs, packed his household goods and those of his children and sonsin-law into a single wagon, drawn by two yoke of oxen, the combined wealth of himself and Dennis Hanks, and started for the new State. His daughter Sarah, or Nancy, for she was called by both names, who married Aaron Grigsby a few years before, had died in childbirth. The emigrating family consisted of the Lincolns, John Johnston, Mrs. Lincoln’s son, and her daughters, Mrs. Hall and Mrs. Hanks, with their husbands.

Abraham Lincoln: A History, John G. Nicolay and John Hay, Vol. I, page 45.



If they were far from being his “first and only rails,” they certainly were the most famous ones he or anybody else ever split. This was the last work he did for his father, for in the summer of that year (1830) he exercised the right of majority and started out to shift for himself. When he left his home he went empty-handed. He was already some months over twenty-one years of age, but he had nothing in the world, not even a suit of respectable clothes He had no trade, no profession, no spot of land, no patron, no influence. Two things recommended him to his neighbors—he was strong, and he was a good fellow.

His strength made him a valuable laborer. Not that he was fond of hard labor. Mrs. Crawford says: “Abe was no hand to pitch into work like killing snakes;” but when he did work it was with an ease and effectiveness which compensated his employer for the time he spent in practical jokes and extemporaneous speeches. He would lift as much as three ordinary men, and “My, how he would chop!” says Dennis Hanks. “His ax would flash and bite into a sugar tree, or sycamore, and down it would come. If you heard him fellin’ trees in a clearin’ you would say there was three men at work, by the way the trees fell.”

His strength won him popularity, but his good nature, his wit, his skill in debate, his stories, were still more efficient in gaining him good-will. People liked to have him around, and voted him a good fellow to work with. Yet such were the conditions of his life at this time that, in spite of his popularity, nothing was open to him but hard manual labor. To take the first job which he happened upon —rail-splitting, plowing, lumbering, boating, store-keeping—and make the most of it, thankful if thereby he earned his bed and board and yearly suit of jeans, was apparently all there was before Abraham Lincoln in 1830, when he started out for himself.

The Early Life of Abraham Lincoln, Ida M. Tarbell, page 101.