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Title: Discoveries and Inventions - A lecture by Abraham Lincoln delivered in 1860
Author: Lincoln, Abraham
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Discoveries and Inventions - A lecture by Abraham Lincoln delivered in 1860" ***

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[Illustration: _Abraham Lincoln_]

[Illustration (Title Page)]






_The Lecture--“Discoveries and Inventions”--by our greatest American,
presents a phase of Lincoln’s activity about which little is generally
known. It shows as clearly as any of his other writings how great was
Lincoln’s knowledge of the progress of mankind, particularly as related
in the Bible, and it reveals also his debt to that Book of Books for
inspiration and illustration, as well as his masterly use of pure
English, largely gained through that study._

_In the fateful year of 1860, the year of his election to the
presidency, Lincoln took up, in the pause of his affairs after the long
debate with Douglas, the custom of lyceum lecturing, then in great
vogue. This lecture on “Discoveries and Inventions” was delivered in
towns near his home, Springfield, Illinois, and in Springfield itself
on Washington’s birthday. Five days later Lincoln made his great speech
at Cooper Union in New York._

_The lecture is not included with any collection of Lincoln’s
addresses. It appeared in print for the first time in_ Sunset Magazine
_in 1909--the centennial of Lincoln’s birth_.

_The original manuscript, from which this edition, the first in book
form, is made, was a cherished possession of the late Dr. Samuel
Houston Melvin, of Oakland, California, formerly a resident of
Springfield, Illinois, and a friend of Mr. Lincoln. Just prior to
Dr. Melvin’s death, in 1898, he made an affidavit setting forth the
history of the manuscript; that statement is as follows_:


    _In the month of February, 1861, being at that time a resident
    of Springfield, Illinois, I called one evening at the residence
    of my friend, Dr. John Todd. The doctor was an uncle of Mrs.
    Abraham Lincoln. While there Mr. Lincoln came in, bringing with
    him a well-filled satchel, remarking as he set it down that
    it contained his literary bureau. Mr. Lincoln remained some
    fifteen or twenty minutes, conversing mainly about the details
    of his prospective trip to Washington the following week, and
    told us of the arrangements agreed upon for the family to
    follow him a few days later. When about to leave he handed the
    grip above referred to to Mrs. Grimsley, the only daughter of
    Dr. Todd, who was then a widow but who subsequently became
    the wife of Rev. Dr. John H. Brown, a Presbyterian minister
    located in Springfield, remarking as he did so that he would
    leave the bureau in her charge; that if he ever returned to
    Springfield he would claim it, but if not she might make such
    disposition of its contents as she deemed proper. A tone of
    indescribable sadness was noted in the latter part of the
    sentence. Lincoln had shown me quite a number of letters a few
    days before, threatening his life, some predicting that he
    never would be inaugurated, and it was apparent to me that they
    were making an impression upon his mind, although he tried to
    laugh the matter off. About five years later the Nation was
    startled by the announcement of Lincoln’s assassination. The
    corporation of Springfield selected twelve of its citizens to
    proceed at once to Washington and accompany the remains of the
    dead President back to his old home. I was one of that number,
    and shall never forget the indescribable sadness manifested
    by millions of mourners along the route of travel of the
    funeral cortège as it wended its way westward over two thousand
    miles. A few evenings after his body was laid to rest, I again
    called upon my neighbors, the family of Dr. Todd. Scenes and
    incidents connected with the assassination and funeral of the
    dead President were discussed, and the remark made by Lincoln
    on his last visit to the house was referred to as indicating
    a presentiment that he would not return alive. This recalled
    the fact of his having left his so-called literary bureau,
    and his injunction as to its disposition. Mrs. Grimsley
    brought the grip from the place where it had been stored, and
    opened it with a view to examining its contents. Among them
    was found this manuscript, and attached to it by means of a
    piece of red tape was another of like character. They proved
    to be manuscripts of two lectures which he had prepared
    and delivered within a year prior to his election to the
    presidency--one at Jacksonville, Illinois, and a few days later
    at Decatur, Illinois; the other a little later at Cook’s Hall,
    Springfield, Illinois, at which I was present. Mrs. Grimsley
    told me to select from the contents of the bureau any one of
    the manuscripts it contained; and supposing at that time that
    the two manuscripts belonged to the same lecture, I selected
    them. On subsequent examination I discovered that while they
    both treated upon the same subject (Inventions and Discoveries)
    they were separate lectures. Twenty-five years later I disposed
    of one of the manuscripts to Mr. Gunther[A] of Chicago. The
    other it is my hope and desire shall remain in possession of my
    family and its descendants._

_The manuscript is now owned by Dr. Melvin’s son, the Honorable Henry
A. Melvin, a Justice of the Supreme Court of California, through whose
courtesy this edition is published._

    [A] _This was published in “Addresses and Letters of Lincoln,”
        The Century Company, 1904._



All creation is a mine, and every man a miner.

The whole earth, and all _within_ it, _upon_ it, and _round about_ it,
including _himself_, in his physical, moral, and intellectual nature,
and his susceptibilities, are the infinitely various “leads” from
which, man, from the first, was to dig out his destiny.

In the beginning, the mine was unopened, and the miner stood _naked_,
and _knowledgeless_, upon it.

Fishes, birds, beasts, and creeping things, are not miners, but
_feeders_ and _lodgers_ merely. Beavers build houses; but they build
them in nowise differently, or better now, than they did, five thousand
years ago. Ants and honey bees provide food for winter; but just in
the _same way_ they did, when Solomon referred the sluggard to them as
patterns of prudence.

Man is not the only animal who labors; but he is the only one
who _improves_ his workmanship. This improvement he effects by
_Discoveries_ and _Inventions_. His first important discovery was the
fact that he was naked; and his first invention was the fig-leaf apron.
This simple article, the apron, made of leaves, seems to have been
the origin of _clothing_--the one thing for which nearly half of the
toil and care of the human race has ever since been expended. The most
important improvement ever made in connection with clothing, was the
invention of _spinning_ and _weaving_. The spinning jenny, and power
loom, invented in modern times, though great _improvements_, do not,
_as inventions_, rank with the ancient arts of spinning and weaving.
Spinning and weaving brought into the department of clothing such
abundance and variety of material. Wool, the hair of several species of
animals, hemp, flax, cotton, silk, and perhaps other articles, were all
suited to it, affording garments not only adapted to wet and dry, heat
and cold, but also susceptible of high degrees of ornamental finish.
Exactly _when_, or _where_, spinning and weaving originated is not
known. At the first interview of the Almighty with Adam and Eve, after
the fall, He made “coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis iii: 21).

The Bible makes no other allusion to clothing, _before_ the flood. Soon
_after_ the deluge Noah’s two sons covered him with a _garment_; but of
what _material_ the garment was made is not mentioned (Genesis ix: 23).

Abraham mentions “_thread_” in such connection as to indicate that
spinning and weaving were in use in his day (Genesis xiv: 23), and soon
after, reference to the art is frequently made. “_Linen breeches_” are
mentioned (Exodus xxviii: 42), and it is said “all the women that were
wise-hearted did _spin_ with their hands” (Exodus xxxv: 25), and, “all
the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom _spun_ goats’ hair”
(Exodus xxxv: 26). The work of the “_weaver_” is mentioned (Exodus
xxxv: 35). In the book of Job, a very old book, date not exactly known,
the “_weavers’ shuttle_” is mentioned.

The above mention of “_thread_” by Abraham is the oldest recorded
allusion to spinning and weaving; and _it_ was made about two thousand
years after the creation of man, and now, near four thousand years
ago. Profane authors think these arts originated in Egypt; and this
is not contradicted, or made improbable, by anything in the Bible; for
the allusion of Abraham, mentioned, was not made until after he had
sojourned in Egypt.

The discovery of the properties of _iron_, and the making of _iron
tools_, must have been among the earliest of important discoveries and
inventions. We can scarcely conceive the possibility of making much of
anything else, without the use of iron tools. Indeed, an iron _hammer_
must have been very much needed to make the _first_ iron hammer with.
A _stone_ probably served as a substitute. How could the “_gopher
wood_” for the Ark have been gotten out without an axe? It seems to me
an axe, or a miracle, was indispensable. Corresponding with the prime
necessity for iron, we find at least one very early notice of it.
Tubal-Cain was “an instructor of every artificer in _brass_ and _iron_”
(Genesis iv: 22). Tubal-Cain was the seventh in descent from Adam;
and his birth was about one thousand years before the flood. _After_
the flood, frequent mention is made of _iron_, and _instruments_ made
of iron. Thus “instrument of iron” at Numbers xxxv: 16; “bedstead of
iron” at Deuteronomy iii: 11; “the iron furnace” at Deuteronomy iv: 20,
and “iron tool” at Deuteronomy xxvii: 5. At Deuteronomy xix: 5, very
distinct mention of “the ax to cut down the tree” is made; and also at
Deuteronomy viii: 9, the promised land is described as “a land whose
stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.” From
the somewhat frequent mention of brass in connection with iron, it is
not improbable that brass--perhaps what we now call copper--was used by
the ancients for some of the same purposes as iron.

_Transportation_--the removal of person and goods from place to
place--would be an early _object_, if not a _necessity_, with man. By
his natural powers of locomotion, and without much assistance from
discovery and invention, he could move himself about with considerable
facility; and even, could carry small burthens with him. But very soon
he would wish to lessen the labor, while he might, at the same time,
extend, and expedite the business. For this object, wheel-carriages,
and water-crafts--wagons and boats--are the most important inventions.
The use of the wheel and axle has been so long known, that it is
difficult, without reflection, to estimate it at its true value. The
oldest recorded allusion to the wheel and axle is the mention of a
“chariot” (Genesis xli: 43). This was in Egypt, upon the occasion of
Joseph being made governor by Pharaoh. It was about twenty-five hundred
years after the creation of Adam. That the chariot then mentioned
was a wheel-carriage drawn by animals is sufficiently evidenced by
the mention of chariot _wheels_ (Exodus xiv: 25), and the mention of
chariots in connection with _horses_ in the same chapter, verses 9 and
23. So much, at present, for land transportation.

Now, as to transportation by _water_, I have concluded, without
sufficient authority perhaps, to use the term “boat” as a general name
for all water-craft. The boat is indispensable to navigation. It is not
probable that the philosophical principle upon which the use of the
boat primarily depends--to-wit, the _principle_, that anything will
float, which cannot sink without displacing more than its own _weight_
of water--was known, or even thought of, before the first boats were
made. The sight of a crow standing on a piece of driftwood floating
down the swollen current of a creek or river, might well enough suggest
the specific idea to a savage, that he could himself get upon a log,
or on two logs tied together, and somehow work his way to the opposite
shore of the same stream. Such a suggestion, so taken, would be the
birth of navigation; and such, not improbably, it really was. The
leading idea was thus caught; and whatever came afterwards, were but
improvements upon, and auxiliaries to, it.

As man is a land animal, it might be expected he would learn to travel
by land somewhat earlier than he would by water. Still the crossing of
streams, somewhat too deep for wading, would be an early necessity with
him. If we pass by the Ark, which may be regarded as belonging rather
to the _miraculous_ than to _human_ invention, the first notice we
have of water-craft is the mention of “ships” by Jacob (Genesis xlix:
13). It is not till we reach the book of Isaiah that we meet with the
mention of “oars” and “sails.”

As man’s _food_--his first necessity--was to be derived from the
vegetation of the earth, it was natural that his first care should be
directed to the assistance of that vegetation. And accordingly we find
that, even before the fall, the man was put into the garden of Eden “to
dress it, and to keep it.” And when afterwards, in consequence of the
first transgression, _labor_ was imposed on the race, as a _penalty_--a
_curse_--we find the first born man--the first heir of the curse--was
“a tiller of the ground.” This was the beginning of agriculture; and
although, both in point of time, and of importance, it stands at the
head of all branches of human industry, it has derived less direct
advantage from Discovery and Invention, than almost any other. The
plow, of very early origin; and reaping, and threshing, machines,
of modern invention are, at this day, the principal improvements in
agriculture. And even the oldest of these, the plow, could not have
been conceived of, until a precedent conception had been caught, and
put into practice--I mean the conception, or idea, of substituting
other forces in nature, for man’s own muscular power. These other
forces, as now used, are principally, the _strength_ of animals, and
the _power_ of the wind, of running streams, and of steam.

Climbing upon the back of an animal, and making it carry us, might
not occur very readily. I think the back of the camel would never
have suggested it. It was, however, a matter of vast importance. The
earliest instance of it mentioned, is when “Abraham rose up early in
the morning, and saddled his ass” (Genesis xxii: 3), preparatory to
sacrificing Isaac as a burnt-offering; but the allusion to the _saddle_
indicates that riding had been in use some time; for it is quite
probable they rode bare-backed awhile, at least, before they invented

The _idea_, being once conceived, of riding _one_ species of animals,
would soon be extended to others. Accordingly we find that when the
servant of Abraham went in search of a wife for Isaac, he took ten
_camels_ with him; and, on his return trip, “Rebekah arose, and her
damsels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man” (Genesis
xxiv: 61).

The _horse_, too, as a riding animal, is mentioned early. The Red Sea
being safely passed, Moses and the children of Israel sang to the Lord
“the _horse_ and his _rider_ hath he thrown into the sea” (Exodus xv:

Seeing that animals could bear _man_ upon their backs, it would soon
occur that they could also bear other burthens. Accordingly we find
that Joseph’s brethren, on their first visit to Egypt, “laded their
asses with the corn, and departed thence” (Genesis xlii: 26).

Also it would occur that animals could be made to _draw_ burthens
_after_ them, as well as to bear them upon their backs; and hence plows
and chariots came into use early enough to be often mentioned in the
books of Moses (Deuteronomy xxii: 10; Genesis xli: 43; xlvi: 29; Exodus
xiv: 25).

Of all the forces of nature, I should think the _wind_ contains the
largest amount of _motive power_--that is, power to move things. Take
any given space of the earth’s surface--for instance, Illinois; and
all the power exerted by all the men, and beasts, and running-water,
and steam, over and upon it, shall not equal the one hundredth part
of what is exerted by the blowing of the wind over and upon the same
space. And yet it has not, so far in the world’s history, become
proportionably _valuable_ as a motive power. It is applied extensively,
and advantageously, to sail-vessels in navigation. Add to this a few
windmills, and pumps, and you have about all. That, as yet, no very
successful mode of _controlling_, and _directing_ the wind, has been
discovered; and that, naturally, it moves by fits and starts--now so
gently as to scarcely stir a leaf, and now so roughly as to level a
forest--doubtless have been the insurmountable difficulties. As yet,
the wind is an _untamed_, and _unharnessed_ force; and quite possibly
one of the greatest discoveries hereafter to be made, will be the
taming, and harnessing of it. That the difficulties of controlling
this power are very great is quite evident by the fact that they have
already been perceived, and struggled with more than three thousand
years; for that power was applied to sail-vessels, at least as early as
the time of the prophet Isaiah.

In speaking of _running streams_, as a motive power, I mean its
application to mills and other machinery by means of the “_water
wheel_”--a thing now well known, and extensively used; but, of which,
no mention is made in the Bible, though it is thought to have been in
use among the Romans. (Am. Ency.--Mill), the language of the Saviour
“Two women shall be grinding at the mill, etc.” indicates that, even
in the populous city of Jerusalem, at that day, mills were operated by
hand--having, as yet had no other than human power applied to them.

The advantageous use of _Steam-power_ is, unquestionably, a modern
discovery. And yet, as much as two thousand years ago the power of
steam was not only observed, but an ingenious toy was actually made
and put in motion by it, at Alexandria in Egypt. What appears strange
is, that neither the inventor of the toy, nor any one else, for so
long a time afterwards, should perceive that steam would move _useful_
machinery as well as a toy.


Transcriber’s Note

All pages were enclosed in the decorative border shown here only on the
Title page.

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