Lincoln Paid a Debt He Did Not Owe

Washington was famous for not telling a lie; but Lincoln went one step further and repaid a debt, half of which he did not owe.

“The morning Lincoln rode into Springfield, he not only had no cash reserves of his own; but, to make matters worse, he was eleven hundred dollars in debt. He and Berry had lost that amount in their ill-fated grocery venture back in New Salem. Then Berry had drunk himself to death and left Lincoln to shoulder the obligations alone.

To be sure, Lincoln didn’t have to pay; he could have pleaded divided responsibility and the failure of the business and have found a legal loophole of escape.

But that wasn’t Lincoln’s way. Instead, he went to his creditors and promised to pay them every dollar with interest, if they would only give him time. They all agreed, except one, Peter Van Bergen. He brought suit immediately, obtained a judgment and had Lincoln’s horse and surveying instruments sold at public auction. The others waited, however, and Lincoln scraped and saved and denied himself for fourteen years in order to keep faith with them. Even as late as 1848, when he was a member of Congress, he sent part of his salary home to pay off the last remnant of this old grocery debt.”

“Lincoln the Unknown”, by Dale Carnegie

I learned from this passage…

  1. It doesn’t matter how difficult things are, if we owe a debt, we need to pay it.
  2. If our partner dies, and it was a debt that we willingly incurred, we should pay it.
  3. We need to talk to all of our creditors and make a plan to repay them.
  4. It will not be easy; we will have to scrape, save and deny ourself.
  5. It will take a long time.
  6. Assign a portion of our salary, not too much or we will not be able to keep our word. (I have read from other sources to use no more than 20% of your salary to pay off debts.)




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