Our guest on the Two Mikes was Mr. John Cribb, a veteran author from Spartanburg, South Carolina. Mr. Cribb is the author of a new book called The Rail Splitter: A Novel.
This book of historical-fiction follows the life of Abraham Lincoln from his birth until he is on the
threshold of the presidency. (Mr. Cribb’s last book is called Old Abe, which covers the last five
years of Lincoln’s life in which he served as president.)
Our discussion focuses on Lincoln’s truly spectacular rise in the world. As a youth, his father
needed him on the farm, and as Lincoln said his education was a case of “the littles, a little here
and a little there.” Mr. Cribb’s notes that adding up Lincoln’s total time at school tops out at
about a year. Lincoln was absolutely a self-learner and not just in the basics. He taught himself
Euclid’s geometry, the law via Blackstone’s Commentaries, and persevered through life to
become a top-flight lawyer and the U.S. president.
On the issue of slavery, Lincoln claimed to not remember when he wasn’t opposed to it, saying
“if slavery isn’t wrong, nothing is wrong.” He also, however, was opposed to the virulent hate-
spewing of the abolitionists; the latter, of course, were key players in pushing the republic into
civil war. Indeed, their consistent hate and accusations of a “Godless South” were in large part
responsible in making the southerners – the leaders and the led – believe that there was no
ground for compromise with the north.
Lincoln was without question what was called at the time an “Anti-slavery Man,” but he and
many others believed that the sudden freeing of the slaves would badly disrupt the Union, cause
an enormous economic dislocation, and inject into the population an enormous number of
slaves who were largely uneducated, lacking in employable skills, and who were still detested,
perhaps more by northerners than by southerners.
Lincoln’s aim at the beginning of his presidency was not to free the slaves, but to contain the
institution in the south and so prevent its spread to the new states and territories that were sure
to enter the Union, while also working to build a joint north-south strategy to eradicate slavery
over time and prepare Blacks to cope with the drastic change and new responsibilities that
freedom would place upon them.
Mr. Cribb concludes our discussion with a fascinating discussion about Lincoln as a man who,
though he was never baptized or joined a church, attended Sunday services and was a deeply
spiritual human being. There is always more to be said about Mr. Lincoln, and Mr. Cribb gives
us all a good and well-written deal to read and consider, as well as to, perhaps, help the reader
to begin to grow, or to rekindle, a strong interest in the history of their country and in the
enigmatic Mr. Lincoln. In his two books on Lincoln, Mr. Cribb has given a gift to the nation, and especially its young, that is badly needed.
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