Getting Lincoln through College

By Allen Guelzo in the National Review:

On the day in 1858 that Abraham Lincoln squared off against Stephen A. Douglas in the fifth of their great debates across Illinois, the candidates spoke from behind platforms that had been hastily cobbled together and moved to the east side of Knox College’s “Old Main,” in Galesburg. Because of a quirk in the height of the platforms, the candidates were helped onto them through a seven-foot-high window in “Old Main,” leading Lincoln (who’d never had more than a year’s worth of formal schooling) to wisecrack, “At last I’ve gone through college.”

The joke concealed the real mortification Lincoln felt as a 49-year-old lawyer facing the influx of a new generation of college-educated competitors from back east. “Ah, that is what I have always regretted,” Lincoln told New York Herald reporter Stephen Fiske in 1861, “the want of a college education.”