Summarize Written Text
Americans in the mid-nineteenth century could point to plenty of examples, real as well as mythical, of self-made men who by dint of "industry, prudence, perseverance, and good economy" had risen "to competence, and then to affluence." With the election of Abraham Lincoln they could point to one who had risen from a log cabin to the White House. "I am not ashamed to confess that twenty five years ago I was a hired laborer, mauling rails, at work on a flat-boat—just what might happen to any poor man's son!" Lincoln told an audience at New Haven in 1860. But in the free states a man knows that "he can better his condition . . . there is no such thing as a freeman being fatally fixed for life, in the condition of a hired laborer." "Wage slave" was a contradiction in terms, said Lincoln. "The man who labored for another last year, this year labors for himself, and next year he will hire others to labor for him." If a man "continue through life in the condition of the hired laborer, it is not the fault of the system, but because of either a dependent nature which prefers it, or improvidence, folly, or singular misfortune." The "free labor system," concluded Lincoln, "opens the way for all—gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all."