It has been well said that the difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician tries to make the people do something for him, while a statesman tries to do something for the people. Applying this test Abraham Lincoln was always a statesman. In his first speech in 1832, when he was only twenty-three years old, he declared:
Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow-men by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.
It was the recognition that he was really trying to serve them and not himself which gave him the confidence of the people. Moreover, he had the same trust in the people that they had in him.
Why should there not be a patient confidence in the ultimate justice of the people? . . . Is there any better or equal hope in the world.
he asked in one of his speeches.
Honesty was the policy on which he founded his public life. In 1834, when he was first elected to the Illinois legislature, his friends