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Posts Tagged ‘elected to Indiana State Senate’

“I would not give a tuppence for the American who has not at least tried to do one of three things,” Wallace supposedly told a New York Times reporter. “That person lacks the true American spirit who has not tried to paint a picture, write a book, or get out a patent on something.” Or, he added, “tried to play some musical instrument. There you have the genius of the true American in those four – art, literature, invention, music.”

Lew Wallace died this date, 2/15/1905 at Crawfordsville, Indiana.  He had been born in Indiana (Brookville) 4/10/1827.  He served on the Union side of the Uncivil War, was a lawyer, was elected to Indiana State Senate, governored the Territory of New Mexico (1878-1881) and was U.S. Minister to the Ottoman Empire, modern Turkey (1881-1885). 

In May 1852 Lewis Wallace married Susan Elston, sister-in-law of U.S. Senator Henry Lane (who helped found the Republican Party).  Susan was a Christian and a published author (six books – two illustrated by Wallace).  She is said to have given our literature the expression “the patter of little feet.”

While riding a train in 1875 Wallace met the well-known agnostic, Robert Ingersoll. Ingersoll presented to Wallace question after question of evidences for God, heaven, Christ, etc. Wallace later said, “I was ashamed of myself and make haste now to declare that the mortification of pride I then endured…ended in a resolution to study the whole matter.  Connected with Ingersol (or not ) rumor had Wallace an atheist or “that he had gone to the Holy Land to disprove the existence of Christ.”  But his autobiography states, “…I wish to say that I believe absolutely in the Christian conception of God.”  Some think his faith is at least partly due to Susan’s Christian life and prayers.

It appears his novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ is a result of his desire to know more about Christ.  Reportedly Wallace’s favorite scene was when Ben-Hur tells friends about the miracles he’s seen Christ perform – turning water into wine, raising a dead man and asks them what they think. Balthasar, one of the original wise men, replies, “God only is so great.”  “When I had finished that,” Wallace is said to have confessed, “I said to myself with Balthasar, ‘God only is so great.’ I had become a believer.”

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ was published by Harper and Brothers 11/12/1880. It is said to have never gone out of print being presented in 36 English-language editions and translated into twenty other languages including Braille. It has been filmed four times. One source affirms it was at one point required reading in grade schools across the U.S.

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