National Geographic : 2015 Apr
38 national geographic • April 2015 between four million people and liberty. Today the old right-of-way on which Lin- coln’s train passed, closed to rail traffic in the 1980s, has become a hiking trail. Rusted rails emerge here and there from its grassy margins, then sink again into the sod. A wooden post, a bench, and a couple of picnic tables are all that mark the Mason-Dixon Line itself. I sit down on the bench, with the left half of me in the South and the right half in the North, marveling at the border’s utter invisibility. I watch a pale green inchworm as it traverses my shirtfront from Pennsylvania into Maryland, then doubles back and crosses the Mason-Dixon Line again. Earth’s most impassable barriers—as Lincoln the lawyer knew, as Lincoln the writer knew— are often those formed not of walls and trenches, nor even of mountains and oceans, but of laws and words. At this spot, as at no historic site I’ve visited, I feel the terrible arbitrariness of slavery. But Lincoln also knew that a line made of laws and words, no matter how formidable, could be A HISTORIC JOURNEY A map published in an 1889 biography of Lincoln outlines the circuitous journey to his final resting place in Springfield, Illinois. Much of the route retraced Lincoln’s path to the capital for his 1861 inauguration. REBECCA HALE, NGM STAFF; AT AMERICAN UNIVERSITY LIBRARY, WASHINGTON, D.C.