Page images

has no power under the Constitution to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different states.

"They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power under the Constitution to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, but that the power ought not to be exercised unless at the request of the people of the District.

"The difference between these opinions and those contained in the above resolutions, is their reason for entering this protest.

[ocr errors]


Representatives from the County of Sangamon."

Thus Lincoln put his opinions on record in 1837 in a way that through all the controversy of thirty years he had no need to alter. It was the first striking illustration of his power to say the right thing on great moral issues.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]



LINCOLN'S style about this time was usually pure, but, like those of most men who are to reach a high degree of restrained eloquence, some of his early experiments are florid, as may be seen in an address before the young men's Lyceum of Springfield, January 28, 1838, in which the general tone corresponded to this extract:

"Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.

"At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, If it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time, or die by suicide."

[ocr errors]

A manner of expression much more natural to him is seen in these passages from a letter to Miss Mary Owens, from Vandalia, December 13, 1836:


“VANDALIA, December 13, 1836.

MARY: I have been sick since my arrival, or I should have written sooner. It is but little difference, however, as I have very little even yet to write. And more, the longer I can avoid the mortification of looking in the post-office for your letter and not finding it, the better. You see I am mad about that old letter yet. I don't like very well to risk you again. I'll try you once more, anyhow.


"You recollect that I mentioned at the outset of this letter that I had been unwell. That is the fact, though I believe I am about well now; but that, with other things I cannot account for, have conspired, and have gotten my spirits so low that I feel that I would rather be any place in the world than here. I really cannot endure the thought of staying here ten weeks. Write back as soon as you get this, and, if possible, say something that will please me, for really I have not been pleased since I left you."

In the short time which he spent at home before the special session, which followed soon after the end of the regular session, Lincoln continued his study of law, and in March he was admitted to the bar in Springfield. As that town, a great city of over a thousand inhabitants, had been chosen the capital, the ambitious young lawyerpolitician determined to cast his fate there. One fine day he rode into town on a borrowed horse, with a pair of saddle-bags containing two or

three law-books and a few pieces of clothing, and landed in the store of a prosperous young merchant friend, Joshua F. Speed, who offered to share his quarters with him.


'What would the furniture for a single bed cost?" asked the newcomer.

"About seventeen dollars," the merchant calculated.

Though that would be cheap, Lincoln admitted, he had not the money to pay. "But if you will credit me until Christmas, and my experiment here as a lawyer is a success, I will pay you then. If I fail in that, I will probably never pay you at all.”

Speed proposed to share his double bed. "Where is your room?" asked Lincoln.

[ocr errors]

Upstairs," replied Speed, pointing to stairs. which led from the store.

Lincoln picked up his bags, climbed the stairs, put all his worldly goods upon the floor, and returned, a smiling resident of Springfield, saying, "Well, Speed, I've moved."

The kindness which he often won was necessary now. He was taken to board by one William Butler, with whom he stayed several years, probably without pay. A few days after his arrival he formed a law partnership with John T. Stuart, whom he had known in the Black Hawk War, and who had loaned him books some years before.

As Stuart was deeply in politics, Lincoln's active practice began at once. He attended to the office business, drew up most of the pleas, tried the cases, and made all the entries in the books. Something of his business mood may be guessed from this extract from a letter to Stuart:

"You recollect you told me you had drawn the Chicago Masack money, and sent it to the claimants. A . . hawk-billed Yankee is here besetting me at every turn I take, saying that Robert Kinzie never received the eighty dollars to which he was entitled. Can you tell anything about the matter? Again, old Mr. Wright, who lives up South Fork somewhere, is teasing me continually about some deeds which he says he left with you, but which I can find nothing of. Can you tell where they are?"

While at work, he occupied the firm office, a room in the court-house, containing a small lounge or bed, a chair with a buffalo robe on it, a hard wooden bench, and a little bookcase. His real headquarters, however, were in Speed's store, a gathering-point of the town philosophers, including men prominent in the legislature, with whom Lincoln had time and opportunity to thrash over all the problems of the day. of the day. Springfield was rather more civilized than most towns in Illinois, and Lincoln was thrown in with men who wore better clothes, had better business habits,

« PreviousContinue »