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looking around for a properly qualified colleague, noticed Lincoln, and asked him if he could write, to which he answered, in local idiom, that he "could make a few rabbit tracks," and was thereupon immediately inducted into his first office. He performed his duties not only to the general satisfaction, but so as to interest Graham, who was a schoolmaster, and afterward made himself very useful to Lincoln.
Offutt finally arrived with a miscellaneous lot of goods, which Lincoln opened and put in order in a room that a former New Salem storekeeper was just ready to vacate, and whose remnant stock Offutt also purchased. Trade was evidently not brisk at New Salem, for the commercial zeal of Offutt led him to increase his venture by renting the Rutledge and Cameron mill, on whose historic dam the flatboat had stuck. For a while the charge of the mill was added to Lincoln's duties, until another clerk was engaged to help him. There is likewise good evidence that in addition to his duties at the store and the mill, Lincoln made himself generally useful—that he cut down trees and split rails enough to make a large hog-pen adjoining the mill, a proceeding quite natural when we remember that his hitherto active life and still growing muscles imperatively demanded the exercise which measuring calico or weighing out sugar and coffee failed to supply.
We know from other incidents that he was possessed of ample bodily strength. In frontier life it is not only needed for useful labor of many kinds, but is also called upon to aid in popular amusement. There was a settlement in the neighborhood of New Salem called Clary's Grove, where lived a group of restless, rollicking backwoodsmen with a strong liking for various forms of frontier athletics and rough practical jokes.
In the progress of American settlement there has always been a time, whether the frontier was in New England or Pennsylvania or Kentucky, or on the banks of the Mississippi, when the champion wrestler held some fraction of the public consideration accorded to the victor in the Olympic games of Greece. Until Lincoln came, Jack Armstrong was the champion wrestler of Clary's Grove and New Salem, and picturesque stories are told how the neighborhood talk, inflamed by Offutt's fulsome laudation of his clerk, made Jack Armstrong feel that his fame was in danger. Lincoln put off the encounter as long as he could, and when the wrestling match finally came off neither could throw the other. The bystanders became satisfied that they were equally matched in strength and skill, and the cool courage which Lincoln manifested throughout the ordeal prevented the usual close of such incidents with a fight. Instead of becoming chronic enemies and leaders of a neighborhood feud, Lincoln's selfpossession and good temper turned the contest into the beginning of a warm and lasting friendship.
If Lincoln's muscles were at times hungry for work, not less so was his mind. He was already instinctively feeling his way to his destiny when, in conversation with Mentor Graham, the schoolmaster, he indicated his desire to use some of his spare moments to increase his education, and confided to him his "notion to study English grammar." It was entirely in the nature of things that Graham should encourage this mental craving, and tell him: "If you expect to go before the public in any capacity, I think it the best thing you can do." Lincoln said that if he had a grammar he would begin at once. Graham was obliged to confess that there was no such book at New Salem, but remembered that there was one at Vaner's, six
miles away. Promptly after breakfast the next morning Lincoln walked to Vaner's and procured the precious volume, and, probably with Graham's occasional help, found no great difficulty in mastering its contents. While tradition does not mention any other study begun at that time, we may fairly infer that, slight as may have been Graham's education, he must have had other books from which, together with his friendly advice, Lincoln's intellectual hunger derived further stimulus and nourishment.
In his duties at the store and his work at the mill, in his study of Kirkham's "Grammar," and educational conversations with Mentor Graham, in the somewhat rude but frank and hearty companionship of the citizens of New Salem and the exuberant boys of Clary's Grove, Lincoln's life for the second half of the year 1831 appears not to have been eventful, but was doubtless more comfortable and as interesting as had been his flatboat building and New Orleans voyage during the first half. He was busy in useful labor, and, though he had few chances to pick up scraps of schooling, was beginning to read deeply in that book of human nature, the profound knowledge of which rendered him such immense service in after years.
The restlessness and ambition of the village of New Salem was many times multiplied in the restlessness and ambition of Springfield, fifteen or twenty miles away, which, located approximately near the geographical center of Illinois, was already beginning to crave, if not yet to feel, its future destiny as the capital of the State. In November of the same year that aspiring town produced the first number of its weekly newspaper, the "Sangamo Journal," and in its columns. we begin to find recorded historical data. Situated in a region of alternating spaces of prairie and forest,
of attractive natural scenery and rich soil, it was nevertheless at a great disadvantage in the means of commercial transportation. Lying sixty miles from Beardstown, the nearest landing on the Illinois River, the peculiarities of soil, climate, and primitive roads rendered travel and land carriage extremely difficultoften entirely impossible-for nearly half of every year. The very first number of the "Sangamo Journal" sounded its strongest note on the then leading tenet of the Whig party-internal improvements by the general government, and active politics to secure them. In later numbers we learn that a regular Eastern mail had not been received for three weeks. The tide of immigration which was pouring into Illinois is illustrated in a tabular statement on the commerce of the Illinois River, showing that the steamboat arrivals at Beardstown had risen from one each in the years 1828 and 1829, and only four in 1830, to thirty-two during the year 1831. This naturally directed the thoughts of travelers and traders to some better means of reaching the river landing than the frozen or muddy roads and impassable creeks and sloughs of winter and spring. The use of the Sangamon River, flowing within five miles of Springfield and emptying itself into the Illinois ten or fifteen miles from Beardstown, seemed for the present the only solution of the problem, and a public meeting was called to discuss the project. The deep snows of the winter of 1830-31 abundantly filled the channels of that stream, and the winter of 1831-32 substantially repeated its swelling floods. Newcomers in that region were therefore warranted in drawing the inference that it might remain navigable for small craft. Public interest on the topic was greatly heightened when one Captain Bogue, commanding a small steamer then at Cincinnati, printed a letter in the
"Journal" of January 26, 1832, saying: "I intend to try to ascend the river [Sangamo] immediately on the breaking up of the ice." It was well understood that the chief difficulty would be that the short turns in the channels were liable to be obstructed by a gorge of driftwood and the limbs and trunks of overhanging trees. To provide for this, Captain Bogue's letter added: "I should be met at the mouth of the river by ten or twelve men, having axes with long handles under the direction of some experienced man. I shall deliver freight from St. Louis at the landing on the Sangamo River opposite the town of Springfield for thirty-seven and a half cents per hundred pounds." The "Journal" of February 16 contained an advertisement that the "splendid upper-cabin steamer Talisman" would leave for Springfield, and the paper of March I announced her arrival at St. Louis on the 22d of February with a full cargo. In due time the citizen committee appointed by the public meeting met the Talisman at the mouth of the Sangamon, and the "Journal" of March 29 announced with great flourish that the "steamboat Talisman, of one hundred and fifty tons burden, arrived at the Portland landing opposite this town on Saturday last." There was great local rejoicing over this demonstration that the Sangamon was really navigable, and the "Journal" proclaimed with exultation that Springfield "could no longer be considered an inland town."
President Jackson's first term was nearing its close, and the Democratic party was preparing to reëlect him. The Whigs, on their part, had held their first national convention in December, 1831, and nominated Henry Clay to dispute the succession. This nomination, made almost a year in advance of the election, indicates an unusual degree of political activity in the East, and