« PreviousContinue »
LIFE AND PUBLIC SERVICES
IION. ABRAHAM LINCOLN. ΠΟΝ.
Ancestors - Birth-Early Surroundings-Removal to Indiana — Education -Occupation-Settled in Illinois - Black Hawk War, etc.
THE ancestors of ABRAHAM LINCOLN were of the good old stock by whom the State of Pennsylvania was founded. Members of the Society of Friends, they lived in Berks County, Pennsylvania, and emigrated from thence to Rockingham County, Virginia. In 1781-2, the paternal grandfather of Mr. Lincoln removed to Kentucky, where a year or two later he was killed by the Indians. Descendants from the same stock still live in the eastern part of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, in Harden County, Kentucky. He is consequently now in the fifty-first year of his life. The early impressions of his childhood were formed amid the wilderness scenes of Kentucky, and among the rude, yet large-hearted men who were the pioneers of those days.
In 1816, when the subject of this memoir was about seven years of age, his parents removed with him to Spencer County, in the Territory of Indiana. Those of the present generation have but little idea of the character and surroundings of the Western people at that early period. The vast continental area, now covered with populous States, teeming with civilization and its results, blooming with cultivation, and blossoming beneath the busy brain and toiling hand of American industry, was then but a wide expanse of unknown prairie, whose far-off
western horizon was supposed to dip its blue circle beyond the impassable American desert; long the bugbear of travellers, and now the exploded chimera of ignorant geographers. At this carly period, the refining, educating influences of modern society were unknown. The preachers, what few there were, were mostly like the congregation, uncultured backwoodsmen, whose rude eloquence was yet well fitted to uplift the mind of their uneducated hearers. Schools were even less frequent than the opportunities for religious instruction.
It was among such influences as these that our young pioneer grew up to carve out for himself a distinguished manhood. Mr. Lincoln barely received the rudimentary elements of a common English education. Probably six months will cover the whole period spent by him within the rude log walls of the schoolhouse of the paternal settlement. Endowed with quick faculties, ambition, and energy, the youth of Mr. Lincoln was not lost in idleness, or wasted in vain pursuits.
He remained in Indiana until 1830, working on the home farm, or engaged in other arduous occupations. During the period of youth and early manhood, he labored industriously, losing no opportunity of cultivating his mind, whether working on the farm, or drifting on the flat-boat down the Mississippi River.
In 1830, at the age of twenty-one, Mr. Lincoln removed to Macon County, Illinois. Here he remained for about a year, engaged in agricultural pursuits. At this period, he hired himself out to the neighboring farmers, and it is told of him that he mauled and split a large quantity of rails. During the sitting of the Republican Convention, much amusement was excited by the introduction of a banner supported by two worm-eaten rails, and inscribed as part of a lot of 3,000 made by Abraham Lincoln, in 1830, for a farmer in Macon County.
Mr. Lincoln removed to New Salem, then in Sagamore, now Chenard County, where he remained about one year. He was principally employed as a clerk in a store. Mr. Lincoln, in the first of his celebrated debates with Judge Douglas, held at
Ottawa, Illinois, August 21, 1858, alluded to this period of his life, in reply to this, Judge Douglas epitomized a history of Mr. Lincoln.
"In the remarks I have made on this platform, and the position of Mr. Lincoln upon it, I mean nothing personally disrespectful or unkind to that gentleman. I have known him for nearly twenty-five years. There were many points of sympathy between us when we first got acquainted. We were both comparatively boys, and both struggling with poverty in a strange land. I was a school-teacher in the town of Winchester, and he a flourishing grocery-keeper in the town of Salem. He was more successful in his occupation than I was in mine, and hence more fortunate in this world's goods. Lincoln is one of those peculiar men who perform with admirable skill everything which they undertake. I made as good a school-teacher as I could, and when a cabinet maker, I made a good bedstead and tables, although old boss said I succeeded better with bureaus and secretaries than with anything else; but I believe that Lincoln was always more successful in business than I, for his business enabled him to get into the legislature. I met him there, however, and had a sympathy with him, because of the up-hill struggle we both had in life. He was then just as good at telling an anecdote as now. He could beat any of the boys wrestling, or running a footrace, in pitching quoits or tossing a copper; could ruin more liquor than all the boys of the town together, and the dignity and impartiality with which he presided at a horserace or fist-fight, excited the admiration and won the praise of everybody that was present and participated. I sympathized with him, because he was struggling with difficulties, and so was I. Mr. Lincoln served with me in the legislature in 1836, when we both retired, and he subsided, or became submerged, and he was lost sight of as a public man for some years. In 1846, when Wilmot introduced his celebrated proviso, and the Abolition tornado swept over the country, Lincoln again turned up as a member of Congress from the Sangamon District. I was then in the Senate of the United States, and was glad to
welcome my old friend and companion. Whilst in Congress, he distinguished himself by his opposition to the Mexican war, taking the side of the common enemy against his own country; and when he returned home he found that the indignation of the people followed him everywhere, and he was again submerged or obliged to retire into private life, forgotten by his former friends. He came up again in 1854, just in time to nake his Abolition or Black Republican platform, in company with Giddings, Lovejoy, Chase, and Fred Douglass, for the Republican party to stand upon.
Mr. Lincoln answered as follows:
The judge is wofully at fault about his early friend Lincoln being a "grocery-keeper." I don't know as it would be a great sin, if I had been; but he is mistaken. Lincoln never kept a grocery anywhere in the world. It is true that Lincoln. did work the latter part of one winter in a little still-house, up at the head of a hollow. And so I think my friend, the Judge, is equally at fault when he charges me, at the time when I was in Congress, of having opposed our soldiers who were fighting in the Mexican war. The judge did not make his charge very distinctly, but I can tell you what he can prove, by referring to the record. You remember I was an old Whig, and whenever the Democratic party tried to get me to vote that the war had been righteously begun by the President, I would not do it. But whenever they asked for any money or land-warrants, or anything to pay the soldiers there, during all that time, I gave the same vote that Judge Douglas did. You can think as you please as to whether that was consistent. Such is the truth; and the Judge has the right to make all he can out of it. But when he, by a general charge, conveys the idea that I withheld supplies from the soldiers who were fighting in the Mexican war, or did anything else to hinder the soldiers, he is, to say the least, grossly and altogether mistaken, as a consultation of the records will prove to him.
The Black Hawk Indian war broke out at this time. The
violence with which it raged for a period of ten months, created great excitement among the settlers. A company of volunteers was raised in New Salem, of which Abraham Lincoln was elected captain. He must have made his mark at this early date among his associates to have been raised to this post of confidence. The war terminated by the capture of Black Hawk, the Indian chief, and the total defeat of his warriors in August, 1832.
Mr. Lincoln, many years after, during his congressional career thus humorously alluded to his campaigning services.
"By the way, Mr. Speaker, did you know I was a military hero? Yes, sir, in the days of the Black Hawk war I fought, bled, and came away. Speaking of Gen. Cass's career, reminds me of my own. I was not at Sullivan's defeat, but I was about as near to it as Cass was to Hull's surrender; and like him I saw the place soon after. It is quite certain that I did not break my sword, for I had none to break; but I bent my musket pretty badly on one occasion. If Cass broke his sword, the idea is, he broke it in desperation. I bent the musket by accident. If General Cass went in advance of me in picking whortleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charges upon the wild onions. If he saw any live fighting Indians, it was more than I did, but I had a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes; and although I never fainted from loss of blood, I certainly can say, I was often very hungry.
This campaign cost a number of valuable lives, and the government over two million dollars. Like most of the wars and difficulties with Indian tribes, the conduct of the whites will not bear close inspection. The difficulties were mainly caused by dispossession of the lands from their aboriginal occupants. A portion of Black Hawk's tribe, the Sacs, under Keokuk, a chief friendly to the whites, sold all their lands east of the Mississippi. Black Hawk refused to move, and this was the primary cause of the war. There is but little doubt but that the Indian chief was at this time the leading spirit in a projected general attack by the Indians from Texas to the northern Mississippi, upon the frontier settlements of the United States.