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his services to them in the legislature, would not permit him to pursue without interruption. They kept him upon the legislative ticket in 1838, and he was re-elected. On the assembling of this legislature, Mr. Lincoln was at once recognized to be the foremost man on the whig side of the house, and was brought forward, without any dissent, as their candidate for speaker. The strength of this legislature was pretty evenly divided between the two parties. A great change, indeed, had occurred in the state. The financial crash of 1837 had prostrated industry and trade, and the people had, either justly or unjustly, held the dominant party responsible for the disasters from which they had suffered. Anti-slavery agitation had been voted down in Congress by the friends of Mr. Van Buren, who came into the presidential office during the previous year. All papers relating to slavery were, by solemn resolution of Congress, laid on the table without being debated, read, printed or referred. With financial ruin in the country, and a gag-law in Congress, the democratic party had a heavier load than it could carry. This was felt in Illinois, where the old democratic majority was very nearly destroyed. Colonel W. L. D. Ewing was the candidate of the democrats for speaker, in opposition to Mr. Lincoln, and was at last elected by a majority of one vote. Mr. Lincoln took a prominent part in all the debates of the session. Some of them were political, and were intended to have a bearing upon the next presidential election, and especially upon the politics of the state; but the most of them related to local and ephemeral affairs which will be of no interest to the general reader.
Allusion has already been made to Mr. Lincoln's ingenuityhis quickness at expedients... One of his modes of getting rid of troublesome friends, as well as troublesome enemies, was by telling a story. He began these tactics early in life, and he grew to be wonderfully adept in them. If a man broached a subject which he did not wish to discuss, he told a story which changed the direction of the conversation. If he was called upon to answer a question, he answered it by telling a story. He had a story for everything—something had occurred at some place where he used to live, that illustrated every possible phase of every possible subject with which he might have connection. His faculty of finding or making a story to match every event in his history, and every event to which he bore any relation, was really marvelous. That he made, or adapted, some of his stories, there is no question. It is beyond belief that those which entered his mind left it no richer than they came. It is not to be supposed that he spent any time in elaborating them, but by some law of association every event that occurred suggested some story, and, almost by an involuntary process, his mind harmonized their discordant points, and the story was pronounced "pat,” because it was made so before it was uttered. Every truth, or combination of truths, seemed immediately to clothe itself in a form of life, where he kept it for reference. His mind was full of stories; and the great facts of his life and history on entering his mind seemed to take up their abode in these stories, and if the garment did not fit them it was so modified that it did.
A good instance of the execution which he sometimes effected with a story occurred in the legislature. There was a troublesome member from Wabash County, who gloried particularly in being a “strict constructionist.” He found something “unconstitutional” in every measure that was brought forward for discussion. He was a member of the Judiciary Committee, and was quite apt, after giving every measure a heavy pounding, to advocate its reference to this committee. No amount of sober argument could floor the member from Wabash. At last, he came to be considered a man to be silenced, and Mr. Lincoln was resorted to for an expedient by which this object might be accomplished. He soon afterwards honored the draft thus made upon him. A measure was brought forward in which Mr. Lincoln's constituents were interested, when the member from Wabash rose and discharged all his batteries upon its unconstitutional points. Mr. Lincoln then took the floor, and, with the quizzical expression of features which he could assume at will, and a mirthful twinkle in his gray eyes, said: “Mr. Speaker, the attack of the member from Wabash on the constitutionality of this measure reminds me of an old friend of mine. He's à peculiar looking old fellow, with shaggy, overhanging eyebrows, and a pair of spectacles under them. (Everybody turned to the member from Wabash, and recognized a personal description.) One morning just after the old man got up, he imagined, on looking out of his door, that he saw rather a lively squirrel on a tree near his house. So he took down his rifle, and fired at the squirrel, but the squirrel paid no attention to the shot. He loaded and fired again, and again, until, at the thirteenth shot, he set down his gun impatiently, and said to his boy, who was looking on, "Boy, there's something wrong about this rifle.' “Rifle's all right, I know ’tis, responded the boy, “but where's your squirrel?' 'Don't you see him, humped up about half way up the tree?' inquired the old man, peering over his spectacles, and getting mystified. “No, I don't, l'esponded the boy; and then turning and looking into his father's face, he exclaimed, “I see your squirrel! You've been firing at a louse on your eyebrow!"
The story needed neither application nor explanation. The House was in convulsions of laughter; for Mr. Lincoln's skill in telling a story was not inferior to his appreciation of its points and his power of adapting them to the case in hand. It killed off the member from Wabashi, who was very careful afterwards not to provoke any allusion to his “eyebrows. " A man who practiced law in Illinois in the earlier
of the state “ rode the circuit,” a proceeding of which the older communities of the East know nothing. The state of Illinois, for instance, is divided into a number of districts, each composed of a number of counties, of which a single judge, appointed or elected, as the case may be, for that purpose, makes the circuit, holding courts at each county seat. Railroads being scarce, the earlier circuit judges made their trips from county to county on horseback, or in a gig; and, as lawyers were not located in each county, all the prominent lawyers living within the limits of the circuit made the tour of the circuit with the judge. After the business of one county was
finished, the judge and all the lawyers mounted their horses or their gigs and pushed on to the next county-seat, and so repeated the process until the whole circuit was compassed ; and this is what is known in the western states as “ riding the circuit."
Mr. Lincoln rode the circuit; and it was upon these long and tedious trips that he established his reputation as one of the best lawyers in Illinois, and, in some respects, the superior of any lawyer in the state. It is doubtful whether he was ever regarded by his professional brethren as a well-read lawyer. Toward the latter part of his life, he had, by his own powers of generalization and deduction, become versed in the principles of law, and was coming to be recognized by the best lawyers as their peer; but his education was too defective at the first to make him anything better than what is called “a case lawyer.” He studied his cases with great thoroughness, and was so uniformly successful in them that the people regarded him as having no equal. He had been engaged in practice but a short time when he was found habitually on one side or the other of every important case in the circuit. The writer remembers an instance in which many years ago, before he had risen to political eminence, he was pointeckout to a stranger, by a citizen of Springfield, as “ Abe Lincoln, the first lawyer of Illinois.” He certainly enjoyed great reputation among the people.
Mr. Lincoln was a very weak lawyer when engaged by the weak side. This side he never took, if, by careful investigation of the case, he could avoid it. If a man went to him with the proposal to institute a suit, he examined carefully the man's grounds for the action. If these were good, he entered upon the case, and prosecuted it faithfully to the end. If the grounds were not good he would have nothing to do with the case. He invariably advised the applicant to dismiss the matter, telling him frankly that he had no case, and ought not to prosecute. Sometimes he was deceived. Sometimes he discovered, in the middle of a trial, by the revelation of a witness, that his client had lied to him. · After the moment that he was convinced that justice was opposed to him and his client, he lost all his enthusiasm and all his courage. Indeed, he lost all interest in the case. His efforts for his client after that moment were simply mechanical, for he would not lie for any man, or strive to make the worse appear the better reason for any man.
He had a genuine interest in the establishment of justice between man and man.
As a citizen, as a lover of good order, as a man who believed in truth and justice, he was, by every instinct of his nature, opposed to the success of villainy and the triumph of wrong, and he would not sell himself to purposes of injustice and immorality. He repeatedly refused to take fees on the wrong side of a case. When his clients had practiced gross deception upon him, he forsook their cases in mid-passage; and he always refused to accept fees of those whom he advised not to prosecute. On one occasion, while engaged upon an important case, he discovered that he was on the wrong side. His associate in the case was immediately informed that he (Lincoln) would not make the plea. The associate made it, and the case, much to the surprise of Lincoln, was decided for his client. Perfectly convinced that his client was wrong, he would not receive one cent of the fee of nine hundred dollars which he paid. It is not wonderful that one who knew him well spoke of him as “perversely honest."
This “riding the circuit” was, in those early days, a peculiar business, and tended to develop peculiar traits of character. The long passages from court-house to court-house, the stopping at cabins by the way to eat, or sleep, or feed the horse, the evenings at the country taverns, the expedients resorted to to secure amusement, the petty, mean and shameful cases that abounded, must have tended to make it a strange business, and not altogether a pleasant one.
These long passages while riding the circuit were seasons of reflection with Mr. Lincoln. An amusing incident occurred in connection with one of these journeys, which gives a pleasant glimpse into the good lawyer's heart. He was riding by a deep slough, in which, to his exceeding pain, he saw a pig strug