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a new house, split the rails for a fence—an incident which was taken up in the canvass for the Presidency, and made his rails as famous as Harrison's log cabin.
Working around by day, studying and improving himself by night, the young man pushed ahead, and, in the spring of 1831, was taken into the employ of a speculating trader named Denton Offutt, who had noticed his good qualities. With him, he took a boat again to New Orleans, but, on its return, the boat got aground near New Salem, in Illinois, near a mill and store. Offutt, deeming it a place for an opening, got possession of the place and opened the store, Lincoln being his clerk and manager. He soon made his mark: an attempt of a gang of the bullies of the place to give him a beating resulted in the defeat of their champion by the tall, „sinewy stranger, who at once became a favorite with those who guaged men by their physical endurance and courage, while his affable manners, his unfailing cheerfulness, his ready wit, and his stories, made him a favorite with all. A store was soon his own; but he was too honest and too kind-hearted to drive sharp bargains, and soon found himself in difficulties which it required years of subsequent struggle to clear away, but which he allowed to stand no longer than his ability to discharge them. Honest Abraham Lincoln knew no bankrupt’s discharge, but a receipt in full on payment in full.
The office of postmaster of New Salem, a petty office indeed, was his first public position, and one which gave him intense pleasure from the opportunity of reading it afforded him; and it is not a little remarkable that he began life, we may say, by serving the General Government in a civil, and, soon after, in a military capacity.
While still a clerk, the Black Hawk war broke out, and a company of volunteers was raised which elected him captain. He marched his force to Beardstown, but they were not called into active service during their term of thirty days; yet, with persistence characteristic of him, he enlisted in another company, and remained in service till the war was ended.
This early choice of one who was at most a clerk and hand in a country store, shows how clearly his fellow-citizens had recognized him as one born to be a ruler of men. At the next election for members of the Legislature, he was taken up as the
candidate of his district, and so completely united the votes of all parties in his precinct that he received every vote but seven out of 284; and though he was defeated in the district at large, it was the only occasion in which he failed in a popular election.
About this time, by the advice and aid of John Calhoun, afterwards prominent in the troubles in Kansas, as president of the Lecompton Constitutional Convention, Mr. Lincoln studied surveying, and soon met with sufficient employment; but difficulties weighed so heavily on him, that his instruments were actually at one time seized for debt.
He still took an active part in politics, and in August, 1834, was elected to the Legislature by a large majority. In this new field he learned much. He was a persistent student, and had already, by close application, made up for much of the deficiency of his early education. He analyzed all he read, and gave up nothing till he had thoroughly mastered it. This gave him a correctness and precision of thought which never failed him. Naturally modest, he discharged his legislative duties without any of the parade or elation which makes some inexperienced members mere tools of the wily politician or personally ridiculous. His clearness and eloquence struck the Hon. John T. Stuart, one of his fellow-members, and he urged the young member to study law.
Acting on this advice, he set himself to Blackstone with ardor, his favorite retreat being a wooded knoll near New Salem, where, stretched under an oak, he would pore over the doctrines of the Common Law, utterly unconscious of all passing around him, and impressing some, at least, of his neighbors with doubts of his entire sanity. In 1836, he was admitted to the bar, and was the same year again elected to the Legislature -an honor conferred on him by his fellow-citizens successively in 1838 and 1840.
This closed for a time his political career. During the eight years of his service in the assembly, a great rage prevailed for public improvements; but we find Mr. Lincoln's name recorded in favor of none of those extravagant projects which were subsequently so disastrous. He always favored improvements which practical sound sense commended as judicious. During his first term of service, he was a member of the Committee ou Public Accounts and Expenditures. Every act in favor of
education, agricultural improvements, the relief of the struggling poor man, met his warm support. Questions of a national character seldoni came up; but pro-slavery resolutions having been presented to the House, in 1837, Mr. Lincoln, in the following protest, recorded views, which show how early he formed his opinion and how little he ever swerved from it:
MARCH, 3, 1837. The following protest was presented to the House, which was read and ordered to be spread on the journals, to wit:
“Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passed both branches of the General Assembly, at its present session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of the same.
They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy ; but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils.
“They believe that the Congress of the United States 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 said District.
“The difference between these opinions and those contained in the said resolutions, is their reason for entering this protest. “ (Signed)
“A. LINCOLN, · Representatives from the County of Sangamon."
In 1837, he moved to Springfield, and became a partner of his friend, Mr. Stuart, the connection thus formed continuing till the election of Mr. Stuart to Congress, when Mr. Lincoln became the partner of Judge Logan, one of the leaders of the bar.
Mr. Lincoln's characteristics as an advocate were an earnestness and sincerity of manner, and a directness, conciseness, and strength of style; he appealed, at other times, to the weapons of good-humored ridicule as ably as to the heavier arms of forensic combat. He was strongest in civil cases, but in a criminal cause that enlisted his sympathy he was also great. It was then that the advocate's convictions, presented to the jury in terse and
forcible yet eloquent language, sometimes outweighed the charge of the judge. Juries listened to him and concurred in his arguments; for his known truth had preceded his arguments, and he triumphed. There might be law and evidence against him, but the belief that Lincoln was right, nothing could shake in the minds of those who knew the man.
He prepared his cases with infinite care, when he had nothing but technical work before him. No detail of the affair escaped him. All the parts were perfectly fitted together, and the peculiar powers of his keen analytic mind were brought into full play.
Lincoln did not grow rich at the law, though possessing a decent competence and owing no man any thing. No early friend of Lincoln ever appealed to him in vain ; and his biographers relate his defence of young Armstrong, the son of an early benefactor, for whom he secured an acquittal when every thing seemed to render his conviction certain.
Another old friend, U. F. Linder, Esq., a member of the Illinois bar, at a meeting of the profession called when the sad tidings of Mr. Lincoln's death arrived, alluding to a case in which his own son was involved in a similar difficulty, said :
“On that occasion, many seemed to avail themselves of the opportunity to wreak vengeance upon me in the death of my son. I wrote to Mr. Lincoln. I was in a quarter of the country where I knew he was a tower of strength, where his name raised up friends, where his arguments at law had more power than the instructions of the court. I feared-many of his political friends being united against my son—that his services and his talents might be enlisted against him. I wrote to him, giving him all the circumstances, telling him of my wife's grief and my own, and soliciting that he would come and assist me to defend my son ; that I thought he had been employed against him. I preserved his letter for a long time. I wish I had it now; I should rejoice in its possession. The sum of it was this : he condoled with me and my wife in our misfortune, and assured us that no matter what business he might be engaged in, he would come; and he was truly sorry that I supposed that he would take part in the prosecution of the son of a friend of his. I had offered him a fee, and in that letter he also said that he knew of no act of his life that would justify me in supposing that he would take money from me or any dear friend for assisting in the defence of the life of a child. I give this as a proof of his friend
ship; and that friendship has been cherished by me through all mutations of life. In politics we have ever been opposed ; but I thank God to-day that he always was my
friend." Meantime, in the year 1842, Lincoln married a woman worthy to be the companion of his progress towards honor and distinction. Miss Mary Todd, who became his wife, is the daughter of Robert Todd, of Lexington, Kentucky, a man well known in that State, and at one period the clerk of the lower house of Congress. At the time of her marriage, Miss Todd was the belle of Springfield society-accomplished and intellectual, and possessing all the social graces native in the women of Kentucky.
The fruit of their Union were four sons—Robert Lincoln, now a captain on General Grant's staff, born in 1843; a second son, born in 1846, and William, born in 1850, both of whom are dead; and Thaddeus, born in 1853, who stands beside his illustrious father in the last photograph taken of the President.
It gives some idea of the prominence of Mr. Lincoln in Illinois, that, though elected to the Legislature only in 1834, he was a Whig candidate for Presidential electors at every election from 1836 to 1852. An early and warm admirer of Henry Clay, he came forward, in 1844, and stumped the entire State of Illinois in his favor, and then crossed into Indiana, attracting attention by the homely force, humor, energy, and eloquence of bis addresses. Thus thrown again into active politics, he was elected to Congress in 1846, from the Central District of Illinois, by a majority of 1,500, being the only Whig member from the State.
Called now into the great council of the nation, Mr. Lincoln took his seat among great men.
In the Senate, Clay, Calhoun, Webster, Benton, still shaped the destinies and restrained the passions of men; and men of great ability stood forth in the lower House. Mr. Lincoln was opposed to the annexation of Texas and to the Mexican war. Deeming unfounded the assertion of President Polk, that American blood had been shed on American soil, he offered, on the 22d of December, the following resolutions:
"Whereas, the President of the United States, in his Message of May 11, 1846, has declared that 'the Mexican government refused