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Many of the pioneers were poor and wished to find a country where their labor would not be degraded by contact with slave labor,' while others hated the negro either in freedom or slavery, and were decidedly averse to living with him as their equal before the law; and they were almost unanimously bitter in condemning any one suspected of favoring emancipation. Hence the drastic "Black Code," aimed at the free negro, which remained on the statute books until long after the Civil War.2
Archer Herndon lived on German Prairie until 1825, when he removed to Springfield and engaged in mercantile pursuits until 1836. During that time he erected the first regular tavern in the town, and attained to prominence as a Democratic politician. He was a "character" in his day, intense by nature, positive in his likes and dislikes, akin to the roysterer in both manners and morals, albeit a man of many excellent qualities. In the meantime his oldest son, William Henry, was growing up— a robust, sinewy lad, with large angular features, deep-set dark eyes, crowned with a shock of blue-black hair and he was inclined, at times, to imitate his father in certain habits in which a father least cares to have his son follow him. Indeed, father and son were so much alike that their relations were often difficult, and would have been impossible but for the sweet diplomacy of a good and wise mother.
Young Herndon first saw Lincoln in 1832, when the steamer Talisman was puffing and wheezing about in the Sangamon, in her effort to force the passage and prove that the river was navigable. Rowan Herndon of New Salem - a cousin of William who was chosen to pilot the steamer from near Springfield to the Illinois River, selected Lincoln as his assistant; and together they ran the Talisman, which Lincoln afterwards described as having "a five-foot boiler and a seven-foot whistle, so that every time the whistle blew the
1 See letter from W. H. Herndon to Theodore Parker, Feb. 16, 1856, in a subsequent chapter.
2 History of Illinois, by Governor Ford, pp. 30-50 (1854); Negro Servitude in Illinois, by N. D. Harris, Chap. I-IV (1904).
boat stopped." When the steamer left New Salem, William Herndon and other boys followed it, riding on horseback along the bank-a leisurely enough journey, for the gallant craft averaged only four miles a day. At Bogue's Mill the boat tied up, and the boys went aboard and explored the splendors of her interior decorations. There Herndon met his future partner, and the incident lost none of its comedy when in after years the two men were wont to talk over old times. They did not become well acquainted, however, until Lincoln made his second race for the Assembly two years later.
Lincoln returned to New Salem and lived with Rowan Herndon, buying from Herndon his half interest in the store which he owned with Berry. Failing in this enterprise, he became by turns a postmaster who carried his office in his hat, and a surveyor whose outfit was sold for debt; reading Blackstone at odd hours, but most of all the newspapers; also Gibbon, Volney, and Paine, under whose tutelage he became a rude denier of the rude theology of his day. Young Herndon frequently met him in those days, while visiting his cousin, and at the Rutledge Tavern where Lincoln lived after Rowan Herndon moved to the country. How far the early rationalism of Lincoln influenced the later views of Herndon, is not known; but something in the gentle, studious giant attracted the lad, and in the summer of 1834 the boy more than once accompanied him in his canvass for the Assembly, listening to his stories. The Herndon and Rutledge families were friends, and in a village where there were few secrets everyone followed the courtship of Lincoln and Ann Rutledge like a story-book, until it ended with the return of McNamar, who found his sweetheart dead and Lincoln broken-hearted. Herndon knew Ann Rutledge, and her death, which divided the life of Lincoln into before and after, touched him deeply, as may be seen in a lecture delivered by him in 1866, in which he first told the story.
During his first term in the Assembly Lincoln said little, and learned much. He was a candidate for re-election in 1836, Archer G. Herndon running for State Senator on the
Democratic ticket in the same campaign. Both men were elected and became members of the famous "Long Nine," by whose strategy the capital was moved from Vandalia to Springfield - which event Herndon celebrated, in his best manner, by opening a barrel of rum. Meanwhile, William Herndon was studying in the schools of Springfield, and serving at odd times as clerk in Joshua Speed's store. One of his teachers was John C. Calhoun, a gifted and lovable man under whom Lincoln had served as assistant surveyor, and who afterwards became famous, or infamous, in connection with the fraudulent Lecompton constitution in Kansas. In the autumn of that year, 1836, Herndon entered the preparatory department of the Illinois College, at Jacksonville - five months before Lincoln rode into Springfield on a borrowed horse, with a pair of saddle-bags containing two or three law books and a few pieces of clothing, to make the new capital his home and Joshua Speed's store his headquarters.
Lincoln had served with Major John T. Stuart in the Black Hawk War-sworn into the service, it is said, by Jefferson Davis- and Stuart now offered him a partnership at law, having loaned him books the while and induced him to move to Springfield. This offer was gladly accepted, and while Lincoln was only beginning the practice he did much of the work of the office, Stuart being deeply immersed in politics. At least nearly all the papers of the firm were written by him, though he had little love for such labor, and less or
1 When that document was transmitted by President Buchanan to Congress, on Feb. 2, 1858, it bore a note, "Received from J. C. Calhoun, Esq., duly certified by him,'' recommending that Kansas be made a Slave State under it. A committee from the Legisature getting a hint of the fraudulent election returns, found them secreted in a candle-box under a wood-pile near Calhoun's office; so he was known as John Candlebox Calhoun. Better for him and for his country had he remained a surveyor and a school-teacher in Illinois; but Herndon, who loved him, left this story out of the record.
2"Then a tall, gawky, slab-sided, homely young man, dressed in a suit of blue jeans, presented himself as captain of a company of recruits, and was sworn in by Jefferson Davis."— Life of Jefferson Davis, by his wife, Vol. I, p. 132 (1890).
der in doing it. They mixed law with politics, both partners serving in the Assembly, and in the autumn of 1837 Stuart, after an exciting contest, defeated Douglas for Congress. This left Lincoln with all the work to do, besides the duty of helping his partner politically-a kind of industry congenial to him, which was no doubt one reason why Stuart chose him as managing clerk. He knew how to play the game of politics according to the rules thereof, and was not over-nice as to methods when no moral principle was involved.1 On one issue, however, he had courageous convictions, nor did he at any time permit his Machiavellian shrewdness to over-reach them.
Slavery had become a question about which men in Illinois picked their words with care. So intense was the feeling that in March, 1837-one month before Lincoln entered the office of Stuart the Assembly passed a resolution expressing disapproval of the formation of Abolition societies and of the doctrines advocated by them. Many men who hated slavery sympathized in part with this action, on the ground that such agitation tended more to irritate men than to convince them, thus making the situation doubly difficult. An orator who expended his fiery eloquence in denouncing the evil, without suggesting any practical way of dealing with it, was felt to be as one who beat the air." Still the resolution of the Assembly, passed with great enthusiasm, glibly ignored the moral principle involved, and it required some courage for Lincoln to file protest against it. But he did so in words so well-chosen and far-sighted that he had no need to alter them for thirty years. He held that slavery" is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of aboli
1 Governor Ford, writing of this period, and having in mind the wild schemes of internal improvement, could see nothing in Lincoln and Douglas but "dexterous jugglers and managers in politics, spared monuments of popular wrath, evincing how safe it is to be a politician, but how disastrous it may be to the community, to keep along with the fervor of the people, right or wrong."- History of Illinois, pp. 181-198 (1854). It should be added, in mitigation, that this indictment included all the "Long Nine," as well as others, naming the list; and in face of the record this arraignment does not seem unjust.
tion doctrines tends rather to increase than to abate the evils." On that basis he stood firm, and neither the allurements of good-fellowship nor the blandishments of office could move
Shortly afterwards Elijah Lovejoy, editor of the St. Louis Observer, a religious weekly, was driven from that city by a mob for expressing anti-slavery sentiments in his paper. Unwisely, as many thought, he established his paper at Alton, Illinois, only twenty miles distant by steamer, with the result that a mob attacked his press and he was shot while defending it. Not satisfied with this brutal crime, the mob threatened to attack Illinois College at Jacksonville, because its president, Edward Beecher, had stood guard with Lovejoy the night before the tragedy.' Excitement was at fever heat, and indignation meetings were held throughout the State. At a gathering of students, notable for its intensity of feeling, William Herndon, in a speech long remembered by his fellow students, denounced not only the enslavement of men, but the attempt to gag the press by mob rule.
The elder Herndon, who was intensely pro-slavery in his views, fearing that his son had become infected with the poison of abolitionism, withdrew the lad from college, remarking that he would have no part in the education of "a d- Abolitionist pup!" It was as he had suspected. The lad came home an enthusiastic and radical Abolitionist, bold and outspoken, as was his way always, and the passion for liberty and justice exploded in him what faith he had in the religion of the church as it exploded the faith of so many men of his ardent and vivid type in those days. At any rate, he was thereafter a rationalist, or perhaps one should say natu
1 See the Autobiography of Julian M. Sturtevant, edited by his son, Chap. XV (1896). Also, Illinois College and the Anti-Slavery Movement in Illinois, by C. H. Remmelkamp, a paper before the Illinois Historical Society (1909). Dr. Sturtevant was a professor in the Illinois College at the time of Lovejoy's death, and was his personal friend. Lovejoy may have been rash and unwise, as men count wisdom, but he had a soul of fire, and his name is written among the martyrs of liberty. See Memoir of Lovejoy, by Joseph and Owen Lovejoy, introduction by John Quincy Adams (1838).