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lives and property were in great danger, but owing to their good use of the muscular force they had acquired as backwoodsmen, they succeeded in driving off the invaders, and pushing their boat out into the stream in safety. The result of the voyage was satisfactory to the owner, and Abraham Lincoln gained, in addition to his ten dollars a month, a reputation as a youth of promising business talent.
In 1830 Thomas Lincoln decided to make another change, and the log cabin which had been so long their home was deserted for a new one near Decatur, Illinois. This time the journey occupied fifteen days. Abraham was now twenty-one, but he did not begin his independent life until he had aided his father in settling his family, breaking the ground for corn, and making a rail fence around the farm. These rails have passed into song and story. "During the sitting of the Republican State Convention at Decatur, a banner, attached to two of these rails, and bearing an appropriate inscription, was brought into the assemblage, and formally presented to that body, amid a scene of unparalleled enthusiasm. After that they were in demand in every State of the Union in which free labor is honored, where they were borne in processions of the people, and hailed by hundreds of thousands of freemen, as a symbol of triumph, and as a glorious vindication of freedom and of the rights and dignity of free labor. These, however, were far from being the first or only rails made by Lincoln. He was a practised hand at the business. Mr. Lincoln has now a cane made from one of the rails split by his own hands in boyhood." After the first winter in Illinois, which was one of un
common severity, and required more than his father's care to keep the family in food, which was mostly obtained by hunting, Abraham Lincoln began life for himself. Sometimes he hired himself out as a farmhand, sometimes his learning procured him a situation as clerk in a store. When the Black Hawk war broke out in 1832, he joined a volunteer company, and was made captain. "He was an efficient, faithful officer, watchful of his men, and prompt in the discharge of duty, and his courage and patriotism shrank from no dangers or hardships." Thus the Commander-in-Chief of our armies has not been without a bit of military experience—much more, in fact, than the most of our Brigadier-Generals had had before the commencement of the war.
After his military life was over he looked about for something to do. He ran for the Legislature, but was beaten, though his own precinct gave him 277 votes out of 284. This was the only time he was ever beaten before the people. He bought a store and stock of goods on credit, and was appointed Postmaster. The store proved unprofitable, and he sold out. All this time he pursued his studies. He had already learned grammar, and he had now opportunities for more extensive reading. He wrote out a synopsis. of every book he read, and thus fixed it in his memory.
About this time he met John Calhoun, since Presi dent of the Lecompton (Kansas) Constitutional Convention. He proposed to Lincoln to take up surveying, and himself aided in his studies. He had plenty of employment as a surveyor, and won a good reputation in this new line of business.
In 1834 he was sent to the Legislature, and the political life commenced which his countrymen's votes have since shown they fully appreciated. When the session of the Legislature was over, he set himself to the study of law in good earnest. In 1836 he obtained a law license, and in April, 1837, he removed to Springfield and commenced the practice of the law in partnership with his friend and former colleague in the Legislature, Hon. John T. Stuart.
One incident of his law practice we cannot refrain from narrating. When Lincoln first went out into the world to earn a living for himself, he worked for a Mr. Armstrong, of Petersburg, Menard Co., who, with his wife, took a great interest in him, lent him books to read, and, after the season for work was over, encouraged him to remain with them until he should. find something to "turn his hand to." They also hoped much from his influence over their son, an overindulged and somewhat unruly boy. We cannot do better than to transcribe the remarks of the Cleveland Leader upon this interesting and touching incident.
"Some few years since, the eldest son of Mr. Lincoln's old friend, Armstrong, the chief supporter of his widowed mother-the good old man having some time previously passed from earth,- -was arrested on the charge of murder. A young man had been killed during a riotous mêlée, in the night time at a camp-meeting, and one of his associates stated that the death-wound was inflicted by young Armstrong. A preliminary examination was gone into, at which the accuser testified so positively, that there seemed no doubt of the guilt of the prisoner, and therefore he was held for trial. As is too often the case, the bloody act caused an undue degree of excitement in the public mind. Every improper incident in the life of the prisoner-each act which bore the least semblance of rowdyism-each schoolboy quarrel,- -was suddenly remembered and magnified, until they pictured him as a fiend of the
most horrible hue. As these rumors spread abroad they were received as gospel truth, and a feverish desire for vengeance seized upon the infatuated populace, whilst only prison bars prevented a horrible death at the hands of a mob. The events were heralded in the county papers, painted in highest colors, accompanied by rejoicing over the certainty of punishment being meted out to the guilty party. The prisoner, overwhelmed by the circumstances under which he found himself placed, fell into a melancholy condition bordering on despair, and the widowed mother, looking through her tears, saw no cause for hope from earthly aid.
"At this juncture, the widow received a letter from Mr. Lincoln, volunteering his services in an effort to save the youth from the impending stroke. Gladly was his aid accepted, although it seemed impossible for even his sagacity to prevail in such a desperate case; but the heart of the attorney was in his work, and he set about it with a will that knew no such word as fail. Feeling that the poisoned condition of the public mind was such as to preclude the possibility of impanelling an impartial jury in the court having jurisdiction, he procured a change of venue and a postponement of the trial. He then went studiously to work unravelling the history of the case, and satisfied himself that his client was the victim of malice, and that the statements of the accuser were a tissue of falsehoods.
"When the trial was called on, the prisoner, pale and emaciated, with hopelessness written on every feature, and accompanied by his halfhoping, half-despairing mother-whose only hope was in a mother's belief of her son's innocence, in the justice of the God she worshipped, and in the noble counsel, who, without hope of fee or reward upon earth, had undertaken the cause—took his seat in the prisoners' box, and with a 'stony firmness' listened to the reading of the indictment. Lincoln sat quietly by, whilst the large auditory looked on him as though wondering what he could say in defence of one whose guilt they regarded as certain. The examination of the witnesses for the State was begun, and a well-arranged mass of evidence, circumstantial and positive, was introduced, which seemed to impale the prisoner beyond the possibility of extrication. The counsel for the defence propounded but few questions, and those of a character which excited no uneasiness on the part of the prosecutor-merely, in most cases, requiring the main witnesses to be definite as to the time and place. When the evidence of the prosecution was ended, Lincoln introduced a few witnesses to remove some erroneous impressions in regard to the previ
ous character of his client, who, though somewhat rowdyish, had never been known to commit a vicious act; and to show that a greater degree of ill-feeling existed between the accuser and the accused, than the accused and the deceased.
"The prosecutor felt that the case was a clear one, and his opening speech was brief and formal. Lincoln arose, while a deathly silence pervaded the vast audience, and in a clear and moderate tone began his argument. Slowly and carefully he reviewed the testimony, pointing out the hitherto unobserved discrepancies in the statements of the principal witness. That which had seemed plain and plausible he made to appear crooked as a serpent's path. The witness had stated that the affair took place at a certain hour in the evening, and that, by the aid of the brightly shining moon, he saw the prisoner inflict the death-blow with a slung-shot. Mr. Lincoln showed that at the hour referred to the moon had not yet appeared above the horizon, and consequently the whole tale was a fabrication.
"An almost instantaneous change seemed to have been wrought in the minds of his auditors, and the verdict of 'not guilty' was at the end of every tongue. But the advocate was not content with this intellectual achievement. His whole being had for months been bound up in this work of gratitude and mercy, and as the lava of the overcharged crater bursts from its imprisonment, so great thoughts and burning words leaped forth from the soul of the eloquent Lincoln. He drew a picture of the perjurer so horrid and ghastly, that the accuser could sit under it no longer, but reeled and staggered from the courtroom, whilst the audience fancied they could see the brand upon his brow. Then in words of thrilling pathos Lincoln appealed to the jurors as fathers of some who might become fatherless, and as husbands of wives who might be widowed, to yield to no previous impressions, no ill-founded prejudice, but to do his client justice; and as he alluded to the debt of gratitude which he owed the boy's sire, tears were seen to fall from many eyes unused to weep.
"It was near night when he concluded, by saying that if justice was done as he believed it would be-before the sun should set, it would shine upon his client a free man. The jury retired, and the court adjourned for the day. Half an hour had not elapsed, when, as the officers of the court and the volunteer attorney sat at the tea-table of their hotel, a messenger announced that the jury had returned to their seats. All repaired immediately to the court-house, and whilst the prisoner was being brought from the jail, the court-room was filled to overflow