« PreviousContinue »
ontrages of the slave party, and gives the following picture of their condition. He says, “I reached Kansas and entered upon the discharge of my official duties in the most gloomy hour of her history. Desolation and ruin reigned on every hand; homes and firesides were deserted; the smoke of burning dwellings darkened the atmosphere; women and children, driven from their habitations wandered over the prairies and among the woodlands, or sought refuge and protection from the Indian tribes. The highways were infested with predatory bands, while the towns were fortified and garrisoned by armies of conflicting partizans, excited almost to frenzy, and determined on mutual extermination." Such was the struggle in Kansas, upon the slavery question. It was like the great civil war of which it was the type and prophetic prelude, a contest between barbarism and civilization. Whenever anything like a fair vote of the actual settlers could be obtained, the free State men had large majorities. The story of this struggle between freedom, and slavery, between fraud, violence and outrage on one side, and heroie firmuess, energy and determination on the other, was carried all over the land, and made a most profound impression upon the American people. Time, and nature have but lately healed and covered the scars of this conflict. It was amidst these scenes that John Brown, of Ossawatomie, was prepared by the murder of his son, for his wild crusade against slavery in Virginia. It was here, that the heroic Lyon and II unter learned to hate that institution. The plains of Kansas were still red with the blood of her martyrs to liberty; her hills and valleys were yet black with the charred remains of her burned and devastated towns, villages and cities, attesting, alike, the heroic constancy of her people to freedom, and the savage barbarity of the slave power. When the convulsions of the great National conflict began to shake the land, Kansas was the rock which rolled back the tide of the slave conspirators. All honor to Kansas! She successfully withstood the slave power, backed by the Federal Government. The struggle was watched by the people, everywhere, with the most intense solicitude, and it nerved them to a still firmer determination to resist the encroachments of the slaveholders.
LINCOLN'S EARLY LIFE, AND EDUCATION — His MOTHER—HE
VOLUNTEERS FOR THE BLACK HAWK WAR-POSTMASTER MODE OF KEEPING GOVERNMENT FUNDS — A SURVEYOR ELECTED TO THE LEGISLATURE-STUDIES LAW-HIS PROTEST AGAINST SLAVERY— LINCOLN AT THE BAR-EARLY ILLINOIS' COURTS — His MODE OF TRYING CASES — ACCEPTS A CHALLENGE - PLEADS THE CASE OF THE NEGRO GIRL “NANCE”-IN ConGRESS — His BILL TO ABOLISH SLAVERY — HIS PRACTICE AT THE BAR.
was now about to come prominently before the country, an actor who, hitherto comparatively obscure, was soon to become the most prominent figure in American history.
Abraham Lincoln was a plain, rough, sturdy pioneer of the West. The racy product of American soil and American civilization. No other age, or country, could have produced his counterpart. No other section of his own country but the great national Northwest could have produced him. He was the child of the wilderness; and his early lessons were received on the puncheon floor of a western log cabin. Selfmade and self-educated; a giant in frame; ungraceful and awkward in person, but most kind and geniel in his disposition; with sentiments as pure, elevated and noble, as were ever ascribed to the embodiment of the most perfect chivalry, or the purest christianity; a profound thinker; reasoning out his opinions for himself; of great sagacity; of an almost instinctive discretion, and good sense; of unblemished private character; of a truthfulness and honesty which, long before he attained national celebrity, had earned for himself, among
the quick-witted backwoodsmen dressed in deerskin and Kentucky Jeans, (who, in imitation of an Indian custom, were in the habit of giving characteristic names,) the cognomen of "HONEST OLD ABE.' This man, issuing from among the class of poor whites, called by the slave-holding aristocracy, “poor, white trash,” now came upon the arena, and threw all his energies into the contest between Liberty and Slavery. And he plead the side of freedom with an earnestness, a profound conviction, and, at the same time, with a moderation and discretion, which soon made him a prominent leader. His language possessed a plainness, quaintness, directness and clearness of illustration, a rugged, Anglo-Saxon style, wonderfully adapted to reach the sense and understanding of the common people.
There never was a time when Lincoln, at the bar, in the log school-house, court-room or tavern, was not surrounded by a group of admiring listeners, to whom his speeches, anecdotes and conversation had an irresistible attraction. Hence the people, for miles, attended court and political meetings “to hear Lincoln.” The training of the man, for the great part he was to act in the drama, was not in the schools; perhaps it was better: from childhood he had been accustomed to struggle with, and overcome difficulties; with the basis of perfect truth, candor, integrity, modesty and sobriety, he acquired self-control, self-reliance, and ability to use promptly a clear judgment and sound common sense. Noblest son of the Republic, he was transferred, with no change of manner, from the rude life of the frontier to the capital,
Here, before entering upon the story of the great civil war, and the great conflict of ideas which, under his leadership, was carried to a successful issue; in which liberty, law and nationality triumphed over slavery, anarchy, and disunion, let us pause in the narration of our great epic, and learn, from his youth and training, what manner of man this was, who, was now so modestly, yet so firmly, to grasp the helm, and conduct the Republic through the stormiest period of modern history.
Abraham Lincoln was born in Hardin, now Larue county, Kentucky, on the 12th of February, 1809. The place was about twenty miles south of the Ohio River, the dividing line between the slave state of Kentucky, and the free states of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. His grandfather, who bore the name of Abraham, was among those hardy pioneers to the “dark and bloody ground,” a descriptive phrase given to Kentucky on account of its deep forests and bloody Indian wars, of which he was a victim. He was shot by an Indian, while at work in his field, near his log cabin. Thomas Lincoln, the father of Abraham, was only six years of age when he was left an orphan. He married Nancy Hanks, a native of Virginia. The father and mother were plain, hard-working, religious, uneducated people, accustomed to hardship and toil. His mother died when he was only ten years of age, but she lived long enough to make a deep and lasting impression upon her son. He ever spoke of her with deep feeling and grateful affection. He said, with his eyes suffused with tears, “ All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."
Before Abraham was eight years old, the family moved to Spencer county, Indiana. This change, from a slave to a free state, was made by the parents of Lincoln, that their children might live where labor was respected, and where they might have a fair chance of acquiring a respectable position in life. It was a long, hard, weary journey; a portion of the way was through the primeval forests, where they were obliged to cut a road with the axe. Young Lincoln had little school education; his mother taught him to read the Bible and to write; and, perhaps, the first use the motherless boy made of this acquisition, was to write a letter to an old religious friend of his mother, a traveling preacher of Kentucky, begging him to come and perform religious services over her grave. She had died in 1818, when Abraham was in his tenth year. Mr. Elkins, the preacher, came; and, one year after her death, the family and neighbors gathered around the forest tree, beneath which they had laid her remains, and performed such rude, but sincere, impressive religious services, as are usual among the pioneers of the frontier. Lincoln’s reverence, through life, for religion, his truthfulness and integrity, had their origin in his mother's example and early teaching. Her death, the affection he bore her, the sad and solemn rites of her burial, were never obliterated from his mind and heart.
He had, in all, about one year's schooling; but his mother stimulated his natural love of books, and he read everything he could find to read in the backwoods, seeking, by every possible means, to improve himself. He read the Bible, and committed a large portion of it to memory, Esop's Fables, Bunyan’s Pilgrim's Progress, Weem's life of Washington, a life of Henry Clay, and an odd volume of Burns' Poems.
These books constituted his library, and these he read and reread, until large portions of them became indelibly fixed in his memory; thus laying the foundation of a character that became, in its maturity, the wonder and admiration of his country. Here, in the far backwoods, he toiled upon the farm, until he was nineteen years of age.
Then he took charge of a flat-boat and cargo, down the rivers Ohio and Mississippi, to New Orleans. He had become a tall, athletic man, having attained the height of six feet four inches.
In readiness to extricate himself from a dilemma, to do promptly the wisest thing which could be done under the circumstances in which he might be placed, he was the equal of any yankee in New England. A gentleman reports that the first time he ever saw Lincoln, he was " in the Sangamon river, his trowsers rolled up five feet more or less, trying to pilot a flat-boat over a mill dam. The boat was so full of water it was hard to manage. Lincoln got the scow partly over, bored a hole through the projecting part, and let the water run out."
In 1830, the Lincoln family removed to a place in Macon county, Illinois, near Decatur, and it was here that the powerful young man performed those wonderful feats in railsplitting, in aiding his father to fence his farm, which earned for him the sobriquet of “the rail-splitter.” At this period of his life, he was a simple, hard working, rough, kindly, genial, studious laborer, with no bad habits nor vicious tastes, but striving, always, to improve himself; dressed in the homely domestic homespun cloth of the country, he was an ungainly giant, utterly unconscious of the great intellectual