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THE MAN AND HIS KINDRED
THIS is not a conventional biography. It is a collection of sketches in which an attempt is made to portray the character of Abraham Lincoln as the highest type of the American from several interesting points of view. He has doubtless been the subject of more literary composition than any other man of modern times, although there was nothing eccentric or abnormal about him; there were no mysteries in his career to excite curiosity; no controversies concerning his conduct, morals, or motives; no doubt as to his purposes; and no difference of opinion as to his unselfish patriotism or the success of his administration of the government in the most trying period of its existence. Perhaps there is no other man of prominence in American history, or in the history of the human family, whose reputation is more firmly and clearly established. There is certainly none more beloved and revered, whose character is so well understood and so universally admired, and whose political, moral, and intellectual integrity is so fully admitted by his opponents as well as his supporters.
Of such a man, wrote a well-known writer, the last word can never be said. Each succeeding generation may profit by the contemplation of his strength and triumphs. His rise from obscurity to fame and power
was almost as sudden and startling as that of Napoleon, for it may truthfully be said that when Mr. Lincoln was nominated for the Presidency he was an unknown man. He had occupied no important position; he had rendered no great public service; his reputation was that of a debater and politician, and did not become national until he delivered a remarkable speech at Cooper Union, New York. His election was not due to personal popularity, nor to the strength of the party he represented, nor to the justice of his cause; but to factional strife and jealousies among his opponents. When the American people were approaching the greatest crisis in their history, it was the hand of Providence that turned the eyes of the loyal people of the North to this plain man of the prairies, and his rugged figure rose before them as if he were created for their leader.
Napoleon became dizzy; yielded to the temptations of power, betrayed his people, grasped at empire, and fell; but the higher Lincoln rose the more modest became his manners, the more serene his temper, the more conspicuous his unselfishness, the purer and more patriotic his motives. With masterful tact and force he assumed responsibilities that made men shudder. The captain of a company of uncouth volunteers began to organize vast armies, undertook the direction of military campaigns and of a momentous civil war, and conducted the diplomatic relations of a nation with skill and statesmanship that astonished his ministers and his generals. He, an humble country lawyer and local politician, suddenly took his place with the world's greatest statesmen, planned and managed the legislation of Congress, proposed financial measures that involved the wealth of the nation, and alone, in the midst of the confusion of war and the clamor of greedy politicians and the dissensions of his advisers, solved problems that staggered the wisest minds of the nation. The popular story-teller of the cross-roads, the crack debater
of the New Salem Literary Club, became an orator of immortal fame. The rail-splitter of the Sangamon became the most honored and respected man of his generation.
Such men are not accidents. The strength of a structure depends upon the material used and the treatment it has received. Poor material may be improved and good material is often spoiled in the making; but only when the pure metal has passed through the fire and the forge is it fit to sustain a severe strain. Thus Abraham Lincoln, unconscious of his destiny, by the struggles and privations of his early life was qualified for the task to which Infinite Wisdom had assigned him.
Abraham Lincoln's father was descended from Samuel Lincoln, who emigrated from the west of England a few years after the landing of the Pilgrims and settled at the village of Hingham, on the south shore of Massachusetts Bay, between Boston and Plymouth. Eight men bearing that name came over on the same ship and are supposed to have been related. An army of their descendants is scattered over the Union. One of them, Samuel Lincoln, left a large family which has produced several prominent figures besides a President of the United States. One of his grandsons in the third generation, Levi Lincoln, was recognized for a generation as the leader of the New England bar. He was Secretary of State and Attorney-General in the Cabinet of President Jefferson, a member of the Legislature of Massachusetts, and one of the ablest and most influential men of his day.
The fourth son of Samuel Lincoln, Mordecai, I, acquired wealth as a manufacturer. His eldest son, who inherited his name, moved to Berks County, Pennsylvania, and had a son named John, who took up a tract of land in Virginia about the year 1760, where, like the rest of his name, he raised a large family. John Lincoln, II, his second son, became prominent in public
affairs, and was a member of the Convention that framed the first Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania.
On July 10, 1760, Abraham, I, the third of the five sons of John Lincoln, II, married Anna Boone, a cousin of Daniel Boone, the most famous of American pioneers, and his father gave him a farm in the Shenandoah Valley. By frequent intermarriages between the Boones and the Lincolns they were closely allied. By the will of Mordecai Lincoln, II, his "loving friend and neighbor George Boone" was made executor of his estate and Squire Boone, father of the celebrated Daniel, was appointed to make an inventory of the property. Hananiah Lincoln was a partner of Daniel Boone in the purchase of a tract of land on the Missouri River in 1798, and it was there that the great woodsman died.
The name Abraham was a favorite among the Lincoln family. It occurs frequently in their genealogy. A young man named Abraham Lincoln distinguished himself for courage and brutality on the Confederate side during the Civil War. He killed a Dunkard preacher whom he suspected of furnishing information to the Union army. The Union President received several letters of offensive tone from his kinsman in the South during the earlier part of his administration.
The farm of Abraham Lincoln, I, in the Shenandoah Valley, was on the great national highway along which the course of empire took its westward way, and, infected by continual contact with the emigrants and encouraged by the greatest of American pioneers, he sold the property his father had given him, packed his wife and five children into a Conestoga wagon, and followed the great migration until it led him to what is now Hughes Station, Jefferson County, Kentucky, where he entered a large tract of land and paid for it one hundred and sixty pounds "in current money." The original warrant, dated March 4, 1780, is still in existence. By the blunder of a clerk in the Land Office the name was
misspelled Linkhorn, and Abraham, I, was too careless or busy to correct it, for it appears that way in all the subsequent records. Hananiah Lincoln, the partner of Daniel Boone, furnished the surveyor's certificate.
Four years later, in the spring of 1784, occurred the first tragedy in the annals of the Lincoln family. Abraham, I, with his three sons, were at work clearing ground upon his farm when they were attacked by a wandering squad of Indians. The first shot from the brush killed the father. Mordecai, III, the eldest son, started to the house for his rifle; Josiah ran to the neighbors for assistance, leaving Thomas, a child of six, alone with his father. After Mordecai had recovered his rifle he saw an Indian in war-paint appear upon the scene, examine the dead body of his father, and stoop to raise the lad from the ground. Taking deliberate aim at a white ornament that hung from the neck of the savage, he brought him down and his little brother escaped to the cabin. The Indians began to appear in the thicket, but Mordecai, shooting through the loopholes of the cabin, held them off until Josiah returned with reinforcements.
From circumstantial evidence we must infer that Anna Lincoln was a poor manager, or perhaps she suffered from some misfortune. All we know is that she abandoned the farm in Jefferson County and moved south into the neighboring county of Washington, where she disappears from human knowledge. Her eldest son, Mordecai, III, appears to have inherited his father's money, as the rules of primogeniture prevailed in those days. He was sheriff of Washington County, a member of the Kentucky Legislature, and tradition gives him the reputation of an honorable and influential citizen. Late in life he removed to Hancock County, Illinois, where he died and is buried. Josiah, the second son, crossed the Ohio River and took up a homestead in what is now called Harrison County, Indiana. Mary,