Page images

become a great political power, controlling the Government. Good men -doctors of divinity, judges, senators, members of Congress-men honored and respected, saw no moral wrong in holding negroes as slaves. There always had been slaves. In Bible times, Moses, who gave laws to the children of Israel, established statutes relating to bondmen. Abraham had bond-servants. There were slaves in the time of Christ and the apostles. Paul told the slaves of his time that they must be obedient to their masters. If it was right to hold slaves in those days, where was the wrong in holding them in the United States in the year 1830? Was it not a beneficent institution, divinely ordained by Almighty God for the best welfare of the human race? So reasoned men

renowned for learning.

A young man, born in Newburyport, Mass., was setting type in a newspaper office in Baltimore. He did not agree with the general sentiment in regard to slavery. He saw a gang of slaves taken from jail, where they had been placed under lock and key to prevent their running away, and put on board a ship which was owned and commanded by a sea-captain from his native town. Congress had prohibited the bringing of slaves from Africa to the United States, and any person violating the law was to be regarded as a pirate. The young printer, William Lloyd Garrison, could not see why it was not just as much a crime to ship slaves from Baltimore to New Orleans, or anywhere else in the country, as to bring them from Africa to Baltimore. He printed an article which denounced the act of his fellow-townsman as piracy, for doing which he was arrested for libel, tried before the court, found guilty, and, because he had no money to pay the fine, was put in prison.

A large-hearted merchant in New York, Arthur Tappan, heard what had taken place and paid the money, securing his liberty. We are not to conclude that the printer was the first person in the United States who saw the iniquity of slave-holding. Forty years before this occurrence Dr. George Buchanan delivered an address before a society which had been organized in Baltimore to bring about the abolition of slavery. He said that Africans were born free and independent, and that to keep them in slavery was an infringement of the laws of God. Other antislavery societies had been formed before the year 1800—one in Virginia; but at that time slavery was not regarded as profitable, and it had not become a great political power, as in 1830.

The young printer went to Boston to give lectures upon the iniquity of the slave-traffic. He found, to his amazement, that people were not

willing to listen to him. He discovered that there was an intense prejudice against the negro in the Northern States. Being of indomitable energy, he established a paper, "The Liberator," which advocated the immediate abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and the Territories over which Congress had jurisdiction.

So it came about that at the time when Nancy Miller was making a pair of jean trousers, and Abraham Lincoln was splitting rails to pay for them, William Lloyd Garrison was issuing the first number of his paper.


The country was divided into two political parties-Whig and Democratic. The Democratic party was in power, with Andrew Jackson as President. Henry Clay, Senator from Kentucky, was an acknowledged leader of the Whig party. A book had been published setting forth the political principles of Mr. Clay, which Abraham Lincoln read during the days when he could get nothing to do. He thought that the principles held by the Senator from Kentucky were better for the country than those held by President Jackson.

The month of March saw John Hanks and Abraham Lincoln paddling down the Sangamon River in a boat to meet Denton Offut, of Springfield, who was buying corn, beef, pork, and pigs, which they were to take to New Orleans. John Johnston was to go with them. Offut agreed to give them 50 cents per day and $60 besides. .The boat was to be ready for them at Judy's Ferry, five miles from Springfield. They found Offut at the Buckhorn Tavern, taking things easy. He had no boat, but would like to have them build one. He would just as soon pay them as anybody else. The timber would cost them nothing, for there was an abundance


along the San





New Salem




O 5 10









Sangamon R.




land owned by
the Govern-
ment. They
could get it

sawed at Mr. Kirkpatrick's mill. (') Abraham had at one time worked with his father at carpentering, and could superintend the construction of the boat. The bargain was made. A shanty was built on



[blocks in formation]



[graphic][ocr errors]


[From a photograph taken by the author in 1890. The view looks down the river towards Petersburg. The mill stood at the left. The village of New Salem was amid the trees at the top of the hill.]

the bank of the river, in which they slept and ate their meals. Abraham, besides being the head-carpenter, took charge of the cooking. An axe, saw, chisel, and auger were the only tools needed. Two great trees were felled and hewn for the sides, upon which the planking was pinned; the seams were calked and smeared with pitch. Offut and a large number of his friends came out from Springfield to the launching, bringing a supply of whiskey. Speeches were made-some upholding Jackson, others supporting Henry Clay. The cook told funny stories and declared himself in favor of Clay. A sleight-of-hand performer was along, and, among other tricks performed, eggs were fried in the cook's hat. (*)

On April 19th, with the barrels of pork and beef on board, the three boatmen bade good-bye to Sangamon town, and floated down the river to New Salem. Mr. Rutledge had built a dam at a bend in the river and erected a mill on the western bank. The boat, instead of gliding over the dam, hung fast upon it. Abraham thought a while, and showed John the way out of the difficulty. They must take to the

shore some of the barrels at the forward end. The seams had not been made tight, and the boat was partly filled with water. He would bore a hole in the bottom at the end projecting over the dam, which would let the water out and lighten the craft. Then he would plug up the hole, roll the barrels to the bow, and the boat would slide over. When below the dam they could put more oakum in the seams, daub on more pitch, and be in good shape for their trip. It was done, with the people of New Salem looking on and admiring the ingenuity of the young man who devised the plan.

At Blue Banks a herd of pigs which Offut had purchased of Squire Godbey were to be taken on board. The animals were determined not to embark on such a craft. The more the three boatmen and Squire Godbey tried to drive them, the more they would not go. They munched the corn strewn on the ground, but showed no disposition to eat that on the boat.

"We might sew up their eyes, and then they would have to go it blind," said Abraham. (°)

As the pigs would not be coaxed, he carried them one by one in his arms down the bank and put them on board. (") Once more they were floating with the stream down the Sangamon to the Illinois, where final preparations were made for the trip to New Orleans.

They set up a mast, and, having no canvas, rigged a wooden sail. People at Beardstown, Alton, and St. Louis laughed when they beheld the contrivance; the pilots of steamboats, when they saw it, wondered what was coming; but their wooden sail helped them on when the wind was in the right direction to use it.

They reached New Orleans without special adventure. Abraham Lincoln, with no responsibility upon him in disposing of the cargo, as when upon the first trip, wandered about the city. He visited the section settled by the Spaniards, and also the quarter occupied by the French and Creole population. He saw gangs of slaves which had come from Kentucky and Tennessee marched to the sugar-cane and cotton plantations. He stood in the auction-room where they were sold, and saw women and girls stripped to the waist, men handling them as they handled cows and calves: making them run to see if they were lame, looking into their mouths to ascertain if their teeth were sound, calculating their age, and whether they would bear children. He hears the auctioneer telling their good points: how much work they can do, what they are fitted for, how good and kind and religious they He hears the bidding, and beholds maidens shrinking from men


[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed]


« PreviousContinue »