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who look them over with leering eyes. He hears the wailing and sees the weeping, as husbands, wives, and children are separated, never to meet again.
The boatman turns away with something rising in his throat, and goes out with John Hanks into the sunshine. His lips are quivering, for his soul is on fire.
“ John, if I ever get a chance to hit that institution, I'U hit it hard, by the Eternal God !” (°)
Who is he, to hit the institution of slavery a blow? He is only a boatman, a wood-chopper, teamster, backwoodsman – nothing more. What position of influence is he likely to attain to enable him to strike at slavery? His school - days have been less than a year. He is unknown, except to a few people. Slavery is incorporated into the framework of society and legalized in half of the States of the Republic. It is intrenched in Church and State alike; pronounced by doctors of divinity and statesmen to be divinely established for the good of the human race. It is a political force, recognized by the Constitution of the United States; it enters into the organization of Congress, and dictates as to the affairs of government and the election of Presidents. Is there the remotest probability that he will ever be able to strike a blow at such an institution? Why does he speak the words? Why lift his right hand to heaven and swear a solemn oath? Is it that those eyes, looking as his mother's looked, far away, catch some dim vision of what may be by-and-by? Does the thought come that in the unfolding years an all-directing Providence in human affairs has something especially marked out for him to accomplish? Is it an illumination by some spirit-force of a coming conflict in which he is to take a conspicuous part—the whispering of some messenger from an unseen realm that he is the one chosen to give freedom to millions of slaves ? Be that as it may, certainly no words ever spoken by the prophets of Israel have had a larger fulfilment than those uttered by Abraham Lincoln in the streets of New Orleans.
As we thus go over the events in the life of this carpenter's son, we think of the Son of another carpenter, and recall his words: “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business ?"
The three boatmen returned to St. Louis, accompanied by their employer, who was intending to open a store in New Salem, where Abraham Lincoln had exhibited his ingenuity in getting the flat-boat over Rutledge's mill-dam. Offut remained at St. Louis to purchase goods, and the three boatmen made their way on foot across the country to Farmington, near the eastern boundary of Illinois, where Thomas Lincoln was preparing to build a new house. On an appointed day Abraham was to meet Offut at New Salem, and begin business with him as clerk and salesman.
Reaching Farmington, he assisted his father in building a cabin containing two rooms. It was of hewn logs, and much superior to any of the former dwellings.
We have seen that the recreations and pleasures of people on the frontier were exhibitions of physical strength. Daniel Needham, champion wrestler of Coles County, had put many men on their backs, and boasted loudly of his powers. Having heard that there was a strong young flat-boatman in Farmington, he sent him a special challenge, which the boatman accepted. Abraham Lincoln found his highest pleasure in reading, but he was by no means indifferent to the pleasure that comes from putting forth physical strength. The match was held at Wabash Point. Needham soon found himself on the ground. Chagrined at his discomfiture, he demanded a second trial, to be again vanquished. The boatman, in consequence of his victory, became very popular with the young men of Coles County.(°)
On the day appointed, the clerk engaged by Offut stepped from a canoe at Rutledge's mill. He had paddled down the river from Decatur. New Salem was a collection of log-houses overlooking the beautiful valley of the Sangamon. Offut was there to welcome him, but the goods had not arrived. The future clerk had time, therefore, to make the acquaintance of the people. The day for the annual election came. Mentor Graham was clerk, but the assistant clerk was not present. Mr. Graham noticed a tall young man loitering about the village, and ventured to ask him if he could write. “I can make a few rabbit-tracks," was the reply ; whereupon he was installed in office. The voters were not long in discovering that the assistant clerk was honest and fair, and performed his duties faithfully. More than that, he entertained them with stories. (°)
One of the citizens of New Salem was departing for Texas with his family. It was not far to the Illinois River, and the most expeditious way of reaching Beardstown, where he could take a steamboat for St. Louis, would be by flat-boat down the Sangamon. The assistant clerk of elections engaged to convey the family to the Illinois, and once more was pulling an oar. The water was low, and the boat often grounded on the sand-bars; but all obstacles were surmounted, and the trip successfully accomplished.