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“My opponent,” said Lincoln, in reply, “ accuses the Whigs of riding in fine carriages and wearing ruffled shirts, kid-gloves, and gold watch-chains. Well, I was once a poor boy, and worked hard on a flatboat for $8 a month, and had only a pair of buckskin breeches. You know that buckskin after being wet is apt to shrink in drying, and as my breeches were often wet, the shrinking went on, the breeches getting shorter and shorter, till there were several inches of bare ankle between my stockings and the lower ends of the breeches. They were so tight that they left a blue streak around my shins. Now, if you call that aristocracy, I plead to the charge.” (“o)
His opponent was a demagogue who, when making political speeches to obtain an office, liked to wear fine clothes and a showy watch-chain, but who, when trying to obtain votes, was careful to cover up his ruffled shirt and chain. Lincoln knew that he was deceiving the people, and by a sweep of his arm gave the fellow's vest a jerk, exposing the ruffle of his shirt and gold chain. The people roared with laughter, , and the fellow left the platform, very red in the face. By the sweep of his arm he had upset all of Taylor's plans.
Edward Dickinson Baker was born in London, England. He was two years younger than Abraham Lincoln, and came to America early in life. He made Springfield his home. He was a young lawyer, and, like Lincoln, an ardent Whig. His voice was musical. He could play the piano, sing songs, and write poetry. He was an earnest advocate for the election of Harrison as President, and made a speech in the court-house to a great crowd. Many of those who gathered to hear him were Democrats. They were rough men ; they chewed tobacco, drank whiskey, and became angry at what Baker was saying.
The office of Stuart & Lincoln was over the court-room. A trapdoor for ventilation, above the platform of the court-room, opened into their office. Lincoln, desiring to hear what Baker was saying, lifted the door, stretched himself upon the floor, and looked down upon the swaying crowd. Baker was talking about the stealings of the Democratic officials in the land-offices.
“Wherever there is a land-office there you will find a Democratic newspaper defending its corruptions,” said Baker.
“ Pull him down! Put him out! It is a lie!" the cry from a fellow in the crowd, whose brother was editor of a Democratic paper. There was a rush for the platform. Great the astonishment of the crowd at seeing a pair of long legs dangle from the scuttle, and then the body, shoulders, and head of Abraham Lincoln, who let himself down to the
platform. He lifted his hand, but the fellows did not heed his gesture. They saw him grasp a stone-ware water-pitcher and heard him say, “I'll break it over the head of the first man who lays a hand on Baker! Hold on, gentlemen! This is a free country-a land for free speech. Mr. Baker has a right to speak; let him be heard. I am here to protect him, and no man shall take him from this platform if I can prevent it.” (“)
It was as if he had said—as was said once before—“Peace, be still." The people knew how champion wrestlers had gone down before him; but it was not that which hushed the crowd to silence and stilled the storm. They knew his goodness—how kind-hearted, just, honest, and true he was; that he stands ever for what is right. Baker goes on, no one daring to disturb him so long as Abraham Lincoln is there.
NOTES TO CHAPTER VI.
(') Joshua F. Speed, Lecture on Abraham Lincoln, p. 17. (*) Ibid., p. 18.
(°) “Sangamon Journal," June, 1836, quoted in “Herudon's Lincolu," p. 166 (editiou 1889).
(*) W. H. Herndon, “Lincoln,” p. 167 (edition 1889).
RIDING THE CIRCUIT.
districts of Illinois comprised several counties, in which the judge for the district held court, going from county to county ; he was called “Circuit Judge.” The leading lawyers in the district
usually accompanied him to the different county seats—all on
horseback. It was called “riding the circuit." The judge might be very grave and dignified when representing the majesty of the law in the court-room, but when mounted on his horse, with his law-books and an extra shirt in his saddle-bags, riding across the prairie, accompanied by a dozen or more jolly lawyers, his laugh was as loud as theirs. In the evenings judge and lawyer alike gathered in the bar-room of the tavern, and there was ever an admiring audience to listen to their stories. The coming of the Court was looked forward to by the people of the county as one of the most important events of the year.
Abraham Lincoln was a young lawyer. He could not be called a leading member of the bar, for he had been only a few months with his partner when he began to ride the circuit. He had very few cases in court, but hoped that somebody would want to employ him at the different county seats.
The census taken by the United States in 1840 showed that there were slaves in Illinois, although it was a free State. Settlers from Kentucky had brought them across the Ohio River. Unexpectedly a case came to Mr. Lincoln which greatly enlisted his sympathy and energy. Mr. Crowell sold his slave Nancy to Mr. Bailey, who, not having the money to pay for her, gave his note, which was not paid when due. Mr. Crowell did not want to lose his money, and brought suit in the Circuit Court. The judge decided that the note must be paid. An appeal was made to the Supreme Court. We do not know just how it came about, but possibly somebody had discovered that Abraham Lincoln was very kind-hearted, that he loved justice and right, and so employed him in behalf of the slave. He was thirty-two years old. He had not had many cases; possibly this was his first in the Supreme Court. The lawyer opposed to him was one of the ablest in IllinoisStephen T. Logan, who later became his law partner, and subsequently a judge.
"May it please the Court,” said Lincoln, in his argument, “the Ordinance of 1787, which prohibited slavery in the North-west Territory, would give Nancy her freedom. The Constitution of the State prohibits the holding of slaves. She cannot, therefore, be held as a slave; she cannot be sold as a slave. A note given for the sale of a slave in a free State can have no value. Neither Crowell nor Bailey can hold Nancy; she is entitled to her freedom, and Crowell is not entitled to the money which Bailey promised to pay.”
The argument was so plain that the Court decided in his favor. The decision put an end to the holding of slaves in Illinois.
The court-house, when the court was in session, was an attractive place. It might not be much better than a barn, but it was where people reverenced the majesty of law; where the brightest men in the county might be seen and heard. The judge sat on a platform behind a desk, with the clerk in front of him upon a lower platform. The members of the bar usually were tipped back in chairs, with their feet on other chairs, chewing tobacco and spitting at a box filled with sawdust. Abraham Lincoln did not chew nor smoke tobacco. In presenting a case he often admitted so much that was favorable to his opponent, the lawyers were accustomed to say he had given himself away ; but he believed one lost nothing by being fair.
He was employed in a very interesting case. Two farmers went to law about a young colt. One brought thirty-four witnesses, who testified that they had known the colt from the day of its birth; that it belonged to him. Thirty other men swore they also had known it from its birth; that it belonged to the other man. There had been two colts, but one was missing. Everybody said they were so nearly alike in size and color it was not possible to say which was which. “Let the mares be brought into the case as witnesses,” said the judge. He leaves the bench, and goes with all the lawyers and a great crowd of people to see and hear what the animals will say. The two mares are brought into the public square, and the colt let loose. It whinneys for its mother. There is an answering whinney from one of the mares, and the colt runs to her side and will not leave her.
What ought the jury to do? Thirty-four men have testified on one side, and thirty on the other. They all say they have known the colt