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Possibly Judge Pitcher, who lived near the landing, saw something unusually attractive in the boy who, while waiting for travellers, came into his office and asked if he might look at the books on his shelves. The ferry-boy saw people make fools of themselves by drinking too
much whiskey. He could not discover that any good came from drinking liquor. On the contrary, it made men silly, or cross and ugly, and brought misery to themselves and their families. He wrote a composition on the foolishness of drinking, and the evils that come from the habit. The judge was pleased with it, and handed it to Rev. Mr. Farmer; he in turn sent it to an editor, who gladly printed it. So Abraham Lincoln, five years before the beginning of a great temperance reformation which swept over the country, did what he could to bring it about. (*)
The ferry-boy probably never had seen a geography. Possibly he may have seen a map of the United States. He knew the passing steamboats made their way to New Orleans or St. Louis. have heard of the journey of exploration by Captain Lewis and George Rogers Clarke, of Kentucky, up the Missouri and down the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean. He knew the United States was a vast country. He was thinking about its form of government—the Constitution and the Union. He wrote out his thoughts several years before Daniel Webster uttered the words, “The Constitution and the Union now and forever : one and inseparable.”
Winter came, and there were so few travellers that Mr. Taylor no longer needed him. He returned to Pigeon Creek to attend the wedding of his sister Sarah, who married Mr. Grigsby.
Mr. Gentry had purchased a large quantity of corn, pork, and other produce, which he determined to send to New Orleans. He had seen
enough of Abraham Lincoln to know that he was honest and faith
ful, so engaged him to take charge of the flat-boat which he was loading for that market. Allan Gentry was to accompany him. The boat was wide and flat; the steamboat men called it a “broad horn." It had a little caboose, in which they could sleep. Clay several inches in depth was spread upon the bottom of the boat, upon which they could kindle a fire, bake their corn-bread, and fry their meat.
Abraham Lincoln, captain of the craft, was nineteen years old. For pulling an oar and assuming responsibility in marketing the produce he was to receive $8.50 a month.
The two boatmen did not see many settlements along the river. Here and there they beheld a clearing and a solitary cabin. In springtime the Mississippi overflowed its banks, and all the lowlands were flooded. The settlements, consequently, were mostly inland, upon higher ground. Memphis was only a collection of huts. The country behind it was still the hunting-ground of the Cherokee Indians. It was a lonely voyage. At times they met a steamboat. After passing the mouth
of the Arkansas River they saw alligators sunning themselves along the banks. Farther down they beheld live-oaks with festoons of moss trailing from the wide spreading branches.
At Baton Rouge the two boatmen had an opportunity to show of what stuff they were made. Their boat was moored for the night at the landing. They were awakened by a gang of negroes, who leaped on board, intending to help themselves to plunder. The negroes were slaves. White men had stolen them - their manhood, their natural rights, their labor. Why should they not help themselves to whatever they could find ? The boatmen leap from their bunks and rush out from the caboose. They have no weapons, but Captain Lincoln pitches two into the river, a third is felled by Gentry, and the others, seeing the fate of their companions, take to their heels.
They had reached a section of the country where the people used the French language. Natchez was a very old town. The French settled it when they took possession of Louisiana. The people, language, houses, manners, and customs—all were different from what Lincoln and