Page images

with ice upon its banks and in its surging current. The reluctant cattle wallow the stream with all hands in the wagons. Unwittingly the puppy has been left behind; they hear it yelping. It is a worthless cur, but Abraham Lincoln has not the heart to leave it. He will not have the shivering cattle wade the stream again, but barefooted he recrosses the water, takes the dog in his arms, and returns to the wagons. “I cannot bear to see even a puppy in distress,” he says, as he brings the cur up the bank. (0)

Before they reached Decatur two weeks went by-days of hardship and suffering, the severest weather of the winter. John Hanks had been true to his promise; the logs had been made ready, and, with all hands to help, a cabin was quickly constructed.

At the age of twenty-one, Abraham Lincoln, wearing a jean jacket, shrunken buckskin trousers, and 'coon-skin cap, driving an ox-team, entered Illinois, to be thenceforth a citizen of that State. He had reached the years of manhood. What would he do with himself ? For what was he fitted! He was so strong of muscle that he could sink an axe into a hickory log deeper than any other man in Pigeon Creek; he could pull an oar on a flat-boat; he could take charge of the cargo and successfully dispose of it in New Orleans. He did not like manual labor; it was vastly easier and more delightful to read books. He could not teach school for a living, for he did not know enough. What prohability was there that he would ever do anything beyond chopping, rowing, or driving a team? There was nothing before him except to help his father plough fifteen acres of land and split enough rails to fence it, and then help plough fifty acres for another settler. His clothes were wearing out so fast that he was ashamed to appear in decent society. He had no money, but bargained with Nancy Miller to make him a pair of trousers, he to split 400 fence rails for each yard of cloth required—1400 rails in all. It was three miles from his father's cabin to her wood - lot, where he made the forest ring through the long summer day with his chopping.

Of the 150,000 people in the State of Illinois in that summer, was there one lower down in poverty than he? Was there an individual whose outlook for the future was more cheerless? Would he ever be able to make headway against the adverse tides of life? For what could he hope?

The year 1830, which marked his arrival to manhood, may be taken as the initial of a new era—the beginning of the development of material forces and a corresponding advancement of moral ideas. The Erie Canal, connecting the Hudson River with the great lakes, had been opened five years, and the country was beginning to feel the impetus of that achievement. While he was splitting fence rails, workmen in Massachusetts were laying the iron for a railroad between Boston and Lowell—the first to be completed in the country. The invention of the machine for cleaning cotton, separating the fibre from the seed, greatly cheapening the cost of cotton cloth and creating a demand for it the world over, was setting mill-wheels in motion, and Lowell and other towns were becoming busy places of industry. Inventors were making spindles and shuttles do the work formerly done by hands. The stage-coach was giving place to the locomotive engine. People from Europe were crossing the Atlantic to find homes in the United States. Twenty thousand emigrants came in 1820; in 1830 no less than 80,000 arrived; and by an instinct as true as that of the honey-bee winging its way to sweet flowers, they selected their homes in those States where there were no slaves. With the rivers of New England setting machinery in motion for the manufacture of cloth more cotton was called for, and more ships were needed to transport it from Charleston and New Orleans and other southern ports to Boston. The cotton planters wanted more slaves to work in the cotton-fields. As the plant could not be grown in Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri, and as slaves were called for to cultivate it in the more southern States, the slave-holders in the border States began to raise slaves for the Southern markets. Traders set up their marts in Baltimore, Washington, Alexandria, Richmond, Louisville, and St. Louis. Gangs of negroes in chains were taken from Baltimore across the country, or shipped on vessels to southern ports. Steamboats descending the Mississippi River transported other gangs from Missouri and Kentucky to the greatest of all markets-New Orleans.

During the days when Abraham Lincoln was floating down the Mississippi on a flat-boat, Congress passed a law imposing a duty on cotton goods manufactured in other countries. The law was opposed by the slave-holders of South Carolina. They regarded it as damaging to their interests, for England manufactured far more cotton cloth and yarn than was produced by Massachusetts and Rhode Island. More ships sailed from Charleston for Liverpool loaded with cotton than for Boston. The planters of that State determined to pay no attention to the law, but to do as they pleased. Under the clause in the Constitution of the United States which counted slaves in the basis of representation in Congress, and through the rapid increase of slaves, the institution had

[graphic][ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

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

« PreviousContinue »