« PreviousContinue »
He was appointed postmaster at New-Salem-the office being too insignificant to make his politics an objection. The store “ winked out."
Nothing daunted by this turn of ill-luck, he directed his attention to law, and borrowing a few books from a neighbor, which he took from the office in the evening and returned in the morning, he learned the rudiments of the profession in which he has since become so distinguished.
Mr. Lincoln was in his youth known as the swiftest runner, the best jumper, and the strongest wrestler, among his fellows; and when he reached manhood, and his physical frame became developed, the early settlers pronounced him the stoutest man in the State. His abstemious habits and his hardy physcial discipline strengthened his constitution and gave vigor to his mind. He improved every opportunity to cultivate his intellect, often studying his law-books far into the night by the reflection of the log-fire in his farm-home on the prairies. He was early distinguished for a disputational turn of mind, and many are the intellectual triumphs of his in the country or village lyceum selected by old settlers who remember him as he then appeared. His strong, natural, direct, and irresistible logic marked him there as it has ever since, as an intellectual king.
The deep snow which occurred in the winter of 1830–31, was one of the chief troubles endured by the early settlers of Central and Southern Illinois. Its consequences lasted through several years. The people were illy prepared to meet it, as the weather had been mild and pleasant -- unprecedently so up to
Christmas_when a snow-storm set in, which lasted two days ; something never before known even among the traditions of the Indians, and never approached in the weather of any winter since. The pioneers who came into the State (then a territory) in 1800, some of whom are still living, say the average depth of snow was never, previous to 1830, more then knee deep to an ordinary man, while it was breast high all that winter, not in drifts but over a whole section. 6 For three months," say the old settlers, “ there was not a warm sun upon the surface of the snow.” It became crusted over, so as (in some cases) to bear teams. Cattle and horses perished, the winter wheat was killed, the meagre stocks of provisions ran out, and the most wealthy settlers came near starving, while some of the poorer ones actually did. It was in the midst of such scenes that young Abraham Lincoln attained his majority, and commenced his career of bold and manly independence. It was this discipline that was to try the soul of the future President. Communication between house and house was often entirely obstructed for teams, so that the young and strong men had to do all the travelling on foot; carrying from one neighbor what of his store he could spare to another, and bringing back something in return sorely needed. Men living five, ten, twenty, and thirty miles apart were called “ neighbors" then. Young Lincoln was always ready to perform these acts of humanity, and foremost in the counsels of the settlers when their troubles seemed gathering like a thick cloud about them.
The surveyor of Sangamon offered to depute to Lincoln that portion of his work which was in his part of the county. He accepted, procured a compass and chain, studied Flint and Gibson a little, and went at it. This procured bread, and kept soul and body together. The election of 1834 came, and he was then elected to the legislature by the highest vote cast for any candidate. Major John F. Stuart, then in full practice of the law, was also elected. When the legislature met, the law books were dropped, but were taken up again at the end of the session. He was re-elected in 1836, 1838, and 1840. In the autumn of 1836 he obtained a law license, and April 15, 1837, he removed to Springfield and commenced the practice, his old friend, Stuart, taking him into partnership.
March 3d, 1837, by a protest entered upon the Illinois house journal of that date, at pages 817, 818, Lincoln, with Dan Stone, another representative of Sangamon, briefly defined his position on the slavery question, as follows. We quote from the State Journal:
- In 1836_o7, Mr. Lincoln was one of the representatives in the Legislature from Sangamon county, and during the session, as usual, resolutions, taking an extreme Southern view on the subject of slavery, were brought forward, discussed, and finally adopted. Mr. Lincoln refused to vote for them ; but took advantage of the constitutional privilege allowing any two members to enter their protest upon the journals of the house, to give his views on the subject in the form of a protest. The paper is worthy of being produced at the present time, and we give it, as follows:
“MARCH 3d, 1837. “ The following protest was presented to the house, which was read and ordered to be spread on the journal, to wit:
“Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passed both branches of the general assembly, at its present session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of the same.
"They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy ; but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils.
“They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power, under the Constitution, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different States.
"They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power, under the Constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia ; but that the power ought not to be exercised unless at the request of the people of said district.
“ The difference between these opinions and those contained in the said resolutions, is their reason for entering this protest.
“ DAN STONE,
- A. LINCOLN, “« Representatives from the county’of Sangamon.” Business flowed in upon him, and he rose rapidly to distinction in his profession. He displayed remarkable ability as an advocate in jury trials, and many of his law arguments were master-pieces of logical reasoning. There was no refined artificiality in his forensic efforts. They all bore the stamp of masculine common sense ; and he had a natural, easy mode of illustration, that made the most abstruse subjects appear plain. His success at the bar, however, did not withdraw his attention from politics. For many years he was the "wheel-horse' of the Whig party of Illinois, and was on the electoral ticket in several Presidential campaigns. At such time he canvassed the State with his usual vigor and ability. He was an ardent friend of Henry Clay, and exerted himself powerfully in his behalf, in 1844, traversing the entire State of Illinois, and addressing public meetings daily until near the close of the campaign, when, becoming convinced that his labors in that field would be unavailing, he crossed over into Indiana, and continued his efforts up to the day of election. The contest of that year in Illinois was mainly on the tariff question. Mr. Lincoln, on the Whig side, and John Calhoun on the democratic side, were the heads of the opposing electoral tickets. Calhoun, late of Nebraska, now dead, was then in the full vigor of his powers, and was accounted the ablest debater of his party. They stumped the State together, or nearly so, making speeches usually on alternate days at each place, and each addressing large audiences at great length, sometimes four hours together. Mr. Lincoln, in these elaborate speeches, evinced a thorough mastery of the principles of political economy which underlie the tariff question, and presented arguments in favor of the
protective policy with a power and conclusiveness rarely equalled, and at the same time in a manner so lucid and familiar, and so well interspersed with happy illustrations and apposite anecdotes, as to establish a reputation which he has never since failed to maintain, as the ablest leader in the Whig and Republican ranks in the great West.