Page images
PDF
EPUB

LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN. .

CHAPTER I.

BOYHOOD AND EARLY MANHOOD.

Preliminary-Birth of Abraham Lincoln-Removal from Kentucky-At Work-Self

Education Personal Characteristics—Another Removal-Trip to New Orleans--Becomes Clerk-Black Hawk War-Engages in Politics--Successive Elections to the Legislature-Anti-Slavery Protest-Commences Practice as a Lawyer--Traits of Character-Marriage-Return to Politics Election to Congress.

The leading incidents in the early life of the men who have most decidedly influenced the destinies of our republic, present a striking similarity. The details, indeed, differ; but the story, in outline, is the same_" the short and simple annals of the poor."

Of obscure parentage-accustomed to toil from their tender years-with few facilities for the education of the school the most struggled on, independent, self-reliant, till by their own right hands they had hewed their way to the positions for which their individual talents and peculiarities stamped them as best fitted. Children of nature, rather than of art, they have ever in their later years-amid scenes and associations entirely dissimilar to those with which in youth and early manhood, they were familiar-retained somewhat indicative of their origin and training. In speech or in action -often in both-they have smacked of their native soil. If they have lacked the grace of the courtier, ample compensation has been afforded in the honesty of the man. If their

Where Born.

Early Life.

Education.

address was at times abrupt, it was at least frank and unmistakable. Both friend and foe knew exactly where to find them. Unskilled in the doublings of the mere politician or the trimmer, they have borne themselves straight forward to the points whither their judgment and conscience directed. Such men may have been deemed fit subjects for the jests and sneers of more cultivated Europeans, but they are none the less dear to us as Americans_will none the less take their place among those whose names the good, throughout the world, will not willingly let die.

Of this class, pre-eminently, was the statesman whose life and public services the following pages are to exhibit.

A BRAHAM LINCOLN, Sixteenth President of the United States, son of Thomas and Nancy Lincoln-the former a Kentuckian, the latter a Virginian—was born February 12th, 1809, near Hodgenville, the county-seat of what is now known as La Rue county, Kentucky. He had one sister, two years his senior, who died, married, in early womanhood; and his only brother, his junior by two years, died in childhood.

When nine years of age, he lost his mother, the family having, two years previously, removed to what was then the territory of Indiana, and settled in the southern part, near the Ohio river, about midway between Louisville and Evansville. The thirteen years which the lad spent here inured him to all the exposures and hardships of frontier life. An active assistant in farm duties, he neglected no opportunity of strengthening his mind, reading with avidity such instructive works as he could procure-on winter evenings, oftentimes, by the light of the blazing fire-place. As satisfaction for damage accidentally done to a borrowed copy of Weems? Life of Washington—the only one known to be in the neighborhood—he pulled fodder for two days for the owner.

At twenty years of age, he had reached the height of nearly six feet and four inches, with a comparatively slender yet uncommonly strong, muscular framema youthful giant

Removes to Illinois.

Visits New Orleans.

Black Hawk War.

among a race of giants. Morally, he was proverbially honest, conscientious, and upright.

In 1830, his father again emigrated, halting for a year on the north fork of the Sangamon river, Illinois, but afterwards pushing on to Coles county, some seventy miles to the eastward, on the upper waters of the Kaskaskia and Embarrass, where his adventurous life ended in 1851, he being in his seventy-third year. The first year in Illinois the son spent with the father; the next he aided in constructing a flat-boat, on which, with other hands, a successful trip to New Orleans and back was made. This city-then the El Dorado of the Western frontiersman-had been visited by the young man, in the same capacity, when he was nineteen years of age.

Returning from this expedition, he acted for a year as clerk for his former employer, who was engaged in a store and flouring mill at New Salem, twenty miles below Springfield. While thus occupied, tidings reached him of an Indian invasion on the western border of the State-since known as the Black Hawk war, from an old Sac chief of that name, who was the prominent mover in the matter. In New Salem and vicinity, a company of volunteers was promptly raised, of which young Lincoln was elected captain-his first promotion. The company, however, having disbanded, he again enlisted as a private, and during the three months' service of this, his first short military campaign, he faithfully discharged his duty to his country, persevering amid peculiar hardships and against the influences of older men around him.

With characteristic humor and sarcasm, while commenting, in a Congressional speech during the canvass of 1848, upon the efforts of General Cass's biographers to exalt their idol into a military hero, he thus alluded to this episode in his

life :

“By the way, Mr. Speaker, did you know I am a military hero? Yes, sir, in the days of the Black Hawk war, I fought, bled, and came away. Speaking of General Cass's career,

Speech.

Engages in Politics.

Elected to the Legislature.

reminds me of my own. I was not at Stillman's defeat, but I was about as near it as Cass to Hull's surrender; and like him, I saw the place very soon afterward. It is quite certain I did not break my sword, for I had none to break; but I bent a musket pretty badly on one occasion. If Cass broke bis sword, the idea is, he broke it in desperation ; I bent the musket by accident. If General Cass went in advance of me in picking whortleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charges upon the wild onions. If he saw any live, fighting Indians, it was more than I did, but I had a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes; and although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can truly say I was often very hungry.

“Mr. Speaker, if I should ever conclude to doff whatever our Democratic friends may suppose there is of black-cockade Federalism about me, and, thereupon, they should take me up as their candidate for the Presidency, I protest they shall not make fun of me as they have of General Cass, by attempting to write me into a military hero."

This bit of adventure over, Mr. Lincoln-who had determined to become a lawyer, in common with most energetic, enterprising young men of that period and section-embarked in politics, warmly espousing the cause of Henry Clay, in a State at that time decidedly opposed to his great leader, and received a gratifying evidence of his personal popularity where he was best known, in securing an almost unanimous vote in his own precinct in Sangamon county as a candidate for representative in the State Legislature, although a little later in the same canvass General Jackson, the Democratic candidate for the Presidency, led his competitor, Clay, one hundred and fifty-five votes.

While pursuing his law studies, he engaged in land surveying as a means of support. In 1834, not yet having been admitted to the bar—a backwoodsman in manner, dress, and expression—tall, lank, and by no means prepossessing-he was first elected to the Legislature of his adopted State,

Acquaintance with Douglas.

His views of Slavery in 1836.

being the youngest member, with a single exception. During this session he rarely took the floor to speak, content to play the part of an observer rather than of an actor. It was at this period that he became acquainted with Stephen A. Douglas, then a recent immigrant from Vermont, in connection with whom he was destined to figure so prominently before the country.

In 1836, he was elected for a second term. During this session, he put upon record, together with one of his col. leagues, his views relative to slavery, in the following protest, bearing date March 3d, 1837:

"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."

In 1838 and 1840, he was again elected and received the vote of his party for the speakership. First elected at twenty-five, he had been continued so long as his inclination allowed, and until by his kind manners, his ability, and unquestioned integrity, he had won a position, when but a little past thirty, as the virtual leader of his party in Illinois. His reputation as a close and logical debater had been established'; his native talent as an orator had been developed ; his earnest zeal for his party had brought around him troops of friends;

« PreviousContinue »