Page images

acquired the sobriquet "Honest Abe"-a characterization that he never dishonored, and an abbreviation that he never outgrew. He was judge, arbitrator, referee, umpire, authority, in all disputes, games and matches. of man-flesh, horse-flesh, a pacificator in all quarrels; everybody's friend; the best-natured, the most sensible, the best-informed, the most modest and unassuming, the kindest, gentlest, roughest, strongest, best fellow in all New Salem and the region round about.


An instance of young Lincoln's practical humanity at an early period of his life is recorded as follows: One evening, while returning from a "raising" in his wide neighborhood, with a number of companions, he discovered a stray horse, with saddle and bridle upon him. The horse was recognized as belonging to a man who was accustomed to excess in drink, and it was suspected at once that the owner was not far off. A short search only was necessary to confirm the suspicion of the men.

The poor drunkard was found in a perfectly helpless condition, upon the chilly ground. Abraham's companions urged the cowardly policy of leaving him to his fate, but young Lincoln would not hear to the proposition. At his request, the miserable so was lifted on his shoulders, and he actually carried him eighty rods to the nearest house. Sending word to his father that he should not be back that night, with the reason for his absence, he attended and nursed the

man until the morning, and had the pleasure of believing that he had saved his life.


The following interesting story was told by Mr. Lincoln to Mr. Seward and a few friends one evening in the Executive Mansion at Washington. The President said: "Seward, you never heard, did you, how I earned my first dollar?"

"No," rejoined Mr. Seward.

"Well," continued Mr. Lincoln, "I belonged, you know, to what they called down South the 'scrubs.' We had succeeded in raising, chiefly by my labor, sufficient produce, as I thought, to justify me in taking it down the river to sell.

"After much persuasion, I got the consent of mother to go, and constructed a little flatboat, large enough to take a barrel or two of things that we had gathered, with myself and little bundle, down to the Southern market. A steamer was coming down the river. We have, you know, no wharves on the Western streams; and the custom was, if passengers were at any of the landings, for them to go out in a boat, the steamer stopping and taking them on board

"I was contemplating my new flatboat, and wondering whether I could make it strong or improve it in any particular, when two men came down to the shore in carriages with trunks, and looking at the different boats singled out mine, and asked, "Who owns this?' I answered, somewhat modestly, 'I do.' 'Will you,' said one of them, 'take us and our trunks out to the

steamer?' 'Certainly,' said I. I was very glad to have the chance of earning something. I supposed that each of them would give me one or two or three bits. The trunks were put on my flatboat, the passengers seated themselves on the trunks, and I sculled them out to the steamboat.

"They got on board, and I lifted up their heavy trunks, and put them on deck. The steamer was about to put on steam again, when I called out that they had forgotten to pay me. Each of them took from his pocket a silver half-dollar, and threw it on the floor of my boat. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I picked up the money. Gentlemen, you may think it was a very little thing, and in these days it seems to me a trifle; but it was a most important incident in my life. I could scarcely credit, that I, a poor boy, had earned a dollar. The world seemed wider and fairer before me. I was a more hopeful and confident being from that time.”


The following incident, illustrating several traits already developed in the early boyhood of Lincoln, is vouched for by a citizen of Evansville, Ind., who knew him in the days referred to:

In his eagerness to acquire knowledge, young Lincoln had borrowed of Mr. Crawford, a neighboring farmer, a copy of Weem's Life of Washington—the only one known to be in existence in that region of the country. Before he had finished reading the book, it

had been left, by a not unnatural oversight, in a window. Meantime, a rain storm came on and the book was so thoroughly wet as to make it nearly worthless. This mishap caused him much pain; but he went, in all honesty, to Mr. Crawford with the ruined book, explained the calamity that had happened through his neglect, and offered, not having sufficient money, to "work out" the value of the book.

"Well, Abe," said Mr. Crawford, after due deliberation, "as it's you, I won't be hard on you. Just come over and pull fodder for me two days, and we will call our accounts even.'

The offer was readily accepted, and the engagement literally fulfilled. As a boy, no less than since, Abraham had an honorable conscientiousness, integrity, honesty, and an ardent love of knowledge.


A little incident occurred while young Lincoln lived in Indiana, which illustrates the early hardships and surroundings to which he was subjected. On one occasion he was obliged to take his grist upon the back of his father's horse, and go fifty miles to get it ground. The mill itself was very rude, and driven by horsepower, the customers were obliged to wait their "turn," without reference to their distance from home, and then used their own horse to propel the machinery. On this occasion, Abraham, having arrived at his turn, fastened his mare to the lever, and was following her closely upon her rounds, when, urging her with the switch, and "clucking" to her in the usual way, he

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »