Imágenes de páginas

way he became acquainted with Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, Esop's Fables, a Life of Henry Clay, and Weems's Life of Washington. The “hatchet” story of Washington, which has done more to make boys truthful than a hundred solemn exhortations, made a strong impression upon Abraham, and was one of those unseen, gentle influences, which helped to form his character for integrity and honesty. Its effect may be traced in the following story, which bids fair to become as never failing an accompaniment to a Life of Lincoln as the hatchet case to that of Washington.

Mr. Crawford had lent him a copy of Ramsay's Life of Washington. During a severe storm Abraham improved his leisure by reading his book. One night he laid it down carefully, as he thought, and the next morning he found it soaked through! The wind had changed, the storm had beaten in through a crack in the logs, and the appearance of the book was ruined. How could he face the owner under such circumstances? He had no money to offer as a return, but he took the book, went directly to Mr. Crawford, showed him the irreparable injury, and frankly and honestly offered to work for him until he should be satisfied. Mr. Crawford accepted the offer and gave Abraham the book for his own, in return for three days' steady labor in “pulling fodder." His manliness and straightforwardness won the esteem of the Crawfords, and indeed of all the neighborhood.

At nineteen years of age he made a trip to NewOrleans, in


with a son of the owner of a flatboat, who intrusted a valuable cargo to their care. On the way they were attacked by seven negroes, and their



lives and property were in great danger, but owing to their good use of the muscular force they had acquired as backwoodsmen, they succeeded in driving off the invaders, and pushing their boat out into the stream in safety. The result of the voyage was satisfactory to the owner, and Abraham Lincoln gained, in addition to his ten dollars a month, a reputation as a youth of promising business talent.

In 1830 Thomas Lincoln decided to make another change, and the log cabin which had been so long their home was deserted for a new one near Decatur, Illinois. This time the journey occupied fifteen days. Abraham was now twenty-one, but he did not begin his independent life until he had aided his father in settling his family, breaking the ground for corn, and making a rail fence around the farm. These rails have passed into song and story. “During the sitting of the Republican State Convention at Decatur, a banner, attached to two of these rails, and bearing an appropriate inscription, was brought into the assemblage, and formally presented to that body, amid a scene of unparalleled enthusiasm. After that they were in demand in every State of the Union in which free labor is honored, where they were borne in processions of the people, and hailed by hundreds of thousands of freemen, as a symbol of triumph, and as a glorious vindication of freedom and of the rights and dignity of free labor. These, however, were far from being the first or only rails made by Lincoln. He was a practised hand at the business. Mr. Lincoln has now a cane made from one of the rails split by his own hands in boyhood.” After the first winter in Illinois, which was one of un

[ocr errors]

common severity, and required more than his father's care to keep the family in food, which was mostly obtained by hunting, Abraham Lincoln began life for himself. Sometimes he hired himself out as a farmhand, sometimes his learning procured him a situation as clerk in a store. When the Black Hawk war broke out in 1832, he joined a volunteer company, and was made captain. "He was an efficient, faithful officer, watchful of his men, and prompt in the discharge of duty, and his courage and patriotism shrank from no dangers or hardships.” Thus the Commander-in-Chief of our armies has not been without a bit of military experience-much more, in fact, than the most of our Brigadier-Generals had had before the commencement of the war.

After his military life was over he looked about for something to do. He ran for the Legislature, but was beaten, though his own precinct gave him 277 votes out of 284. This was the only time he was ever beaten before the people. He bought a store and stock of goods on credit, and was appointed Postmaster. The store proved unprofitable, and he sold out. All this time he pursued his studies. He had already learned grammar, and he had now opportunities for more extensive reading. He wrote out a synopsis of every book he read, and thus fixed it in his memory.

About this time he met John Calhoun, since President of the Lecompton (Kansas) Constitutional Con. vention. He proposed to Lincoln to take up surveying, and himself aided in his studies. He had plenty of employment as a surveyor, and won a good reputation in this new line of business.

In 1834 he was sent to the Legislature, and the po litical life commenced which his countrymen's votes have since shown they fully appreciated. When the session of the Legislature was over, he set himself to the study of law in good earnest. In 1836 he obtained a law license, and in April, 1837, he removed to Springfield and commenced the practice of the law in partner. ship with his friend and former colleague in the Legislature, Hon. John T. Stuart

One incident of his law practice we cannot refrain from narrating. When Lincoln first went out into the world to earn a living for himself, he worked for a Mr. Armstrong, of Petersburg, Menard Co., who, with his wife, took a great interest in him, lent hin books to read, and, after the season for work was over, encouraged him to remain with them until he should find something to “turn his hand to.” They also hoped much from his influence over their son, an overindulged and somewhat unruly boy. We cannot do better than to transcribe the remarks of the Cleveland Leader upon this interesting and touching incident.

"Some few years since, the eldest son of Mr. Lincoln's old friend, Armstrong, the chief supporter of his widowed mother—the good old man having some time previously passed from earth, -was arrested on the charge of murder. A young man had been killed during a riotous mêlée, in the night time at a camp-meeting, and one of his associates stated that the death-wound was inflicted by young Armstrong. A preliminary examination was gone into, at which the accuser testified so positively, that there seemed no doubt of the guilt of the prisoner, and therefore he was held for trial. As is too often the case, the bloody act caused an undue degree of excitement in the public mind. Every improper incident in the life of the prisoner-each act which bore the least semblance of rowdyism-each schoolboy quarrel, -was suddenly remembered and magnified, until they pictured him as a fiend of the most horrible hue. As these rumors spread abroad they were received as gospel truth, and a foverish desire for vengeance seized upon the infatuated populace, whilst only prison bars prevented a horrible death at the hands of a mob. The events were heralded in the county papers, painted highest colors, accompanied by rejoicing over the certainty of punishment being meted out to the guilty party. The prisoner, overwhelmed by the circumstances under which he found himself placed, fell into a melancholy condition bordering on despair, and the widowed mother, looking through her tears, saw no cause for hope from earthly aid.

“At this juncture, the widow received a letter from Mr. Lincoln, volunteering his services in an effort to save the youth from the impending stroke. Gladly was his aid accepted, although it seemed impossible for even- his sagacity to provail in such a desperate case; but the heart of the attorney was in his work, and he set about it with a will that knew no such word as fail. Feeling that the poisoned condition of the public mind was such as to preclude the possibility of impanolling an impartial jury in the court having jurisdiction, he procured a change of venue and a postponement of the trial. He then went studiously to work unravelling the history of the case, and satisfied himself that his client was the victim of malice, and that the statements of the accuser were a tissue of falsehoods.

When the trial was called on, the prisoner, pale and emaciated, with hopelessness written on every feature, and accompanied by his halfhoping, half-despairing mother-whose only hope was in a mother's belief of her son's innocence, in the justice of the God she worshipped, and in the noble counsel, who, without hope of fee or reward upon earth, had undertaken the cause-took his seat in the prisoners' bos, and with a 'stony firmness' listened to the reading of the indictment. Lincoln sat quietly by, whilst the large auditory looked on him as though wondering what he could say in defence of one whose guilt they regarded as certain. The examination of the witnesses for the State was begun, and a well-arranged mass of evidence, circumstantial and positive, was introduced, which seemed to impale the prisoner beyond the possibility of extrication. The counsel for the defence propounded but few questions, and those of a character which excited no uneasiness on the part of the prosecutor-merely, in most cases, requiring the main witnesses to be definite as to the time and place. When the evidence of the prosecution was ended, Lincoln introduced a few witnosses to remove some erroneous impressions in regard to the previ

« AnteriorContinuar »