THE LINCOLN STORY BOOK
A Judicious Collection of the Best Stories and Anecdotes of the Great President, Many Appearing Here for the First Time in Book Form
HENRY L. WILLIAMS
The Abraham Lincoln Statue at Chicago is accepted as the typical Westerner of the forum, the rostrum, and the tribune, as he stood to be inaugurated under the war-cloud in 1861. But there is another Lincoln as dear to the common people—the Lincoln of happy quotations, the speaker of household words. Instead of the erect, impressive, penetrative platform orator we see a long, gaunt figure, divided between two chairs for comfort, the head bent forward, smiling broadly, the lips curved in laughter, the deep eyes irradiating their caves of wisdom; the story-telling Lincoln, enjoying the enjoyment he gave to others.
This talkativeness, as Lincoln himself realized, was a very valuable asset. Leaving home, he found, in a venture at "Yankee notion-pedling," that glibness meant three hundred per cent, in disposing of flimsy wares. In the camp of the lumber-jacks and of the Indian rangers he was regarded as the pride of the mess and the inspirator of the tent. From these stages he rose to be a graduate of the "college" of the yarn-spinner—the village store, where he became clerk.
The store we know is the township vortex where all assemble to "swap stories" and deal out the news. Lincoln, from behind the counter—his pulpit—not merely repeated items of information which he had heard, but also recited doggerel satire of his own concoction, punning and emitting sparks of wit. Lincoln was hailed as the "capper" of any "good things on the rounds."
Even then his friends saw the germs of the statesman in the lank, homely, crack-voiced hobbledehoy. Their praise emboldened him to stand forward as the spokesman at schoolhouse meetings, lectures, log-rollings, huskings auctions, fairs, and so on—the folk-meets of our people. One watching him in 1830 said foresightedly: "Lincoln has touched land at last."
In commencing electioneering, he cultivated the farming population and their ways and diction. He learned by their parlance and Bible phrases to construct "short sentences of small words," but he had all along the idea that "the plain people are more easily influenced by a broad and humorous illustration than in any other way." It is the Anglo-Saxon trait, distinguishing all great preachers, actors, and authors of that breed.
He acknowledged his personal defects with a frankness unique and startling; told a girl whom he was courting that he did not believe any woman could fancy him; publicly said that he could not be in looks what was rated a gentleman; carried the knife of "the homeliest man"; disparaged himself like a Brutus or a Pope Sixtus. But the mass relished this "plain, blunt man who spoke right on."
He talked himself into being the local "Eminence," but did not succeed in winning the election when first presented as "the humble" candidate for the State Senate. He stood upon his "imperfect education," his not belonging "to the first families, but the seconds"; and his shunning society as debarring him from the study he required.
Repulsed at the polls, he turned to the law as another channel, supplementing forensic failings by his artful story-telling. Judges would suspend business till "that Lincoln fellow got through with his yarn-spinning" or underhandedly would direct the usher to get the rich bit Lincoln told, and repeat it at the recess.
Mrs. Lincoln, the first to weigh this man justly, said proudly, that "Lincoln was the great favorite everywhere."
Meanwhile his fellow citizens stupidly tired of this Merry Andrew—they "sent him elsewhere to talk other folks to death"—to the State House, where he served several terms creditably, but was mainly the fund of jollity to the lobby and the chartered jester of the lawmakers.
Such loquacious witchery fitted him for the Congress. Elected to the House, he was immediately greeted by connoisseurs of the best stamp— President Martin van Buren, "prince of good fellows;" Webster, another intellect, saturnine in repose and mercurial in activity; the convivial Senator Douglas, and the like. These formed the rapt ring around Lincoln in his own chair in the snug corner of the congressional chat-room. Here he perceived that his rusticity and shallow skimmings placed him under the trained politicians. It was here, too, that his stereotyped prologue to his digressions—"That reminds me"—became popular, and even reached England, where a publisher so entitled a joke-book. Lincoln displaced "Sam Slick," and opened the way to Artemus Ward and Mark Twain. The longing for elevation was fanned by the association with the notables—Buchanan, to be his predecessor as President; Andrew Johnson, to be his vice and successor; Jefferson Davis and Alex. H. Stephens, President and Vice-President of the C. S. A.; Adams, Winthrop, Sumner, and the galaxy over whom his solitary star was to shine dazzlingly.
A sound authority who knew him of old pronounced him "as good at telling an anecdote as in the '30's." But the fluent chatterer reined in and became a good listener. He imbibed all the political ruses, and returned home with his quiver full of new and victorious arrows for the Presidential campaign, for his bosom friends urged him to try to gratify that ambition, preposterous when he first felt it attack him. He had grown out of the sensitiveness that once made him beg the critics not to put him out by laughing at his appearance. He formed a boundless arsenal of images and similes; he learned the American humorist's art not to parade the joke with a discounting smile. He worked out Euclid to brace his fantasies, as the steel bar in a cement fence-post makes it irresistibly firm. But he allowed his vehement fervor to carry him into such flights as left the reporters unable to accompany his sentences throughout.
He was recognized as the destined national mouthpiece. He was not of the universities, but of the universe; the Mississippi of Eloquence, uncultivated, stupendous, enriched by sweeping into the innumerable side bayous and creeks.
Elected and re-elected President, he continued to be a surprise to those who shrank from levity. Lincoln was their puzzle; for he had a sweet sauce for every "roast," and showed the smile of invigoration to every croaking prophet. His state papers suited the war tragedies, but still he delighted the people with those tales, tagging all the events of what may be called the Lincoln era. The camp and the press echoed them though the Cabinet frowned—secretaries said that they exposed the illustrious speaker to charges of "clownishness and buffoonery."
But this perennial good-humor—perfectly poised by the people— alleviated the strain of withstanding that terrible avalanche threatening to dismember and obliterate the States and bury all the virtues and principles of our forefathers.
Even his official letters were in the same vein. Regarding the one to England which meant war, he asked of Secretary Seward if its language would be comprehended by our minister at the Victorian court, and added dryly: "Will James, the coachman at the door—will he understand it?" Receiving the answer, he nodded grimly and said: "Then it goes!" It went, and there was no war with the Bull.
Time has refuted the purblind purists, the chilly "wet-blankets"; and the Lincoln stories, bright, penetrative, piquant, and pertinent are our classics. Hand in hand with "Father Abraham," the President next to Washington in greatness, walks "Old Abe, the Story-teller."
Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, 1809, Hardin County, Kentucky. "Lincoln Day."
1817—Settled in Perry County, Indiana; father, mother, sister, and self.
1818—October 5, Mrs. Thomas Lincoln (Nancy Hanks) died; buried Spencer County, Indiana. In 1901, a monument erected to her memory, the base being the former Abraham Lincoln vault. Schooling, a few months, 1819, '20 and '28, about six months' school.
1819—Thomas (father of A. L.) marries again: Mrs. Johnson (Sally Bush) of Kentucky.
1830—March, Lincoln family remove into Illinois, near Decatur.
1831—Works for himself: boatbuilding and sailing, carpentering, hog-sticking, sawmilling, blacksmithing, river-pilot, logger, etc., in Menard County, Indiana.
1831—Election clerk at New Salem. Captain and private (re-enlisted) in Black Hawk War. Store clerk and merchant, New Salem. Studies for the law.
1832—First political speech. Henry Clay, Whig platform. Defeated through strong local vote. Deputy surveyor, at three dollars a day, Sangamon County.
1834—Elected to State legislature as Whig. (Resides in Springfield till 1861. Law partner with John L. Stuart till 1840.)
1835—Postmaster, New Salem; appointed by President Jackson.
1838 to 1840—Reelected to State legislature.
1840—Partner in law with S. T. Logan.
1842—Married Miss Mary Todd, of Kentucky. Of the four sons, Edward died in infancy; William ("Willie") at twelve at Washington; Thomas ("Tad") at Springfield, aged twenty; Robert M. T., minister to Great Britain, presidential candidate, secretary of war to President Garfield. His only grandson, Abraham, died in London, March, 1890.
1844—Proposed for Congress.
1845—Law partner with W. H. Herndon, for life.
1846—Elected to Congress, the single Whig Illinois member; voted antislavery; sought abolition in the D. C.; voted Wilmot Proviso. Declined reelection.
1848—Electioneered for General Taylor.
1849—Defeated by Shields for United States senator.
1852—Electioneered for General Scott.
1854—Won the State over to the Republicans, but by arrangement transferred his claim to the senatorship to Trumbull. October, debated with Douglas. Declined the governorship in favor of Bissell.
1856—Organized the Republican Party and became its chief; nominated vice-president, but was not chosen by its first convention; worked for the Fremont-Dayton presidential ticket.
1858—Lost in the legislature the senatorship to Douglas.
1859—Placed for the presidential candidacy. Made Eastern tour "to get acquainted."
1860—May 9, nominated for President, "shutting out" Seward, Chase, Cameron, Dayton, Wade, Bates, and McLean.
1861—March 4, inaugurated sixteenth President; succeeds Buchanan, and precedes his vice—Andrew Johnson, whom General Grant succeeded. Civil War began by firing on Fort Sumter, April 12.
1862—September 22, emancipation announced.
1863—January 1, emancipation proclaimed. November 19, Gettysburg Cemetery address. December 9, pardon to rebels proclaimed.
1864—Unanimous nomination as Republican presidential candidate for re-election, June 7. Reelected November 8.
1865—March 4, inaugurated for the second term. April 14, assassinated in Ford's Theater, Washington, by a mad actor, Wilkes Booth. April 19, body lay in state at Washington. April 26, Booth slain in resisting arrest, by Sergeant Boston Corbett, near Port Royal. April 21 to May 4, funeral-train through principal cities North, to Springfield, Illinois.
1871—Temporarily deposited in catacomb.
1874—In catacomb, in sarcophagus. The completed monument dedicated.
1876—To frustrate repetition of body-snatchers' attempt, reinterred deeper.
1900—A fifth removal; the whole structure solidly rebuilt, containing the martyred President, his wife, and their three children, as well as the grandson bearing Abraham's name.
THE LINCOLN STORY BOOK
* * * * *
In a copybook, at the age of nine or ten:
Abraham Lincoln, his hand and pen. he will be good, but god knows when.
The small "g" led a public speaker to denounce the sort of men—"sordid and ignorant"—who write "God with a small g and gold with a big one." This was a scrapbook in humble imitation of the albums in the East.
Another copybook motto. (A year or so later.)
Good boys who to their books apply Will all be great men by and by.
* * * * *
THE LITTLE HATCHET DID IT.
In 1823 Abraham Lincoln went briefly to Crawford's school, a log house, pleasing the teacher by his attention to the simple course. The boy had read but a small library, principally "Weems' Life of Washington," which had impressed him deeply. This is shown by the following anecdote told by Andrew Crawford, the Spencer County pedagogue: The latter saw that a buck's head, nailed on the schoolhouse, was broken in one horn, and asked the scholars who among them broke it. "I did it," answered young Lincoln promptly. "I did not mean to do it, but I hung on it"—he was very tall and reached it too easily—"and it broke!" Though lean, he weighed fairly. "I wouldn't have done it if I had 'a' thought it would break."
Other boys of that "class" would have tried to conceal what they did and not own up until obliged to do so. His immediate friends believed that the hatchet and cherry-tree incident in Washington's life traced this truthful course.
* * * * *
THE LITTLE HATCHET AGAIN TURNS UP.
In his teens Abraham Lincoln, while not considered a man, was able to swing an ax with full power. It was the borderer's multifarious tool and accompanied him everywhere. One time, while sauntering along Gentryville, his stepsister playfully ran at him of a sudden and leaped from behind upon him. Holding on to his shoulders, she dug her knees into his back—a rough trick called fun by these semi-savages—and brought him to the ground. Unfortunately, she caused him to release the ax in his surprise, and it cut her ankle. The boy stopped the wound and bandaged it, while she moaned. Through her cries, he reproached her, and concluded:
"How could you disobey mother so?" for she had been enjoined not to follow her brother. "What are you going to tell her about getting hurt?"
"Tell her I did it with the ax," she replied. "That will be the truth?" she questioned, with the prevarication of her sex inborn.
"Yes, that's the truth, but it is not all the truth. You tell the whole truth."
The mother was forgiving, and nothing more came of the casualty.
* * * * *
Abraham Lincoln's own sister Sarah married one Aaron Grigsby, a man in the settlers' line of life; and Abraham, a youth under age, composed an epithalamium on the occasion. The title was "Adam and Eve's Wedding-Song," and the principal verses are given to show what roughness pervaded the home on the frontier:
The woman was not taken from Adam's feet, we see, So we must not abuse her, the meaning seems to be. The woman was not taken from Adam's head, we know; To show she must not rule him—'tis evidently so. The woman, she was taken from under Adam's arm, So she must be protected from injuries and harm.
* * * * *
"RISK THE HOGS AND I WILL RISK MYSELF!"
At the age of seventeen, Lincoln, the strongest and "longest" younker of the neighborhood, was let out by his father for six dollars a month and board to a James Taylor, ferryman of Anderson's Creek and the Ohio River. He was also expected to do the farmwork and other jobs, as well as the chores in and about the house. This included tending to the baby—the good wives uniting to pronounce Abe the best of helps as "so handy," as Mrs. Toodles would say.
He had attained his fixed height, exactly six feet three inches. (This is his own record.) He really did, with his unusual strength, more than any man's stint, and failing to gain full man's wages, whether it was his father or he handled it, he felt the injustice, which soured him on that point. He enraged his employer's son by sitting up late to read, so that the young man struck him to silence. But the young giant refused from retaliating in kind, whether from natural magnanimity belonging to giants, or from respect for the "young master," or from self-acknowledgment that he was in the wrong. He learned the craft of river boatman in this engagement. One day, on being asked to kill a hog, he replied like the Irishman with the violin, "that he had never done it, but he would try."
"If you will risk the hog," he said, "I will risk myself!"
Becoming hog-slaughterer added this branch occupation to the many of "the man of all work." Taylor sub-let him out in this capacity for thirty cents a day, saying:
"Abe will do any one thing about as well as another."
* * * * *
THE REST WAS VILE.
The Lincoln homestead in Indiana, in 1820-23, had at the first the primitive corn-mill in the Indian fashion—a burnt-out block with a pounder rigged to a well-sweep. A water-mill being set up ten miles off, on Anderson's Creek, that was superseded, as improvement marched, by a horse-power one. To this Lincoln, as a lad of sixteen or seventeen, would carry the corn in a bag upon an old flea-bitten gray mare. One day, on unhitching the animal and loading it, and running his arm through the head-gear loop to lead, he had no sooner struck it and cried "Get up, you de——," when the beast whirled around, and, lashing out, kicked him in the forehead so that he fell to the ground insensible. The miller, Hoffman, ran out and carried the youth indoors, sending for his father, as he feared the victim would not revive. He did not do so until hours after having been carried home. When conscious, his faculties, as psychologically ordained, resumed operations from the instant of suspension, and he uttered the sequel to his outcry:
Lincoln's own explanation is thus:
"Just before I struck the mare, my will, through the mind, had set the muscles of my tongue to utter the expression, and when her heels came in contact with my head, the whole thing stopped half-cocked, as it were, and was only fired off when mental energy or force returned."
His friends interpreted the occurrence as a proof of his always finishing what he commenced.
* * * * *
"NO HEAPING COALS OF FIRE ON THAT HEAD."
The wantonly cruel experiment of testing the sensitiveness in reptiles armored, passed into a proverb out West in pioneer times. Besides carving initials and dates on the shell of land tortoises, boys would fling the creatures against tree or rock to see it perish with its exposed and lacerated body, or literally place burning coals on the back. In such cases Lincoln, a boy in his teens, but a redoubtable young giant, would not only interfere vocally, but with his arms, if needed.
"Don't terrapins have feelings?" he inquired.
The torturer did not know the right answer, and, persisting in the treatment, had the shingle wrenched from his hand and the cinders stamped out, while the sufferer was allowed to go away.
"Well, feelings or none, he won't be burned any more while I am around!"
He did not always have to resort to force in his corrections, as he obtained the title of "Peacemaker" by other means, and the spell in his tongue, at that age.
* * * * *
STUMPING THE STUMP-SPEAKER.
When Lincoln became a man and, divorced from his father's grasping tyranny, set up as a field-hand, he lightened the labor in Menard County by orating to his mates, and they gladly suspended their tasks to listen to him recite what he had read and invented—or, rather, adapted to their circumscribed understanding. Besides mimicry of the itinerant preachers, he imitated the electioneering advocates of all parties and local politics. One day, one such educator collected the farmers and their help around him to eulogize some looming-up candidate, when a cousin and admirer of young Lincoln cast a damper on him, crying out, with general approval, that Abe could talk him dry! Accepting the challenge, the professional spellbinder allowed his place on the stump of the cottonwood to be held by the raw Demosthenes. To his astonishment the country lad did display much fluency, intelligence, and talent for the craft. Frankly the stranger complimented him and wished him well in a career which he recommended him to adopt. From this cheering, Lincoln proceeded to speak in public—his limited public—"talking on all subjects till the questions were worn slick, greasy, and threadbare."
* * * * *
MAKING THE WOOL, NOT FEATHERS, FLY.
The "export trade" of the Indiana farmers was with New Orleans, the goods being carried on flatboats. The traffic called for a larger number of resolute, hardy, and honest men, as, besides the vicissitudes of fickle navigation, was the peril from thieves. Abraham early made acquaintance with this course as he accompanied his father in such a venture down the great river. Then passed apprenticeship, he built a boat for Gentry—merchant of Gentryville—and "sailed" it, with the storekeeper's son Allen as bow-hand or first officer. He and his crew of one started from the Ohio River landing and safely reached the Crescent City—safely as to cargo and bodies, but not without a narrow escape. At Baton Rouge, a little ahead of the haven, the boat was tied up at a plantation, and the two were asleep, when they became objects of an attack from a river pest—a band of refugee negroes and similar lawless rogues.
Luckily their approach was heard and the two awoke. Having been warned that the desperadoes would not stand on trifles, the young men armed themselves with clubs and leaped ashore, after driving the pirates off the deck. They pursued them, too, with such an uproar that their number was multiplied in the runaways' mind. Both returned wounded—Abraham retaining a mark over the right eye, noticeable in after life, and not to his facial improvement. They immediately unhitched the boat and stood out in the channel.
"I wish we had carried weapons," sighed Lincoln. "Going to war without shooting-irons is not what the Quakers hold it to be."
"If we had been armed," returned Allen, as regretfully, "we would have made the feathers fly!"
It had not been too dark for the shade of the enemy to be perceived, so his skipper gave one of his earnest laughs, and replied:
"You mean wool, I reckon!"
* * * * *
LOG-ROLLING TO SAVE LIVES.
It was in the spring after the deep snow of 1831, that three or four lumbermen, who had built a large flatboat for carrying a cargo to New Orleans, were on the Sangamon River, trying the rowboat, or scow, to accompany the vessel. The river was very high and on the run. Two of the men leaped into the boat to get the drink for being the first in, and sent her out into the current. They were unable to stem it and row back. Lincoln shouted for them to head up and try the sleeping, or dead water, along shore. But they were mastered, and paddled for a wrecked boat, which had a pole sticking up. But though the man who grabbed for it secured his hold, the boat was capsized and the other was flung into the tide.
Lincoln, as captain, shouted out to him:
"Carman, swim for that elm-tree down there! You can catch it! Keep calm. Lay hold of a branch."
The tree was at a convenient height, and Carman caught on and swung himself out; but the icy water chilled him to the bone. But he was safe for the present, seeing which the captain called out to the other to let go his pole and let himself be carried down to the tree, also. If he hung on in the open there much longer, he would become stiff and unable to swim. The man managed to reach his mate, and the two were joined at the tree.
The manager of the rescue found a log and, attaching a rope, rolled it into the stream, with the help of others who had arrived on the scene. They towed it up some distance to get a good send-off, and a young daredevil got on it with the intention of being floated down to the tree, where all three would become passengers and be drawn home. But in his haste to do so, Jim Dorrell raised himself off his log by the branch he grasped and, along with the other unfortunates, made three men to be saved.
When the riderless log was hauled up inshore, Lincoln mounted it to make the next cast in person. Having an extra rope with him, he lassoed the tree and soon drew the log up. Cold as they were, the three men dropped down and straddled beside him. At his orders the men on the bank held the rope taut, so that the log, allowed to swing off freely, slung around with the current to the side, and the four were disembarked. This made Abraham the hero of the Sangamon River among the boatmen.
(Narrated by John Rolls, of New Salem, a witness.)
* * * * *
LINCOLN'S FIRST DOLLAR.
As in all farming communities, where the only movement of currency is when the crop comes in and the debts accumulating during the growth are settled and the slight surplus spent, the Indiana pioneers little knew "extra" cash. To obtain it, the men used their off hours in guiding intending settlers, assisting surveyors and prospectors, felling and hewing trees, and horse-trading. Another source of income out of bounds was to send a stock of produce down the river to sell or barter for the Southern plantation produce. As there was talk at home of furnishing their house, Abraham bethought him of this resource. His father consented readily to any notion that might result in gain, and his mother, though believing nearly two thousand miles of water travel onerous, allowed her "yes." Besides, the young man, by excessive work on their place, had piled up a goodly stock of salable stuff. Abraham had only to make a boat. It was small, merely to hold the "venture" and his hand-bundle of "plunder" for the trip and land cruise at New Orleans. Western country boys who had seen the Crescent City talked of the exploit as the Easterners of seeing Europe.
Abe was maneuvering his boat on the Ohio River, at Rockport, when he heard the whistle announcing the approach of a steamboat. These craft were not enabled to make a landing anywhere, even with a run-out gang-plank—but took passengers and parcels aboard by lighters. Lincoln's small boat seemed admirably placed to serve as a transport to a couple of gentlemen who came down to the shore to ship on the steamboat. Their trunks were taken out of their carriages, and they selected Lincoln's new boat among some others. In his homespun, the gawky youth looked what he was—not the owner of the craft and about to try a speculation on the river, but one of the "scrubs." The "scrubs," not from any relation with washing—quite otherwise—were those poor families on the outskirts of towns who lived in the scrub or dwarfed pines. Accordingly one of them asked, indicating the flatboat:
"Who owns this?"
The hero relates the story thus:
"'I answered, somewhat modestly: 'I do!'
"'Will you take us and our trunks out to the steamboat?'
"'Certainly,' glad of the chance of earning something. I supposed that each of them would give two or three bits—practically the dime of nowadays."
Lincoln carried the passengers aboard the vessel and handed up their trunks. Each of the gentlemen drew out a piece of silver and threw it on the little deck.
"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 believe my eyes as I picked up the two silver half-dollars. I could scarcely credit that I, a poor boy, had earned a dollar in less than a day—that by honest work, I had earned a dollar!" (Lincoln's flatboatman wage was $10 a month.)
(Related by Frank B. Carpenter, the portrait-painter, as given out by President Lincoln to a party of friends in the White House executive chamber, Secretary Seward, notably, being among them.)
* * * * *
CONVICTION THROUGH A THRASHING.
In 1831, Abraham Lincoln, returning from a voyage to New Orleans, paid the usual filial visit to his father, living in Coles County. A famous wrestler, one Needham, hearing of the newcomer's prowess in wrestling, more general than pugilism on the border, called to try their strength. As the professional was in practise, and as the other, from his amiable disposition and his forbidding appearance was not so, the latter declined the honor of a hug and the forced repose of lying on the back. Nevertheless, taunted into the trial, he met the champion and defeated him in two goes. The beaten one was chagrined, and vented his vexation in this defiance:
"You have thrown me twice, Lincoln, but you cannot whip me!"
"I do not want to, and I don't want to get whipped myself," was the simple reply.
"Well, I 'stump' you to lick me!" went on Needham, thinking he was gaining ground. "Throwing a man is one thing and licking him another!"
"Look here, Needham," said the badgered man, at last, "if you are not satisfied that I can throw you every time, and want to be convinced through a thrashing, I will do that, too, for your sake!"
The man "backed out." But he was ever afterward one of the champion's warmest friends.
* * * * *
BOATING ON GROUND "A LEETLE DAMP."
In a letter of August, 1862, the President alludes to the amphibious minor navy, which made their tracks "wherever the ground was a little damp." This is hardly an exaggeration of Western shallow-water navigation. Lincoln, as pilot on the Sangamon River in 1831, was engaged to run a steamboat called the Talisman, after Sir Walter Scott's popular romance. It was to test the point whether the Sangamon River was navigable or not, an important local problem on which Lincoln, later, got into the legislature. As he had "tried" the river a good deal with the flatboats, he answered, he would try and do the best he could. A large crowd flocked in from all sides to witness the experiment. Lincoln guided the bark well up to the New Salem dam. Here a gap had been cut to let the vessel slip through. But at a place called Bogue's Mill, the water was rapidly lowering, and they had to wheel about and get back, or be shoaled and be held there until the spring freshets. The return trip was slow, as, though the stream was in his favor, the high prairie wind delayed the boat. The falling water had made the broken hole in the dam impracticable. But Lincoln backed the Talisman off as soon as she stranded and stuck; and, by casting an anchor so as to act as a gigantic grapnel, to tear away some more of the dam, the opening sufficed for the boat to "coast" on the stones and get over into deep water. "I think," says an old boatman—J. R. ("Row") Herndon—"that the captain gave Lincoln forty dollars to keep on to Beardstown. I am sure I got that!"
* * * * *
THE INITIATOR INSTALLED.
As a fruit of incessant study Abraham Lincoln fitted himself to accept the post of clerk at Offutt's store, in New Salem, in 1831. It was a responsible position, requiring strict honesty, intelligence, glib talk, attention, and courtesy to the few dames in the population of twenty households, "with the back settlement to hear from." In fact, Lincoln's gifts and cultivated acquirements made him such a favorite that the list of customers from out of town was extensive. This promotion of a newcomer nettled the bad element of the region. They were located from congeniality in a suburb termed Clary's Grove. Like the tail which undertakes to wag the dog, this tag constituted itself the criterion and proposed "initiating" any accession to the inhabitants. To take the conceit out of the upstart who had leaped from the flatboat deck to behind the counter at the store—the acme of a bumpkin's ambition—they selected their bully. This Jack Armstrong was held so high by Bill Clary, "father" of the Grove boys, that he bet with Offutt, over-loud in praise of his help, that Jack could beat Abe, "and your Abe has got to be initiated, anyway!"
Abraham refused under provocation to have anything to do with "rough-and-tumble" fighting—as also known as "scuffle and tussle," and "wooling and pulling"—in short, these agreeable features promise to include all brutalities save gouging, which was unfashionable so far to the North. But a man could not live quietly on the frontier without showing to such ruffians that his hands could shield his head. For the honor of the store, the clerk had to stand up to the opponent.
The bout came off. In the first attack, Lincoln lifted the foe, though heavier, clean off his feet, but he was unable to lay him down in the orthodox manner, consisting in placing him flat on his back, with both shoulder-blades denting the earth. The semi-victor amicably said: "Let's quit, Jack! You see I cannot give you the fall—and you cannot give it me."
The gang shouted for a resumption of the "sport," thinking this was weakness of the competitor. They joined again, but Armstrong, having his doubts, resorted to foul play—kicking or "legging," as the localism stands. Indignantly, Lincoln drew him up again and shook him in mid-air as a terrier does a rat. The rowdies, seeing their champion bested, shouted for him to make a fight of it, and probably they would have "mixed in" and made a "fight for all" in another minute. But Jack had his doubts set at rest as to the prospect of overcoming a man who could hold him out and off at arm's length; and, begging to be set down, grasped his antagonist's hand in friendship and proclaimed him the best man "who had ever broke into" that section. The two became friends, and the gang gradually dwindled by this recession from their ranks of their Goliath.
* * * * *
THE HORRORS FOR THE THIRD TIME!
When Abraham Lincoln was a poor young lawyer from Springfield, attending the perambulatory court down at Lewiston, Illinois, he found the place crowded by a Methodist meeting as well as the court having an attractive case to try. He was obliged—because of exclusion from the inn—to put up at the sheriff's house. Mrs. Davidson herself could only offer him shares with Mr. Stephen A. Douglas, also a rising man, and Peter Cartwright, the noted preacher—on the floor, but on a feather bed. At that period the wild goose flew low. It may be supposed that the student of Shakespeare might quote "When shall we three meet again?" on rising between the famous border worthies in the dawn. The hospitality was so refreshing that the trio spent the next night there. They sat up by the large fireside, capping stories. The enmity of lawyers, and even of politicians, is but skin-deep, and Steve and Abe clashed not at all to meet the minister's reproof. Lincoln rocked while story-telling in a cane-bottomed chair, taken from the steamboat celebrated in Spoon River annals as its first navigator. Lincoln was the more interested, as he had been boatman and pilot on his river, the Sangamon. In the 1820's, this toy boat, the Utility, struggled into the high water of Spoon River. It is a tributary of the Illinois. Now, though the county is named Fulton, none of the inhabitants knew anything about the inventor of steam navigation, and doubted that a steamboat existed near them. Hence the snorting, puffing, and clangor of the vessel as she surged against the freshet, alarmed all the population in hearing when she ascended the virgin Spoon.
One Sam Jenkins had been on a spree for a week, and even he was roused by the tremendous sound. As he rushed from his cabin, by the terrific blaze from the high smoke-stack and the furnace burning pitch-pine, he sank onto his shaking knees and yelled:
"Boys, I have got 'em for the third time! It is all up with me!"
* * * * *
THE WHISTLE THAT STOPPED THE BOAT.
Lincoln was pitted, as a lawyer, against a brother of the toga who was of fat and plethoric habit, and who puffed and blowed when most he wished to get on with his speech. The wag said:
"The gentleman reminds me of a little steamboat I knew about on the Spoon River. She had been equipped with a whistle disproportionate to her capacity of steam-power, and every time she blew off it stopped the boat!"
* * * * *
IT IS THE DEED, NOT THE DOER.
By one of those unaccountable contradictions which disturb one's calculations upon women's conduct, the fair sex "took to" him with extraordinary kindness, though he always remained shy in their presence. This favor on their part was fortified by his striking honesty in little points which the close-seeing feminine eye never misses. To cap the climax he defended the purity of social order with a rarity in those quarters sufficient to single him out. Not that the roughest Westerner was not excessively gallant, but his restrictions in the ladies' presence did not always curb his proneness to "tall talk."
Once in the way, a loafer hanging about in the store, and having paid only attention to the dram counter, the necessary concomitant of the village center, became garrulous, but unfortunately more than seasoned the flow with a profanity tolerably rich in variety if not distinguished for refinement; he was of the Clary's Grove genus. As there was a crowd at the "ladies' department," that is, the dry-goods and finery, where it happened Lincoln was commonly besieged, the language was resented by woman's weapons—tosses of the head, affected deafness, glances into the future, and so on, but the clerk resented it in another way. He bade him be silent.
Now, the fellow thought, with his kind, that he was entitled to exhale the breath which was strengthened by the strong waters vended here, and expressed himself more foully than before.
He had a resentment against the clod rising to be a flower of courtesy, and here was his opportunity to satisfy the grudge, and before an audience timid and not apt to intervene.
Singularly, the men who most despise women are the ones who seek to have her applause. He wished to see the man who would stop him from uttering his sentiments. He was answered that his business would be attended to, as soon as the offended ladies had withdrawn.
The undesired witnesses took the hint and quitted the store. Thereupon the long-limbed clerk verified the taunt of "counter-jumper" by clearing it at a bound. "Will you engage not to repeat that rowdy (blackguard) talk in the store while I am the master, and leave instanter?"
The bully protested in a torrent of unrepeatable words.
"I see," said the champion of decency, "you want a whipping, and I may as well give it you as any other man."
And he forthwith administered the correction; not only did he drag him outdoors, but laid him out so senseless that nothing less than the border finish of a knock-down and drag-out encounter—the rubbing the conquered man's eyes with smart-weed—revived him to beg for mercy, and a drink. The victor allowed him to rise, converted his appeal into mockery by offering plain water, which the brute applied solely to his doubly inflamed eyes, and sent him away in tears. But the shock had a reparative effect; he became a good neighbor, and a convert to temperance.
(This or a similar lesson to the village bully is testified to by an eye-witness of Sangamon, but resident of Viroqua, Wisconsin; his name is John White. He worked at chopping rails with the rail-splitter on more than one job.)
* * * * *
TURN OUT OR BE TURNED OUT.
Superintendent Tinker, of the W. U. T., says he heard Secretary Seward say to President Lincoln:
"Mr. President, I hear that you turned out for a colored woman on a muddy crossing the other day?"
"Did you?" returned the other laughingly. "Well, I don't remember it; but I always make it a rule, if people do not turn out for me, I will for them. If I didn't, there would be a collision."
* * * * *
THE BEST THING TO TAKE.
When Lincoln worked in and kept a grocery-store, it was flanked by a groggery and he had to supply spirits, but from that fact he saw the evils of the saloon and early identified himself with the novel temperance movement. In 1843, he joined the Sons of Temperance. While he said he was temperate on theory, it was not so—he was practically abstinent. Not only did he lecture publicly, but, at one such occasion, he gave out the pledges. In decorating a boy, Cleophas Breckenridge, with a badge, after he took the pledge, he said:
"Sonny, that is the best thing you will ever take."
* * * * *
DRINKING AND SWALLOWING ARE TWO THINGS.
It has been stated that Lincoln, after reigning at the village store, had become the idol of the settlement. A stranger to whom he was shown was not properly impressed. One of the clerk's friends, William Greene, bragged that his favorite was the strongest man in the township—this was not affecting the critic—and even went on: "The strongest in the country!"
"H'm! not the strongest in the State!" denied the stranger. "I know a man who can lift a barrel of flour as easily as I can a peck of potatoes."
"Abe, there, could lift two barrels of flour if he could get a hold on them."
"You can beat me telling 'raisers', but—"
"Taking a lift out of you or not, I am willing to bet that Abe will lift a barrel of spirits and drink out of the bunghole to prove he can hold it there!"
"Impossible! What will you lay on the thing?"
They made a wager of a new hat—the Sunday hat of beaver being still costly.
Greene was betting unfairly—on a sure thing—as he had seen his friend do what he asserted, all but the drinking flourish. Lincoln was averse to the wagering at all, but to help his friend to the hat, he consented to the feat. He passed through it, lifting the cask between his two hands and holding the spigot-hole to his lips while he imbibed a mouthful. As he was slowly lowering the barrel to the floor, the winner exclaimed jubilately:
"I knew you would do it; but I never knew you to drink whisky before!"
The barrel was stood on the floor, when the drinker calmly expelled the mouthful of its contents, and drolly remarked:
"And I have not drunk that, you see!"
As a return for his action to win the hat, he asked Greene not to wager any more—a resolve which he took to oblige him.
* * * * *
WORSTED IN A HORSE-TRADE.
Until Lincoln—seeing that his decisions created enemies, whichever way they fell—renounced being umpire for horse-racing and the like events, momentous on the border, he officiated in many such pastimes. Before he found them "all wrong," he had a horsy acquaintance in a judge. This was at a time when he was practising law, which involved riding on circuit, as the court went round to give sittings like the ancient English justices, attending assizes. During such excursions, they played practical jokes, naturally. Among their singular contests was a bet of twenty-five dollars—as forfeit if, in horse-swapping, the loser rejected the horse offered on even terms with the one he "put in." Neither was to know anything of the equine paragon until simultaneously exhibited.
As good sport was indicated where two such arrant jokers were in conflict, a vast throng filled the tavern-yard where the pair were to draw conclusions. At the appointed hour the court functionary dragged upon the scene a most dilapidated simulacrum of man's noblest conquest—blind, spavined, lean as Pharaoh's kind, creeking in every joint—at the same time that his fellow wagerer carried on under his long arm a carpenter's horse—gashed with adze and broadax, bored with the augur, trenched with saw and draw-knife—singed, paint, and tar-spotted, crazy in each leg of the three still adhering—in short, justifying Lincoln to reverse his cry at viewing the real animal:
"Jedge (for judge), this is the first time I ever got the worst of it in a hoss-trade!"
* * * * *
HOW MANY SHORT BREATHS?
In the nearest town to the Lincolns lived a man called "Captain" Larkins. He was short and fat, and consequently "puffing." He was logically fond of "blowing." For example, if he bought any object, he would proclaim that it was the best article of its sort in the settlement. His favorite orating-ground—in fact, the only theater for displays was the front of the village store, where, among the farmers who came in to dicker and purchase stores, he would dilate. Lincoln did not like the pompous little fellow whose rotund and diminutive figure was in glaring contrast to his own—a young man, but colossal, while his stature was augmented by his meagerness.
"Gentlemen," bawled Larkins, "I have the best horse in the county! I ran him three miles in two-forty each and he never fetched a long breath!"
"H'm!" interrupted Lincoln, looking down at the man panting with excitement; "why don't you tell us how many short breaths you drew?"
* * * * *
One of the committee appointed to acquaint Mr. Lincoln formally with the decision of the Chicago Presidential Convention of 1860 was Judge Kelly, a man of unusual stature. At the meeting with the nominee he eyed the latter with admiration and the jealousy the exceptional cherish for rivals. This had not escaped the curious Lincoln; he asked him, as he singled him out: "What is your height?"
"Six feet three. What is yours?"
"Six feet four." [Footnote: This will probably never be exactly settled now. Speaker Reed agreed with this statement. But Miss Emma Gurley Adams, in a position to know, published in the New York Press: "Mr. Lincoln told my father that he was exactly six feet three inches." This was at the end of his life. The contrariety of the assertions simply baffles one.]
"Then, sir, Pennsylvania bows to Illinois," responded the judge. "My dear sir, for years my heart has been aching for a President I could look up to, and I have found him at last in the land where we thought there were none but little giants."
(Stephen Douglas, leader of the Democratic party, was a pocket Daniel Webster and bearing the by-name of "the Little Giant.")
* * * * *
MEASURES AND MEN.
The earlier audiences at the White House were inspired by ludicrous ideas, far between patriotism and interest in the "tall Hoosier." The habitual attendants and guards soon discovered that the chief was an unrivaled host, adapting modes of reception to the differing kind of callers. He noticed once two young men who hung about the door, so that, sympathizing with the shy—for he had been wofully troubled by that feeling in his youth—he went over to the pair, and to make them feel at home, asked them to be seated while they looked on. But they didn't care for chairs. The shorter of the two stammered that he and his friend had a talk about the President's unusual height, and would the host kindly settle the matter, and see whether he were as tall as his excellency.
Lincoln had been scanning the competitor and, smiling, returned: "He is long enough, certainly. Let us see about that." He went for his cane [Footnote: Lincoln's cane. This was the cane he carried, instead of going armed. But he was forever leaving it anywhere about, so that, nine times out of ten, he went forth without it on his errant "browsing" around; and it was a wonder that this time he knew where to find it.] and, placing the ferule end to the wall, to act as a level, he bade the young man draw near and stand under. When the rod was carefully adjusted to the top of the head, Mr. Lincoln continued:
"Now, step out and hold the cane while I go under."
This comparison showed that the young man stood six feet three exactly. Lincoln's precise figure, too.
"Just my height," remarked the affable President to the herald of the match; "he guessed with admirable accuracy!"
Giving both a shake of the hand, he gave them the good-by warmly. He had seen that they were innocents and shrank from letting them know that they had unconsciously offended his dignity.
* * * * *
THE PRIZE FOR HOMELINESS.
In keeping with his proneness to jest at his own expense rather than lose a laugh, Lincoln is credited with telling the following story upon himself:
"In the days when I used to be on the circuit (law), I was accosted on the road by a stranger. He said: 'Excuse me, sir, but I have an article in my possession which belongs to you.' 'How is that?' I asked, considerably astonished.
"The stranger took a 'Barlow' from his pocket.
"'This knife,' said he, 'was placed in my hands some years ago with the injunction of the community, through its bearer, that I was to keep it until I struck a man homelier than I. I have carried it from that time till this. Allow me to say, sir, that you are fairly entitled to the testimonial.'"
* * * * *
HOW LONG LEGS SHOULD BE.
A quipster, harping on Mr. Lincoln's abnormal tallness, had the mishap to draw upon himself some quizzing; the President putting the non plus on him by asking:
"How long, then, ought a man's legs to be?"
The answer was given by the sphinx:
"Long enough to reach from his body to the ground."
* * * * *
John Sherman will be remembered as originator of the politicians' "cover" for electioneering activity, "I am going home to mend my fences." He was fresh from Ohio, but he included in his round of duties, on visiting the capital, an attendance of a Lincoln reception. He waited in the long file for his turn to shake hands, and, while doing so, wondered how he would be received. For the informal "function" was enlivened by the most untoward incidents, due to the host's simplicity, spontaneous acts and words, and the homelike nature of the scene. Truly enough, when his chance came, the meeting was eccentric.
Lincoln scanned him a moment, threw out his large hand, and said:
"'You're a pretty tall fellow, aren't you? Stand up here to me, back to back, and let's see which of us two is the taller!'
"In another moment I was standing back to back with the greatest man of his age. Naturally I was quite abashed by this unexpected evidence of democracy.
"'You are from the West, aren't you?' inquired Lincoln.
"'My home is in Ohio,' I replied.
"'I thought so', he said; 'that's the kind of men they raise out there!'"
* * * * *
"HARDSHIPS STRENGTHEN MUSCLES."
As in the old country, kings evade the tiresome features of receptions, after a time, by retiring and leaving the ceremony to be carried out by a deputy, so the daintier Presidents before the sixteenth one eluded the handshaking when possible. But, on the contrary, "the man out of the West" continued to the last, and the latest visitor had no reason to cavil at the grip being less hearty to him than the first comer. On visiting the army hospital at City Point, where upward of three thousand patients awaited his passing with enrapt respect, he insisted on no one being neglected. A surgeon inquired if he did not feel lamed in the arm by the undue exertion, whereupon he replied smilingly:
"Not at all. The hardships of my early life gave me strong muscles."
And as there happened to be in the yard, by the doorway, a chopping-block with the ax left stuck on the top as usual, he took it out, swung, and poised it to get the unfamiliar heft, and chopped up a stick lying handy. When he paused, from no more left to do, he held out the implement straight, forming one line with his extended arm, and not a nerve quivered any more than the helve or the blade. The workers, who knew what hard work was, gazed with wonder at what they could not have done for a moment. One of them gathered up the chips and disposed of them for relics to the sightseers who welcomed such tokens of the great ruler.
(An American visiting Mr. Gladstone's country seat, Hawarden, and seeing the premier chopping a tree for health's sake, observed humorously, having also seen Mr. Lincoln employed as above: "Your Grand Old Man is going in at the same hole ours went out!")
* * * * *
HE USED TO BE "GOOD ON THE CHOP."
In the beginning of 1865, the President was wont to pay visits to the James River, not merely to inspect the camps and the field-hospitals, but to have a peep at "the promised land"—that is, Richmond, still held by the rapidly melting and discouraged Southerners as the "Last Ditch." In one of his strolls he came upon a gang of lumbermen cutting up logs and putting up stockades and cabins for the wet weather. Joining one group he chatted freely with the woodmen and as one of themselves. Presently, he asked for the loan of an ax. The man hesitating, since his blade had just been fine-edged, he explained that he was one of the Jacks and "used to be good on the chop." Then seizing the arm with familiarity he attacked a big log and, using it as a broad-ax, shaped the rough-hewn sides till it was a perfect slab. He handed back the tool and stalked off amid cheers.
* * * * *
A MAN WHO CAN SCRATCH HIS SHINS WITHOUT STOOPING.
One of the want-to-knows had the impertinence to inquire of Mr. Lincoln his opinion of General Sheridan, not yet known, who had come out of the West early in 1864, to take command of the cavalry under General Grant as lieutenant-general.
"Have you not seen Sheridan?" The answer was in the negative. "Then I will tell you just what kind of a chap he is: One of those long-armed fellows, with short legs, that can scratch their shins without having to stoop over to do it!"
* * * * *
STRUCK BY THE DEAD HAND.
Edwin Booth, the tragedian, brother of the regicide Wilkes, was at a friend's house. By the purest chance, dallying over the knickknacks, he picked up a plaster-cast of a hand. It was something more than a paper-weight, he was intuitively prompted, for he said, handling it reverently as Yorick's relict:
"By the way, whose is this?"
Before the cue could be given to hush or utter a subterfuge, some one blurted out:
"Abraham Lincoln's! Don't you know?"
"The murder was out!" and the distinguished guest, who suffered a long term for a crime wholly out of his ken, was silent for the evening.—(W. D. Howells.)
* * * * *
THIS CLINCHES IT.
A party accompanying the President to the ground to see experiments with new ordnance in the Navy Yard, in 1862, were diverted by his taking up a ship-carpenter's ax from its nick in a spar, and holding it out by the end of the handle; a feat that none of the group could imitate.
He said that he had enough of the Dahlgreens, Columbiads, and Raphael repeaters—and that this was an American institution, which, "I guess, I understand better than all other weapons!"
* * * * *
LINCOLN'S FIRST LOVE-STORY.
In 1833, when Abraham was just over twenty, he fell in love with Anne, or Annie Rutledge, at New Salem. Her father kept the tavern where Lincoln boarded. But the girl was engaged to a dry-goods merchant, named McNeil. This man, pretending to be of a high old Irish family, likely to discountenance union to a publican's daughter, shilly-shallied, but finally went East to get his folks' consent. He acknowledged that he was parading under borrowed plumes, as he was a McNamara in reality. He stayed away so long that the maid-forlorn gave him up and listened to other suitors. Lincoln proposed, but waited till the apparent jilt was heard from. Then they were espoused. But a block to the match came in Lincoln having no position. Awaiting his efforts as a law student, the wedding was postponed; but, meanwhile, death came quick where fortune lagged. She died and left her lover broken-hearted. He seems then to have been smitten with the brown study afflicting him all his life, and by some, like Secretary Boutwell, affirmed to be independent of the surrounding grounds for depression and grief. Fears of suicide led his friends to watch him closely; and he was known to go and lie on the grave of the maid, whose name he said would dwell ever with him, while his heart was buried with her. The rival, McNamara, returned too late to redeem his vow, but lived in the same State many years, "a prosperous gentleman."
* * * * *
A PUT-UP JOB—OR CHANCE?
The ways of the petitioner are deep and mysterious. The Virginia (Illinois) Enquirer, March 1, 1879, had the following:
"John McNamer (Namara?) was buried last Sunday, near Petersburg, Menard County. He was an early settler and carried on business at New Salem. Abe Lincoln was the postmaster there and kept a store. It was here that, at the tavern, dwelt the fair Annie Rutledge, in whose grave Lincoln wrote that his heart was buried. As the story runs, the fair and gentle Annie was John's sweetheart, but Abe took 'a shine' to her, and succeeded in heading off Mac, and won her affections. During the war, a Kentucky lady went to Washington with her daughter to procure her son's pardon for being a guerrilla. The daughter was a musician. Sitting at the piano while her mother was sewing, she sang 'Gentle Annie.' While it was being charmingly rendered, Abe rose from his seat, crossed the room to a window, and gazed out for several minutes with that sad, 'far-away' look noticed as one of his particularities. When he returned to his seat he wrote a note which, as he said, was the pardon besought. The scene proves that Mr. Lincoln was a man of fine feelings, and that, if the occurrence was a put-up job on the lady's part, it accomplished the purpose all the same."
* * * * *
In 1839, another Kentucky belle [Footnote: Addressing Kentuckians in a speech made at Cincinnati, in 1859, Lincoln said: "We mean to marry our girls when we have a chance; and I have the honor to say I once did have a chance in that way."] arrived in Illinois to follow the steps of her sister, who had found a conquest there. This Mrs. Edwards introduced Miss Mary Todd, and she became the belle of the Sangamon bottom. Lincoln was pitted against another young lawyer, afterward the eminent Stephen A. Douglas, but, odd as it appears, Miss Todd singled out the Ugly Duckling as the more eligible of the two. Whatever the reason—strange in a man knowing how to bide his time to win—Lincoln wrote to the lady, withdrawing from the contest, allowed to be hopeless by him. His friend Speed would not bear the letter, but pressed him to have a face-to-face explanation. The rogue—who was in the toils himself, and was shortly wedded—believed the parley would remove the, perhaps, imaginary hindrance. But Miss Todd accepted the deliverance; thereupon they parted—but immediately the reconciliation took place. The nuptials were settled, but here again Lincoln displayed a waywardness utterly out of keeping with his subsequent actions. He "bolted" on the wedding-day—New-year's, 1841. Searching for him, his friends—remembering the fit after the Rutledge death— found him in the woods like the Passionate Pilgrim of ancient romance. Luckily he was inspirited by them with a feeling that an irrepressible desire to live till assured that the world is "a little better for my having lived in it." Seeing what ensued, one could say then "Good Speed!" to his bosom friend of that name. But this friend married in the next year, and in his cold loneliness so doubled, Lincoln harked back to the flame. She ought never to have forgiven him for the slight, but it was not possible for her to repay him with poetic justice by rejoicing Stephen A. Douglas, as that gentleman had looked elsewhere for matrimonial recompense. Lincoln and Miss Todd, in 1842, renewed the old plight and never again were divided.
* * * * *
THE BURLESQUE DUEL.
Lincoln was plunged willy-nilly into the society he shunned at home, on entering the legislature at Springfield. A newspaper there published the account—from her side—of a young lady's difference with a noted politician, General James Shields. He married a sister of Lincoln's wife, and there was a feud between them. Shields flew to the editor to demand the name of the maligner, as he called the correspondent, or the editor must meet him with dueling weapon—or his horsewhip. In the Western States the whip was snapped at literary men as the cane was flourished in England at the date, 1842.
The editor consulted with Lincoln as a lawyer and a friend. With his enmity as to Shields, the friend promptly advised him to say "I did it!" This was, in fact, sheer justice, for it was Lincoln's wife who uttered the articles. And, by the way, their style and rustic humor were much in the vein of the "Widow Bedott" and the "Samantha" papers of later times. Mrs. Lincoln was not the mere housekeeper the scribes accuse her of being. Lincoln knew what was her value when he read his speeches first to her for an opinion, as Moliere courted his stewardess for opinions. Sumner heeded her counsel.
Abraham championed the mysterious "Aunt 'Becca," who had characterized Shields as "a ballroom dandy floating around without heft or substance, just like a lot of cat-fur where cats have been fighting." Is not this quite Lincolnian?
Thus put forward, Lincoln received a challenge.
Trial by battle-personal still ruled. The politicians coupled with the necessity of going out with weapons to maintain an assertion in speech or publication were Jefferson Davis, Jackson, the President; Henry Clay, the amiable; Sam Houston, Sergeant S. Prentiss, etc.
Shields naturally challenged the lady's champion. As the challenged party, Lincoln, who had cooled in the interim, not only chose broadswords (not at all "the gentleman's arm in an affair of honor"), but, what is more, descanted on the qualities of the cutlas in such a droll manner and words that the second went off laughing. He imparted his unseemly mirth to his opponent's seconds, and all the parties concerned took the cue to soften down the irritation between two persons formerly "chums," and relatives so close.
The meeting took place by the river-side out of Alton, where the leaking out of the gallantry of Lincoln in taking up the cudgels for the lady led to an explanation, although no such enlightenment ought to be permitted on the ground. Besides, all was ludicrous—the broadswords intolerably broad.
The principals shook hands. But the plotters were not content with this peaceful ending. They had determined that the outside spectators on the town side of the river should be "in at the (sham) death." They rigged up a log in a coat and sheet like a man wounded and reclining in the bottom of a boat, and pretended it was one of the duelists, badly stricken, whom they were escorting to town for surgical assistance. The explosion of laughter receiving the two principals when the hoax was revealed caused the incident to be a sore point to both Lincoln and Shields.
* * * * *
"WANTING TO DANCE THE WORST WAY."
A Miss Mary Todd had come to visit a sister married in the neighborhood of Springfield. Lincoln was there as a member of the legislature sitting. He had eschewed society, though he liked it, in favor of study, but now rewarded himself for achieving this fruit of application by joining the movements around him. He made the acquaintance of Miss Todd, vivacious, sprightly, keenly insighted so as to divine he would prove superior in fate to Stephen Douglas, also courting her. Although unsuited by nature and his means to shine in the ballroom, Lincoln followed his flame thither. Using the vernacular, he asked for her hand, saying earnestly:
"Miss Todd, I should like to dance with you the worst way."
After he had led his partner to her seat, a friend asked how the clumsy partner had carried himself.
"He kept his word. He did dance the worst way!"
* * * * *
"THE STATUTE FIXES ALL THAT!"
Even Lincoln's marriage was to be accompanied by a diversion of that merry imp of incongruity always with him—as Shakespeare's most stately heroes are attended by a comic servant. He married Miss Mary Todd, of Kentucky, at Springfield, at the age of thirty-three. It was the first wedding performed with all the ceremonial of the Episcopalian sect. This was to the awe of the Honorable Judge Tom C. Brown, an old man, and friend and patron of our Abraham. He watched the ecclesiastical functionary to the point of Lincoln's placing the ring on his bride's finger, when the irate old stager exclaimed at the formula: "With this ring I thee endow with all my goods," etc.
"Grace to Goshen! Lincoln, the statute fixes all that!"
* * * * *
HE DID NOT KNOW HIS OWN HOUSE.
In 1842 Abraham Lincoln married Miss Mary Todd, a Kentucky lady, at Springfield, where he took a house for the wedded life. Previously, while qualifying for the bar, he had dwelt for study over a furniture-store.
On account of his attending the traveling court, which compelled a horse, since he could not afford the gig associated with the chief lawyers' degree of respectability, he was frequently and for long spells away from home. In one of these absences his wife deemed it fit for his coming dignity of pleader to have a second story and roof of a fashionable type set upon the old foundations. Under a fresh coat of paint, too, this renovation perplexed the home-comer when he drew up his horse before it. At the sound of the horse's steps he knew that some one was flying to the parlor window, but, affecting amazement, he challenged a passer-by:
"Neighbor, I feel like a stranger here. Can you tell me where Abraham Lincoln lives? He used to live here!"
* * * * *
THE ONLY ONE WHO DARED "PULL WOOL OVER LINCOLN'S EYES."
While Mr. Lincoln was living in Springfield, a judge of the city, who was one of the leading and most influential citizens of the place, had occasion to call upon him. Mr. Lincoln was not overparticular in his matter of dress, and was also careless in his manners. The judge was ushered into the parlor, where he found Mr. Lincoln sprawled out across a couple of chairs, reclining at his ease. The judge was asked to be seated, and, without changing his position in the least, Mr. Lincoln entered into conversation with his visitor.
While the two men were talking, Mrs. Lincoln entered the room. She was, of course, greatly embarrassed at Mr. Lincoln's offhand manner of entertaining his caller, and, stepping up behind her husband, she grasped him by the hair and twitched his head about, at the same time looking at him reprovingly.
Mr. Lincoln apparently did not notice the rebuke. He simply looked up at his wife, then across to the judge, and, without rising, said:
"Little Mary, allow me to introduce you to my friend, Judge So-and-so."
It will be remembered that Mrs. Lincoln's maiden name was Mary Todd, and that she was very short in stature.—Leslie's Monthly.
* * * * *
THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT.
The contrast between the statures of the Lincolns, man and wife, was palpable, but this hardly substantiates the story of the President appearing with his wife on the White House porch in response to a serenade, and his saying:
"Here I am, and here is Mrs. Lincoln. That's the long and short of it!"
* * * * *
"ALL A MAN WANTS—TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!"
In one of his messages to Congress, the President foretold and denounced the tendency of wealth acquired in masses and rapidly by the war contractors and the like as "approaching despotism." He saw liberty attacked in "the effort to place capital on an equal footing with—if not above—labor in the structure of government." It is never to be forgotten that neither he nor his Cabinet officers were ever upbraided for corruption; [Footnote: It is true that Lincoln's first war minister, Simon Cameron, was accused of smoothing the way to certain fat war contracts, a wit suggesting Simony as the term, but no charges were really brought. Lincoln said that if one proof were forthcoming, he would have the Cameronian head—but Mr. Cameron died intact.] some, like Secretary Stanton, though handling enormous sums, died poor men comparatively. It is in accordance with this honesty of the "Honest Old Abe" rule that he said to an old friend whom he met in New York in 1859:
"How have you fared since you left us?"
The merchant gleefully replied that he had made a hundred thousand dollars in business. "And—lost it all!" with a reflection of Lincoln's and the Western cool humor. "How is it on your part?"
"Oh, very well; I have the cottage at Springfield, and about eight hundred dollars. If they make me vice-president with Seward, as some say they will, I hope I shall be able to increase it to twenty thousand. That is as much as any man ought to want!"
* * * * *
"I'LL HIT THE THING HARD!"
In Coffin's "Lincoln," it is stated that when Lincoln and Offutt, boating to New Orleans, attended a slave auction for the first time, the former said to his companion:
"By the Eternal, if ever I get a chance to hit this thing, I'll hit it hard!"
The oath was General-President Jackson's, and familiar as a household word at the day. The promise is premature in a youth of twenty. Herndon, twenty-five years associated with Lincoln, doubts, but says that Lincoln did allude to some such utterance. But it is Dennis Hanks, cousin of Lincoln, who affirms that they two saw such a sight, and that he knew by his companion's emotion that "the iron had entered into his soul."
In 1841 Lincoln and Speed had a tedious low-water trip from Louisville to St. Louis. Lincoln says: "There were on board ten or a dozen slaves shackled together with irons. That sight was a continual torment to me ... a thing which has and continually exercises the power of making me miserable."
But his acts show that he "hit the thing hard." It could not recover from the telling stroke which rent the black oak—the Emancipation Act.
* * * * *
THE "LEX TALIONIS" CHRISTIANIZED.
Frederick Douglass, the colored men's representative, called on the President to procure a pledge that the unfair treatment of negro soldiers in the Union uniform should cease by retaliatory measures on the captured Confederates. But his hearer shrank, from the bare thought of hanging men in cold blood, even though the rebels should slay the negroes taken.
"Oh, Douglass, I cannot do that! If I could get hold of the actual murderers of colored prisoners, I would retaliate; but to hang those who have no hand in the atrocities, I cannot do that!"—(By F. Douglass, in Northwestern Advocate.)
* * * * *
"You have among you the class of native tyrants known as the slave-dealer. He watches your necessities, and crawls up to buy your slave at a speculating price. If you cannot help it, you sell to him; but, if you can help it, you drive him from your door. You despise him utterly; you do not recognize him for a friend, or even as an honest man. Your children must not play with his; they may rolick freely with the little negroes, but not with the slave-dealer's children. If you are obliged to deal with him, you try to go through the job without so much as touching him. It is common with you to join hands with the men you meet; but with the slave-dealer you avoid the ceremony— instinctively shrinking from the snaky contact. If he grows rich and retires from business, you still remember him, and still keep up the ban of non-intercourse with him and his family."
"Those who deny the poor negro's natural right to himself and make mere merchandise of him deserve kickings, contempt, and death."—(Speech; Reply to Douglas, Peoria, Illinois, October 16, 1854.)
* * * * *
THE NEGRO HOME, OR AGITATION!
Lincoln was admitted to the law practise in 1837; he went into partnership with John F. Stuart. The latter elected to Congress, he united his legal talents with S. T. Logan's, a union severed in 1843, as both the associates were aiming to be congressmen also. Not being nominated, the consolation was in the courts, with Judge Herndon as partner. It was from this daily frequentation that the latter was enabled to write a "Life of Lincoln."
An old colored woman came to them for legal aid. Her case was a sad one. Brought from Kentucky, Lincoln's natal State, by a planter, Hinkle, he had set her and children free in Indiana, not fostering the waning oppression. Her son, growing up, had the rashness to venture on the steamboat down to New Orleans. His position was as bad as that of an Americanized foreigner returning into a despotic land. He was arrested and held for sale, having crossed a Louisiana law framed for such intrusions: a free negro could be sold here as if never out of bond. There was little time to redeem him, and Lincoln—whose view of the institution had not been enchanting—seized the opportunity to hit "and hit hard!" as he said in the same city on beholding a slave sale.
The office was in Springfield, the capital, and the state-house was over the way. While Lincoln continued to question and console the poor sufferer, his partner went over to learn of the governor what he could do in the matter. But there was no constitutional or even legal right to interfere with the doings of a sovereign State. This omission as regards humanity stung Lincoln, always tender on that score, and he excitedly vowed:
"By virtue of freedom for all, I will have that negro back—or a twenty years' agitation in Illinois, which will afford its governor a legal and constitutional right to interfere in such premises."
The only way to rescue the unfortunate young man was to make up a purse and recompense a correspondent at the city below, to obtain the captive and return him to his mother.
Such cases, of more often fugitive-slave matters, were not uncommon in the State. Lincoln was already linked with the ultras on the question, so that it was said by lawyers applied to, afraid as political aspirants:
"Go to that Lincoln, the liberator; he will defend a fugitive-slave case!"
* * * * *
On the 17th of September, 1862, the Confederate inroad into Maryland was stopped by the decisive defeat of Antietam, and the raiders were sent to the retreat. Lincoln called the Cabinet to a special meeting, and stated that the time had come at last for the proclamation of freedom to the slaves everywhere in the United States. Public sentiment would now sustain—after great vacillation, and all his friends were bent upon it.
"Besides, I promised my God I would do it. Yea, I made a solemn vow before God that, if General Lee was driven back from Pennsylvania, I would crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slave!"
It was remarked that the signature appeared tremulous and uneven, but the writer affirmed that that was not "because of any uncertainty or hesitation on my part."
It was done after the public reception, and "three hours' handshaking is not calculated to improve a man's chirography."
He said to the painter of the "Signing the Emancipation Act," Mr. Carpenter:
"I believe that I am about as glad over the success of this work as you are!"
The original was destroyed in the great fire at Chicago, where it was under exhibition. The pen and the table concerned should be in the Lincoln Museum. The ink-stand was a wooden one, in private hands, and bought at public sale when Lincoln relics were not at the current high price.
* * * * *
"DEN I TAKES TO DE WOODS!"
Secretary Seward, as manager of the foreign relations, met much trouble from the disposition of the aristocratic realms of Europe to await eagerly for a breach by which to enter into interference without quarreling. He was also a great trouble-maker, having the innate repugnance of men of letters and voice to play second fiddle—since he was nominated on the trial ballot above Lincoln in the Presidential Convention. The black speck in the political horizon was San Domingo; the Abolitionists wanted to help her to attain liberty, in which case Mother Spain would assuredly come out openly against the United States and consequently ally with the Confederacy.
The statement of the dilemma—side with Spain, or the black republic—reminded the President of a negro story, quite akin.
A colored parson was addressing his hearers and drew a dreadful picture of the sinner in distress. He had two courses before him, however. But the exhorter asserted in a gush of novelty that:
"Dis narrer way leads on to destruction—and dat broad one to damnation—"
Feeling he was overshooting the mark by the dismay among his congregation, he paused, when an impulsive brother started up with bristling wool and staring eyes, and, making for the door, hallooed:
"In dat case, dis chile he takes to de woods!"
Mr. President elucidated the black prospect.
"I am not willing to assume any new responsibilities at this juncture. I shall, therefore, avoid going to the one place with Spain or with the negro to the other—but shall take to the woods!"
A strict and honest neutrality was therefore observed, and—San Domingo is still a bone of contention, though not with Spain, for it is an eye on our canal.
* * * * *
THE UNPARDONABLE CRIME.
The mass of examples of Lincoln's leniency, mercifulness, and lack of rigor, lead one to believe he could not be inexorable. But there was one crime to which he was unforgiving—the truckling to slavery. The smuggling of slaves into the South was carried on much later than a guileless public imagine. Only fifty years ago, a slave-trader languished in a Massachusetts prison, in Newburyport, serving out a five years' sentence, and still confined from inability to procure the thousand dollars to pay a superimposed fine. Mr. Alley, congressman of Lynn, felt compassion, and busied himself to try to procure the wretch's release. For that he laid the unfortunate's petition before President Lincoln. It acknowledged the guilt and the justice of his condemnation; he was penitent and deplored his state—all had fallen away from him after his conviction. The chief arbiter was touched by the piteous and emphatic appeal. Nevertheless, he felt constrained to say to the intermediary:
"My friend, this is a very touching appeal to my feelings. You know that my weakness is to be, if possible, too easily moved by appeals to mercy, and if this man were guilty of the foulest murder that the arm of man could perpetrate, I might forgive him on such an appeal. But the man who could go to Africa, and rob her of her children, and sell them into interminable bondage, with no other motive than that which is furnished by dollars and cents, is so much worse than the most depraved murderer, that he can never receive pardon at my hands. No! he may rot in jail before he shall have liberty by any act of mine!"
* * * * *
BEYOND THE BOON.
The other slave-trade case is more tragic than the above.
It roused much excitement, as the conviction for slave-trading was the first under the special law in any part of the land. The object of the unique process was William Gordon. Sentenced to be hanged like a pirate, the most prodigious effort was made to have the penalty relaxed with a prospect that the term of imprisonment would be curtailed as soon as decent. It would seem that merchant princes were connected with the lucrative, if nefarious, traffic in which he was a captain. But the offense was so flagrant that the New York district attorney went to Washington to block mistaken clemency. He was all but too late, for the President had literally under his hand the Gordon reprieve. The powerful influence reached even into the executive study. Lawyer Delafield Smith stood firmly upon the need of making an example, and Mr. Lincoln gave way, but in despair at having to lay aside the pen and redoom the miserable tool to the gallows, where he was executed, at New York. "Mr. Smith," sighed the President, "you do not know how hard it is to have a human being die when you know a stroke of your pen may save him."
* * * * *
VAIN AS THE POPE'S BULL AGAINST THE COMET.
The potency of the Emancipation Act was so patent to the least politician that, long before 1863, when its announcement opened the memorable year for freedom, not only had its demonstration been implored by his friends, but some of his subordinates had tried to launch its lightning with not so impersonal a sentiment. To a religious body, pressing him to verify his title of Abolitionist, he replied:
"I do not want to issue a document that the whole world will see must necessarily be inoperative, like the pope's bull against the comet."
* * * * *
A VOLUNTEER CAPTAINCY WORTH TWO DOLLARS.
While he was a lumberer, Lincoln was in the employ of one Kirkpatrick, who "ran" a sawmill. In hiring the new man, the employer had promised to buy him a dog, or cant-hook, of sufficient size to suit a man of uncommon stature. But he failed in his pledge and would not give him the two dollars of its value for his working without the necessary tool. Though far from a grudging disposition, Lincoln cherished this in memory. When the Black Hawk War broke out and the governor called out volunteers, Sangamon County straightway responded and raised a company of rangers. This Kirkpatrick wished and strove to be elected captain, but Lincoln recited his grievance to the men, and said to his friend William Green (or Greene):
"Bill, I believe I can now make even with Kirkpatrick for the two dollars he owes me for the cant-hook."
Setting himself up for candidate, he won the post. It was a triumph of popularity which rejoiced him. As late as 1860, he said he had not met since that success any to give him so much satisfaction.
* * * * *
GETTING THE COMPANY COLUMN THROUGH "ENDWISE."
Captain Lincoln was drilling his men, marching the twenty or so "by the front," when he found himself before a gap in the fence through which he wanted to go.
He says: "I could not for the life of me remember the proper words of command—("By the right flank—file left—march.—Hardee's Tactics")—for getting my company endwise so that it could get through the gateway; as we came near the passage, I shouted:
"'Company, halt! break ranks! you are dismissed for two minutes, when you will fall in again on the other side of the gap!'"
* * * * *
REGULAR AND IRREGULAR.
In the Black Hawk War, Captain Lincoln came to cross-purposes with the regular army commissariat. The latter insisted on the fare and other service for the army being superior to what the Bucktail Rangers got; the latter, however, were empowered by the governor to forage rather freely, so that the settlers were said to fear more for their fowls through their protectors than from the Indians for their scalps. Once, when Lincoln's corps were directed to perform some duty which he did not think accrued to them, he did it. But he went to the army officer, to whom he reported, and said plainly:
"Sir, you forget that we are not under the orders and regulations of the War Department at Washington, but are simply volunteers under those of the governor of Illinois. Keep in your own sphere and there will be no difficulty! But resistance will be made to your unjust orders. Further, my men must be equal in all particulars to the regular army."—(William Greene, who was in the Rangers.)
* * * * *
KNOWING WHEN TO GIVE IN.
If you will refer to the table of the Presidents, you will see that Lincoln's origin is set down as "English." But with the noted English love of fair play is coupled the art of not knowing when a man is beaten. This descendant of John Bull differs from his ancestors on this head.
During the Black Hawk War, the soldiers in camp entertained themselves by athletic contests. The captain of the Sangamon company excelled all the others, regulars and volunteers, in bodily pastimes. This induced the men to challenge all the army, pitting Lincoln against the whole field, one down t'other come up! A man of another regiment, named Thompson, appeared, with whom the preliminary tussle to feel the enemy gave Lincoln a belief that he had tackled more than he could pull off this time. He intimated as much to his backers, who, with true Western whole-souledness, were betting not only all their money, but their "possibles" and equipment. Disbelieving him, though he had never shown the white feather, the first bout did terminate disastrously for Illinois. Lincoln was clearly "downed." The next, or settling bout, ended the same way—only Lincoln's supporters would not "see," and refused to pay up their bets. The whole company was about to lock horns on the decision, when Captain Lincoln spoke up:
"Boys, Thompson threw me fair and clean, and he did the same the next time, but not so clearly."
"In peace or in war," it was always the same "Honest Abe" of Sangamon.
* * * * *
A FRUITFUL SPEECH.
At the age of twenty, Lincoln was studying law in off hours, and used to walk over to Boonville, ten or twelve miles, the county court center, to watch how law proceedings were conducted. He was interested in one murder case, ably defended by John Breckenridge; in fact, Lincoln hanging around the court-room doors to see the lawyers come out, was impelled by his ingenuous admiration to hail him, and say:
"That was the best speech I ever heard." The advocate was naturally surprised at this frank outburst of the simple country lad. Years afterward, Breckenridge, [Footnote: Not the ex-vice-president and Confederate Cabinet officer of that name.] belonging to Texas, and having been an active Confederate, was in the position to implore the executive's clemency. It was granted him, while the donor reminded him of the far-off incident—which he still insisted included "the best speech I ever heard!" The beneficiary might have retorted that the plea for his own pardon was, in his mind, more effective in sparing a life.
* * * * *
A CAPTAIN CHALLENGED BY HIS MEN.
At the outset of the Black Hawk War, an outbreak of Indians in Illinois, the popularity of Abraham Lincoln induced the young men of the Sangamon Valley, in forming a company of mounted riflemen, to vote him as their captain. The forces were very irregular irregulars, did no fighting as a body, and were insubordinate to the last. Once it was in an ironically amusing manner. The commander had saved a friendly Indian from a beating, that being General Cass' order, as well as what his humanity prompted, though at the same time there had been Indian tragedy in his own family, and he had the racial Indian hatred in his blood. The mutineers threatened still to shoot the captive.
"Not unless you shoot me!" rejoined the taunted commander.
The men recoiled; but one voiced the general sentiment in:
"This is cowardly on your part, Lincoln, presuming on your rank!"
"If any of you think that, let him test it here and now!" was the reply, equally as oblivious of military decorum.
But they flinched, for he was larger and lustier than anybody else.
"You can level up," he said, guessing their reasoning; "choose your own weapons."
The more sane roared with laughter at this monstrous offer on the superior's part, and the good feeling was renewed between chief and file.
* * * * *
GENERAL McCLELLAN'S OPINION OF LINCOLN AS A LAWYER.
The whirligig of time brings about strange revenges, for a truth. General McClellan was chosen to visit the seat of the Crimean War to study the siege operations about Sebastopol. Returning and seeing no prospects in the air—of his professional line—he became superintendent of the Illinois Central Railroad Company. He was acting for its president in December, 1855, when a bill was laid under his eyes. It was the demand of Abraham Lincoln, of the law firm of Lincoln & Herndon, Springfield, Illinois.
The firm had offered in October to act for the company to defend a suit brought by McLean County. Lincoln had won it. To prevent any demurrer about the fee of one thousand dollars, a fourth of that having been paid for the retainer, he had six members of the bar append their names to testify the charge was usual and just. Nevertheless Superintendent McClellan refused to pay, alleging that:
"This is as much as a first-class lawyer would charge!"
You see, Mr. Lincoln was still but "the one-horse lawyer of a one-horse town."
* * * * *
KENTUCKIANS ARE CLANNY.
Senator John C. S. Blackburn, of the United States Supreme Court, began his life as a lawyer at the age of twenty. This should have won him sympathy in his first case. It was before Justice McLean. Opposed to Mr. Blackburn was the chief of the Chicago bar, I. N. Arnold, afterward member of Congress, and author of the first biography of Abraham Lincoln. Blackburn was a Kentuckian, but the stereotyped reputation for courage does not include audacity in a court of law. He was nervous with this first attempt and made a mull of his presentment, when a gentleman of the bar, rising, and extending a tall, ungraceful figure, intervened and laid down the case on the young Kentuckian's lines so feebly offered and entangled that the hearers might be glad to be so disembarrassed of a feeling for the novice floundering. The bench sustained Blackburn's demurrer. Arnold was so vexed that he objected to the volunteer intervener, whereupon the befriended man learned it was one Abraham Lincoln, as unknown to him as he was to fame. Lincoln defended himself against the senior's spite, by saying he claimed the privilege of giving a newcomer the helping hand. No doubt the fellow Stateship backed his prompting. —(Related by Judge Isaac N. Arnold, member of Congress.)
* * * * *
NOT TO BE THOUGHT OF!
It has been seen that creditors treated the struggling Lincoln with the utmost forbearance, countering the adage that "forbearance is not acquittance." He was given the occasion to show how he was neighborly when the turn came. A client of his was long deferring settlement when the lawyer met him by chance on the courthouse steps, at Springfield.
He accosted him cordially, and remarked about an accident that had befallen him.
Cogdale had been blown up by gunpowder and lost a hand. He began to apologize for the business delay, showing that he was crippled manually as well as in his pursuits.
Lincoln plainly expressed his sympathy and sorrow.
"I have been thinking about that note of yours," faltered the unhappy man.
The lawyer drew the paper in question out of his wallet and forced it upon him.
"It is not to be thought of!" replied he, laughing in his droll yet saturnine mode.
Cogdale honestly added that he did not know when he really could pay.
But the donee hurried away, saying:
"If you had the money, I would not take it out of your only hand!"
* * * * *
"SKIN WRIGHT AND CLOSE!"
In more than one event the Lincolnian snappy and headlong manner was the fruit of study and deliberation. Apparently holding aloof from politics after his return from Washington, in 1849, Lincoln was earning a great name at the bar. His popularity was the wider as he did not disdain poor clients and often won a case without permitting any remuneration. There came to Lincoln & Herndon's office one day a poor widow. She was entitled to a pension of four hundred dollars, but the agent, one Wright, who had drawn it for her, retained one-half as his fee. This greed so stirred Mr. Lincoln that he at once went to the agent to demand disgorging of the money. On refusal, a suit was instituted for the recovery.
At the trial, with his buoyancy, Lincoln said to his partner:
"You had better stay, and hear me address the jury, as I am going to skin Wright and get the money back."
He pleaded that there was no contract between the parties; that the man was not an authorized agent; his charge was unreasonable; he had never given the money due to the soldier's widow, but retained one-half. Next he expatiated on her husband, during the Revolutionary War, experiencing the hardships of the old Continentals at Valley Forge in the winter; barefoot in the deep snows; ill-clad against the rigors; their feet, cut by ice staining the ground, and so on.
The men in the box were also affected to tears, like the spectators, while the pension "shark" wriggled under the invectives. The verdict was in favor of the relict. Her advocate not only remitted his costs, but paid her fare home and for her stay in Springfield, so that she went off rejoicing.
Lincoln's partner had the curiosity to look at his brief, which concluded:
"Skin Wright! Close!"—(Related by Mr. Herndon, present at the trial.)
* * * * *
HOOKING HENS IS LOW!
Mr. Lincoln had assisted in the prosecution of a fellow who stole some fowls. The lawyer jogged homeward in the company of the jury foreman. He eulogized the young man for his good work in the prosecution, and, when the other returned the compliment by speaking warmly of the jury's prompt and speedy deliverance of the verdict, the fereman replied:
"Yaas, the vagabond ought to be locked up. Why, when I was young and pearter than I am now, I didn't mind packing a sheep or two off on my back—but stealing hens—faugh! It is low and shows what the country is coming to!"
* * * * *
"THE STATE AGAINST MR. WHISKY!"
When Lincoln was a briefless barrister, frequenting the courts on their own peregrinations, to catch the eye of client or judge, he was at Clinton, Illinois, where a case came up of a very modern nature. To be sure, "the Shrieking Sisterhood" was then invented for the advocates of female suffrage and anti-slavery. But these twelve or fifteen young women presented themselves in custody for a novel charge. They had failed to induce a liquor dealer to restrict his license, and "smashed" his wine-parlor incontinently. Although public sympathy was theirs for the act, as well as for their youth, prettiness, and sex, none of the lawyers would take up their defense on account of the influence of the brewers' and distillers' agent. In this emergency, Abraham Lincoln stepped into the breach and volunteered to defend the defenseless.