[Frontispiece: Portrait of James Garfield (missing from book)]
THE STORY OF GARFIELD
FARM-BOY, SOLDIER, AND PRESIDENT
By WILLIAM G. RUTHERFORD
THE SUNDAY SCHOOL UNION
57 AND 59 LUDGATE HILL, E.C.
I. THE FAR WEST II. THE PIONEERS III. A FIRE IN THE FOREST IV. THE FOUR SAPLINGS V. A RESTLESS SCHOLAR VI. MAN-MAKING VII. THE TWO BROTHERS VIII. HOUSE-BUILDING IX. FAITHFUL WORK X. THE ROPE THAT SAVED HIM XI. STRIKING OUT A NEW LINE XII. TEACHING AND LEARNING XIII. FINDING FRIENDS XIV. THE FIRST BLOW XV. DARK DAYS FOR THE UNION XVI. FOR FLAG AND COUNTRY XVII. WINNING HIS SPURS XVIII. FILLING THE GAP XIX. THE HOUR AND THE MAN XX. LOOKING BACK
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
PORTRAIT OF JAMES GARFIELD (missing) . . . . . . Frontispiece
THE TREES FELL BEFORE HIS AXE
TOM BORROWED A HORSE
SHE DRIED HER TEARS AND ASKED GOD TO SUPPORT HER
AN AMERICAN FARMSTEAD
THE CARPENTER SET ABOUT HIS TASK
HE NEVER TIRED OF READING
ON BOARD THE CANAL BOAT
NEGROES STOLEN FROM THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA WERE SOLD INTO SLAVERY
THE DEFENCE OF FORT SUMTER
GARFIELD AND HIS REGIMENT GOING INTO ACTION
MRS. JAMES GARFIELD
THE WHITE HOUSE
THE STORY OF GARFIELD.
THE FAR WEST.
The United States Sixty Years ago—The "Queen City" of the West—The Rush for New Lands—Marvellous Growth of American Cities.
Go to Liverpool or Glasgow, and embark on one of the great ocean steamers, which are constantly crossing the Atlantic. Sail westwards for about a week, and you will reach the eastern shores of the New World.
If you land at New York, you will find yourself in one of the largest cities on the face of the globe. You will also find the country largely peopled by the same race as yourself, and everywhere you will be addressed in your own language. You may travel for weeks from town to town, and from city to city, until you are lost in wonder at the vast and populous empire which English-speaking people have founded and built up on the other side of the Atlantic.
Where is the New World of fancy and fiction so graphically described in Indian stories and tales of backwoods life? And where are the vast prairies and almost boundless forests of sober fact, where the bear, the wolf, and the buffalo roamed at will—the famous hunting-grounds of the Red Indians and the trappers of the Old World?
Where is the "Far West" of song and story? Where are the scenes of Fenimore Cooper's charming descriptions, which have thrown a halo of romance over the homes of the early settlers who first explored those unknown regions?
For the most part they are gone for ever, as they appeared to the eyes of the pioneers and pathfinders, who wandered for weeks through the wilderness, without hearing the sound of any human voice but their own. Now on forest and prairie land stand great cities, equal in population and wealth to many famous places, which were grey with age before the New World was discovered. The trading posts, once scattered over a wide region, where Indians and white hunters met to barter the skins of animals for fire-water and gunpowder, have disappeared before the advances of civilisation, and the uninhabited wilderness of fifty years ago has become the centre of busy industries of world-wide fame and importance.
Sixty years ago, fifteen of the largest cities in the United States had no existence. They were not born. Living men remember when they were first staked out on the unbroken prairie, and the woodsman's axe was busy clearing the ground for the log huts of the first settlers who founded the cities of to-day.
At that period, Chicago, now a "Millionaire city," and the second in America, consisted of a little fort and a few log huts. There was scarcely a white woman in the settlement, and no roads had been constructed. The ground on which the great city now stands could have been bought for the sum now demanded for a few square feet in one of its busy streets.
No wonder the American people are proud of "the Queen City of the West." It stands far inland, a thousand miles from the ocean, and yet it is an important port on the shores of Lake Michigan, and steamers from London can land their cargoes at its quays. More than twenty thousand vessels enter and leave the port in one year. It is the greatest grain and provision market in the world.
It may with truth be said that in America cities rise up almost in a night-time. The forest and the prairie are one day out of the reach of civilisation, and the next they are one with the throbbing centres of life and progress. The railway, the means of communication, changes all as by a wizard's touch.
One day the news spread through a certain district, that two lines of railway were to cross at a certain point in the wilderness. Settlers at once crowded to the place, and next day the land was staked out in town lots, with all the details of streets, squares, and market-place. Soon afterwards, shanties were seen on the prairies, moving with all speed, on rollers, towards the new town. On the second day a number of houses were under construction, while the owners camped near by in tents. In a few months hundreds of dwellings had been erected, and a newspaper established to chronicle the doings of the inhabitants.
"The old nations of the earth creep on at snail's pace: the Republic thunders past with the rush of an express," says a recent American writer. "Think of it!" he continues; "a Great Britain and Ireland called forth from the wilderness, as if by magic, in less than the span of a man's few days upon earth."
This marvellous growth and rapid change from wilderness to cultivation must be known and understood by readers on this side of the Atlantic, they can appreciate the story of a Lincoln or a Garfield who began life in a log hut in a backwoods settlement in the Far West, and made their way to the White House, the residence of the ruler of an empire as large as the whole of Europe.
A New England Village—Hardships of Emigrants—The Widow Ballou and her Daughter Eliza—The Humble Dwelling of Abram Garfield—The Garfields and the Boyntons—The Removal to a New Home—The Wonderful Baby-Boy.
The early settlers from the Old World first peopled the eastern shores of the Atlantic, and founded the New England States, New York State, and the whole seaboard from Maine to Florida.
A New England village was a collection of log houses on the edge of a deep forest. Snow drifted into the room through the cracks in the walls, and the howling of wolves made night hideous around them. The children were taught in log schoolhouses, and the people worshipped in log churches.
Savage Indians kept the settlers in a state of continual fear. Sometimes they would suddenly surround a solitary house, kill all the inmates, and set fire to the dwelling. Again and again have the children been aroused from their sleep by the fearful Indian war-whoop, which was more dreaded than the howling of the wolves. Even women learned to use guns and other weapons, that they might be able to defend their homes from these savage assaults.
The log house villages grew into populous places, and the descendants of the "Pilgrims" were not always satisfied to remain in the cities founded by their forefathers. Wonderful stories were told in the towns of the amazing fruitfulness of the forest and prairie land out West, which induced large numbers to sell their property and set out on the tedious and adventurous journey.
Before the great lines of railway were constructed, which now stretch across the North American continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific, there was a constant stream of emigration from the East to the West. Large waggons carried the women and children, and the stores of necessary articles, which must be conveyed at all cost, for they could not be obtained in the localities to which the pioneers bent their steps.
Slowly the emigrant trains made their way through roadless regions. They had to ford rivers, wade through swamps, and cut paths through thick forests. Weeks, and even months, were spent on journeys which are now accomplished in less than twenty-four hours.
Numerous difficulties and manifold dangers beset the wanderers' path; yet, regardless of both, they pushed on with infinite courage and patience. Nor was the journey through the wilds without a tinge of romance to the younger and more adventurous spirits, who enjoyed the freedom they could not have in the towns and cities.
About eighty years ago, a widow and her family—a son and a daughter—packed up all their worldly possessions in an emigrant waggon, and started for the West. Widow Ballou made her home in the State of Ohio, which at that time was only peopled by a few scattered settlers. Five years afterwards, a young man named Abram Garfield started on the same journey. It is said that he was more anxious to renew his acquaintance with the Ballou family than to make his fortune. The widow's daughter Eliza was the attraction that drew him into the Western wilds.
On the third of February 1821, Abram Garfield and Eliza Ballou became man and wife, and their first home was a log cabin, which the young husband erected at Newburg, near Cleveland. It was an isolated spot, for Cleveland, the larger place, then consisted of a few log cabins, containing a population of about one hundred persons.
The humble dwelling of Abram Garfield and his young wife had but one large room. The three windows were of greased paper, a substitute for glass, and the furniture was home made and of the rudest description. Wood was the chief material used. There were wooden stools, a wooden bed, and wooden plates and dishes. A frying-pan, an iron pot, and a kettle, made up the list of utensils which were absolutely necessary.
Nine years passed away, during which the young couple were very happy in each other's love, and three children were added to their little family circle. Abram worked on the land, and was for a time employed in the construction of the Ohio and Pennsylvanian Canal. To provide for his growing family, the young husband then bought fifty acres of land, a few miles away from his first home. At the same time, Amos Boynton, who had married Mrs. Garfield's sister, also bought a tract of land in the same locality.
The two families removed to the new scene of their labours at the same time, and lived together in one log cabin, until they had erected a second dwelling. When this was done, the Garfields and the Boyntons settled down to reclaim the wilderness. They had to depend on each other for society, as their nearest neighbour lived seven miles away.
Garfield's new home was built of unhewn logs, notched and laid one upon another, to the height of twelve feet in front and eight feet behind. The spaces between the logs were filled with clay and mud, to keep out the wind and the rain. The roof was covered with boards, and the floor was made of logs, each split into two parts and laid the flat side up. A plank door and three small windows completed the primitive dwelling. There was but one large room on the ground floor, twenty by thirty feet, and a loft above, to which access was obtained by a ladder. In the loft were the straw beds on which the children slept.
The land which the pioneers had bought was part of the forest, and was therefore covered with timber. This had to be cleared away before the land could be brought into cultivation. Much hard work and steady application were needed to accomplish this purpose. Abram Garfield was a strong, well-made man, who shrank from no labour, however hard, and boldly faced every difficulty with a stout heart and a determined will. Early and late he toiled on his farm, cheered by the presence of his wife and children, who were all the world to him. The trees fell before his axe, and ere long he had room to sow his first crop. With a thankful heart he saw the grain ripen, and his first harvest was safely gathered in before the winter storms came on.
In January 1830 he removed to his new home, and in November 1831 his fourth child was born. This baby boy received the name of James Abram Garfield. Little did the humble backwoodsman dream that the name he lovingly gave his child would one day be on the lips of millions of his fellow-countrymen; that it would rank with those of princes, kings, and emperors; and that it would be linked for ever with the history of the United States of America.
A FIRE IN THE FOREST.
The Effects of Prairie Fires—How Abram Garfield saved his Crops—The sudden Illness and Death of Abram Garfield—The Grave to the corner of the Wheatfield.
One of General Sherman's veteran soldiers was once describing a prairie fire. When he had finished his story, he raised himself to his full six feet height, and with flashing eyes said, "If I should ever catch a man firing a prairie or a forest, as God helps me, I would shoot him down in his deed."
No wonder that the old soldier was fired with indignation when he thought of the terrible consequences which often resulted from such thoughtless or wanton proceedings. The loss to settlers is often appalling. The prairies, which in the day-time seem dry, dull, and uninteresting, give place at night to the lurid play of the fire fiend, and the heavens and horizon seem like a furnace. It is a grand, yet awful sight. Cheeks blanch as the wind sweeps its volume towards the observer, or across his track.
Full in the distance is seen the long line of bright flame stretching for miles, with its broad band of dark smoke-clouds above. Often it rages unchecked for miles and miles, where the cabins of the settlers have just been set up. No words can describe, no pencil paint, the look of terror when the settler beholds advancing towards him the devouring element. When it is first seen, all hands turn out, and a desperate attempt is made to overcome the common foe.
Sometimes a counter fire is started, which, proceeding from the settler's log house in the face of the wind, towards the grander coming volume, takes away its force, and leaves it nothing to feed upon. Then it dies away in that direction. In one instance an emigrant was travelling in a close covered waggon, when he was overtaken by the flames. In a moment, horses, family, waggon, and everything were destroyed, and scarcely a vestige remained of what had been.
Abram Garfield had successfully planted his second crop, which was nearly ready for the harvest, when he one day heard the terrible cry, "A fire in the forest." No one knew better than he did the meaning of those fearful words. Not a moment was to be lost, for he saw that it was coming in the direction of his little farm. He had no one to help him but his wife and his two eldest children, but they all set to work to save their home and the ripening crops.
Rapidly they threw up a bank of earth between the fields and the coming fire, and they so far succeeded that it swept round their homestead and continued its progress beyond.
After the long, hard fight with the fire, on a hot day in July, Mr. Garfield sat down on the trunk of a tree to rest. He had, however, conquered one enemy only to fall a victim to another. While sitting resting, and cooling himself in the open air, he caught a chill. That night he awoke in great pain, and his wife thought that he would die before help could be obtained.
In the early morning she sent her daughter Mehetabel for Uncle Boynton, and bade Thomas fetch their nearest neighbour. No doctor lived near, and the friends did all they could for the stricken man. Their efforts were in vain. Gradually he became weaker, and then without a struggle he passed away. His last words to his wife were: "I have planted four saplings in these woods; I must now leave them to your care."
Mrs. Garfield carried her burden of sorrow to that Heavenly Father whom she had learned to trust before the dark cloud of bereavement fell upon her heart and home. But for her confidence in God, and her belief that He would aid her to bring up her fatherless children, she might have given up in despair.
Far from churchyard or cemetery, the widow arranged to bury her dead in the plot of land he had saved from the fire, at the cost of his life. A rough wooden box was made to contain the remains of the brave husband and loving father, and a grave was dug in a corner of the wheatfield. Four or five neighbours, all who lived within a radius of ten miles, attended the funeral, and tried to cheer the hearts of the widow and orphans by sympathetic words and kind and thoughtful actions. Tenderly they bore the body of Abram Garfield to its last resting-place and committed it to the earth, without a prayer except the silent ones which no ear but God's heard.
Then they accompanied the bereaved ones back to their own desolate home. How desolate it was, none who read this book can fully realise. To be alone in the wilderness is an awful experience, which intensified the loss a hundred-fold.
THE FOUR SAPLINGS.
The Father's Dying Charge—Advised to give up the Farm—A Noble Resolve—Brave little Thomas—A Hard Time of Trial—The Harvest that saved the Family.
Mrs. Garfield had no time to nurse her sorrow. She knew that she must be up and doing, for she had to be both father and mother to her children. "The four saplings" which the dying father had committed to her care were so young that she could scarcely expect much assistance from them.
Winter was fast approaching, and the strong arm of the husband and father would have been severely taxed to supply all the wants of the family. Without the breadwinner there seemed to be nothing before them but starvation. Uncle Boynton was consulted, and he advised his sister-in-law to give up her farm and return to her friends. He said that she could not hope to carry it on alone, and by her unaided efforts support her children.
Mrs. Garfield saw how dark the future was, and yet she could not follow the advice so kindly given. She thought of the lonely grave in the wheatfield, and declared that nothing would induce her to move away from that sacred spot. She felt somehow that she derived comfort and support from the knowledge that she was near the dead husband, who had prepared this home for her and her children. Added to this feeling, there was the self-respect which independence always brings. She saw that if she sold her farm, which was only partly paid for, the money she received would be swallowed up in paying debts, and in the cost of the removal of her family. But this would leave her and her children homeless and penniless, and she decided to remain on the farm.
It was a noble resolve, and came from a brave heart. To remain meant years of hard work, years of patient endurance, years of quiet suffering and numberless privations; yet she calmly faced them all, that she might do her duty to her children, and faithfully discharge the trust imposed upon her. First, she sold a part of her farm, and with the money she paid her debts. Then, asking God to help her, she prepared to fight her way through the difficulties which beset her path.
Her eldest son, Thomas, was only eleven years old when his father died. Mehetabel, his sister, was twelve, a younger sister was seven, and James was not quite two. Thomas was a brave little fellow, and when his mother spoke to him about the work that would have to be done, he offered to undertake it all. Though a boy in years, he spoke and acted like a man.
That first winter, alone in the backwoods, was a terrible time. Snowstorms swept around the humble dwelling, and wolves howled in the forest during the long winter nights. Often the children lay awake in terror when they heard the fearful cries of the hungry animals, and knew that their brave protector was no longer there to defend them from danger.
As soon as spring came round once more, Thomas borrowed a horse from a neighbour, and went about the farm work as he had seen his father do. With the assistance of his mother and, his eldest sister, he planted wheat, corn, potatoes, and other vegetables. Then his mother helped him to fence the wheatfield which contained her husband's grave. With her own hands she brought wood from the forest and split it up into rails for that purpose. Then the whole of the cleared land, in which the log house stood, was fenced, and the patient workers waited for the harvest.
The waiting time is often the hardest to bear. Slowly but surely their little store of corn grew less and less. Fearing to run short before the harvest gave them a fresh supply, Mrs. Garfield carefully measured their slender stock, and as carefully doled out the daily allowance which alone would enable them to pull through.
She had no money to buy more, and therefore she gave up one meal a day for herself, that her children might not suffer from hunger. Still she found that there was barely sufficient, and the devoted mother took only one meal a day until the harvest gave a fresh supply.
Nor did her children know that she pinched herself for their sakes; as far as they knew, she had enough, and her self-denial was not allowed to throw a shadow over their young lives, by the thought that their mother was starving herself that they might not suffer.
A bountiful harvest, in the autumn of 1834, put an end to the long-continued strain, and from that time the little household had sufficient food. When the noble mother saw her table once more well supplied with the necessaries of life, she thanked God for all His goodness and loving-kindness to her little flock. Her children had indeed been saved from the pain of hunger, but she never lost the deep lines of care and anxiety brought upon her face in those early years of her widowhood.
A RESTLESS SCHOLAR.
An Intelligent Child—The First School—James questions the Teacher—Mrs. Garfield's Offer—Winning a Prize.
"Eliza, this boy will be a scholar some day!" said Abram Garfield when speaking of James to his wife a short time before his death. Even at that early age, for the little fellow was not two years old, his father saw an unusual intelligence manifested, which gave him a high estimate of his baby boy's intellect.
His mother took great delight in telling him Bible stories, and his inquiring mind prompted him to ask many curious questions, which sounded strange coming from one so young. His acquaintance with the stories of Noah and the Flood, Joseph and his coat of many colours, Moses and the Red Sea, and other old Testament incidents, was remarkable.
Often he amused the children by asking questions, some of which none of them could answer. Then his eyes sparkled with delight as he gave the required information. His retentive memory never seemed to be at fault. What he once heard he remembered. The sturdy pioneers, who had turned their backs on towns and cities to make their homes in the wilderness, did not wish their children to grow up in ignorance. The little settlement soon became a village, and the opening of a school was an event of the greatest importance.
Mrs. Garfield heard the news with thankfulness. A school only a mile and a half away was a boon to her and her children. Now they would get the education required to fit them for a useful life. More than this she did not dare to look forward to.
Jimmy was only three years old when the welcome news reached the log cabin. Thomas, who was not thirteen, at once decided that his little brother should go to school. He would have been glad to go as well, but he knew that his time would be fully occupied in digging up the potatoes and harvesting the corn. Never was mother prouder of her son than was Mrs. Garfield of the sturdy lad, who was ready and anxious to fill a father's place to his brother and sisters, at an age when most boys think only of tops and kites.
About this time Jimmy had his first pair of shoes. Thomas was the good fairy who provided them. By doing odd jobs for a neighbour, he earned enough money to pay the shoemaker. As houses were few and far between, it was the custom for the man to live and do his work in the houses of those who employed him. The happy boy had therefore the pleasure of watching the shoemaker at work. He saw the leather cut into shape, and then formed into shoes to fit his feet. Then there came the joy of wearing them, and the satisfaction of being able to run about without fear of treading on a sharp stone or thorn.
Mrs. Garfield was busy with her needle for days before the school opened, preparing the necessary clothing, that her children might appear neat and tidy. And when the day came round, Mehetabel set out with Jimmy on her back, and her younger sister by her side. When they returned, Mrs. Garfield and Thomas eagerly questioned the scholars, who declared that they had had "such a good time." Full of excitement, they described the events of the day, and regarded the twenty-one scholars present as a most astonishing number.
Yet the school was but a log cabin, like the one in which the Garfield family lived. The teacher was a young man, who taught school one part of the year to earn money to pay for his education in the other part. The teacher received a certain sum of money for his work, and the parents of the children took him by turns to board in their houses. James was an apt scholar, and at once began to question the teacher, to the no small amusement of the scholars. When the teacher told him anything, he wanted to know why it was so, and how the teacher knew. And this curiosity extended to the names of the letters of the alphabet.
Winter came, and James pursued his studies at home. The long winter evenings were spent in reading. Lying on the wooden floor, he eagerly read page after page, by the light of the huge log fire which burned on the hearth. Before he was six years old he had read every book within his reach, and wanted more. Wishful to shorten the journey to school, Mrs. Garfield offered to give a piece of land on one corner of her farm, if her neighbours would put up a building on it. Those who lived near welcomed the project, and the schoolhouse was built.
Then she obtained a teacher from New Hampshire, where she was born, and she arranged that he should begin by boarding with them. Then the whole family worked hard to get all the farm work done before he came, that Thomas might take advantage of his presence among them. The new teacher found his pupils, and especially our friend Jimmy, so very restless, that he made the following rule: "Scholars cannot study their lessons and look about the room; therefore gazing about is strictly forbidden."
James did not know that his attention was everywhere, and that he was always on the alert to hear and to see everything that went on, until he had several times been reminded of the rule. Again and again he pleaded that he had forgotten, and bent his eyes on his book, only to lift them again a few minutes afterwards, to look at something which arrested his attention.
At first the teacher did not understand the active, restless mind that kept the boy in a state of perpetual motion, and he was disappointed when he found that the better James obeyed his rule, the slower progress he made. The fact that he had to think about the rule, and the effort he made to be still and attentive to one thing, retarded him more than any involuntary motions would have done. The teacher spoke to Mrs. Garfield about her boy's restlessness, and said that he feared he should not be able to make a scholar of James. She was so much grieved to hear this, that the little fellow burst into tears, and, burying his face in his mother's lap, said, "I will be a good boy! I mean to be a good boy!"
The teacher saw that he had made a mistake, and that, in trying to keep the boy perfectly still, he was cramping his energies and repressing his natural activity of mind and body. From that day the lad made rapid progress, and he finished the term by winning the prize of a New Testament, which had been promised to the scholar who was best in study and behaviour.
At Work on the Farm—A Good Mother's Teaching—A School Incident—The Building of a New School—Bible Lessons—The Garfields' Motto.
The Garfield farm provided for many of the wants of the family, but money was needed to provide clothing and books, and to pay the teachers who came from time to time. Thomas, therefore, earned all he could by engaging himself for short periods to any of the neighbours who required help. James attended school before he was four years old, and began to work on the farm when he was only eight. In the absence of Thomas he took his elder brother's place. He chopped wood, milked the cows, and made himself useful in a variety of ways.
Mrs. Garfield was anxious to give Thomas a chance to make his way in the world, and therefore she arranged that James should make himself as perfect as possible in farm work before Thomas was of age. At the same time, she told James that she looked forward to the time when he would be able to take his place as a teacher or a preacher. In the meantime, it was his duty to do the work that lay nearest to his hand. Just as he set himself to learn with all his might, in the same way he went about the work of the farm. When anything had to be done, he said, "I can do it," and he did. He was not always successful at the first attempt, but his self-reliance caused him to peg away in the face of every difficulty and even seeming failure, and he invariably succeeded in the end.
His mother was ever on the watch to help him by her kindly counsels and wise advice. Many an old proverb, which sank deep into the lad's heart and helped to build up his character, first fell on his ears from his mother's lips. She taught him that man's will to do well was rewarded by God's blessing on his labours. The will to do finds the way to do, and God helps the one who does his best.
This was a revelation to James, who thought that God only helped people to be good. His mother opened his eyes to the fact that this meant to be good in everything—"good boys, good men, good workers, good thinkers, good farmers, and good teachers." After that, he regarded God as One who would help him in his daily labour and make all his efforts successful. Or, in other words, he saw clearly the truth of the proverb: "God helps those who help themselves."
Two phases of his character were developed at a very early age, and these, coupled with good natural abilities, made him master of the situation. As we have already seen, he had plenty of self-reliance, the feeling that he could do anything that could be done, and the determination to make the most of himself. Then he was ready-witted, and able to grapple with unexpected emergencies. This will be seen in an incident which took place when he was a boy at school.
One day he was sitting by the side of his cousin, Henry Boynton, when the two lads began to indulge in little tricks with each other. The teacher noticed their inattention, and, when they laughed out a little louder than they had intended, he called out, "James and Henry, lay aside your books and go home, both of you."
They were so little prepared for such a course of action, that for a moment they remained in their seats with very serious looks in their faces. They both knew that the teacher's authority would be supported at home, and that their parents would be grieved, if not angry, at such a wanton breach of the rules of the school, as that of which they had been guilty.
"Don't dilly-dally!" exclaimed the teacher; "go home immediately!"
The boys passed out of the door at once, and sadly turned homewards, wondering how to make the best of the disaster which had befallen them. You will remember that the school was built on the Garfield farm, and that therefore it was quite near James's home. The sharp little fellow suddenly thought of this, and off he ran as fast as he could. Without being seen by his mother, he reached home, and started back again to the school. Then, without a word, he slipped inside and took his seat.
Looking up, the teacher saw him sitting there, and, never thinking that his order had been obeyed, he called out in a severe tone of voice, "James, did I not tell you to go home?"
"I have been home," said the boy quite calmly.
"Been home?" replied the teacher, who was at a loss how to deal with the boy's ready wit in getting out of the difficulty.
"Yes, sir," he said, "I have been home. You did not tell me to stay there."
What could the teacher do under such circumstances but tell the boy that he might remain? He saw that James had learned a lesson, and would not again incur the risk of being sent home in disgrace. Unlike many boys, James showed neither a sulky nor a discontented spirit. He knew that the punishment was deserved, and therefore he set about undoing the mischief by prompt obedience, and his ready wit suggested a way out of the trouble.
Before he left home, Thomas was anxious to make his mother as comfortable as possible. When he heard that the people of the district had decided to build a better school, he bought the old one, and removed it. Then he rebuilt it alongside his mother's cabin.
Sunday was regarded by the pioneers as a day of rest, but the younger members of the various families had never even seen a place of worship. Now and then a travelling preacher called at the settlement, and during his brief stay held a service in one of the log cabins or in the schoolhouse. A journey of five or six miles was often taken to be present at such a service. Whole families, in waggons, on horseback, and even on foot, might have been seen wending their way to the place appointed.
The opportunities for public worship were too few to be neglected, and the dwellers in the wilderness set a high value on such occasional ministrations.
Mrs. Garfield eagerly welcomed the preachers of the gospel who passed that way, and was glad to place the best fare her cabin afforded before the earnest men, who braved many dangers, and suffered innumerable inconveniences, to break to the settlers the Bread of life. The Bible was the Book of books in the Garfield cabin. Every day it gave the widow and her children the Divine message, and on Sundays Mrs. Garfield never failed to do the duty of teacher and preacher to her little flock.
The reading of God's book every day, and especially on God's day, was her invariable rule, until her children knew more about the contents and the teaching of the sacred volume, than many town children who enjoyed greater privileges and more numerous opportunities.
How and why the Bible was written, were questions which Mrs. Garfield answered as well as she was able. Why men were wicked, and what hindered them from being good, puzzled James. To him it was a great mystery that any one could continue to do wrong when God was always willing to help them to do right.
At this time a great wave of temperance passed over that part of the country, and James at once questioned his mother about the movement. Living so far away from the centres of population, the lad had no opportunity of seeing for himself the terrible evils of drunkenness. As far as it was necessary, his mother told him of the mischief done by strong drink, and how much better it was to have nothing to do with it. Here again the self-reliant boy had a difficulty. Just as he could not understand how men could help being good, neither could he understand how they could continue to drink, when they found that it only ended in ruin. Yet he heard enough to convince him that strong drink was an enemy, and therefore, at the early age of eight, he became a temperance reformer. Little did the patient mother think that her humble efforts at man-making would produce such grand results, and that she was rearing in that lonely cabin one of the noblest characters the world has ever seen.
The motto of the Garfield family was, "Through faith I conquer." That motto was woven into the life of the boy. Pure in spirit, prompt in action, loyal in thought and deed to God and his mother, James came to regard the boy or man who did not dare to do right as the greatest coward of all.
With such a firm foundation to rest upon, we do not wonder that James Garfield's life has been, and will be, an inspiration to many young men on both sides of the Atlantic.
THE TWO BROTHERS.
A New House—Thomas leaves Home—Sorrow at Parting—James left to Manage the Farm—The Value of Experience.
At length Thomas was twenty-one, and the time had come for him to go out into the world and make a way for himself. One thing he at that time desired above all others, and that was to build a better house for his mother.
To do this properly it was necessary to engage a carpenter, who would make the necessary framework. Then Thomas and James would help him to put up the building. But money was needed to carry out the undertaking, and this was the purpose to which Thomas decided to devote his first earnings when he left home.
One day Thomas returned from an expedition in search of work, in high glee. He had obtained employment in the State of Michigan. He had engaged to assist in clearing the forest, that is, in cutting down trees for a man who was about to make a farm. His wages were to be fifty shillings a month. This sum seemed a very large amount to James, who seldom saw much money, and did not know the important part it plays in towns and cities. Though Mrs. Garfield knew that it was better, both for the family and for her eldest son, that he should go away and take a place, a man among men, yet she was very anxious that no evil should befall him.
Thomas had been a faithful son and a loving brother. He had been the mainstay of the family since that sad day when the grave in the wheatfield hid from their eyes the remains of the husband and father, who had never spared himself in his efforts to provide for them.
How much she had leaned on her noble son, even she hardly realised, until she saw him preparing to leave her. The loving labours, the strong hand, and the wise counsels of her boy, now a man, would be sorely missed, yet she dried her tears, and asked the God in whom she had trusted to support her in this new trial, and, above all, to be with the lad. If God was with her son, she knew that all would be well, and that he would come unscathed from the world and its temptations. So, smiling through her tears, she bade him God-speed.
To James the parting was no less painful. He had confidence in himself, and manfully made up his mind to fill his brother's place. Yet he could not see the big brother, who was so dear to him, and who had done so much for him, go away without feeling an aching void in his heart. And Thomas—what about him? Did he lightly step out into the world, and, glad to enjoy a sense of freedom, go on his new path without a thought of those he was leaving behind? Not so. The man who as a boy often had so nobly filled a father's place was still a son and a brother. He left the log cabin because he knew that by doing so he could the better help the loved ones who remained behind. Every day, every hour, the gentle, loving mother whom he loved best in all the world would in spirit be with him. The clever brother of whom he was so proud would be ever in his thoughts, and the two sisters who had so faithfully performed their part would not be forgotten.
Brave, noble-hearted, hard-working Thomas Garfield! though only known to the world through his more gifted brother, he belongs to that grand army of self-sacrificing spirits who leave a bright and shining track behind them, and who everywhere make the wilderness and the desert place to blossom like the rose.
While Thomas was cutting down trees in Michigan, James was playing the part of "boy farmer" to the satisfaction of all who knew him. He was but twelve years of age, and yet he went about his work like a man. He said that he could take his brother's place, and he did it. Even the neighbours began to speak with admiration of the diligent lad who was trying so earnestly to fill his elder brother's place. James worked cheerfully; he was satisfied to do his best in the position in which he found himself. He was satisfied to remain in that position until he had qualified himself for a better. He had hopes and ambitions about the future, but his whole time and energies were so occupied in doing his best, that he never for one moment felt the unrest which accompanies a discontented spirit.
James did not know the meaning of the word "hardship" in the sense their neighbour used it. Did it mean hard work? Not to James, for he was able to do it. Did it mean hard fare? No, for he had enough to satisfy all his wants. In the companionship of his mother and sisters, with health and strength, food and raiment, where was the hardship? That was a question which James could not answer. He had not yet seen and coveted the pleasures, the luxuries, nor even the conveniences of the dwellers in towns. He had not felt the want of anything he did not possess or enjoy. Therefore, while he hoped to be such a man as his mother had often described, he was content to leave the future to take care of itself, and was only concerned in making the most of himself in the present.
The first season that James had alone, when single-handed he did the work of the farm, was a severe strain on one so young, but his readiness to plan or invent some way of meeting difficulties again stood him in good stead. He found that by exchanging work with a neighbour he could help both. So he bargained with a farmer to give him a hand when he had a little spare time, and the farmer in return agreed to lend James his oxen when he needed them.
When the end of the season came, James felt that the responsibility he had assumed, and the work he had carried through, had made a man of him. The daily round of necessary toil, and the constant need for careful consideration and foresight, were an invaluable experience and discipline, which nothing else would have given him.
"James must be a Scholar"—Thomas returns Home and builds a New House—A Lesson in Carpentering—The Volume of Robinson Crusoe—James eager to Travel.
Mrs. Garfield was glad to see James so contented with his work on the farm, but she was not satisfied to think that his life should be spent in cultivating the soil. One day she spoke to him about this, and said that she wished him to become a scholar. He replied that he also had the same desire—in fact, that he should like nothing better—but he did not see how he could obtain the education.
It was this view of the case that troubled his mother. She could not see any way out of the difficulty, and therefore she had once more to leave her case in the hands of God. He had made a way for them in times past, when human eyes could see no path, and she believed that He would again render the necessary assistance.
It was a happy day in the Garfields' cabin when Thomas returned. James was the first to see him, and with a loud cry of joy he ran off to meet and welcome his brother. Their mother heard that cry, and from her cabin door she saw her two sons approaching hand in hand. They were both speaking at once, and the burden of their conversation was expressed in the first words Thomas spoke to his mother.
"We are going to have a frame house now," he cried.
A moment later they were all inside the cabin together—mother, sons, and daughters, and in the mother's lap lay a handful of gold, which Thomas had placed there. James danced with excitement as he saw the sparkling coins which his brother had earned. Never before had he seen a gold coin, and he had hardly imagined that such a sum could be within the reach of the humble workman.
Mrs. Garfield looked at the little pile on her knee, and then at her son, but she did not utter a single word.
"Why don't you say something?" cried James in his excitement.
Why? Because she was unable to do so. There are feelings too deep for words, and times when we cannot give expression to the intense joys or bitter sorrows that thrill or rend our hearts.
The bitter sorrow she had experienced when her husband was struck down in his early manhood; the intense joy now possessed her soul when she saw this golden token of her eldest son's love and devotion. The gold that was needed to provide a better house for her lay there, and no one knew its value better than she did. But what were the golden coins to the mother, compared with the pure, unselfish, loving spirit of her son? She would not have exchanged that precious filial affection for all the gold that was coined in royal mint.
Relief came when at length the mother's tears fell on the shining coins. Tears indeed! but tears of joy. Never was there a happier woman in the world than was Widow Garfield at that moment.
No time was lost in carrying out the work, for Thomas was eager to get back again to earn more money while there was plenty of employment. When he had arranged with Mr. Treat, the village carpenter, he made a journey to Cleveland with James to obtain lime, nails, and windows.
A few days after, the carpenter came, and, assisted by Thomas and James, he set about his task. James had never seen a frame house built, and he was as eager and curious to watch how the work was done as he had been years before, when the shoemaker sat in the log cabin and made him his first pair of shoes.
He not only watched every operation, but eagerly lent a hand where he could. Hammer, chisel, and plane were in turn used as deftly as if he had served an apprenticeship to the trade. He especially distinguished himself in planing the boards ready for the carpenter, who declared that James was equal to a trained workman. He did the work well and quickly, and was so delighted with his success that he called it "fun."
When the frame was ready, the neighbours came on an appointed day to help to raise it and put it in position. This was a great day for Mrs. Garfield, who received the congratulations of her neighbours, and listened with motherly pride to the words of praise they bestowed upon the son who had made this provision for his mother. Nailing on the boards next gave James work thoroughly to his mind. Boys are always fond of driving nails, and James was no exception to the rule.
The new frame house was a great improvement on the log cabin. It contained three rooms on the ground floor, and two above, and it was altogether better finished and more comfortable than the ruder dwelling had been. The building of the new house had been a most enjoyable time to James, and it had also been a valuable experience to the observant lad. He turned it over in his mind for several months, and then he told his mother that he thought he might be able to earn some money by working at the carpenter's trade. She said that he had quite enough to do, but she was willing to let him try.
"Yes, I will try," said James, for he had long ago found out that there was nothing like trying.
An hour later he was in the carpenter's shop. The man gave him a hearty welcome. When he heard the object of the lad's mission, he at once said—
"I shall be glad to give you a job. I like boys who want to help their mothers. I don't like lazy boys, and I know there is not a lazy bone in your body."
James agreed to begin on the following day, and the carpenter gave him a pile of boards to plane. He was to receive a halfpenny for each board; and to his own delight, and the carpenter's astonishment, he planed one hundred the first day, and received four shillings and twopence. Once more was Mrs. Garfield struck dumb. Her feelings of joy and thankfulness could not find expression in words. Was there ever a mother so blessed with devoted sons? Silently the mother clasped her boy in her arms, and in this way showed the love she could not speak.
James continued to spend as much time as he could spare from the farm work in helping the carpenter, and then, when the winter school opened, he once more gave all his attention to his studies. The day after the school closed, the carpenter engaged him to assist in building a barn. This gave him employment until farming began, and he was paid at the rate of two shillings a day.
When the work was done, he received four pounds, and what was worth more, both to him and his worthy mother, the hearty commendation of his employer, who said, as he gave him the money—
"You have earned every penny of it."
About this time James borrowed a copy of Robinson Crusoe, which he eagerly devoured. It opened a new world to the lad's inquiring mind, and awakened within him a strong desire to travel and see something of the world.
Two or three incidents of his youth may here be told, as they serve to still further illustrate the different phases of his character.
A friend invited him to make a short excursion to visit an acquaintance on the Sunday. James at once refused. His friend pleaded that it was the only day on which the visit could be made, but James would not be persuaded. He said that it would be against his mother's wishes; therefore, if he never went, he would not go on Sunday.
One day he found the same friend throwing stones at the cat. James at once stopped him, and spoke so earnestly against cruelty to animals that the youth begged, pardon for his thoughtless conduct, and said that he should ever afterwards befriend cats. In the school there was a fatherless boy like himself, who had no older brother to stand up for him. When James saw the bigger boys teasing the little fellow, he took the boy's part, and compelled his tormentors to leave him in peace.
The seasons followed each other in rapid succession, and with each came the tasks which gave James the employment he so much enjoyed. The farm, the carpenter's shop, and the school kept him busy, and at fifteen he could do a day's work with any man in the district. Studying geography and reading books of travel had, however, one effect on his mind—they made him eager to see the places about which he had read. When he spoke to his mother on the subject, she expressed a wish for him to remain at home until a fitting opportunity came.
"Wait for Providence," she said; and in the meantime James waited.
A New Employment—At the Potash Works—Desire for a Seafaring Life—On a Farm again.
One day Farmer Smith called at Mrs. Garfield's house, to ask James to help him in weeding the peppermint, adding at the same time, that he had engaged twenty boys for this especial purpose. Mrs. Garfield said that her son was at that time very busy, and she thought that the farmer would have enough boys without him.
The farmer replied that without James he should have altogether too many. He had engaged them with the intention of getting James to lead them, because of the wonderful influence he had over them. "James," said the farmer, "is a fast worker, and all the time he so interests the boys with stories, anecdotes, and fun, that they do their best to keep up with him. I am quite willing," he continued, "to pay James something extra, and I shall then be the gainer by engaging him."
The farmer had employed James before at similar work, and therefore he knew the value of such an active, cheerful servant. Once more he agreed to take command of the weeders, and the work was again done to the entire satisfaction of the shrewd farmer. The last job in which James helped the carpenter was the building of a shed in connection with a large potash factory. The owner of the works saw him, and noticed how he gave his whole mind to the business in hand. As soon as it was done, he was eager to employ the lad.
When James received an offer of nearly three pounds a month from the manufacturer, he was filled with surprise. It was nearly ten shillings more than was usually paid.
"I want just such a hand as you in my business," said the man; "and you may come as soon as you like, and remain as long as you please."
"I must first consult my mother," said James, "and if she consents, I will begin work on Monday."
Mrs. Garfield was filled with fear when she heard of Mr. Barton's offer. She said that the rate of wages was high, but the workmen who were engaged in the factory were rough and coarse in their speech and manner of life. James replied that he had no fear of being led away by their bad example. He said that evils would meet him everywhere, and that he was quite able to resist all temptation to do wrong. The wise mother did not question the strength of his power to resist evil, but she reminded him of the text, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
Then, when she had sufficiently impressed upon his mind that there was a real need for the utmost care, she gave her consent. Indeed, she could hardly refuse when James reminded her that he was waiting for Providence to open a door, and that if Providence had not opened this door, he should never know when Providence did open one.
James went to the factory on the following Monday morning, and was at once set to keep the books of the establishment, and attend to the buying and the selling of the potash. The manner in which he attended to business caused Mr. Barton to place absolute confidence in him, and to treat him with the utmost kindness. James was the first to enter the factory in the morning, and the last to leave it at night. The men who brought ashes for sale were not always honest, and they often charged for more than they delivered. James, in measuring their loads, soon found out that his master was being systematically robbed. He put an end to such unprincipled conduct, and thereby still further increased Mr. Barton's confidence in him.
At the works, the men were, as his mother had described them to be, rough in manner and very profane in their conversation. This gave James so much pain, that he kindly but firmly pointed out the wickedness as well as the uselessness of swearing; and though he was told that it was no business of his to take notice of these things, his presence was an influence for good over them.
While living in Barton's house, he read a number of books on seafaring life and the doings of famous pirates. They fired his imagination so much, that he never tired of reading them, and he conceived a strong desire to be a sailor. This desire became stronger every day, and when Mr. Barton spoke to him about settling down to the potash business, James told him he wanted to go to sea. The old man spoke strongly against such a course, and told him that if he would stay in his service, he might look forward to the time when he would have a factory of his own.
James was not willing to give up his idea of going to sea, but he remained for some months with his employer. One day, however, Mr. Barton's daughter spoke of him as a hired servant, and this made James so angry, that, in spite of the persuasions of his master, he left the factory, and returned home on the following day.
His mother was glad to see him back again, though she did not agree with his hasty action in leaving without notice. James explained to his mother that he had not taken offence at being called a hired servant, but at the insulting manner in which the words were said. Then he filled her heart with dread by expressing a wish to go to sea. This was a severe blow to his mother, who told him that she could never give her consent to that. She even told him to say no more about taking such a step unless he wanted to make her unhappy.
As a man had been engaged to do the work on Mrs. Garfield's farm, James once more went away in search of a job. This time he was employed by an uncle, who lived at Newburg, to chop wood. While there he lodged with his sister Mehetabel, who had been married some time before. He now worked within sight of Lake Erie, and his desire to be a sailor was intensified when he saw the vessels sailing to and fro on the broad expanse of water before him. At first he lost much time watching the ships, but when he found that his work suffered, he gave it all his attention.
When he spoke to his sister about being a sailor, she replied as her mother had done, and told him that he had better be anything than that. He was too clever, she said, to throw away his abilities on board a ship.
When the work was done, James carried the money he had earned to his mother, and then engaged to help a farmer who lived a few miles away. The work was very hard, and the men were busy from early morning till late at night. James, however, would not be beaten.
"If I can't do as much as others do," he said, "I will give up the job."
At the end of the season he received his wages, and the farmer said, as he paid him, "You've done well."
THE ROPE THAT SAVED HIM.
The Driver of a Canal-boat Mule-team—Defence of the Eight—James speaks out plainly—A Narrow Escape—A Severe Illness—The Turning-point in James's Life.
When Mrs. Garfield found that James had become unsettled and restless, she decided to give way, and allow him to obtain some experience of a seafaring life. Finding that he had no definite plan in his mind, she proposed that he should try a voyage on Lake Erie.
This suggestion fell in with his wishes, and, once more taking his bundle in his hand, he set out to seek his fortune. On foot he journeyed to Cleveland, a distance of seventeen miles, and went on board the first vessel he saw. There he inquired for the captain of the schooner, whom he expected to be a gentleman. To his disgust, the man who appeared was a drunken, swearing fellow, who, with a volley of oaths, threatened to throw him into the dock if he did not at once leave the vessel.
No pleasant dream was ever more rudely dispelled than were James Garfield's bright visions of the charm of a seafaring life. No such wretch as the captain he had just met with had been described in any of the books he had read, and he began to think that there must be a mistake somewhere. At any rate, he had no present intention of giving up the idea of being a sailor. While walking along the side of the docks, he met his cousin, Amos Fletcher, who was the captain of a canal boat, and to whom he related his recent experience.
Amos offered him the post of driver, and James engaged to go with his cousin to Pittsburg in that capacity. His work was to take turns with another driver, and, for a certain number of hours, when his turn came, to drive the two mules which drew the boat along the canal.
The boatmen were profane, coarse, vulgar whisky-drinkers, "who regarded rum and tobacco as among the chief necessaries of life." A greater contrast there could not have been than that which existed between James and the men among whom his lot was cast.
The work required some experience, and the very first day the new driver and his mules were thrown into the canal, while trying to pass another boat. At once the other men ran to his assistance, and, when James and his mules were placed safely on the towing-path, he had to stand a considerable amount of good-humoured chaffing.
Amos had been engaged in teaching before he became the captain of a canal boat, and when he found how much James knew, he spoke very seriously to him about his future prospects. His cousin told him that with a little more education he would be well qualified to take charge of a school, and strongly advised him to adopt this course. James now remembered that not only his mother and sister, but every one to whom he had spoken, had told him he was throwing himself away in seeking to be a sailor, and therefore the words of his cousin had considerable influence over him. He began to think that he had been guilty of acting foolishly, and to waver in his purpose.
One day the boat came to a lock the same time as another boat, and the crews of the two vessels were about to fight for the first turn, when James spoke out boldly, and declared that the right belonged to the other boat, and that it should precede them. The captain was so struck with his cousin's manly defence of the right, that he ordered his men to give way. A fight was prevented, and fair play was given to the first comers. Some of the men in his own crew called him a coward, but that had no effect on James. He had long ago settled in his own mind that the greatest coward was the one who did not dare to do right.
Not long afterwards James offended one of the men, who at once set upon him. To save himself, James knocked the man down. All the men at once called upon James to pitch into him while he was on the ground. But James replied that he never struck a man when he was down. This was a new idea to the men, who had called him a coward because he would not fight for that which did not belong to him. Ever afterwards they regarded him with respect. Even they, rough and brutal as they were, could appreciate the generous spirit which prompted such noble actions.
One of the boatmen, named Harry Brown, was a good-hearted fellow, who took a great fancy to James. This man was, however, so very fond of drink, that he was always getting into trouble. James tried to persuade Harry to give up drinking, and the man listened willingly to the kind advice which he found so hard to follow. When speaking of James to one of the crew, Harry said, "Jim is a great fellow. I should like to see what sort of a man he will make. The way he rakes me down on whisky, tobacco, and swearing is a caution, and he does not say a word that is not true. I like him, though. I always like a man to show his colours."
All through life it was the same. No matter where he was, or in what circumstances he was placed, James Garfield always showed his colours, and he was never afraid to nail them to the mast.
Therefore the ignorant, drunken crew not only respected the lad who so boldly reproved them, but boasted of the companionship of one so unlike themselves. Said the steersman to the bowman of another boat, "We have a fellow in our crew who never drinks, smokes, chews, swears, nor fights; but he's a jolly good fellow, strong as a lion, could lick any of us if he has a mind to, and a first-rate worker. I never saw such a boy." Both captain and crew agreed that James was a peacemaker, and that he carried out his purpose without making enemies. Thorough and prompt in everything, and unwilling to be a party to any wrong-doing, he was regarded as a model worthy of imitation by all who knew him.
During the few months that he was on the canal boat, James fell into the water fourteen times. The last time nearly cost him his life. It was a dark and rainy night, and no one saw him jerked into the water. The boat swept on, and just as he began to despair of receiving any aid, his hand caught a rope in the darkness, and he drew himself into a place of safety. He found that the rope that had served his purpose had held fast by catching in a crevice on the edge of the deck. That was all that had come between him and death. Never had James had such serious thoughts in his mind as then, when he saw the rope and how it had saved him.
At once he thought of his praying mother, and the over-ruling Providence in which she so firmly believed. And at that moment he made up his mind to leave the canal boat, and return to his home.
A few weeks afterwards, James was attacked by ague, and he decided to go at once. It was eleven o'clock at night when he reached the house. Looking through the window, he saw his mother by the light of the fire. She was on her knees. Listening for a moment, he heard the words that fell from her lips. She was praying for him. A moment later, mother and son, once more reunited, were sobbing in each other's arms. Then James told his mother all about his life on the canal, and how God had preserved him almost by a miracle from drowning. After that he went to bed, and next day was found to be so ill that he was laid up for several weeks.
During that period Mrs. Garfield often spoke to James about his future, and he agreed with his mother, that if God saved his life on that night, He must have saved him for something. Then she brought her son under the influence of the teacher of their school, who was preparing to be a minister, and he soon showed James that the difference between a scholar and a sailor is the difference between somebody and nobody.
James decided to continue his education. That was the turning-point in his life. His mother knew that, having once said, "I will go to school," he would keep his word, and from that time she was satisfied.
STRIKING OUT A NEW LINE.
James decides to attend a College—He obtains Employment whereby to pay his Fees—Looking Upward.
In the life of every strong youth there comes a time when the manhood within him awakens to a consciousness of its proper powers. Such a moment had come in the life of young Garfield. His best friends had striven hard to awaken his slumbering ambition; even the companions of the towpath and of the woodyard had spoken with regret of the apparent waste of such abilities as he had shown; while his mother, who had been the first to perceive his talents, never ceased to urge her boy to fit himself for an honourable and useful calling.
All this advice, however, seemed to be thrown away on the strong-willed youth, until that moment when the Spirit of God laid hold of him. Then, as if a lamp had been lit in the empty house, his whole nature was transfigured. He was still the same sturdy, happy, self-reliant lad; but he was also a youth with a purpose in life. He no longer allowed passing fancies to rule his conduct, but, fixing his eye upon one goal, he began splendidly to push his way towards the prize upon which he had set his heart.
With a natural shrewdness, he saw at once that a man without culture and mental training could not climb high on the ladder of life. He saw that knowledge was the one key which opened the door to power in America, and with characteristic energy he set himself to seek that key.
The story of Garfield's attempts to gain an education forms one of the most romantic portions of his history. At first the height of his ambition was to attend a little Western college called Geauga Seminary, a school where about a hundred youths and maidens were gathered, under the auspices of the Free-will Baptist denomination, at the town of Chester in the State of Ohio.
Garfield, accompanied by two cousins, arrived at Geauga Seminary on March 5, 1849. It was perhaps the most important moment of his life, when the big, awkward, ill-dressed boy crossed the threshold of that humble college, and began to tread the path that was to lead straight on to one of the highest places of dignity on earth.
He and his companions hired a room, and with but a little in money, a sack or two of provisions, some pots and pans, and an old school-book, began their simple college course.
Garfield's plans to make his money last as long as possible were amazing. He began with about two pounds, his dear mother's savings, but text-books and school fees had already reduced his tiny fortune.
At first the lads did their own cooking, with indifferent success. Next they tried to live on bread and milk, but found it insufficient. Then Garfield discovered a local carpenter who had planks to plane, and in his spare time he found employment with him. Thus, working at his books in the daytime, and toiling at the bench at night, he plodded along. And yet, though his struggles were long and trying, there was no need for pity in the condition of the young student.
Probably no conceivable circumstances would have better developed the character of this backwoods scholar. His hardy limbs found real pleasure in work, which kept his body braced and healthy, while the active mind was exerting its great faculties in the keen pursuit of knowledge.
Some of the most interesting and instructive periods in the lives of the greatest men, both in this country and in America, have been found in just such conditions as these. Thoughtful English lads will never tire of hearing about those men, who, starting at the lowest point of mental knowledge and social opportunities, have yet contrived to fill in their day a large space in the world of letters. Take for example the stories of the three cobbler lads—Drew the historian, Cooper the reformer, and Carey the missionary, who, each in his own way, proved superior to poverty and all its attendant disadvantages, and rose, the one from his bench to a professorship in the London University, the other from a position equally lowly to a high place among the thinkers and writers of his day; and the third, leaving his lapstone to take up the pen of a translator, from cobbling boots in a back kitchen, went out to be the great master missionary of his age.
And just as in olden times God called His chief servants from the farmstead and the sheep-run, so even still the men of might have been those whose natures were made strong by youthful hardship and boyish battles.
The slave lad who became the Old World's greatest statesman, the shepherd boy who became its noblest King, and the young farmer who stood among its mightiest prophets, are but the types and forerunners of the Luthers and Lincolns and Garfields of more modern days.
Garfield, when once his eyes were opened, was quick enough to see that no boy could possibly succeed in life while he remained in ignorance. He said over and over again, "Mother, I must have an education"; and, having made up his mind to this, he set himself to secure it in the only possible way.
No false pride hindered him, no difficulties drove him back. He knew that he would have to begin at the bottom, and he knew also that he would have to work his way, every inch of the long journey.
One of his own wise sayings was this: "Poverty is uncomfortable, as I can testify; but, nine times out of ten, the best thing that can happen to a young man is to be tossed overboard, and compelled to sink or swim for himself. In all my acquaintance, I never knew a man to be drowned who was worth saving." No man illustrated his own words better than James Garfield.
"Labour is glory!—the flying cloud lightens; Only the waving wing changes and brightens; Idle hearts only the dark future frightens; Play the sweet keys, wouldst thou keep them in tune."
TEACHING AND LEARNING.
First Term at College—The Pleasure of real Success—James Garfield meets his Wife—He applies for a Schoolmastership—A Generous Offer.
It is sometimes said that education spoils lads for hard work. As a teacher in after years, Garfield had often to argue this point with the fathers of his pupils, who feared lest the college should unfit their boys for the farm and the forest. But better than any argument was his own example.
His first duty on returning home from school was to build his mother a new barn. "It spoils some boys to go to school," said his brother Thomas at the beginning of the first vacation, but it had not spoiled James Garfield.
With his brother's help, he built the barn, and then set off to find work among the neighbouring farmers. Haymaking occupied him for several weeks, then a
[Transcriber's note: pages 81 and 82 missing.]
It was this moral courage which gave Garfield his great influence over his companions all through life. And when, after his second term at Geauga; he felt himself able to undertake the charge of one of the winter schools, which were started for small settlers' children, it was this quality, above all others, which made him a successful teacher.
He finished his second term at the top of his class. His mental powers were now thoroughly awakened, his mind was quick, his memory retentive, and he soon out-distanced all competitors. Every evening during the session he had found his way into the carpenter's shop, and with such results, that he finished the term in good health, without debt, and with nearly a pound in his pocket.
Now he was resolved to try his hand at "keeping school." But at first he had some difficulty in finding a school to keep. His youthful appearance frightened the managers at one place; they did not want "a boy to teach at their school." His second and third applications were too late; the vacancies were filled up. At the next place he was even more discouraged, for, said the manager, "We had one fellow from Geauga Seminary, and he made such a botch of it, that we don't want another."
As frequently happens, the opportunity came just when hope was lowest. He reached home thoroughly discouraged with these repeated refusals, and almost too hopeless to respond to his mother's kindly, cheerful words. But there was a purpose in all this apparent failure. At his own door lay the task which was to try the metal in the man, and it was here that young Garfield was to prove the master spirit that was in him.
At a place close by, called The Ledge, was a school without a teacher. And next morning one of the members of the committee of management came over to offer the post of master to young Garfield.
James was eager enough to secure a school, yet he hesitated to accept this offer. The Ledge was a district notorious for the roughness of its inhabitants, and for the unruly character of its young people. Besides, many of the youths in this school were old acquaintances of Garfield, and the young teacher naturally shrank from undertaking such a charge.
After duly considering the matter, however, Garfield accepted the post. His pupils were the sons and daughters of the neighbouring farmers, and many of them were quite grown up. They worked on the farm in the summer, and then attended school for a few months in the winter.
Garfield, of course, knew well enough that while among such a class there were a few like himself, anxious to get an education, a still larger number were quite indifferent, and looked upon the school as a place for unbridled fun. Two previous masters they had already driven out, and the committee had experienced as much difficulty in procuring a master, as Garfield had found in securing a school.
James feared that his scholars, knowing so much of his early history, would be likely to hold both his scholarship and his character somewhat lightly. He found, however, that this acquaintance was really his best recommendation.
His manly, straightforward character had an attraction for them; his skill and strength as an athlete, and his known courage, ensured him the respect even of the most turbulent among his scholars. The lads felt that their master was a boy who was making his way in life; they knew that he was no mere bookworm, but one of themselves, only stronger and abler.
His shrewd native wit saved him from many a mistake. He was prudent and firm, ready and resourceful, and his sharp tongue was a weapon they feared even more than his heavy hand. His wildest scholars admired him; while his sympathy with those pupils who, like himself, possessed no advantages save such as could be gained by their own hands, endeared him to the more thoughtful.
Thus, when his first season as a teacher was ended, he returned home with the reputation of one of the most successful common schoolmasters in the country.
The Young Janitor at Hiram Institute—Personal Appearance at this time—Teaching and Preaching—The Tailor of Troy—The Beginning of the Civil War.
James Garfield attended the Geauga Seminary three years in succession. During his second and third vacations he acted as master in some of the log-schools in his native county.
Then, at the age of twenty, he went from teaching school to sweeping the college floor at Hiram Institute. Here, besides gaining a considerable step in his education, Garfield began to exercise his gifts as a speaker. The debating society of his college found in him its most fluent disputant, and the college became immensely proud of the promising youth, whose reputation as a ready and effective speaker was spreading far and wide.
In two ways he found outlet and exercise for the more generous instincts of his nature—in preaching the Gospel and in denouncing slavery. Even as early as this, the great struggle that was fated to bathe his nation in blood and fire was looming near, and the nobler among the young men of the country were unconsciously preparing to play their great parts in the awful civil war.
On entering Hiram Institute, Garfield was too poor to pay the ordinary fees. He had applied, therefore, for the post of janitor, and his duties were to sweep the rooms and ring the bell. He held this office for one year, and during the whole of that time it was said that never once did his bell ring behind the time.
From the humble position of janitor he was promoted at the end of the session to the more honourable one of assistant tutor. It seemed as if his experience was to be a continual example of the possibility, and even the advantage in some respects, to a healthy lad, of combining great success in study with great industry in manual labour.
His pay as a teacher was little more than nominal, and it was still necessary that he should work to live, therefore he engaged his mornings and evenings, as at Geauga, to a local carpenter, and thus supported himself.
Such perseverance as this of course attracted the attention of both his fellow-students and his professors. By the former he was voted "a brick," by the latter he was mentally designated for a future professor and principal of the Institute; while in the minds of both young men and old there was a feeling, slowly shaping itself into a prophecy, that such ability and courage and character could have but one end, and that Garfield was destined to become President of the United States.
When he entered the Geauga Seminary, it was probably with no expectation of proceeding farther on the road of learning than the limited resources of that little country college could carry him. His success there had sent him on to the Hiram Institute, and now it was a matter of course that he should go to a university and take his degree. But once more the money difficulty faced him, and once more the devotion of one of the best brothers in the world opened the way. Thomas was doing fairly well as a farmer; he had saved a little money, and this he offered as a loan to his brother. James accepted the loan gladly; and, to secure his generous brother against loss in case of his own death, he insured his life for one hundred pounds.
Garfield had acquired none of the outward graces of fashionable young men when he entered upon his career at Williams' University. He was tall, big-limbed, and rather lanky. His garments were of the homeliest manufacture, and his speech was somewhat broad and provincial. In mental stature, however,—in scholarship and reading and judgment,—he was a man, every inch of him. His fine face and magnificent head and sparkling eyes gave promise of rare powers, and once more, and with perfect ease, he took his place in the front rank of his fellow-students.
Here, as at each stage in his eventful life, young Garfield proved that every person must decide for himself the amount of respect that is really due to him from his companions.
No one could have entered college with a more homely appearance than Garfield. His rustic manners and still more rustic dress invited criticism among the smart young men of his college, yet because he was by nature a gentleman, he was treated from the first as such, by both teachers and students alike.
His vacations, as before, were spent in teaching, and his Sabbaths in preaching. In this latter office he acquitted himself so well, that it became quite an accepted opinion that he was to become a minister. This was one mark of the high estimation in which he was held, but there were others besides. The position of teacher in a high school, at the handsome salary of two hundred and fifty pounds, was offered him at this time. The offer, however, was declined, for the reason that it would prevent him taking his degree, and thus interfere with his plans in life.
His ambition was a very noble one. He wished, he said, to take a degree, to win, if possible, a name for scholarship; and then to go back to the modest salary and the limited sphere of the Hiram Institute, and thus help the humble college which had done so much for him.
Another illustration of the good name he had earned was shown in a smaller, but still very practical way. His brother Thomas's resources had unfortunately given out, and James was in urgent need of money to buy a suit of clothes. Careless as he was about his personal appearance, the state of his wardrobe had become a serious anxiety to him. One day a tailor in Troy sent for him, took his measure, and fitted him out, saying, "Go on with your education, and when you have some money for which you have no other use, pay me." This was a little matter in itself, but of great interest as showing the opinion which his neighbours had formed of the young man.
It was during his residence at Williams' that the country was thrown into excitement by Preston Brooks' attack upon Charles Sumner. Sumner had taken a prominent part in the growing desire of the Northern States of America for the abolition of slavery. He was a Senator of the United States, and a politician and orator of great influence.
One day, as he sat writing at his desk in the Senate House, two men came up to him. One of these, a Senator and a slaveholder from South Carolina, of the name of Brooks, was armed with a heavy stick. This ruffian attacked Sumner from behind, felled him with a blow, and then beat him as he lay upon the floor, leaving him almost dead. For this grievous offence a small fine was imposed upon Brooks, and the amount was promptly paid by his admiring constituents. The bully then resigned his seat, and was re-elected without opposition by the South as its spokesman, leader, and law-maker.
The news of this murderous attack spread like a flame through the land. In every State in the South it found a ready response in the sullen passions of the slave-owners, whose hatred for the Abolitionists it exactly expressed. Throughout the North it raised a nobler sentiment, and called forth a resolve that the system which placed millions of human beings under the absolute power of such men as this Brooks must be swept away. In both North and South that blow in the Senate House at Washington fell like a spark among the stubble: it set the nation on fire.
Among others who denounced the shameful deed was young Garfield. The students of his university called a public meeting to protest against the crime, and Garfield was the principal speaker. His address more than surprised his companions. All the passionate vehemence of his mighty heart was awakened by this outrage, and all the slumbering hatred which he had nursed since boyhood against the abominations of slavery sprang to his lips.
As his hot words swept over the audience, his fellow-students sat amazed. Great as had been their belief in his powers, they had hardly expected this, and they heard enough that night to convince them that one of the mighty men of the earth was rising up amongst them; and they went away from the meeting whispering, "We have heard great things to-day."
THE FIRST BLOW.
Garfield's Power as a Platform Speaker—A Candidate for the Senate—His Election—Is Slavery right or wrong?—War inevitable—The Attack on Fort Sumter—The Civil War begun.
Garfield was twenty-six when he left Williams' University. He entered this college a raw student from a Western seminary; he left it a distinguished scholar, a graduate with honours, and a popular lay preacher and platform speaker.
In spite of many flattering offers, he had remained true to the Western Institute at Hiram. Before his return he was appointed teacher of ancient languages and literature there, and to this office he came full of enthusiasm.
The salary was only one hundred and fifty pounds a year, less by one-third than the sum offered him by the trustees of the high school at Troy, but that made no difference to Garfield. He brought to the duties of his profession a profound love for the school to which he himself was so greatly indebted, and an ardent desire to help young fellows as poor as himself. He found plenty of scope for his gifts, and he taught with such success that in two years' time he was appointed principal of the Institution.
This was the height of his ambition. Around him were some three hundred young people, sons and daughters of the great West, whose mental and spiritual training was in his hands. He regarded it as a sacred trust, and he solemnly devoted his life to the service of these Western students.
His ideal was a high one. The teacher, he felt, was a builder of the nation, and he resolved that no work should leave his hands that was ill planned or badly done.
The memory of his own early struggles made him especially mindful of the poorer scholars, and his keen eye was always on the look-out for young men of promise. Perfectly free in his intercourse with the students, the young principal maintained his influence by the nobility of his character and the steadiness of his aim. His only wish was to help his pupils. And they believed in him with a faith that in the years to come transformed his classes into battalions on the field of battle.
The slavery question was still exercising the minds of all parties when Garfield returned to Hiram. His power as a speaker made him an important ally to the Abolitionist party in his country, and his fame brought numberless demands for platform work. The Democratic party in the States had unhappily identified itself with slavery. Its leaders defended the system, its members voted in its favour; while the Republicans led the way for its abolition.
Soon after Garfield's return to Hiram, a well-known Democrat named Hart visited the town, to deliver an address on slavery. It was a clever speech, and made some impression, and the principal of the Institute was urged by the Republicans to reply. After some hesitation, Garfield did so. The answer was said to have been calmly given, but its grim facts of slavery horrors, its awful pictures of slavery evils, were so overwhelming, that his opponent was completely crushed.
This triumph naturally raised the demand that a man of such abilities should go into politics, and he was formally requested to become a candidate for the State Legislature. For a long time he refused. The interests of his school seemed so great, and his love for the work was so strong, that for a while nothing could move him.
In the year 1859, however, the appeals of his fellow-townsmen had grown so urgent, that he reluctantly became a candidate for the Senate of the State of Ohio. He had held back until the trustees of the Institute and his fellow-teachers joined their entreaties with the townsmen, and offered during his absence to do double duty in the school to release him for the public service. Greatly touched by these generous offers, Garfield at length consented, and was at once nominated a candidate to the parliament of his native State.
Though he had been slow to accept nomination, he did not hold back when once the battle had begun, and some few who looked with doubt on his youth and inexperience soon found that they had in their midst a bold though prudent leader. He won the seat by a large majority, and entered the Senate in the month of January 1860.
The United States of America consisted then of thirty-eight States and ten Territories. Each State is governed by its own parliament, which consists of a House of Senate and a House of Representatives. The whole of these States and Territories are again united under a Federal Government, at the head of which is the President of the United States. Each State sends to the Federal Government two Senators and from one to thirty Representatives, according to its population.
The State of Ohio, in whose Senate Garfield took his seat for the first time, is considerably larger than Ireland, and contains a more numerous population. It was organised into a State and admitted into the Union in 1803. Its population then was less than fifty thousand. Twenty years afterwards it had become ten times as great, and at the time of Garfield's election to its Senate, numbered nearly two and a half millions. Garfield had won his spurs as a politician in the discussion of the slavery question, and very soon he was called to give practical form to his opinions. For years there had been a conviction among many of the people of the Northern States that slavery was wrong, that it was a crime against man and a sin against God. The Southern States where slavery existed defended the institution without shame and without fear. They bitterly resented any discussion of the subject by the North, and they took effectual means to suppress any adverse opinions in the South.
In the very year of Garfield's election, nearly a thousand white persons in the slave States were robbed, whipped, imprisoned, tarred and feathered, or murdered, on suspicion of sympathy with the slaves.
New and bitter laws were passed in the Southern States against teaching or helping the negroes; and in several States it was calmly proposed to deprive the free blacks also of their liberty, to sell them back into bondage in order to raise money for the support of the elementary schools. In defiance of the laws of the Federal Government, the slave trade also was reintroduced, and negroes stolen from the West Coast of Africa were once more landed and sold into slavery.
This open and insolent growth of the spirit of slavery in the South was slowly rousing the rest of the great nation from its slumber. Statesmen had been silent too long, politicians and preachers had apologised for the evil, and the people as a whole had given no sign, until provoked by those flagrant attempts to carry the vile system into those newer parts of the country called Territories, vast districts of only partly occupied land which had not yet been erected into States.
Then the controversy became sharp and bitter, and the men of the North began to speak out. To the younger men especially was the system hateful, and it was plain that in the free States a new generation had risen up which was prepared to wash its hands of the curse of slavery. Some of the Southern States, afterwards known as the Confederates, formed themselves into an association, and threatened to withdraw from the Federal Union; and civil war between the slave States and the free was by the more thoughtful and far-seeing deemed inevitable.
The young Senator Garfield was one of the first to realise the true position of affairs. During his first year in the State Senate he had made his mark, in the next he became by the mere force of his character and the intensity of his feelings its leader.
The President of the United States at the time was James Buchanan, a Democrat and a friend of the slave-owners. He, with others in high places, seemed bent on giving the South every opportunity to strengthen itself against the North.
In many of the Northern States, it was hoped by the timid that war could be averted by passing laws which would please the South. But Garfield knew better. He saw that war must come, and he urged his friends to be prepared. One night he said to a fellow-Senator, Cox, who shared his lodgings, "Cox, war is inevitable."
"It is, as sure as you live," was the reply.
Then said Garfield, "If it comes, you and I must fight; let us then pledge our lives to our country in her hour of peril." And standing there, these two men, grand types of the Young America which was rising above the shame of its dark past, pledged themselves to fight for the old flag and for human right.