The Life of Abraham Lincoln
by Henry Ketcham
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I. The Wild West II. The Lincoln Family III. Early Years IV. In Indiana V. Second Journey to New Orleans VI. Desultory Employments VII. Entering Politics VIII. Entering the Law IX. On the Circuit X. Social Life and Marriage XI. The Encroachments of Slavery XII. The Awakening of the Lion XIII. Two Things that Lincoln Missed XIV. Birth of the Republican Party XV. The Battle of the Giants XVI. Growing Audacity of the Slave Power XVII. The Backwoodsman at the Center of Eastern Culture XVIII. The Nomination of 1860 XIX. The Election XX. Four Long Months XXI. Journey to Washington XXII. The Inauguration XXIII. Lincoln his Own President XXIV. Fort Sumter XXV. The Outburst of Patriotism XXVI. The War Here to Stay XXVII. The Darkest Hour of the War XXVIII. Lincoln and Fremont XXIX. Lincoln and McClellan XXX. Lincoln and Greeley XXXI. Emancipation XXXII. Discouragements XXXIII. New Hopes XXXIV. Lincoln and Grant XXXV. Literary Characteristics XXXVI. Second Election XXXVII. Close of the War XXXVIII. Assassination XXXIX. A Nation's Sorrow XL. The Measure of a Man XLI. Testimonies


The question will naturally be raised, Why should there be another Life of Lincoln? This may be met by a counter question, Will there ever be a time in the near future when there will not be another Life of Lincoln? There is always a new class of students and a new enrolment of citizens. Every year many thousands of young people pass from the Grammar to the High School grade of our public schools. Other thousands are growing up into manhood and womanhood. These are of a different constituency from their fathers and grandfathers who remember the civil war and were perhaps in it.

"To the younger generation," writes Carl Schurz, "Abraham Lincoln has already become a half mythical figure, which, in the haze of historic distance, grows to more and more heroic proportions, but also loses in distinctness of outline and figure." The last clause of this remark is painfully true. To the majority of people now living, his outline and figure are dim and vague. There are to-day professors and presidents of colleges, legislators of prominence, lawyers and judges, literary men, and successful business men, to whom Lincoln is a tradition. It cannot be expected that a person born after the year (say) 1855, could remember Lincoln more than as a name. Such an one's ideas are made up not from his remembrance and appreciation of events as they occurred, but from what he has read and heard about them in subsequent years.

The great mine of information concerning the facts of Lincoln's life is, and probably will always be, the History by his secretaries, Nicolay and Hay. This is worthily supplemented by the splendid volumes of Miss Tarbell. There are other biographies of great value. Special mention should be made of the essay by Carl Schurz, which is classic.

The author has consulted freely all the books on the subject he could lay his hands on. In this volume there is no attempt to write a history of the times in which Lincoln lived and worked. Such historical events as have been narrated were selected solely because they illustrated some phase of the character of Lincoln. In this biography the single purpose has been to present the living man with such distinctness of outline that the reader may have a sort of feeling of being acquainted with him. If the reader, finishing this volume, has a vivid realization of Lincoln as a man, the author will be fully repaid.

To achieve this purpose in brief compass, much has been omitted. Some of the material omitted has probably been of a value fully equal to some that has been inserted. This could not well be avoided. But if the reader shall here acquire interest enough in the subject to continue the study of this great, good man, this little book will have served its purpose.

H. K. WESTFIELD, NEW JERSEY, February, 1901.



At the beginning of the twentieth century there is, strictly speaking, no frontier to the United States. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the larger part of the country was frontier. In any portion of the country to-day, in the remotest villages and hamlets, on the enormous farms of the Dakotas or the vast ranches of California, one is certain to find some, if not many, of the modern appliances of civilization such as were not dreamed of one hundred years ago. Aladdin himself could not have commanded the glowing terms to write the prospectus of the closing years of the nineteenth century. So, too, it requires an extraordinary effort of the imagination to conceive of the condition of things in the opening years of that century.

The first quarter of the century closed with the year 1825. At that date Lincoln was nearly seventeen years old. The deepest impressions of life are apt to be received very early, and it is certain that the influences which are felt previous to seventeen years of age have much to do with the formation of the character. If, then, we go back to the period named, we can tell with sufficient accuracy what were the circumstances of Lincoln's early life. Though we cannot precisely tell what he had, we can confidently name many things, things which in this day we class as the necessities of life, which he had to do without, for the simple reason that they had not then been invented or discovered.

In the first place, we must bear in mind that he lived in the woods. The West of that day was not wild in the sense of being wicked, criminal, ruffian. Morally, and possibly intellectually, the people of that region would compare with the rest of the country of that day or of this day. There was little schooling and no literary training. But the woodsman has an education of his own. The region was wild in the sense that it was almost uninhabited and untilled. The forests, extending from the mountains in the East to the prairies in the West, were almost unbroken and were the abode of wild birds and wild beasts. Bears, deer, wild-cats, raccoons, wild turkeys, wild pigeons, wild ducks and similar creatures abounded on every hand.

Consider now the sparseness of the population. Kentucky has an area of 40,000 square miles. One year after Lincoln's birth, the total population, white and colored, was 406,511, or an average of ten persons—say less than two families—to the square mile. Indiana has an area of 36,350 square miles. In 1810 its total population was 24,520, or an average of one person to one and one-half square miles; in 1820 it contained 147,173 inhabitants, or about four to the square mile; in 1825 the population was about 245,000, or less than seven to the square mile.

The capital city, Indianapolis, which is to-day of surpassing beauty, was not built nor thought of when the boy Lincoln moved into the State.

Illinois, with its more than 56,000 square miles of territory, harbored in 1810 only 12,282 people; in 1820, only 55,211, or less than one to the square mile; while in 1825 its population had grown a trifle over 100,000 or less than two to the square mile.

It will thus be seen that up to his youth, Lincoln dwelt only in the wildest of the wild woods, where the animals from the chipmunk to the bear were much more numerous, and probably more at home, than man.

There were few roads of any kind, and certainly none that could be called good. For the mud of Indiana and Illinois is very deep and very tenacious. There were good saddle-horses, a sufficient number of oxen, and carts that were rude and awkward. No locomotives, no bicycles, no automobiles. The first railway in Indiana was constructed in 1847, and it was, to say the least, a very primitive affair. As to carriages, there may have been some, but a good carriage would be only a waste on those roads and in that forest.

The only pen was the goose-quill, and the ink was home-made. Paper was scarce, expensive, and, while of good material, poorly made. Newspapers were unknown in that virgin forest, and books were like angels' visits, few and far between.

There were scythes and sickles, but of a grade that would not be salable to-day at any price. There were no self-binding harvesters, no mowing machines. There were no sewing or knitting machines, though there were needles of both kinds. In the woods thorns were used for pins.

Guns were flint-locks, tinder-boxes were used until the manufacture of the friction match. Artificial light came chiefly from the open fireplace, though the tallow dip was known and there were some housewives who had time to make them and the disposition to use them. Illumination by means of molded candles, oil, gas, electricity, came later. That was long before the days of the telegraph.

In that locality there were no mills for weaving cotton, linen, or woolen fabrics. All spinning was done by means of the hand loom, and the common fabric of the region was linsey-woolsey, made of linen and woolen mixed, and usually not dyed.

Antiseptics were unknown, and a severe surgical operation was practically certain death to the patient. Nor was there ether, chloroform, or cocaine for the relief of pain.

As to food, wild game was abundant, but the kitchen garden was not developed and there were no importations. No oranges, lemons, bananas. No canned goods. Crusts of rye bread were browned, ground, and boiled; this was coffee. Herbs of the woods were dried and steeped; this was tea. The root of the sassafras furnished a different kind of tea, a substitute for the India and Ceylon teas now popular. Slippery elm bark soaked in cold water sufficed for lemonade. The milk-house, when there was one, was built over a spring when that was possible, and the milk vessels were kept carefully covered to keep out snakes and other creatures that like milk.

Whisky was almost universally used. Indeed, in spite of the constitutional "sixteen-to-one," it was locally used as the standard of value. The luxury of quinine, which came to be in general use throughout that entire region, was of later date.

These details are few and meager. It is not easy for us, in the midst of the luxuries, comforts, and necessities of a later civilization, to realize the conditions of western life previous to 1825. But the situation must be understood if one is to know the life of the boy Lincoln.

Imagine this boy. Begin at the top and look down him—a long look, for he was tall and gaunt. His cap in winter was of coon-skin, with the tail of the animal hanging down behind. In summer he wore a misshapen straw hat with no hat-band. His shirt was of linsey-woolsey, above described, and was of no color whatever, unless you call it "the color of dirt." His breeches were of deer-skin with the hair outside. In dry weather these were what you please, but when wet they hugged the skin with a clammy embrace, and the victim might sigh in vain for sanitary underwear. These breeches were held up by one suspender. The hunting shirt was likewise of deer-skin. The stockings,—there weren't any stockings. The shoes were cow-hide, though moccasins made by his mother were substituted in dry weather. There was usually a space of several inches between the breeches and the shoes, exposing a tanned and bluish skin. For about half the year he went barefoot.

There were schools, primitive and inadequate, indeed, as we shall presently see, but "the little red schoolhouse on the hill," with the stars and stripes floating proudly above it, was not of that day. There were itinerant preachers who went from one locality to another, holding "revival meetings." But church buildings were rare and, to say the least, not of artistic design. There were no regular means of travel, and even the "star route" of the post-office department was slow in reaching those secluded communities.

Into such circumstances and conditions Lincoln was born and grew into manhood.



When one becomes interested in a boy, one is almost certain to ask, Whose son is he? And when we study the character of a great man, it is natural and right that we should be interested in his family. Where did he come from? who were his parents? where did they come from? These questions will engage our attention in this chapter.

But it is well to be on our guard at the outset against the fascinations of any theory of heredity. Every thoughtful observer knows something of the seductions of this subject either from experience or from observation. In every subject of research there is danger of claiming too much in order to magnify the theory. This is emphatically true of this theory. Its devotees note the hits but not the misses. "It took five generations of cultured clergymen to produce an Emerson." Undoubtedly; but what of the sixth and seventh generations? "Darwin's greatness came from his father and grandfather." Very true; but are there no more Darwins?

If Abraham Lincoln got his remarkable character from parents or grandparents, from whom did he get his physical stature? His father was a little above medium height, being five feet ten and one-half inches. His mother was a little less than medium height, being five feet five inches. Their son was a giant, being no less than six feet four inches. It is not safe to account too closely for his physical, mental, or moral greatness by his descent. The fact is that there are too many unexplored remainders in the factors of heredity to make it possible to apply the laws definitely.

The writer will therefore give a brief account of the Lincoln family simply as a matter of interest, and not as a means of proving or explaining any natural law.

The future president was descended from people of the middle class. There was nothing either in his family or his surroundings to attract the attention even of the closest observer, or to indicate any material difference between him and scores of other boys in the same general locality.

Lincoln is an old English name, and in 1638 a family of the name settled in Hingham, Mass., near Boston. Many years later we find the ancestors of the president living in Berks County, Pa. It is possible that this family came direct from England; but it is probable that they came from Hingham. Both in Hingham and in Berks County there is a frequent recurrence of certain scriptural names, such as Abraham, Mordecai, and Thomas, which seems to be more than a coincidence.

From Berks County certain of the family, who, by the way, were Quakers, moved to Rockingham County, Va. In 1769 Daniel Boone, the adventurous pioneer, opened up what is now the state of Kentucky, but was then a part of Virginia.

About twelve years later, in 1781, Abraham Lincoln, great-grandfather of the president, emigrated from Virginia into Kentucky. People have asked, in a puzzled manner, why did he leave the beautiful Shenandoah valley? One answer may be given: The Ohio valley also is beautiful. During the major portion of the year, from the budding of the leaves in April until they pass away in the blaze of their autumn glory, the entire region is simply bewitching. No hills curve more gracefully, no atmosphere is more soft, no watercourses are more enticing. Into this region came the Virginian family, consisting, besides the parents, of three sons and two daughters.

A year or two later the head of the family was murdered by a skulking Indian, who proceeded to kidnap the youngest son, Thomas. The oldest son, Mordecai, quickly obtained a gun and killed the Indian, thus avenging his father and rescuing his little brother.

This boy Thomas was father of the president. He has been called by some writers shiftless and densely ignorant. But he seems to have been more a creature of circumstances. There were no schools, and he, consequently, did not go to school. There was no steady employment, and consequently he had no steady employment. It is difficult to see how he could have done better. He could shoot and keep the family supplied with wild game. He did odd jobs as opportunity opened and "just growed."

But he had force enough to learn to read and write after his marriage. He had the roving disposition which is, and always has been, a trait of pioneers. But this must be interpreted by the fact that he was optimistic rather than pessimistic. He removed to Indiana because, to him, Indiana was the most glorious place in the whole world. He later removed to Illinois because that was more glorious yet.

He certainly showed good taste in the selection of his wives, and what is equally to the purpose, was able to persuade them to share his humble lot. He had an unfailing stock of good nature, was expert in telling a humorous story, was perfectly at home in the woods, a fair carpenter and a good farmer; and in short was as agreeable a companion as one would find in a day's journey. He would not have been at home in a library, but he was at home in the forest.

In 1806 he married Nancy Hanks, a young woman from Virginia, who became the mother of the president. Doubtless there are many women among the obscure who are as true and loyal as she was, but whose life is not brought into publicity. Still, without either comparing or contrasting her with others, we may attest our admiration of this one as a "woman nobly planned." In the midst of her household cares, which were neither few nor light, she had the courage to undertake to teach her husband to read and write. She also gave her children a start in learning. Of her the president, nearly half a century after her death, said to Seward, with tears,—"All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother— blessings on her memory."

Mr. Lincoln himself never manifested much interest in his genealogy. At one time he did give out a brief statement concerning his ancestors because it seemed to be demanded by the exegencies of the campaign. But at another time, when questioned by Mr. J. L. Scripps, editor of the Chicago Tribune, he answered: "Why, Scripps, it is a great piece of folly to attempt to make anything out of me or my early life. It can all be condensed into a single sentence, and that sentence you will find in Gray's Elegy:

'The short and simple annals of the poor.'

That's my life, and that's all you or any one else can make out of it."

In all this he was neither proud nor depreciative of his people. He was simply modest. Nor did he ever outgrow his sympathy with the common people.



The year 1809 was fruitful in the birth of great men in the Anglo-Saxon race. In that year were born Charles Darwin, scientist, Alfred Tennyson, poet, William E. Gladstone, statesman, and, not least, Abraham Lincoln, liberator.

Thomas Lincoln was left fatherless in early boyhood, and grew up without any schooling or any definite work. For the most part he did odd jobs as they were offered. He called himself a carpenter. But in a day when the outfit of tools numbered only about a half dozen, and when every man was mainly his own carpenter, this trade could not amount to much. Employment was unsteady and pay was small.

Thomas Lincoln, after his marriage to Nancy Hanks, lived in Elizabethtown, Ky., where the first child, Sarah, was born. Shortly after this event he decided to combine farming with his trade of carpentering, and so removed to a farm fourteen miles out, situated in what is now La Rue County, where his wife, on the twelfth day of February, 1809, gave birth to the son who was named Abraham after his grandfather. The child was born in a log cabin of a kind very common in that day and for many years later. It was built four-square and comprised only one room, one window, and a door.

Here they lived for a little more than four years, when the father removed to another farm about fifteen miles further to the northeast.

The occasion of this removal and of the subsequent one, two or three years later, was undoubtedly the uncertainty of land titles in Kentucky in that day. This "roving disposition" cannot fairly be charged to shiftlessness. In spite of the extraordinary disadvantages of Thomas Lincoln's early life, he lived as well as his neighbors, though that was humble enough, and accumulated a small amount of property in spite of the low rate of compensation.

In the year 1816 Thomas determined to migrate to Indiana. He sold out his farm, receiving for it the equivalent of $300. Of this sum, $20 was in cash and the rest was in whisky—ten barrels—which passed as a kind of currency in that day. He then loaded the bulk of his goods upon a flat boat, floating down the stream called Rolling Fork into Salt Creek, thence into the Ohio River, in fact, to the bottom of that river. The watercourse was obstructed with stumps and snags of divers sorts, and especially with "sawyers," or trees in the river which, forced by the current, make an up-and-down motion like that of a man sawing wood.

The flat boat became entangled in these obstructions and was upset, and the cargo went to the bottom. By dint of great labor much of this was rescued and the travelers pushed on as far as Thompson's Ferry in Perry County, Indiana. There the cargo was left in the charge of friends, and Lincoln returned for his family and the rest of his goods.

During his father's absence, the boy Abe had his first observation of sorrow. A brother had been born in the cabin and had died in infancy. The little grave was in the wilderness, and before leaving that country forever, the mother, leading her six-year-old boy by the hand, paid a farewell visit to the grave. The child beheld with awe the silent grief of the mother and carried in his memory that scene to his dying day.

The father returned with glowing accounts of the new home. The family and the furniture,—to use so dignified a name for such meager possessions,—were loaded into a wagon or a cart, and they were soon on the way to their new home.

The traveling was slow, but the weather was fine, the journey prosperous, and they arrived duly at their destination. They pushed northward, or back from the river, about eighteen miles into the woods and settled in Spencer County near to a hamlet named Gentryville. Here they established their home.

The first thing, of course, was to stake off the land, enter the claim, and pay the government fee at the United States Land Office at Vincennes. The amount of land was one quarter section, or one hundred and sixty acres.

The next thing was to erect a cabin. In this case the cabin consisted of what was called a half-faced camp. That is, the structure was entirely open on one of its four sides. This was at the lower side of the roof, and the opening was partly concealed by the hanging of the skins of deer and other wild animals. This open face fully supplied all need of door and window.

The structure was built four square, fourteen feet each way. Posts were set up at the corners, then the sides were made of poles placed as near together as possible. The interstices were filled in with chips and clay, which was called "chinking." The fireplace and chimney were built at the back and outside. The chief advantage of this style of domicile is that it provides plenty of fresh air. With one side of the room entirely open, and with a huge fireplace at the other side, the sanitary problem of ventilation was solved.

There were no Brussels carpets, no Persian rugs, no hardwood floors. The bare soil was pounded hard, and that was the floor. There were two beds inn the two rear corners of the rooms. The corner position saved both space and labor. Two sides of the bed were composed of parts of the two walls. At the opposite angle a stake, with a forked top, was driven into the ground, and from this to the walls were laid two poles at right angles. This made the frame of the bed. Then "shakes," or large hand-made shingles, were placed crosswise. Upon these were laid the ticks filled with feathers or corn husks, and the couch was complete. Not stylish, but healthful and comfortable.

The produce of his farm was chiefly corn, though a little wheat was raised for a change of diet. Doubtless there were enough of the staple vegetables which grow easily in that country. Butcher shops were not needed, owing to the abundance of wild game.

The principal portion of the life of the average boy concerns his schooling. As nearly as can be determined the aggregate of young Lincoln's schooling was about one year, and this was divided between five teachers—an average of less than three months to each—and spread out over as many years. The branches taught were "readin', writin', and cipherin' to the rule of three." Any young man who happened along with a fair knowledge of the three great R's—"Readin', 'Ritin', and' Rithmetic"—was thought fit to set up a school, taking his small pay in cash and boarding around—that is, spending one day or more at a time as the guest of each of his patrons.

There was nothing of special interest in any of these teachers, but their names are preserved simply because the fact that they did teach him is a matter of great interest. The first teacher was Zachariah Riney, a Roman Catholic, from whose schoolroom the Protestants were excluded, or excused, during the opening exercises. Then came Caleb Hazel. These were in Kentucky, and therefore their instruction of Lincoln must have come to an end by the time he was seven years old. When ten years old he studied under one Dorsey, when about fourteen under Crawford, and when sixteen under Swaney.

It can hardly be doubted that his mother's instruction was of more worth than all these put together. A woman who, under such limitations, had energy enough to teach her husband to read and write, was a rare character, and her influence could not be other than invaluable to the bright boy. Charles Lamb classified all literature in two divisions: "Books that are not books, and books that are books." It is important that every boy learn to read. But a far more important question is, What use does he make of his ability to read? Does he read "books that are books?" Let us now see what use Lincoln made of his knowledge of reading.

In those days books were rare and his library was small and select. It consisted at first of three volumes: The Bible, Aesop's Fables and Pilgrim's Progress. Some-time in the eighties a prominent magazine published a series of articles written by men of eminence in the various walks of life, under the title of "Books that have helped me." The most noticeable fact was that each of these eminent men—men who had read hundreds of books—specified not more than three or four books. Lincoln's first list was of three. They were emphatically books. Day after day he read, pondered and inwardly digested them until they were his own. Better books he could not have found in all the universities of Europe, and we begin to understand where he got his moral vision, his precision of English style, and his shrewd humor.

Later he borrowed from a neighbor, Josiah Crawford, a copy of Weems' Life of Washington. In lieu of a bookcase he tucked this, one night, into the chinking of the cabin. A rain-storm came up and soaked the book through and through. By morning it presented a sorry appearance. The damage was done and could not be repaired. Crestfallen the lad carried it back to the owner and, having no money, offered to pay for the mischief in work. Crawford agreed and named seventy-five cents (in labor) as a fair sum.

"Does this pay for the book," the borrower asked, "or only for the damage to the book?" Crawford reckoned that the book "wa'n't of much account to him nor to any one else." So Lincoln cheerfully did the work—it was for three days—and owned the book.

Later he had a life of Henry Clay, whom he nearly idolized. His one poet was Burns, whom he knew by heart "from a to izzard." Throughout his life he ranked Burns next to Shakespeare.

The hymns which he most loved must have had influence not only on his religious spirit, but also on his literary taste. Those which are mentioned are, "Am I a soldier of the cross?" "How tedious and tasteless the hours," "There is a fountain filled with blood," and "Alas, and did my Saviour bleed?" Good hymns every one of them, in that day, or in any day.

Having no slate he did his "sums" in the sand on the ground, or on a wooden shovel which, after it was covered on both sides, he scraped down so as to erase the work. A note-book is preserved, containing, along with examples in arithmetic, this boyish doggerel:

Abraham Lincoln his hand and pen he will be good but god knows When.

The penmanship bears a striking resemblance to that in later life.

About a year after Thomas Lincoln's family settled in Indiana, they were followed by some neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow and Dennis Hanks, a child. To these the Lincolns surrendered their camp and built for themselves a cabin, which was slightly more pretentious than the first. It had an attic, and for a stairway there were pegs in the wall up which an active boy could readily climb. There was a stationary table, the legs being driven into the ground, some three-legged stools, and a Dutch oven.

In the year 1818 a mysterious epidemic passed over the region, working havoc with men and cattle. It was called the "milk-sick." Just what it was physicians are unable to determine, but it was very destructive. Both Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow were attacked. They were removed, for better care, to the home of the Lincolns, where they shortly died. By this time Mrs. Lincoln was down with the same scourge. There was no doctor to be had, the nearest one being thirty-five miles away. Probably it made no difference. At all events she soon died and the future president passed into his first sorrow.

The widowed husband was undertaker. With his own hands he "rived" the planks, made the coffin, and buried Nancy Hanks, that remarkable woman. There was no pastor, no funeral service. The grave was marked by a wooden slab, which, long years after, in 1879, was replaced by a stone suitably inscribed.

A traveling preacher known as Parson Elkin had occasionally preached in the neighborhood of the Lincolns in Kentucky. The young boy now put to use his knowledge of writing. He wrote a letter to the parson inviting him to come over and preach the funeral sermon. How he contrived to get the letter to its destination we do not know, but it was done. The kind-hearted preacher cheerfully consented, though it involved a long and hard journey. He came at his earliest convenience, which was some time the next year.

There was no church in which to hold the service. Lincoln never saw a church building of any description until he was grown. But the neighbors to the number of about two hundred assembled under the trees, where the parson delivered the memorial sermon.

Lincoln was nine years old when his mother died, October 5th, 1818. Her lot was hard, her horizon was narrow, her opportunities were restricted, her life was one of toil and poverty. All through her life and after her untimely death, many people would have said that she had had at best but a poor chance in the world. Surely no one would have predicted that her name would come to be known and reverenced from ocean to ocean. But she was faithful, brave, cheerful. She did her duty lovingly. In later years the nation joined with her son in paying honor to the memory of this noble, overworked, uncomplaining woman.



The death of his wife had left Thomas Lincoln with the care of three young children: namely, Sarah, about eleven years old, Abe, ten years old, and the foster brother, Dennis (Friend) Hanks, a year or two younger. The father was not able to do woman's work as well as his wife had been able to do man's work, and the condition of the home was pitiable indeed. To the three motherless children and the bereaved father it was a long and dreary winter. When spring came they had the benefits of life in the woods and fields, and so lived through the season until the edge of the following winter. It is not to be wondered at that the father was unwilling to repeat the loneliness of the preceding year.

Early in December, 1819, he returned to Elizabethtown, Ky., and proposed marriage to a widow, Mrs. Sally Bush Johnston. The proposal must have been direct, with few preliminaries or none, for the couple were married next morning. The new wife brought him a fortune, in addition to three children of various ages, of sundry articles of household furniture. Parents, children, and goods were shortly after loaded into a wagon drawn by a four-horse team, and in all the style of this frontier four-in-hand, were driven over indescribable roads, through woods and fields, to their Indiana home.

The accession of Sally Bush's furniture made an important improvement in the home. What was more important, she had her husband finish the log cabin by providing window, door, and floor. What was most important of all, she brought the sweet spirit of an almost ideal motherhood into the home, giving to all the children alike a generous portion of mother-love.

The children now numbered six, and not only were they company for one another, but the craving for womanly affection, which is the most persistent hunger of the heart of child or man, was beautifully met. She did not humor them to the point of idleness, but wisely ruled with strictness without imperiousness. She kept them from bad habits and retained their affection to the last. The influence upon the growing lad of two such women as Nancy Hanks and Sally Bush was worth more than that of the best appointed college in all the land.

The boy grew into youth, and he grew very fast. While still in his teens he reached the full stature of his manhood, six feet and four inches. His strength was astonishing, and many stories were told of this and subsequent periods to illustrate his physical prowess, such as: he once lifted up a hencoop weighing six hundred pounds and carried it off bodily; he could lift a full barrel of cider to his mouth and drink from the bung-hole; he could sink an ax-halve deeper into a log than any man in the country.

During the period of his growth into youth he spent much of his time in reading, talking, and, after a fashion, making speeches. He also wrote some. His political writings won great admiration from his neighbors. He occasionally wrote satires which, while not refined, were very stinging. This would not be worth mentioning were it not for the fact that it shows that from boyhood he knew the force of this formidable weapon which later he used with so much skill. The country store furnished the frontier substitute for the club, and there the men were wont to congregate. It is needless to say that young Lincoln was the life of the gatherings, being an expert in the telling of a humorous story and having always a plentiful supply. His speech-making proved so attractive that his father was forced to forbid him to practise it during working hours because the men would always leave their work to listen to him.

During these years he had no regular employment, but did odd jobs wherever he got a chance. At one time, for example, he worked on a ferryboat for the munificent wages of thirty-seven and one half cents a day.

When sixteen years old, Lincoln had his first lesson in oratory. He attended court at Boonville, county seat of Warwick County and heard a case in which one of the aristocratic Breckenridges of Kentucky was attorney for the defense. The power of his oratory was a revelation to the lad. At its conclusion the awkward, ill-dressed, bashful but enthusiastic young Lincoln pressed forward to offer his congratulations and thanks to the eloquent lawyer, who haughtily brushed by him without accepting the proffered hand. In later years the men met again, this time in Washington City, in the white house. The president reminded Breckenridge of the incident which the latter had no desire to recall.

When about nineteen years old, he made his first voyage down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Two incidents are worth recording of this trip. The purpose was to find, in New Orleans, a market for produce, which was simply floated down stream on a flat-boat. There was, of course, a row-boat for tender. The crew consisted of himself and young Gentry, son of his employer.

Near Baton Rouge they had tied up for the night in accordance with the custom of flat-boat navigation. During the night they were awakened by a gang of seven ruffian negroes who had come aboard to loot the stuff. Lincoln shouted "Who's there?" Receiving no reply he seized a handspike and knocked over the first, second, third, and fourth in turn, when the remaining three took to the woods. The two northerners pursued them a short distance, then returned, loosed their craft and floated safely to their destination.

It was on this trip that Lincoln earned his first dollar, as he in after years related to William H. Seward:

"... A steamer was going down the river. We have, you know, no wharves on the western streams, and the custom was, if passengers were at any of the landings, they were to go out in a boat, the steamer stopping and taking them on board.... Two men with trunks came down to the shore in carriages, and looking at the different boats, singled out mine, and asked, 'Who owns this?' I modestly answered, 'I do.' 'Will you take us and our trunks out to the steamer?' 'Certainly.'... The trunks were put in my boat, the passengers seated themselves on them, and I sculled them out to the steamer. They got on board, and I lifted the trunks and put them on the deck. The steamer was about to put on steam again, when I called out: 'You have forgotten to pay me.' Each of them took from his pocket a silver half dollar and threw it on the bottom of my boat. I could scarcely believe my eyes as I picked up the money. You may think it was a very little thing, and in these days it seems to me like a trifle, but it was a most important incident in my life. I could scarcely credit that I, a poor boy, had earned a dollar in less than a day; that by honest work I had earned a dollar. I was a more hopeful and thoughtful boy from that time."

The goods were sold profitably at New Orleans and the return trip was made by steamboat. This was about twenty years after Fulton's first voyage from New York to Albany, which required seven days. Steamboats had been put on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, but these crafts were of primitive construction—awkward as to shape and slow as to speed. The frequency of boiler explosions was proverbial for many years. The lads, Gentry and Lincoln, returned home duly and the employer was well satisfied with the results of the expedition.

In 1830 the epidemic "milk sick" reappeared in Indiana, and Thomas Lincoln had a pardonable desire to get out of the country. Illinois was at that time settling up rapidly and there were glowing accounts of its desirableness. Thomas Lincoln's decision to move on to the new land of promise was reasonable. He sold out and started with his family and household goods to his new destination. The time of year was March, just when the frost is coming out of the ground so that the mud is apparently bottomless. The author will not attempt to describe it, for he has in boyhood seen it many times and knows it to be indescribable. It was Abe's duty to drive the four yoke of oxen, a task which must have strained even his patience.

They settled in Macon County, near Decatur. There the son faithfully worked with his father until the family was fairly settled, then started out in life for himself. For he had now reached the age of twenty-one. As he had passed through the periods of childhood and youth, and was on the threshold of manhood, it is right and fitting to receive at this point the testimony of Sally Bush, his stepmother:

"Abe was a good boy, and I can say what scarcely one woman—a mother— can say in a thousand: Abe never gave me a cross word or look, and never refused, in fact or appearance, to do anything I requested him. I never gave him a cross word in all my life.... He was a dutiful son to me always. I think he loved me truly. I had a son John who was raised with Abe. Both were good boys; but I must say, both being now dead, that Abe was the best boy I ever saw, or expect to see."

These words of praise redound to the honor of the speaker equally with that of her illustrious stepson.

Lincoln came into the estate of manhood morally clean. He had formed no habits that would cause years of struggle to overcome, he had committed no deed that would bring the blush of shame to his cheek, he was as free from vice as from crime. He was not profane, he had never tasted liquor, he was no brawler, he never gambled, he was honest and truthful. On the other hand, he had a genius for making friends, he was the center of every social circle, he was a good talker and a close reasoner. Without a thought of the great responsibilities awaiting him, he had thus far fitted himself well by his faithfulness in such duties as fell to him.



The first winter in Illinois, 1830-31, was one of those epochal seasons which come to all communities. It is remembered by "the oldest inhabitant" to this day for the extraordinary amount of snow that fell. There is little doing in such a community during any winter; but in such a winter as that there was practically nothing doing. Lincoln always held himself ready to accept any opportunity for work, but there was no opening that winter. The only thing he accomplished was what he did every winter and every summer of his life: namely, he made many friends.

When spring opened, Denton Offutt decided to send a cargo of merchandise down to New Orleans. Hearing that Lincoln, John Hanks, and John Johnston were "likely boys," he employed them to take charge of the enterprise. Their pay was to be fifty cents a day and "found," and, if the enterprise proved successful, an additional sum of twenty dollars. Lincoln said that none of them had ever seen so much money at one time, and they were glad to accept the offer.

Two events occurred during this trip which are of sufficient interest to bear narration.

The boat with its cargo had been set afloat in the Sangamon River at Springfield. All went well until, at New Salem, they came to a mill dam where, in spite of the fact that the water was high, owing to the spring floods, the boat stuck. Lincoln rolled his trousers "five feet more or less" up his long, lank legs, waded out to the boat, and got the bow over the dam. Then, without waiting to bail the water out, he bored a hole in the bottom and let it run out. He constructed a machine which lifted and pushed the boat over the obstruction, and thus their voyage was quickly resumed. Many years later, when he was a practising lawyer, he whittled out a model of his invention and had it patented. The model may to-day be seen in the patent office at Washington. The patent brought him no fortune, but it is an interesting relic.

This incident is of itself entirely unimportant. It is narrated here solely because it illustrates one trait of the man—his ingenuity. He had remarkable fertility in devising ways and means of getting out of unexpected difficulties. When, in 1860, the Ship of State seemed like to run aground hopelessly, it was his determination and ingenuity that averted total wreck. As in his youth he saved the flatboat, so in his mature years he saved the nation.

The other event was that at New Orleans, where he saw with his own eyes some of the horrors of slavery. He never could tolerate a moral wrong. At a time when drinking was almost universal, he was a total abstainer. Though born in a slave state, he had an earnest and growing repugnance to slavery. Still, up to this time he had never seen much of its workings. At this time he saw a slave market—the auctioning off of human beings.

The details of this auction were so coarse and vile that it is impossible to defile these pages with an accurate and faithful description. Lincoln saw it all. He saw a beautiful mulatto girl exhibited like a race-horse, her "points" dwelt on, one by one, in order, as the auctioneer said, that "bidders might satisfy themselves whether the article they were offering to buy was sound or not." One of his companions justly said slavery ran the iron into him then and there. His soul was stirred with a righteous indignation. Turning to the others he exclaimed with a solemn oath: "Boys, if ever I get a chance to hit that thing [slavery] I'll hit it hard!"

He bided his time. One-third of a century later he had the chance to hit that thing. He redeemed his oath. He hit it hard.



Upon the arrival of the Lincoln family in Illinois, they had the few tools which would be considered almost necessary to every frontiersman: namely, a common ax, broad-ax, hand-saw, whip-saw. The mauls and wedges were of wood and were made by each workman for himself. To this stock of tools may also be added a small supply of nails brought from Indiana, for at that period nails were very expensive and used with the strictest economy. By means of pegs and other devices people managed to get along without them.

When Abraham Lincoln went to New Salem it was (like all frontier towns) a promising place. It grew until it had the enormous population of about one hundred people, housed—or log-cabined—in fifteen primitive structures. The tributary country was not very important in a commercial sense. To this population no less than four general stores— that is, stores containing nearly everything that would be needed in that community—offered their wares.

The town flourished, at least it lived, about through the period that Lincoln dwelt there, after which it disappeared.

Lincoln was ready to take any work that would get him a living. A neighbor advised him to make use of his great strength in the work of a blacksmith. He seriously thought of learning the trade, but was, fortunately for the country, diverted from doing so.

The success of the expedition to New Orleans had won the admiration of his employer, Denton Offutt, and he now offered Lincoln a clerkship in his prospective store. The offer was accepted partly because it gave him some time to read, and it was here that he came to know the two great poets, Burns and Shakespeare.

Offutt's admiration of the young clerk did him credit, but his voluble expression of it was not judicious. He bragged that Lincoln was smart enough to be president, and that he could run faster, jump higher, throw farther, and "wrastle" better than any man in the country. In the neighborhood there was a gang of rowdies, kind at heart but very rough, known as "the Clary's Grove boys." They took the boasting of Offutt as a direct challenge to themselves and eagerly accepted it. So they put up a giant by the name of Jack Armstrong as their champion and arranged a "wrastling" match. All went indifferently for a while until Lincoln seemed to be getting the better of his antagonist, when the "boys" crowded in and interfered while Armstrong attempted a foul. Instantly Lincoln was furious. Putting forth all his strength he lifted Jack up and shook him as a terrier shakes a rat. The crowd, in their turn, became angry and set out to mob him. He backed up against a wall and in hot indignation awaited the onset. Armstrong was the first to recover his good sense. Exclaiming, "Boys, Abe Lincoln's the best fellow that ever broke into the settlement," he held out his hand to Lincoln who received it with perfect good nature. From that day these boys never lost their admiration for him. He was their hero. From that day, too, he became the permanent umpire, the general peacemaker of the region. His good nature, his self-command, and his manifest fairness placed his decisions beyond question. His popularity was established once for all in the entire community.

There are some, anecdotes connected with his work in the store which are worth preserving because they illustrate traits of his character. He once sold a half pound of tea to a customer. The next morning as he was tidying up the store he saw, by the weights which remained in the scales, that he had inadvertently given her four, instead of eight, ounces. He instantly weighed out the balance and carried it to her, not waiting for his breakfast.

At another time when he counted up his cash at night he discovered that he had charged a customer an excess of six and a quarter cents. He closed up the store at once and walked to the home of the customer, and returned the money. It was such things as these, in little matters as well as great, that gave him the nickname of "honest Abe" which, to his honor be it said, clung to him through life.

One incident illustrates his chivalry. While he was waiting upon some women, a ruffian came into the store using vulgar language. Lincoln asked him to desist, but he became more abusive than ever. After the women had gone, Lincoln took him out of the store, threw him on the ground, rubbed smartweed in his face and eyes until he howled for mercy, and then he gave him a lecture which did him more practical good than a volume of Chesterfield's letters.

Some time after Offutt's store had "winked out," while Lincoln was looking for employment there came a chance to buy one half interest in a store, the other half being owned by an idle, dissolute fellow named Berry who ultimately drank himself into his grave. Later, another opening came in the following way: the store of one Radford had been wrecked by the horse-play of some ruffians, and the lot was bought by Mr. Greene for four hundred dollars. He employed Lincoln to make an invoice of the goods and he in turn offered Greene two hundred and fifty dollars for the bargain and the offer was accepted. But even that was not the last investment. The fourth and only remaining store in the hamlet was owned by one Rutledge. This also was bought out by the firm of Berry & Lincoln. Thus they came to have the monopoly of the mercantile business in the hamlet of New Salem.

Be it known that in all these transactions not a dollar in money changed hands. Men bought with promissory notes and sold for the same consideration. The mercantile venture was not successful. Berry was drinking and loafing, and Lincoln, who did not work as faithfully for himself as for another, was usually reading or telling stories. So when a couple of strangers, Trent by name, offered to buy out the store, the offer was accepted and more promissory notes changed hands. About the time these last notes came due, the Trent brothers disappeared between two days. Then Berry died.

The outcome of the whole series of transactions was that Lincoln was left with an assortment of promissory notes bearing the names of the Herndons, Radford, Greene, Rutledge, Berry, and the Trents. With one exception, which will be duly narrated, his creditors told him to pay when he was able. He promised to put all of his earnings, in excess of modest living expenses, into the payment of these obligations. It was the burden of many years and he always called it "the national debt." But he kept his word, paying both principal and the high rate of interest until 1848, or after fifteen years, when a member of congress, he paid the last cent. He was still "honest Abe." This narrative ranks the backwoodsman with Sir Walter Scott and Mark Twain, though no dinners were tendered to him and no glowing eulogies were published from ocean to ocean.

His only further experience in navigation was the piloting of a Cincinnati steamboat, the Talisman, up the Sangamon River (during the high water in spring time) to show that that stream was navigable. Nothing came of it however, and Springfield was never made "the head of navigation."

It was in the midst of the mercantile experiences above narrated that the Black Hawk war broke out. Black Hawk was chief of the Sac Indians, who, with some neighboring tribes, felt themselves wronged by the whites. Some of them accordingly put on the paint, raised the whoop, and entered the warpath in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. The governor called for soldiers, and Lincoln volunteered with the rest.

The election of captain of the company was according to an original method. The two candidates were placed a short distance apart and the men were invited to line up with one or the other according to their preference. When this had been done it was seen that Lincoln had about three quarters of the men. This testimony to his popularity was gratifying. After he became president of the United States he declared that no success that ever came to him gave him so much solid satisfaction.

Lincoln saw almost nothing of the war. His only casualty came after its close. He had been mustered out and his horse was stolen so that he was compelled to walk most of the way home. After the expiration of his term of enlistment he reenlisted as a private. As he saw no fighting the war was to him almost literally a picnic. But in 1848, when he was in congress, the friends of General Cass were trying to make political capital out of his alleged military services. This brought from Lincoln a speech which showed that he had not lost the power of satire which he possessed while a lad in Indiana.

"Did you know, Mr. Speaker, I am a military hero? In the days of the Black Hawk war I fought, bled, and—came away. I was not at Stillman's defeat, but I was about as near it as General Cass was to Hull's surrender; and, like him, I saw the place very soon afterwards. It is quite certain I did not break my sword, for I had none to break, but I bent my musket pretty bad on one occasion. If General Cass went in advance of me picking whortleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charges on the wild onions. If he saw any live fighting Indians, it was more than I did, but I had a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes; and although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can truly say I was often very hungry. If ever I should conclude to doff whatever our Democratic friends may suppose there is of black-cockade Federalism about me, and thereupon they shall take me up as their candidate for the Presidency, I protest that they shall not make fun of me, as they have of General Cass, by attempting to write me into a military hero."

In 1833 Lincoln was appointed postmaster at New Salem. To him the chief advantage of this position was the fact that it gave him the means of reading the papers. The principal one of these was the Louisville Journal, an exceedingly able paper, for it was in charge of George D. Prentice, one of the ablest editors this country has ever produced. The duties of the post-office were few because the mail was light. The occasional letters which came were usually carried around by the postmaster in his hat. When one asked for his mail, he would gravely remove his hat and search through the package of letters.

This office was discontinued in a short time, but no agent of the government came to close up the accounts. Years afterwards, when Lincoln was in Springfield, the officer suddenly appeared and demanded the balance due to the United States, the amount being seventeen dollars and a few cents. A friend who was by, knowing that Lincoln was short of funds, in order to save him from embarrassment, offered to lend him the needful sum. "Hold on a minute and let's see how we come out," said he. He went to his room and returned with an old rag containing money. This he counted out, being the exact sum to a cent. It was all in small denominations of silver and copper, just as it had been received. In all his emergencies of need he had never touched this small fund which he held in trust. To him it was sacred. He was still "honest Abe."

In the early thirties, when the state of Illinois was being settled with great rapidity, the demand for surveyors was greater than the supply. John Calhoun, surveyor for the government, was in urgent need of a deputy, and Lincoln was named as a man likely to be able to fit himself for the duties on short notice. He was appointed. He borrowed the necessary book and went to work in dead earnest to learn the science. Day and night he studied until his friends, noticing the wearing effect on his health, became alarmed. But by the end of six weeks, an almost incredibly brief period of time, he was ready for work.

It is certain that his outfit was of the simplest description, and there is a tradition that at first, instead of a surveyor's chain he used a long, straight, wild-grape vine. Those who understand the conditions and requirements of surveying in early days say that this is not improbable. A more important fact is that Lincoln's surveys have never been called in question, which is something that can be said of few frontier surveyors. Though he learned the science in so short a time, yet here, as always, he was thorough.

It was said in the earlier part of this chapter that to the holders of Lincoln's notes who consented to await his ability to pay, there was one exception. One man, when his note fell due, seized horse and instruments, and put a temporary stop to his surveying. But a neighbor bought these in and returned them to Lincoln. He never forgot the kindness of this man, James Short by name, and thirty years later appointed him Indian agent.

At this point may be mentioned an occurrence which took place a year or two later. It was his first romance of love, his engagement to a beautiful girl, Ann Rutledge, and his bereavement. Her untimely death nearly unsettled his mind. He was afflicted with melancholy to such a degree that his friends dared not leave him alone. For years afterwards the thought of her would shake his whole frame with emotion, and he would sit with his face buried in his hands while the tears trickled through. A friend once begged him to try to forget his sorrow. "I cannot," he said; "the thought of the rain and snow on her grave fills me with indescribable grief."

Somehow, we know not how, the poem "Oh, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?" was in his mind connected with Ann Rutledge. Possibly it may have been a favorite with her. There was certainly some association, and through his whole life he was fond of it and often repeated it. Nor did he forget her. It was late in life that he said: "I really and truly loved the girl and think often of her now." Then, after a pause, "And I have loved the name of Rutledge to this day."

This bereavement took much from Lincoln. Did it give him nothing? Patience, earnestness, tenderness, sympathy—these are sometimes the gifts which are sent by the messenger Sorrow. We are justified in believing that this sad event was one of the means of ripening the character of this great man, and that to it was due a measure of his usefulness in his mature years.



Lincoln's duties at New Salem, as clerk, storekeeper, and postmaster, had resulted in an intimate acquaintance with the people of that general locality. His duties as surveyor took him into the outlying districts. His social instincts won for him friends wherever he was known, while his sterling character gave him an influence unusual, both in kind and in measure, for a young man of his years. He had always possessed an interest in public, even national, questions, and his fondness for debate and speech-making increased this interest. Moreover he had lived month by month going from one job to another, and had not yet found his permanent calling.

When this combination of facts is recalled, it is a foregone conclusion that he would sooner or later enter politics. This he did at the age of twenty-three, in 1832.

According to the custom of the day he announced in the spring his candidacy. After this was done the Black Hawk war called him off the ground and he did not get back until about ten days before the election, so that he had almost no time to attend to the canvass. One incident of this campaign is preserved which is interesting, partly because it concerns the first known speech Lincoln ever made in his own behalf, and chiefly because it was an exhibition of his character.

He was speaking at a place called Cappsville when two men in the audience got into a scuffle.

Lincoln proceeded in his speech until it became evident that his friend was getting the worst of the scuffle, when he descended from the platform, seized the antagonist and threw him ten or twelve feet away on the ground, and then remounted the platform and took up his speech where he had left off without a break in the logic.

The methods of electioneering are given by Miss Tarbell in the following words:

"Wherever he saw a crowd of men he joined them, and he never failed to adapt himself to their point of view in asking for votes. If the degree of physical strength was the test for a candidate, he was ready to lift a weight, or wrestle with the countryside champion; if the amount of grain a man could cut would recommend him, he seized the cradle and showed the swath he could cut" (I. 109).

The ten days devoted to the canvass were not enough, and he was defeated. The vote against him was chiefly in the outlying region where he was little known. It must have been gratifying to him that in his own precinct, where he was so well known, he received the almost unanimous vote of all parties. Biographers differ as to the precise number of votes in the New Salem precinct, but by Nicolay and Hay it is given as 277 for, and three against. Of this election Lincoln himself (speaking in the third person) said: "This was the only time Abraham was ever defeated on the direct vote of the people."

His next political experience was a candidacy for the legislature 1834. At this time, as before, he announced his own candidacy. But not as before, he at this time made a diligent canvass of the district. When the election came off he was not only successful but he ran ahead of his ticket. He usually did run ahead of his ticket excepting when running for the presidency, and then it was from the nature of the case impossible. Though Lincoln probably did not realize it, this, his first election, put an end forever to his drifting, desultory, frontier life. Up to this point he was always looking for a job. From this time on he was not passing from one thing to another. In this country politics and law are closely allied. This two-fold pursuit, politics, for the sake of law, and law for the sake of politics, constituted Lincoln's vocation for the rest of his life.

The capital of Illinois was Vandalia, a village said to be named after the Vandals by innocent citizens who were pleased with the euphony of the word hut did not know who the Vandals were. Outwardly the village was crude and forbidding, and many of the Solons were attired in coon- skin caps and other startling apparel. The fashionable clothing, the one which came to be generally adopted as men grew to be "genteel," was blue jeans. Even "store clothes," as they came to be called, were as yet comparatively unknown.

But one must not be misled by appearances in a frontier town. The frontier life has a marvelous influence in developing brains. It is as hard for some people in the centers of culture to believe in the possible intelligence of the frontier, as it was in 1776 for the cultured Englishmen to believe in the intelligence of the colonial patriots. In that collection of men at Vandalia were more than a few who afterwards came to have national influence and reputation.

Apart from Lincoln himself, the most prominent member of the legislature was his lifelong antagonist, Stephen A. Douglas. Whatever may be said of this man's political principles, there can be no question as to the shrewdness of his political methods. It is the opinion of the present writer that in the entire history of our political system no man has ever surpassed him in astuteness. Even to- day all parties are using the methods which he either devised or introduced. The trouble with him was that he was on the wrong side. He did not count sufficiently on the conscience of the nation.

Lincoln was re-elected to the legislature as often as he was willing to be a candidate, and served continuously for eight years. One session is much like another, and in this eight years of legislative experience only two prominent facts will be narrated. One was the removal of the capital to Springfield. To Lincoln was entrusted the difficult task— difficult, because there were almost as many applications for the honor of being the capital city as there were towns and villages in the central part of the state. He was entirely successful, and thenceforward he was inseparably connected with Springfield. It was his home as long as he lived, and there his remains were buried.

The prophetic event of his legislative work was what is known as the Lincoln-Stone protest. This looks to-day so harmless that it is not easy to understand the situation in 1837. The pro-slavery feeling was running high, an abolitionist was looked on as a monster and a menace to national law and order. It was in that year that the Reverend Elijah P. Lovejoy was murdered—martyred—at Alton, Ill. The legislature had passed pro-slavery resolutions. There were many in the legislature who did not approve of these, but in the condition of public feeling, it was looked on as political suicide to express opposition openly. There was no politic reason why Lincoln should protest. His protest could do no practical good. To him it was solely a matter of conscience. Slavery was wrong, the resolutions were wrong, and to him it became necessary to enter the protest. He succeeded in getting but one man to join him, and he did so because he was about to withdraw from politics and therefore had nothing to lose. Here is the document as it was spread on the journal:

"Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passed both branches of the General Assembly at its present session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of the same.

"They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils.

"They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power under the Constitution to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different States.

"They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power, under the Constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, but that the power ought not to be exercised, unless at the request of the people of the District.

"The difference between these opinions and those contained in the above resolutions is their reason for entering this protest."


"Representatives from the county of Sangamon."

In 1836 Lincoln made an electioneering speech which was fortunately heard by Joshua Speed, and he has given an account of it. Be it remembered that at that time lightning rods were rare and attracted an unreasonable amount of attention. One Forquer, who was Lincoln's opponent, had recently rodded his house—and every one knew it. This man's speech consisted partly in ridiculing his opponent, his bigness, his awkwardness, his dress, his youth. Lincoln heard him through without interruption and then took the stand and said:

"The gentleman commenced his speech by saying that this young man would have to be taken down, and he was sorry the task devolved upon him. I am not so young in years as I am in the tricks and trades of a politician; but live long or die young, I would rather die now than, like the gentleman, change my politics and simultaneous with the change receive an office worth three thousand dollars a year, and then have to erect a lightning-rod over my house to protect a guilty conscience from an offended God."

It need hardly be said that that speech clung to its victim like a burr. Wherever he went, some one would be found to tell about the guilty conscience and the lightning-rod. The house and its lightning- rod were long a center of interest in Springfield. Visitors to the city were taken to see the house and its lightning-rod, while the story was told with great relish.

Having served eight terms in the legislature, Lincoln in 1842 aspired to congress. He was, however, defeated at the primary. His neighbors added insult to injury by making him one of the delegates to the convention and instructing him to vote for his successful rival, Baker. This did not interrupt the friendship which united the two for many years, lasting, indeed, until the death of Colonel Baker on the field of battle.

In 1846 he renewed his candidacy, and this time with flattering success. His opponent was a traveling preacher, Peter Cartwright, who was widely known in the state and had not a little persuasive power. In this contest Cartwright's "arguments" were two: the first, that Lincoln was an atheist, and the second that he was an aristocrat. These "arguments" were not convincing, and Lincoln was elected by a handsome majority, running far ahead of his ticket. This was, at the time, the height of his ambition, yet he wrote to Mr. Speed: "Being elected to congress, though I am grateful to our friends for having done it, has not pleased me as much as I expected."

His one term in congress was uneventful. Twice his humor bubbled over. Once was when he satirized the claims that Cass was a military hero, in the speech already mentioned. The other time was his introducing the resolutions known as the "spot resolutions." The president had sent to congress an inflammatory, buncombe message, in which he insisted that the war had been begun by Mexico, "by invading our territory and shedding the blood of our citizens on our own soil." The resolutions requested from the president the information:

"First. Whether the spot on which the blood of our citizens was shed, as in his messages declared, was or was not within the territory of Spain, at least after the treaty of 1819, until the Mexican revolution."

"Second. Whether that spot is or is not within the territory which was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary government of Mexico."

"Third. Whether the spot is or is not, etc., etc. It is the recurrence of the word spot which gave the name to the resolutions."

Lincoln had now served eight years in the legislature and one term in congress. He had a good understanding of politics. He was never a time- server, and he had done nothing unwise. He knew how to win votes and he knew what to do with himself when the votes were won. He held the confidence of his constituency. His was a constantly growing popularity. He could do everything but one,—he could not dishonor his conscience. His belief that "slavery was founded on injustice" was the only reason for his protest. He never hesitated to protest against injustice. The Golden Rule had a place in practical politics. The Sermon on the Mount was not an iridescent dream.



In treating of this topic, it will be necessary to recall certain things already mentioned. One characteristic which distinguished Lincoln all through his life was thoroughness. When he was President a man called on him for a certain favor, and, when asked to state his case, made a great mess of it, for he had not sufficiently prepared himself. Then the President gave him some free advice. "What you need is to be thorough," and he brought his hand down on the table with the crash of a maul,—"to be thorough." It was his own method. After a successful practise of twenty years he advised a young law student: "Work, work, work is the main thing." He spoke out of his own experience.

There is one remarkable passage in his life which is worth repeating here, since it gives an insight into the thoroughness of this man. The following is quoted from the Rev. J. P. Gulliver, then pastor of the Congregational church in Norwich, Conn. It was a part of a conversation which took place shortly after the Cooper Institute speech in 1860, and was printed in The Independent for September 1, 1864.

"Oh, yes! 'I read law,' as the phrase is; that is, I became a lawyer's clerk in Springfield, and copied tedious documents, and picked up what I could of law in the intervals of other work. But your question reminds me of a bit of education I had, which I am bound in honesty to mention."

"In the course of my law reading I constantly came upon the word demonstrate. I thought, at first, that I understood its meaning, but soon became satisfied that I did not. I said to myself, What do I do when I demonstrate more than when I reason or prove? How does demonstration differ from any other proof? I consulted Webster's Dictionary. They told of 'certain proof,' 'proof beyond the possibility of doubt'; but I could form no idea of what sort of proof that was. I thought a great many things were proved beyond the possibility of doubt, without recourse to any such extraordinary process of reasoning as I understood demonstration to be. I consulted all the dictionaries and books of reference I could find, but with no better results. You might as well have defined blue to a blind man. At last I said,—Lincoln, you never can make a lawyer if you do not understand what demonstrate means; and I left my situation in Springfield, went home to my father's house, and stayed there till I could give any proposition in the six books of Euclid at sight. I then found out what demonstrate means, and went back to my law studies."

Was there ever a more thorough student?

* * * * *

He, like every one else, had his library within the library. Though he read everything he could lay his hands on, yet there are five books to be mentioned specifically, because from childhood they furnished his intellectual nutriment. These were the Bible, Aesop's Fables and Pilgrim's Progress, Burns, and Shakespeare. These were his mental food. They entered into the very substance of his thought and imagination. "Fear the man of one book." Lincoln had five books, and so thoroughly were they his that he was truly formidable. These did not exclude other reading and study; they made it a thousand times more fruitful. And yet people ask, where did Lincoln get the majesty, the classic simplicity and elegance of his Gettysburg address? The answer is here.

While Lincoln was postmaster, he was a diligent reader of the newspapers, of which the chief was the Louisville Journal. It was edited by George D. Prentice, who was, and is, second to no other editor in the entire history of American journalism. The ability of this man to express his thoughts with such power was a mystery to this reader. The editor's mastery of language aroused in Lincoln a burning desire to obtain command of the English tongue. He applied for counsel to a friend, a schoolmaster by the name of Mentor Graham. Graham recommended him to study English grammar, and told him that a copy of one was owned by a man who lived six miles away. Lincoln walked to the house, borrowed the book—"collared" it, as he expressed it—and at the end of six days had mastered it with his own thoroughness.

The first law book he read was "The Statutes of Indiana." This was when he was a lad living in that state, and he read the book, not for any special desire to know the subject but, because he was in the habit of reading all that came into his hands.

His next book was Blackstone's "Commentaries." The accidental way in which he gained possession of, and read, this book is of sufficient interest to narrate in his own words. It was shortly after he got into the grocery business:

"One day a man who was migrating to the West drove up in front of my store with a wagon which contained his family and household plunder. He asked me if I would buy an old barrel for which he had no room in his wagon, and which he said contained nothing of special value. I did not want it, but to oblige him I bought it, and paid him, I think, half a dollar for it. Without further examination I put it away in the store and forgot all about it. Some time after, in overhauling things, I came upon the barrel, and emptying it upon the floor to see what it contained, I found at the bottom of the rubbish a complete edition of Blackstone's "Commentaries." I began to read those famous works, and I had plenty of time; for during the long summer days, when the farmers were busy with their crops, my customers were few and far between. The more I read, the more intensely interested I became. Never in my whole life was my mind so thoroughly absorbed. I read until I devoured them."

All this may have been fatal to the prosperity of the leading store in that hamlet of fifteen log cabins, but it led to something better than the success of the most magnificent store in New York.

It was in 1834 that Lincoln was first elected to the legislature. During the canvass he was brought into the company of Major John T. Stuart, whom he had met in the Black Hawk war. Stuart advised him to enter definitely on the study of the law. He decided to do this. This proved to be quite the most important thing that occurred to him that year.

Stuart further offered to lend him the necessary books. This offer was gladly accepted, and having no means of travel, he walked to and from Springfield, a distance of twenty miles, to get the books and return them. During this tramp he was able to read forty pages of the volume. Thus he read, and we may venture to say mastered, Chitty, Greenleaf, and Story, in addition to Blackstone before mentioned. It was the best foundation that could have been laid for a great lawyer.

During this reading he was getting his bread and butter by the other employments—store-keeping, postmaster, and surveyor. These may not have interfered greatly with the study of the law, but the study of the law certainly interfered with the first of these. He read much out of doors. He would lie on his back in the shade of some tree, with his feet resting part way up the tree, then follow the shadow around from west to east, grinding around with the progress of the sun. When in the house his attitude was to cock his feet high in a chair, thus "sitting on his shoulder blades," to use a common expression. When in his office he would throw himself on the lounge with his feet high on a chair. These attitudes, bringing his feet up to, and sometimes above, the level with his head, have been characteristic of American students time out of mind. He never outgrew the tendency. Even when President and sitting with his Cabinet, his feet always found some lofty perch.

While he was not reading, he was pondering or memorizing. Thus he took long walks, talking to himself incessantly, until some of his neighbors thought he was going crazy.

He was admitted to the bar in 1837. At that date there was no lawyer nearer to New Salem than those in Springfield, which was twenty miles off. Consequently he had a little amateur practise from his neighbors. He was sometimes appealed to for the purpose of drawing up agreements and other papers. He had no office, and if he chanced to be out of doors would call for writing-materials, a slab of wood for a desk, draw up the paper, and then resume his study.

This same year he became a partner of Stuart, in Springfield. The latter wanted to get into politics, and it was essential that he should, have a trustworthy partner. So the firm of Stuart and Lincoln was established in 1837 and lived for four years. In 1841 he entered into partnership with Logan, and this also lasted about four years. In the year 1845 was established the firm of Lincoln and Herndon, which continued until the assassination of the president in 1865.

After a brief period Lincoln himself got deeper into politics, this period culminating with the term in congress. In this he necessarily neglected the law more or less. But late in 1848, or early in 1849, he returned to the law with renewed vigor and zeal, giving it his undivided attention for six years. It was the repeal of the Missouri Compromise that called him back into the arena of politics. This will be narrated later.

His partnership with Stuart of course necessitated his removal to Springfield. This event, small in itself, gives such a pathetic picture of his poverty, and his cheerful endurance, that it is well worth narrating. It is preserved by Joshua F. Speed, who became, and through life continued, Lincoln's fast friend. The story is given in Speed's words:

"He had ridden into town on a borrowed horse, with no earthly property save a pair of saddlebags containing a few clothes. I was a merchant at Springfield, and kept a large country store, embracing dry-goods, groceries, hardware, books, medicines, bed-clothes, mattresses—in fact, everything that the country needed. Lincoln said he wanted to buy the furniture for a single bed. The mattress, blankets, sheets, coverlet, and pillow, according to the figures made by me, would cost seventeen dollars. He said that perhaps was cheap enough; but small as the price was, he was unable to pay it. [Note that at this time he was carrying the debts of the merchants of New Salem. THE AUTHOR.] But if I would credit him until Christmas, and his experiment as a lawyer was a success, he would pay then; saying in the saddest tone, 'If I fail in this, I do not know that I ever can pay you.' As I looked up at him I thought then, and I think now, that I never saw a sadder face.

I said to him: 'You seem to be so much pained at contracting so small a debt, I think I can suggest a plan by which you can avoid the debt, and at the same time attain your end. I have a large room with a double bed up-stairs, which you are very welcome to share with me.'

'Where is your room?' said he.

'Up-stairs,' said I, pointing to a pair of winding-stairs, which led from the store to my room.

He took his saddle-bags on his arm, went upstairs, set them on the floor, and came down with the most changed expression of countenance. Beaming with pleasure, he exclaimed:

'Well, Speed, I am moved!'"

Thus he became established in the profession of the law and a resident of Springfield. It was not a large city, but it was a very active one, though small, and was the capital of the state. Lincoln was there favorably known, because he had been chiefly instrumental in getting the capital moved to that place from Vandalia. His first law partner was very helpful to him, and he had abundant reason all his life to be thankful also for the friendship of Joshua F. Speed.



The requirements of the lawyer in that part of the country, at that date, were different from the requirements in any part of the world at the present date. The Hon. Joseph H. Choate, in a lecture at Edinburgh, November 13, 1900, said: "My professional brethren will ask me how could this rough backwoodsman ... become a learned and accomplished lawyer? Well, he never did. He never would have earned his salt as a writer for the 'Signet,' nor have won a place as advocate in the Court of Session, where the teachings of the profession has reached its highest perfection, and centuries of learning and precedent are involved in the equipment of a lawyer."

The only means we have of knowing what Lincoln could do is knowing what he did. If his biography teaches anything, it teaches that he never failed to meet the exigencies of any occasion. The study of his life will reveal this fact with increasing emphasis. Many a professional brother looked on Lincoln as "this rough backwoodsman," unable to "become a learned and accomplished lawyer," to his own utter discomfiture. We are justified in saying that if he had undertaken the duties of the Scots writer to the "Signet," he would have done them well, as he did every other duty.

When Douglas was congratulated in advance upon the ease with which he would vanquish his opponent, he replied that he would rather meet any man in the country in that joint debate than Abraham Lincoln. At another time he said: "Lincoln is one of those peculiar men who perform with admirable skill whatever they undertake."

Lincoln's professional duties were in the Eighth Judicial Circuit, which then comprised fifteen counties. Some of these counties have since been subdivided, so that the territory of that district was larger than would be indicated by the same number of counties to-day. It was one hundred and fifty miles long and nearly as wide. There were few railroads, and the best county roads were extremely poor, so that traveling was burdensome. The court and the lawyers traveled from one county seat to another, sometimes horseback, sometimes in buggies or wagons, and sometimes afoot. The duties of one county being concluded, the entire company would move on to another county. Thus only a small part of his duties were transacted at Springfield.

These periodic sessions of the court were of general interest to the communities in which they were held. There were no theaters, no lyceums for music or lectures, and few other assemblages of any sort, excepting the churches and the agricultural fairs. It thus came about that the court was the center of a greater interest than would now be possible. It was the rostrum of the lecturer and the arena of the debate. Nor were comedies lacking in its multifarious proceedings. The attorney was therefore sure of a general audience, as well as of court and jury.

This peripatetic practise threw the lawyers much into one another's company. There were long evenings to be spent in the country taverns, when sociability was above par. Lincoln's inexhaustible fund of wit and humor, and his matchless array of stories, made him the life of the company. In this number there were many lawyers of real ability. The judge was David Davis, whose culture and legal ability will hardly be questioned by any one. Judge Davis was almost ludicrously fond of Lincoln. He kept him in his room evenings and was very impatient if Lincoln's talk was interrupted.

There were two qualities in Lincoln's anecdotes: their resistless fun, and their appropriateness. When Lincoln came into court it was usually with a new story, and as he would tell it in low tones the lawyers would crowd about him to the neglect of everything else, and to the great annoyance of the judge. He once called out: "Mr. Lincoln, we can't hold two courts, one up here and one down there. Either yours or mine must adjourn."

Once Lincoln came into the room late, leaned over the clerk's desk and whispered to him a little story. Thereupon the clerk threw back his head and laughed aloud. The judge thundered out, "Mr. Clerk, you may fine yourself five dollars for contempt of court." The clerk quietly replied, "I don't care; the story's worth it." After adjournment the judge asked him, "What was that story of Lincoln's?" When it was repeated the judge threw back his head and laughed, and added, "You may remit the fine."

A stranger, hearing the fame of Lincoln's stories, attended court and afterward said, "The stories are good, but I can't see that they help the case any." An admiring neighbor replied with more zeal and justice than elegance, "Don't you apply that unction to your soul." The neighbor was right. Lincoln had not in vain spent the days and nights of his boyhood and youth with Aesop. His stories were as luminous of the point under consideration as were the stories which explained that "this fable teaches."

Judge Davis wrote of him that "he was able to claim the attention of court and jury when the cause was most uninteresting by the appropriateness of his anecdotes." Those who have tried to claim Judge Davis' attention when he did not want to give it, will realize the greatness of praise implied in this concession.

To this may be joined the remark of Leonard Swett, that "any man who took Lincoln for a simple-minded man would wake up with his back in the ditch."

As Lincoln would never adopt the methods of his partner Herndon, the latter could not quite grasp the essential greatness of the former, and he uses some patronizing words. We may again quote Judge Davis: "In all the elements that constitute a great lawyer he had few equals ... He seized the strong points of a cause and presented them with clearness and great compactness.... Generalities and platitudes had no charms for him. An unfailing vein of humor never deserted him." Then follows the passage already quoted.

Lincoln never could bring himself to charge large fees. Lamon was his limited partner (with the office in Danville and Bloomington) for many years. He tells one instance which will illustrate this trait. There was a case of importance for which the fee was fixed in advance at $250, a very moderate fee under the circumstances. It so happened that the case was not contested and the business required only a short time. The client cheerfully paid the fee as agreed. As he went away Lincoln asked his partner how much he charged. He replied, "$250." "Lamon," he said, "that is all wrong. Give him back at least half of it." Lamon protested that it was according to agreement and the client was satisfied. "That may be, but I am not satisfied. This is positively wrong. Go, call him back and return him half the money at least, or I will not receive one cent of it for my share."

One may imagine the amazement of the client to receive back one half of the fee. But the matter did not end here. The affair had attracted the attention of those near at hand, including the court. Judge Davis was of enormous physical size, and his voice was like a fog horn. The author writes this from vivid remembrance. Once in early youth he quaked in his shoes at the blast of that voice. The conclusion of the incident is given in the words of Lamon: "The judge never could whisper, but in this case he probably did his best. At all events, in attempting to whisper to Mr. Lincoln he trumpeted his rebuke in about these words, and in rasping tones that could be heard all over the court room: 'Lincoln, I have been watching you and Lamon. You are impoverishing this bar by your picayune charges of fees, and the lawyers have reason to complain of you. You are now almost as poor as Lazarus, and if you don't make people pay you more for your services, you will die as poor as Job's turkey."

The event justified the Judge's remarks. It was not unusual for Lincoln's name, as attorney, to be found on one side or the other of every case on the docket. In other words, his practise was as large as that of any lawyer on the circuit, and he had his full proportion of important cases. But he never accumulated a large sum of money. Probably no other successful lawyer in that region had a smaller income. This is a convincing commentary on his charges.

The largest fee he ever received was from the Illinois Central Railroad. The case was tried at Bloomington before the supreme court and was won for the road. Lincoln went to Chicago and presented a bill for $2,000 at the offices of the company. "Why," said the official, in real or feigned astonishment, "this is as much as a first-class lawyer would have charged."

Lincoln was greatly depressed by this rebuff, and would have let the matter drop then and there had not his neighbors heard of it. They persuaded him to raise the fee to $5,000, and six leading lawyers of the state testified that that sum was a moderate charge. Lincoln sued the road for the larger amount and won his case. It is a matter of interest that at that time the vice-president of the railroad was George B. McClellan.

It was Lincoln's habit always to go to the heart of a case. Quibbles did not interest him. The non-professional public who have attended jury trials will not easily forget the monotonous "I object" of the attorneys, usually followed by, "I except to the ruling of the court," and "The clerk will note the exception." Lincoln generally met the objections by the placid remark, "I reckon that's so." Thus he gave up point after point, apparently giving away his case over and over again, until his associates were brought to the verge of nervous prostration. After giving away six points he would fasten upon the seventh, which was the pivotal point of the case, and would handle that so as to win. This ought to have been satisfactory, but neither Herndon nor his other associates ever got used to it.

Lincoln put his conscience into his legal practise to a greater degree than is common with lawyers. He held (with Blackstone) that law is for the purpose of securing justice, and he would never make use of any technicality for the purpose of thwarting justice. When others maneuvered, he met them by a straightforward dealing. He never did or could take an unfair advantage. On the wrong side of a case, he was worse than useless to his client, and he knew it. He would never take such a case if it could be avoided. His partner Herndon tells how he gave some free and unprofessional advice to one who offered him such a case: "Yes, there is no reasonable doubt but that I can gain your case for you. I can set a whole neighborhood at loggerheads; I can distress a widowed mother and her six fatherless children, and thereby get for you six hundred dollars, which rightfully belongs, it appears to me, as much to them as it does to you. I shall not take your case, but will give a little advice for nothing. You seem a sprightly, energetic man. I would advise you to try your hand at making six hundred dollars in some other way."

Sometimes, after having entered on a case, he discovered that his clients had imposed on him. In his indignation he has even left the court room. Once when the Judge sent for him he refused to return. "Tell the judge my hands are dirty; I came over to wash them."

The most important law-suit in which Lincoln was ever engaged was the McCormick case. McCormick instituted a suit against one Manny for alleged infringement of patents. McCormick virtually claimed the monopoly of the manufacture of harvesting machines. The suit involved a large sum of money besides incidental considerations. The leading attorney for the plaintiff was the Hon. Reverdy Johnson, one of the foremost, if not the foremost, at the bar in the entire country. It was the opportunity of crossing swords with Johnson that, more than anything else, stirred Lincoln's interest. With him, for the defense, was associated Edwin M. Stanton.

The case was to be tried at Cincinnati, and all parties were on hand. Lincoln gave an extraordinary amount of care in the preparation of the case. But some little things occurred. Through an open doorway he heard Stanton make some scornful remarks of him,—ridiculing his awkward appearance and his dress, particularly, for Lincoln wore a linen duster, soiled and disfigured by perspiration. When the time came for apportioning the speeches, Lincoln, although he was thoroughly prepared and by the customs of the bar it was his right to make the argument, courteously offered the opportunity to Stanton, who promptly accepted. It was a great disappointment to Lincoln to miss thus the opportunity of arguing with Reverdy Johnson. Neither did Stanton know what he missed. Nor did Johnson know what a narrow escape he had.

This chapter will not be complete without making mention of Lincoln's professional kindness to the poor and unfortunate. Those who could find no other friends were sure to find a friend in Lincoln. He would freely give his services to the needy. At that time the negro found it hard to get help, friendship, justice. Though Illinois was a free state, public opinion was such that any one who undertook the cause of the negro was sure to alienate friends. Lincoln was one of the few who never hesitated at the sacrifice.

A young man, a free negro living in the neighborhood, had been employed as cabin boy on a Mississippi river steamboat. Arriving at New Orleans, he went ashore without a suspicion of what the law was in a slave state. He was arrested for being on the street after dark without a pass, thrown into jail, and fined. Having no money to pay the fine, he was liable to be sold into slavery, when his mother, in her distress, came to Lincoln for help. Lincoln sent to the governor to see if there was no way by which this free negro could be brought home. The governor was sorry that there was not. In a towering wrath Lincoln exclaimed: "I'll have that negro back soon, or I'll have a twenty years' excitement in Illinois until the governor does have a legal and constitutional right to do something in the premises!"

He had both. He and his partner sent to New Orleans the necessary money by which the boy was released and restored to his mother. The twenty years' excitement came later.



Springfield was largely settled by people born and educated in older and more cultured communities. From the first it developed a social life of its own. In the years on both sides of 1840, it maintained as large an amount of such social activity as was possible in a new frontier city. In this life Lincoln was an important factor. The public interest in the man made this necessary, even apart from considerations of his own personal preferences.

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