Slike strani
PDF
ePub

early manhood, Lincoln hated slavery. What was exceptional, however, in his state of mind was that, while abominating the institution, he was able to give a sympathetic understanding to the opinions and to the prejudices of the slave-owners. In all his long fight against slavery as the curse both of the white and of the black, and as the great obstacle to the natural and wholesome development of the nation, we do not at any time find a trace of bitterness against the men of the South who were endeavouring to maintain and to extend the system.

It was of essential importance for the development of Lincoln as a political leader, first for his State, and later in the contest that became national, that he should have possessed an understanding, which was denied to many of the antislavery leaders, of the actual nature, character, and purpose of the men against whom he was contending. It became of larger importance when Lincoln was directing from Washington the policy of the national administration that he should have a sympathetic knowledge of the problems of the men of the Border States who with the outbreak of the War had been placed in a position of exceptional difficulty, and that he should have secured and retained the confidence of these men. It seems probable that if the War President had been a man of Northern birth and Northern prejudices, if he had been one to whom the wider, the more patient and sympathetic view of these problems had been impossible or difficult, the Border States could not have been saved to the Union. It is probable that the support given to the cause of the North by the sixty thousand or seventy thousand loyal recruits from Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Maryland, and Virginia, may even have proved the deciding factor in turning the tide of events. The nation's leader for the struggle seems to have been secured through a process of natural selection as had been the case a century earlier with Washington. We may recall that Washington died but ten years before Lincoln was born; and from the fact that each leader was at hand when the demand came for his service, and when without such service the nation might have been pressed to destruction, we may grasp the hope that in time of need the nation will always be provided with the leader who can meet the requirement.

After Lincoln returned from New Orleans, he secured employment for a time in the grocery or general store of Gentry, and when he was twentytwo years of age, he went into business with a partner, some twenty years older than himself, in carrying on such a store. He had so impressed himself upon the confidence of his neighbours that, while he was absolutely without resources, there was no difficulty in his borrowing the money required for his share of the capital. The undertaking did not prove a success. Lincoln had no business experience and no particular business capacity, while his partner proved to be untrustworthy. The partner decamped, leaving Lincoln to close up the business and to take the responsibility for the joint indebtedness. It was seventeen years before Lincoln was able, from his modest earnings as a lawyer, to clear off this indebtedness. The debt became outlawed in six years' time but this could not affect Lincoln's sense of the obligation. After the failure of the business, Lincoln secured work as county surveyor. In this, he was following the example of his predecessor Washington, with whose career as a surveyor the youngster who knew Weems's biography by heart, was of course familiar. His new occupation took him through the county and brought him into personal relations with a much wider circle than he had known in the village of New Salem, and in his case, the personal relation counted for much; the history shows that no one who knew Lincoln failed to be attracted by him or to be impressed with the fullest confidence in the man's integrity of purpose and of action.

II

WORK AT THE BAR AND ENTRANCE INTO POLITICS

IN 1834, when he was twenty-five years old, Lincoln made his first entrance into politics, presenting himself as candidate for the Assembly. His defeat was not without compensations; he secured in his own village or township, New Salem, no less than 208 out of the 211 votes cast. This prophet had honour with those who knew him. Two years later, he tried again and this time with success. His journeys as a surveyor had brought him into touch with, and into the confidence of, enough voters throughout the county to secure the needed majority.

Lincoln's active work as a lawyer lasted from 1834 to 1860, or for about twenty-six years. He secured in the cases undertaken by him a very large proportion of successful decisions. Such a result is not entirely to be credited to his effectiveness as an advocate. The first reason was that in his individual work, that is to say, in the matters that were taken up by himself rather than by his

12

« PrejšnjaNaprej »