« PrejšnjaNaprej »
having some connection with the Trappists, who had founded an institution on Pottinger's Creek, with Urban Guillet as superior, had the honor of instructing the future President in the rudiments. Whether Mr. Lincoln favored his other children, one a girl two years older than Abraham, and the other a boy two years his junior, to the same extent, is doubtful, for the routine of school life was not only broken in upon by his frequent demands upon his son's time, but finally it was interrupted altogether by his determination to abandon Kentucky and try his fortunes where his energies were not checked and repressed by the obstacles which slavery constantly thrust in his way. In 1817 Mr. Lincoln carried this plan into execution. The old home was sold, their small stock of valuables placed upon a raft, and the little family took their way to a new home in the wilds of Indiana, where free labor would have no competition with slave labor, and the poor white man might hope that in time his children could take an honorable position, won by industry and careful economy. The place of their destination was Spencer County, Indiana. For the last few miles they were obliged to cut their road as they went on. With the resolution of veteran pioneers they toiled, sometimes being able to pick their way for a long distance without chopping, and then coming to a standstill in consequence of dense forests. Suffice it to say, that they were obliged to cut a road so much of the way that several days were employed in going eighteen miles. It was a difficult, wearisome, trying journey, and Mr. Lincoln often said, that he never passed through a harder experience than he did in going from Thompson's Ferry to Spenser County, Indiana."
Thus, before he was eight years old, Abraham Lincoln began the serious business of life. The cabin in which the family lived was built of logs, and even the aid of such a mere child was of account in the wilderness where they now found themselves, after seven days of weary travel. Their neighbors, none of whom lived nearer than two or three miles, welcomed the strangers, and
lent a hand towards building the rude dwelling in which the future President lay down, after fatiguing but healthful toil, to dream the dreams of childhood, undisturbed by thoughts of the future.
But just as Abraham was becoming accustomed to his new residence, his home was made desolate by the death of his mother, which occurred when he was ten years old. She died long before she could have imagined, in her wildest dreams, the eminence and distinction which her son was to attain; but she was happy in the knowledge that, chiefly under her own tuition, for she had not intrusted his education entirely to the schoolmaster who chanced to settle within reach, her favorite son had learned to read the Bible-the book which, as a Christian woman, she prized above all others. It is impossible to estimate the influence which this faithful mother exerted in moulding the character of her child; but it is easy to believe that the earnestness with which she impressed upon his mind and heart the holy precepts, did much to develop those characteristics which in after years caused him to be known as pre-eminently the "Honest" man. There is touching evidence that Abraham held the memory of his mother in sacred remembrance. She had instructed him in the rudiments of writing, and Mr. Lincoln, in spite of the disparaging remarks of his neighbors, who regarded the accomplishment as entirely unnecessary, encouraged his son to persevere, until he was able to put his thoughts upon paper in a style which, although rude, caused him to be regarded as quite a prodigy among the illiterate neighbors. One of the very first efforts of his faltering pen was writing a letter to an old friend of his mother's, a travelling preacher, urging him to come and deliver a sermon over her grave. The invitation must have been couched in impressive, if not affecting language; for, although the letter was not written until nine months after his mother's remains had been deposited in their last resting-place, Parson Elkins, the preacher to whom it was extended, responded to the request, and three months subsequent
ly, just a year after her decease, preached a sermon commemorative of the virtues of one whom her neighbors still held in affectionate and respectful remembrance. In his discourse it is said that the Parson alluded to the manner in which he had received the invitation, and Abraham's pen thereafter found frequent employment, in writing letters for the same neighbors who had before pretended to esteem lightly the accomplishment of which they at last recognized the value.
About two years after the death of Mrs. Lincoln, Mr. Lincoln married Mrs. Sally Johnston, a widow with three children. She proved an excellent mother to her stepson and daughter, and a faithful wife. During the twelve years that the family remained in Indiana, Abraham's father encouraged him to improve all the opportunities offered for mental development. How scanty these privileges were, may be inferred from the fact that the entire number of days that he was able to attend school hardly exceeded one year. While in Indiana, one of his teachers was a Mr. Dorsey, who, a few months ago, was living in Schuyler County, Illinois, where he was looked up to with much respect by his neighbors, as one of those who had assisted in the early instruction of the then President of the United States. He tells with great satisfaction how his pupil, who was then remarked for the diligence and eagerness with which he pursued his studies, came to the log-cabin school-house arrayed in buckskin clothes, a raccoon-skin cap, and provided with an old arithmetic which had somewhere been found for him to begin his investigations into the "higher branches." In connection with his attendance upon Mr. Crawford's school, an incident is told which is sure to find a place in every biography of our late President. Books were, of course, very hard to find in the sparsely settled district of Indiana where the Lincoln family had their home, and every printed volume upon which Abraham could lay his hands was carefully guarded and eagerly devoured. Among the volumes in Mr. Crawford's scanty library was a copy of Ramsay's Life of Washington, which Abraham secured permission
upon one occasion, to take home with him. During a severe storm he improved his leisure by reading his book. One night he laid it down carefully, as he thought, and the next morning he found it soaked through! The wind had changed, the storm had beaten in through a crack in the logs, and the appearance of the book was ruined. How could he face the owner under such circumstances? He had no money to offer as a return, but he took the book, went directly to Mr. Crawford, showed him the irreparable injury, and frankly and honestly offered to work for him until he should be satisfied. Mr. Crawford accepted the offer, and gave Abraham the book for his own, in return for three days' steady labor in "pulling fodder." This, and Weems's Life of Washington, were among the boy's favorite books, and the story that we have just told is so nearly parallel to the famous "hatchet" incident in the early days of the Father of his Country, that it is easy to believe that the frequent perusal of it impressed upon his mind, more effectually than any solemn exhortation could have done, the precept that "honesty is the best policy," and thus assisted to develop that character of which integrity was so prominent a trait in after years. Among the other volumes which Mr. Lincoln was accustomed to refer to, as having been eagerly read in his youthful days, were a Life of Henry Clay, Esop's Fables, and Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. It is quite probable that the quaint phraseology of these last two volumes, and their direct and forcible illustrations, may have impressed upon the productions of Mr. Lincoln's pen that style which is one of their most peculiar and favorite characteristics.
When nineteen years old, Abraham Lincoln, moved, perhaps, equally by the desire to earn an honest livelihood in the shape of "ten dollars a month and found," and by curiosity to see more of the world, made a trip down the Mississippi to New Orleans, upon a flat-boat. He went in company with the son of the owner of the boat, who intrusted a valuable cargo to their care. The trip was quite an eventful and exciting one, for on the
way down the great river they were attacked by seven negroes, who hoped to capture the boat and the cargo. They found, however, that they had undertaken a task to the execution of which they were unequal. After a spirited contest the negroes were driven back, and compelled to abandon their attempt, leaving our boatmen the undisputed masters of the field. Upon this trip young Lincoln's literary acquirements were called into useful action, and besides the stipulated ten dollars per month, he gained a substantial reputation as a youth of promising business talent.
During the twelve years that the family had been living in Indiana, the advancing tide of civilization had again encroached upon them almost imperceptibly, and in 1830 Thomas Lincoln, impatient of the restrictions which he found the gradually increasing population drawing around him, again determined to seek a new home farther west, and after fifteen days' journey came upon a site near Decatur, Macon County, Illinois, which seemed to him a desirable one. He immediately erected a log cabin, and, with the aid of his son, who was now twenty-one, proceeded to fence in his new farm. Abraham had little idea, while engaged in the unromantic occupation of mauling the rails which were to bound his father's possessions, that he was writing a page in his life which would be read by the whole nation years afterward. Yet so it proved to be. A writer, describing one of the incidents in the earlier political career of the late President, says:—
During the sitting of the Republican State Convention, at Decatur, a banner, attached to two of these rails, and bearing an appropriate inscription, was brought into the assemblage, and formally presented to that body, amid a scene of unparalleled enthusiasm. After that, they were in demand in every State of the Union in which free labor is honored, where they were borne in processions of the people, and hailed by hundreds of thousands of freemen as a symbol of triumph, and as a glorious vindication of freedom and of the rights and dignity of free labor. These, however, were far from being the first and only rails made by Lincoln. He was a practised hand at the business. Mr. Lincoln has now a cane made from one of the rails split by his own hands in boyhood.