« AnteriorContinuar »
source whence any thing like truth may be drawn. He has covered countless sheets of paper devoted to indiscriminate laudations of Abe and all his kindred. But in all this he does not neglect to say a word for himself.
At one place, "his cousin, Dennis Hanks," is said to have taught Abe to read and write. At another, he is represented as the benevolent purchaser of the volumes from which Abe (and Dennis too) derived a wonderfully clear and accurate conception of the science of law. In all studies their minds advanced pari passu. Whenever any differences are noted (and they are few and slight), Dennis is a step ahead, benignantly extending a helping hand to the lagging pupil behind. But Dennis's heart is big and kind: he defames no one; he is merely a harmless romancer. In the gallery of family portraits painted by Dennis, every face looks down upon us with the serenity of innocence and virtue. There is no spot on the fame of any one of them. No family could have a more vigorous or chivalrous defender than he, or one who repelled with greater scorn any rumor to their discredit. That Enlow story! Dennis almost scorned to confute it; but, when he did get at it, he settled it by a magnificent exercise of inven
1 The following random selections from his writings leave us no room to doubt Dennis's opinion of his own value:
"William, let in, don't keep any thing back, for I am in for the whole hog sure; for I know nobody can do any for you much, for all they know is from me at last. Every thing you see is from my notes, this you can tell yourself.
"I have in my possession a little book, the private life of A. Lincoln, comprising a full life of his early years, and a succinct record of his career as statesman and President, by O. J. Victor, author of Lives of Garibaldi, Winfield Scott, John Paul Jones, &c., New York, Beadle and Company, publishers, No. 118 Williams Street. Now, sir, I find a great many things pertaining to Abe Lincoln's life that is not true. If you would like to have the book, I will mail it to you. I will say this much to you: if you don't have my name very frequently in your book, it won't go at all; for I have been East for two months, have seen a great many persons in that time, stating to them that there would be a book, "The Life of A. Lincoln,' published, giving a full account of the family, from England to this country. Now, William, if there be any thing you want to know, let me know: I will give you all the information I can.
"I have seen a letter that you wrote to my daughter, Harriet Chapman, of inquiry about some things. I thought you were informed all about them. I don't know what she has stated to you about your questions; but you had better consult me about them.
"Billy, it seems to me, from the letters that you write to me asking questions, that you ask the same questions over several times. How is this? Do you forget, or are you like the lawyer, trying to make me cross my path, or not? Now, I will. Look below for the answer."
tive genius. He knew "this Abe Enlow" well, he said, and he had been dead precisely fifty-five years. But, whenever the truth can be told without damage to the character of a Lincoln or a Hanks, Dennis will tell it candidly enough, provided there is no temptation to magnify himself. His testimony, however, has been sparingly used throughout these pages; and no statement has been taken from him unless it was more or less directly corroborated by some one else. The better part of his evidence Mr. Herndon took the precaution of reading carefully to John Hanks, who pronounced it substantially true; and that circumstance gives it undeniable value.
When Thomas and Betsy Sparrow died in the fall of 1818, Dennis was taken from the "little half-faced camp," and became one of the Lincoln family. Until Thomas Lincoln's second marriage, Dennis, Abe, and Sarah were all three poor, ragged, and miserable together. After that, Dennis got along better, as well as the rest. He was a lively, volatile, sympathetic fellow, and Abe liked him well from the beginning. They fished, hunted, and worked in company; loafed at the grocery, where Dennis got drunk, and Abe told stories; talked politics with Col. Jones; "swapped jokes" with Baldwin the blacksmith; and faithfully attended the sittings of the nearest justice of the peace, where both had opportunities to correct and annotate the law they thought they had learned from the "Statute of Indiana." Dennis was kind, genial, lazy, brimming over with humor, and full of amusing anecdotes. He revelled in song, from the vulgarest ballad to the loftiest hymn of devotion;" from "The turbaned Turk, that scorns the world," to the holiest lines of Doctor Watts. These qualities marked him wherever he went; and in excessive good-nature, and in the ease with which he passed from the extreme of rigor to the extreme of laxity, he was distinguished above the others of his name.
There was one Hanks, however, who was not like Dennis, or any other Hanks we know any thing about: this was "old John,” as he is familiarly called in Illinois, —a sober,
honest, truthful man, with none of the wit and none of the questionable accomplishments of Dennis. He was the son of Joseph, the carpenter with whom Tom Lincoln learned the trade. He went to Indiana to live with the Lincolns when Abe was fourteen years of age, and remained there four years. He then returned to Kentucky, and subsequently went to Illinois, where he was speedily joined by the old friends he had left in Indiana. When Abe separated from the family, and went in search of individual fortune, it was in company with "old John." Together they split the rails that did so much to make Abe President; and "old John " set the ball in motion by carrying a part of them into the Decatur Convention on his own broad shoulders. John had no education whatever, except that of the muscles and the heart. He could neither read nor write; but his character was pure and respectable, and Lincoln esteemed him as a man, and loved him as a friend and relative.
About six years after the death of the first Mrs. Lincoln, Levi Hall and his wife and family came to Indiana, and settled near the Lincolns. Mrs. Hall was Nancy Hanks, the mother of our friend Dennis, and the aunt of Nancy Hanks, the mother of Abraham Lincoln. She had numerous children by her husband. One of them, Levi, as already mentioned, married one of Abe's step-sisters, while Dennis, his half-brother, married the other one. The father and mother of the Halls speedily died of the milk-sickness, but Levi was for many years a constant companion of Abe and Dennis.
In 1825 Abraham was employed by James Taylor, who lived at the mouth of Anderson's Creek. He was paid six dollars a month, and remained for nine months. His principal business was the management of a ferry-boat which Mr. Taylor had plying across the Ohio, as well as Anderson's Creek. But, in addition to this, he was required to do all sorts of farm-work, and even to perform some menial services. about the house. He was hostler, ploughman, ferryman, out of doors, and man-of-all-work within doors. He ground corn with a hand-mill, or "grated" it when too young to be
ground; rose early, built fires, put on the water in the kitchen, “fixed around generally," and had things prepared for cooking before the mistress of the house was stirring. He slept up stairs with young Green Taylor, who says that he usually read "till near midnight," notwithstanding the necessity for being out of his bed before day. Green was somewhat disposed to ill-use the poor hired boy, and once struck him with an ear of hard corn, and cut a deep gash over his eye. He makes no comment upon this generous act, except that “Abe got mad," but did not thrash him.
Abe was a hand much in demand in "hog-killing time." He butchered not only for Mr. Taylor, but for John Woods, John Duthan, Stephen McDaniels, and others. At this he earned thirty-one cents a day, as it was considered "rough work."
For a long time there was only one person in the neighborhood for whom Abe felt a decided dislike; and that was Josiah Crawford, who had made him "pull fodder," to pay for the Weems's "Washington." On that score he was "hurt" and "mad," and often declared " he would have revenge." But being a poor boy, a circumstance of which Crawford had already taken shameful advantage to extort three days' labor, - he was glad to get work any place, and frequently "hired to his old adversary." Abe's first business in his employ was daubing his cabin, which was built of logs, unhewed, and with the bark on. In the loft of this house, thus finished by his own hands, he slept for many weeks at a time. He spent his evenings as he did at home, -writing on wooden shovels or boards with "a coal, or keel, from the branch." This family was rich in the possession of several books, which Abe read through time and again, according to his usual custom. One of them was the "Kentucky Preceptor," from which Mrs. Crawford insists that he learned his school orations, speeches, and pieces to write." She tells us also that " Abe was a sensitive lad, never coming where he was not wanted; that he always lifted his hat, and bowed, when he made his