Imágenes de páginas

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 subsequently, 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” in. cident 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 haul 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 apon 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.

Every one remembers how, during the presidential campaign of 1860, Mr. Lincoln was characterized as a “rail-splitter;" first, sneeringly, by his opponents; afterwards by his own supporters, as the best possible proof that he was of and from the people.

Notwithstanding the increasing age of Thomas Lincoln, his disposition was so restless, and his desire for change so ineradicable, that, after a single year's residence in his new home, he determined to abandon it, and in the spring of 1831 started for Coles County, sixty or seventy miles to the eastward. Abraham determined not to follow his father in his journeyings, and possibly the want of his son's efficient help compelled him to forego further change, and to settle down for the rest of his days on the upper waters of the Kaskaskia and Embarras, where he died on January 17, 1851, in the seventy-third year of his age. In the spring of 1831, Abraham made his second trip to New Orleans, in the capacity of a flat-boatman, returning in the summer of the same year. The man who had employed him for this voyage was so well pleased with the energy and business capacity displayed by young Lincoln, that upon establishing a store at New Salem, some twenty miles from Springfield, soon afterward, he engaged him to assist him in the capacity of clerk, and also to superin. tend a flouring-mill in the immediate vicinity. In one of the celebrated debates during the Senatorial campaign, Mr. Douglas ventured to refer, in rather disparaging terms, to this year of Mr. Lincoln's life, taunting him with having been a grocery-keeper. To this Mr. Lincoln replied as follows:

The judge is wofully at fault about his early friend Lincoln being a grocery-keeper." I don't know as it would be a great sin, if I had buen ; but he is mistaken. Lincoln never kept a grocery anywhere in the world. It is true that Lincoln did work the latter part of one winter in a little still-house, up at the head of a hollow.

This frank statement drew the sting completely from the taunt of Senator Douglas. Some, at least, of those who were listening to the debate, knew that, at the time

« AnteriorContinuar »