Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the “Lives of Clay and Washington," till the fires of a noble emulation and true patriotism glowed in his heart; and he thus daily grew more and more to be of the very spirit of which heroic leaders and wise counsellors are inade. God was fitting him, even in his childhood and his youth, for the very work which was before him. Bishop Simpson expressed this idea in his funeral sermon at Springfield, Illinois, on the 4th of May, 1865. He said, “Mr. Lincoln was no ordinary man. I believe the conviction has been growing on the nation's mind, as it certainly has been on my own, especially in the last years of his administration, that by the hand of God he was especially singled out to guide our Government in these troublesome times; and it seems to me that the hand of God may be traced in many of the events connected with his history. First, then, I recognize this in the physical education which he received, and which prepared him for enduring herculean labors. In the toils of his boyhood, and the labors of his manhood, God was giving him an iron frame. Next to this was his identifi. cation with the heart of this great people, understanding their feelings because he was one of them, and connected with them in their movements and life. His education was simple. A few months spent in the schoolhouse gave him the elements of education. He read few books, but mastered all he read. "Pilgrim's Progress,' Æsop's Fables,' and the 'Life of Washington, were his favorites. In these we recognize the works which gave the bias to his character, and which partly moulded his style. His early life, with its varied struggles, joined him indissolubly to the working masses; and no elevation in society diminished his respect for the sons of toil. He knew what it was to fell the tall trees of the forest, and to stem the current of the broad Mississippi.

His home was in the growing West, the heart of the Republic; and, invigorated by the wind which swept over its prairies, he learned lessons of self-reliance which sustained him in seasons of adversity."

Bishop Simpson's allusion to Abraham's efforts on the broad bosom of the “Father of Waters” was founded, doubtless, on the fact, that, when about nineteen years of age, Abraham accompanied the son of the owner of a flatboat, who intrusted a valuable cargo to their care, to the city of New Orleans. He was hired at the rate of

FLATBOAT.

ten dollars a month, and the twain composed the only crew. With only one companion, it was rather a dangerous journey. “At night they tied up alongside of the bank, and rested upon the hard deck, with a blanket for a covering; and during the hours of light, whether their lonely trip was cheered by a bright sun, or made disagreeable in the extreme by violent storms, their craft floated down the stream, its helmsmen never for a moment losing their spirits, or regretting their acceptance

i

of the positions they occupied. Nothing occurred to mar the success of the trip, nor the excitement naturally incident to a flatboat expedition of some eighteen hundred miles, save a midnight attack by a party of negroes, who, after a severe conflict, were compelled to flee."

In the spring of 1830, the Lincoln family again sought a new home. Their journey, in a region where roads were rough and railroads unknown, was made in fifteen days. They carried their goods in large wagons drawn by oxen, and Abraham himself drove one of the teams. They halted on the north side of the Sangamon River, at a place about ten miles west of Decatur, Illinois. While crossing the bottom lands of the Kaskaskia River on their way, the men of the party were obliged to wade through water several feet deep. So the journey was not acmortalized by orators and poets, and will henceforth be mentioned by historians. Sumner says, “ These rails have become classical in our history, and the name of rail-splitter' has been more than the degree of a college. Not that the splitter of rails is especially meritorious, but because the people are proud to trace aspiring talent to humble beginnings, and because they found in this tribute a new opportunity of vindicating the dignity of free labor, and of repelling the insolent pretensions of slavery." The newspaper report of the first public mention of Abraham Lincoln as a rail-splitter is as follows:

LINCOLN'S FIRST HOUSE IN ILLINOIS.

complished without some hinderances. On their arrival a log-cabin was to be built, ground broken for corn, and a rail-fence to be made around the farm, in all of which Abraham labored faithfully.* Those rails have been im

* In this work the Lincolns were assisted by a relative of Abraham's mother, named John Hanks. While this volume was in preparation, Mr. Hanks was in Boston exhibiting this identical log-cabin, together with other relics of Lincoln's early days of poverty and obscurity. He is an honest-looking gentleman, with a silvery beard, about seven years older than Mr. Lincoln, but much more venerable in appearance. He can neither read nor write. He says that his cousin Dennis F. Hanks taught "little Abe” his letters. The logcabin above mentioned has no windows; but a half sheet of paper oiled, placed in a sort of wooden shutter, admitted a little light when the shutter was closed. It is said to be truly a Union cabin, having in it sticks of oak, hickory, hackberry, red elm, walnut, basswood, honey, locust, and sassafras, but, it is believed, not a stick of pine. The dimensions are eighteen feet by sixteen; and it is nine logs, or about eight feet, high. It has a peaked roof, the highest part of which is about five feet from the level of its eaves. It was begun March 30, 1830; and four days were spent in building it.

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 in 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 or 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."

Thus in the foregoing pages have been depicted the events and influences of Abraham Lincoln's life during his early days. In the eloquent language of his eulogist in the "Athens of America," on the day set apart for commemorative services all over the land, this chapter may be fittingly closed :

“His youth was now spent, and at the age of twentyone he left his father's house to begin the world for himself. A small bundle, a laughing face, and an honest heart, — these were his visible possessions, together with that unconscious character and intelligence which his country afterward learned to prize. In the long history of worth depressed, there is no instance of such a contrast between the depression and the triumph, unless, perhaps, his successor as President may share with him this distinction, No academy, no university, no alma mater of science or learning, had nourished him. No government had taken him by the hand, and given to him the gift of opportunity. No inheritance of land or money had fallen to him. No friend stood by his side. He was alone in poverty; and yet not all alone. There was God above, who watches all, and does not desert the lowly. Simple in life and manners, and knowing nothing of form or ceremony, with a village schoolmaster for six months as his only teacher, he had grown up in companionship with the people, with nature, with trees, with the fruitful corn, and with the stars. While yet a child, his father had borne him away from a soil wasted by slavery; and he was now the citizen of a free State, where free labor had been placed under the safeguard of irreversible compact and fundamental law. And thus closed the youth of the future President, happy at least that he could go forth under the day-star of Liberty.”

« AnteriorContinuar »