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Crawford's school, that illustrates the growing capacity of the lad, and foreshadows his future labors as a public speaker. The scholars were talking, one Monday morning before the hour for school to commence, about the sermon to which they had listened the day before. Abraham declared himself able to repeat a large part of the sermon; and, when the boys doubted it, he proved his retentive memory, close attention, and speech-making powers, by mounting a stump and rehearsing the ser
The young orator was overheard by his teacher, and won his admiration and applause as well as that of his fellow-pupils. Little did any of them think how he would address large audiences in the future just unfolding before him, swaying their minds and influencing their hearts by a forcible and earnest presentation of high truths intimately connected with the safety and happiness of the nation.
He, of whom one of his early associates says, “We seldom went hunting together; Abe was not a noted hunter, as the time spent by other boys in such amusements was improved by him in the perusal of some good book," did not fail to grow in knowledge ever after he left his father's roof, and sought to carve his own way to fame and fortune, wholly ignorant of the lofty niche assigned him in the temple of renown.
Mr. Lincoln, for so he should be called since he was twenty-one and had an indisputable right to wear the toga virilis, sought employment among those who needed a strong arm, and exemplified in his own efforts the sensible words which he uttered thirty years later in reference to hired labor:
“My understanding of the hired laborer is this: A young man finds himself of an age to be dismissed from parental control ; he has for his capital nothing save
two strong hands that God has given him, a heart willing to labor, and a freedom to choose the mode of his work, and the manner of his employer; he has no soil nor shop, and he avails himself of the opportunity of hiring himself to some man who has capital to pay him a fair day's wages for a fair day's work. He is benefited by availing himself of that privilege ; he works industriously, he behaves soberly, and the result of a year or two's labor is a surplus of capital. Now he buys land on his own hook; he settles, marries, begets sons and daughters; and, in course of time, he, too, has enough capital to hire some new beginner."
This homely and characteristic speech was truthful, like the man who uttered it when on the eve of nomination to the highest office in the gift of the nation; and at that same time he expressed his opinion in regard to free labor, in the same straightforward, though rather inelegant manner. His words may as well be quoted here. They were these : “Our Government was not established that one man might do with himself as he pleases, and with another man too.... I say, that, whereas God Almighty has given every man one mouth to be fed, and one pair of hands adapted to furnish food for that mouth, if any thing can be proved to be the will of Heaven, it is proved by this fact, that that mouth is to be fed by those hands, without being interfered with by any other man, who has also his mouth to feed and his hands to labor with. I hold, if the Almighty had ever made a set of men that should do all the eating and none of the work, he would have made them with mouths only, and no hands; and if he had ever made another class that he had intended should do all the work, and none of the eating, he would have made them without mouths, and with all hands."
As a hired laborer, young Lincoln spent the sullmer and fall with a Mr. Armstrong, who observed his studious habits, and proposed to his wife to keep the youthful student through the winter. He insisted on laboring for Mr. Armstrong enough to pay his board, and spent the rest of his time in study.
Early the next spring, as before stated, he assisted in building a boat at Sangamon, and then made a trip to New Orleans, which was so successful, that his employer, gratified with the industry and tact young Lincoln exhibited, engaged him to take charge of his mill and store in the village of New Salem. Thus Mr. Lincoln, having already been prepared to sympathize with the mechanic, came to have a near relation also to the merchant, that he could understand in after-life the trials and preplexities of that class among the men he was called to govern.
The young man who spent his leisure moments, amid the distractions of mercantile life, in studying grammar and arithmetic, may well be supposed to feel an interest in public events transpiring in his native land.
Early in the year 1832 the Black-Hawk War commenced, and the Governor of Illinois called for volunteer troops. Young Lincoln, with patriotic ardor, was the first to place his name on the roll at the recruiting-office in New Salem. A company was soon raised there; and such was the confidence of his fellow-townsmen and comradesin-arms, that they unanimously chose him to be their captain,-an office which he reluctantly accepted, having a modest doubt of his own ability to serve in that capacity.
“ The New-Salem company went into camp at Beardstown, from whence, in a few days, they marched to the expected scene of conflict. When the thirty days of their enlistment had expired, however, they had not seen the enemy. They were disbanded at Ottawa, and most of the volunteers returned; but, a new levy being called for, Abraham re-enlisted as a private. Another thirty days expired, and the war was not over. His regiment was disbanded, and again, the third time, he volunteered. He was determined to serve his country as long as the war lasted. Before the third term of his enlistment had expired, the battle of Bad Axe was fought, which put an end to the war.
"He returned home. Having lost his horse, near where the town of Janesville, Wisconsin, now stands, he went down Rock River to Dixon in a canoe ; thence he crossed the country on foot to Peoria, where he again took canoe to a point on the Illinois River, within forty miles of home. The latter distance he accomplished on foot.'
6 One who served under him in the New-Salem company writes, that he was a universal favorite in the army; that he was an efficient, faithful officer, watchful of his men, and prompt in the discharge of duty.; and that his courage and patriotism shrank from no dangers or hard
Thus by personal participation in military duties the future Commander-in-Chief was preparing for his coming responsibilities; and this preparation was such as to make him truly sympathize with privates as well as officers, and to be just to both.
He returned to New Salem and to business when no longer needed as a soldier. The author of the “ Lincoln Memorial” says, in speaking of Mr. Lincoln as a clerk and manager, “He soon made his mark : an attempt of a gang of the bullies of the place to give him a beating resulted in the defeat of their champion by the tall sinewy stranger, who at once became a favorite with those who gauged men by their physical endurance and courage; while his affable manners, his unfailing cheerfulness, his ready wit, and his stories, made him a favorite with all. A store was soon his own; but he was too honest and too kind-hearted to drive sharp bargains, and soon found himself in difficulties which it required years of subsequent struggle to clear away, but which he allowed to stand no longer than till he had ability to discharge them. Honest Abraham Lincoln knew no bankrupt's discharge, but a receipt in full on payment in full."
*" The Pioneer Boy," p. 252.
Another noticeable fact in Mr. Lincoln's history is thus mentioned by the same writer: "The office of postmaster of New Salem, a petty office indeed, was his first public position, and one which gave him intense pleasure from the opportunity of reading it afforded him; and it is not a little remarkable that he began life, we may say, by serving the General Government in a civil, and soon after in a military capacity.”
The writer of the “ Lincoln Memorial" thinks that the fact of Lincoln's captaincy was significant, and almost symbolical. “This early choice,” he says, “ of one who was at most a clerk and hand in a country store, shows how clearly his fellow-citizens had recognized him as one born to be a ruler of men. At the next election for members of the legislature, he was taken up as the candidate of his district, and so completely united the votes of all parties in his precinct, that he received every vote but seven out of two hundred and eighty-four; and though he was defeated in the district at large, it was the only occasion in which he failed in such an election."
While acting as postmaster, Mr. Lincoln continued his studies, and improved his increased opportunities for extensive reading. He is said to have written out a synopsis of every book he read, and thus to have fixed the contents in his memory.