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Every one remembers how, during the presidential campaign of I860, 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 journey ings, 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 superintend a fiouring-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 been; hut 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 to which Mr. Lincoln referred, a winter of unusual severity had caused extreme suffering through that section of Illinois, and that he was not only anxious, but compelled, to take up with any occupation by which he might turn an honest penny in order to keep his father's family, who were even then partially dependent upon him, from positive want.
In 1832 the Black Hawk war broke out, and Mr. Lincoln, prompt as ever to answer the call of duty, joined a volunteer company and took the field against the Indians. That he had already gained a recognized position in the part of the State where he then lived, is clearly indicated by the fact that he was elected captain of his company. After a few weeks' ineffectual service, the force which had responded to the call of Governor Reynolds was disbanded. The troubles broke out anew, however, within a short time, and again Mr. Lincoln enlisted, this time also as a private. What rank was conferred upon him, if any, during this campaign is not recorded; but in spite of the pressure brought to bear upon him by older members of his company, to induce him to return home, he discharged his duties faithfully through the three months' campaign.
Many years after, during his congressional career, Mr. Lincoln referred thus humorously to his military services in this "war:" —
By the way, Mr. Speaker, did you know I was a military hero? Yes, sir, in the days of the Black Hawk war I fought, bled, and came away. Speaking of General Cass's career, reminds me of my own. I was not at Sullivan's defeat, but I was about as near to it as Cass was to Hull's surrender; and, like him, I saw the place soon after. It is quite certain that I did not break my sword, for I had none to break; but I bent my musket pretty badly on one occasion. If Cass broke his sword, the idea is, he broke it in desperation. I bent the musket by accident. If General Cass went in advance of me in picking whortleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charges upon the wild onions. If he saw any live fighting Indians, it was more than I did, but I had a great many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes; and although I never fainted from loss of blood, I certainly can say I was often very hungry.
His military career closed, Mr. Lincoln turned his attention to politics. He espoused the cause of Henry Clay— in opposition to that of General Jackson, who was very popular in that section of Illinois—and ran as a candidate for the State legislature. Although this contest took place three months before the presidential election, the same elements entered into it, and Mr. Lincoln was defeated, as he undoubtedly expected to be, although his failure must have been amply compensated for by the highly complimentary vote that he received in his own precinct, which gave him two hundred and seventy-seven votes out of two hundred and eighty-four cast; and this, be it remembered, was the first and last time that lie was ever beaten before the people. The contest ended, Mr. Lincoln settled down, to business again. He purchased a store and stock of goods on credit, and secured the postmastership of the town; but the venture was unsuccessful, and he sold out. Meanwhile, he was still employing every opportunity offered him to improve his mind. He had mastered grammar, and occupied his leisure time in general reading, taking care to write out a synopsis of every book he perused, so as to fix the contents in his memory.
About this time he met John Calhoun, afterwards president of the Lecompton Constitutional Convention. Calhoun proposed to Lincoln to take up surveying, and himself aided in his studies. He had plenty of employment as a surveyor, and won a good reputation in this new line of business; but the financial crash of 1837 destroyed his business, and his instruments were finally sold under a sheriff's execution. This reverse again threw him back into political life, and as the best preparation for it he vigorously pursued his legal studies.
In 1834, Mr. Lincoln again ran for the legislature, and this time was elected. Then that political life commenced, which his countrymen's votes have since shown they fully appreciated. In 1836, Mr. Lincoln was again elected to the legislature as one of the seven representatives from Sangamon County, and during this term he was assigned a place on the Finance Committee, his membership of the Committee on Public Accounts and Expenditures during his first term having qualified him for this duty.
The following letter, which was written during this canvass, besides being an interesting reminiscence of Mr. Lincoln's early political life, is valuable as exhibiting, in a striking manner, his determination to be frank and honest in all his dealings with the public and with his opponents:—
New Salem, June 21,1886.
Dear Colonel:—I am told that, during my absence last week, you passed through this place, and stated publicly that you were in possession of a fact or facts, which, if known to the public, would entirely destroy the prospects of N. W. Edwards and myself at the ensuing election; but that, through favor to us, you would forbear to divulge them.
No one has needed favors more than I, and, generally, few have been less unwilling to accept them; but in this case favor to me would be injustice to the public, and, therefore, I must beg your pardon for declining it. That I once had the confidence of the people of Sangamon county is sufficiently evident, and if I have since done any thing, either by design or misadventure, which, if known, would subject me to a forfeiture of that confidence, he that knows of that thing and conceals it, is a traitor to his country's interest.
I find myself wholly unable to form any conjecture of what fact or facts, real or supposed, you spoke. But my opinion of your veracity will not permit me, for a moment, to doubt that you, at least, believed what you said. I am flattered with the personal regard you manifested for me; but I do hope that, on more mature reflection, you will view the public interest as a paramount consideration, and therefore determine to let the worst come,
I here assure you that the candid statement of facts on your part, however low it may sink me, shall never break the ties of personal friendship between us.
I wish an answer to this, and you are at liberty to publish both, if you choose. Very respectfully,
Ool. Robert Allen.
It was in this year (1836) that Mr. Lincoln first became acquainted with Mr. Douglas, whom he was destined to meet in so many hotly contested campaigns, but whom he did not then anticipate that he should, twenty-four years afterwards, defeat in a presidential election. The Democrats of course held the ascendency in the Illinois legislature at this time, and they took advantage of their strength to pass somo extreme pro-slavery resolutions, branding as "abolitionists" those who refused to indorse them. That his position might not be misunderstood, Mr. Lincoln took advantage of his parliamentary privilege to enter upon the Journal of the House, in connection with a colleague, his reasons for voting in opposition to the resolutions. This document, which now possesses historical interest, reads as follows :—
The following protest was presented to the House, which was read and ordered to be spread on the journals, to wit:
u Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passed both branches of the General Assembly at its present session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of the same.
"They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy; but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils.
"They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power, under the Constitution, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different States.
"They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power, under the Constitution, to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia; but that the power ought not to be exercised, unless at the request of the people of said District.
uThe difference between these opinions and those contained in the said resolutions, is their reason for entering this protest. 4i (Signed)
In 1838, Mr. Lincoln was for the third time elected to the State legislature ; and among his six colleagues, as representatives from Sangamon County, was John Calhoun, since notorious for his connection with the Lecompton Constitution. His position as leader of the Whigs in the House was so well recognized, that he received the party vote for the Speakership, and was defeated by only one vote. In 1840, for the fourth successive term, Mr. Lincoln was returned to the legislature, and again received the vote of his party as the candidate for Speaker. Meanwhile, he had been vigorously engaged in canvassing the State, in anticipation of the presidential election.