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and had greatly enhanced his reputation by his repeated earnest and eloquent efforts.
Politics had interfered so seriously with Mr. Lincoln's legal studies, which had been energetically prosecuted during the intervals of legislative duty, that at the close of this term he declined a renomination, in order that he might devote his whole time to the practice of his profession. As already stated, he had been admitted to the bar in 1836; and on April 15, 1837, he settled permanently in Springfield, the seat of Sangamon County, which was destined to be his future home. His friend and former colleague in the legislature, Hon. John T. Stuart, was his partner.
One incident of his law practice partakes deeply of the romantic. It is authentic, however, and is well worth narrating. When Mr. Lincoln first went out into the world, to earn a living for himself, he worked for a Mr. Armstrong, of Petersburg, Menard County, who, with his wife, took a great interest in him, lent him books to read, and, after the season for work was over, encouraged him to remain with them until he should find something "to turn his hand to." They also hoped much from his influence over their son, an over-indulged and somewhat unruly boy. The sequel, which is thus graphically told by the' Cleaveland Leader, shows how these good people reaped their reward for their generosity to the young man whom they so generously took under their protection. That journal says:—
Some few years since, the eldest son of Mr. Lincoln's old friend, Armstrong, the chief supporter of his widowed mother—the good old man having some time previously passed from earth—was arrested on the charge of murder. A young man had been killed during a riotous melee in the night-time at a camp-meeting, and one of his associates stated that the death-wound was inflicted by young Armstrong. A preliminary examination was gone into, at which the accuser testified so positively, that there seemed no doubt of the guilt of the prisoner, and therefore he was held for trial. As is too often the ease, the bloody act caused an undue degree of excitement in the public mind. Every improper incident in the life of the prisoner—each act which bore the least semblance to rowdyism—each schoolboy quarrel,—was suddenly remembered and magnified, until they pictured him as a fiend of the mo%t horrible hue. As these rumors spread abroad they were received as gospel truth, and a feverish desire for vengeance seized upon the infatuated populace, whilst only prison bars prevented a horrible death at the hands of a mob. The events were heralded in the county papers, painted in highest colors, accompanied by rejoicing over the certainty of punishment being meted out to the guilty party. The prisoner, overwhelmed by the circumstances under which he found himself placed, fell into a melancholy condition bordering on despair, and the widowed mother, looking through her tears, saw no cause for hope from earthly aid.
At this juncture, the widow received a letter from Mr. Lincoln, volunteering his services in an effort to save the youth from the impending stroke. Gladly was his aid accepted, although it seemed impossible for even his sagacity to prevail in such a desperate case; but the heart of the attorney was in his work, and he set about it with a will that knew no such word as fail. Feeling that the poisoned condition of the public mind was such as to preclude the possibility of impanelling an impartial jury in the court having jurisdiction, he procured a change of venue and a postponement of the trial. He then went studiously to work unravelling the history of the case, and satisfied himself that his client was the victim of malice, and that the statements of the accuser were a tissue of faLehoods.
When the trial was called on, the prisoner, pale and emaciated, with hopelessness written on every feature, and accompanied by his halfhoping, half-despairing mother—whose only hope was in a mother's belief of her son's innocence, in the justice of the God she worshipped, and in the noble counsel, who, without hope of fee or reward upon earth, had undertaken the cause—took his seat in the prisoners' box, and with a u stony firmness" listened to the reading of the indictment. Lincoln sat quietly by, while the large auditory looked on him as though wondering what he could say in defence of one whose guilt they regarded as certain. The examination of the witnesses for the State was begun, and a wellarranged mass of evidence, circumstantial and positive, was introduced, which seemed to impale the prisoner beyond the possibility of extrication. The counsel for the defence propounded but few questions, and'those of a character which excited no uneasiness on the part of the prosecutor— merely, in most cases, requiring the main witnesses to be definite as to the time and place. When the evidence*of the prosecution was ended, Lincoln introduced a few witnesses to remove some erroneous impressions in regard to the previous character of his client, who, though somewhat rowdyish, had never been known to commit a vicious act; and to show that a greater degree of ill feeling existed between the accuser and the accused, than the accused and the deceased.
The prosecutor felt that the case was a clear one, and his opening speech was brief and formal. Lincoln arose, while a deathly silence pervaded the vast audience, and in a clear and moderate tone began his Argument. Slowly- and carefully he reviewed the testimony, pointing out the hitherto unobserved discrepancies in the statements of the principal witness. That which had seemed plain and plausible he made to appear crooked as a serpent's path. The witness had stated that the affair took place at a certain hour in the evening, and that, by the aid of the brightly shining moon, he saw the prisoner inflict the death-blow with the slungshot. Mr. Lincoln showed that at the hour referred to the moon had not yet appeared above the horizon, and consequently the whole tale was a fabrication.
An almost instantaneous change seemed to have been wrought in the minds of his auditors, and the verdict of "not guilty" was at the end ot every tongue. But the advocate was not content with this intellectual achievement. His whole being had for months been bound up in this work of gratitude and mercy, and as the lava of the over charged crater bursts from its imprisonment, so great thoughts and burning words leaped forth from the soul of the eloquent Lincoln. He drew a picture of the perjurer so horrid and ghastly, that the accuser could sit under it no longer, but reeled and staggered from the court-room, whilst the audience fancied they could see the brand upon his brow. Then in words of thrilling pathos Lincoln appealed to the jurors as fathers of some who might become fatherless, and as husbands of wives who might be widowed, to yield to no previous impressions, no ill-founded prejudice, but to do his client justice; and as he alluded to the debt of gratitude which he owed the boy's sire, tears were seen to fall from many eyes unused to weep.
It was near night when he concluded, by saying that if justice was done—as he believed it would be—before the sun should set, it would shine upon his client a free man. The jury retired, and the court adjourned for the day. Half an hour had not elapsed, when, as the officers of the court and the volunteer attorney sat at the tea-table of their hotel, a messenger announced that the jury had returned to their seats. All repaired immediately to the court-house, and whilst the prisoner was being brought from the jail, the court-room was filled to overflowing with citizens from the town. When the prisoner and his mother entered, silence reigned as completely as though the house were empty. The foreman of the jury, in answer to the usual inquiry from the court, delivered the verdict of "Not Guilty!" The widow dropped into the arms of her son, who lifted her up and told her to look upon him as before, free and innocent. Then, with the words, "Where is Mr. Lincoln?" he rushed across the room and grasped the hand of his deliverer, whilst his heart was too full for utterance. Lincoln turned his eyes toward the West, where the sun still lingered in view, and then, turning to the youth, said: 14 It is not yet sundown and you are free." I confess that my cheeks were not wholly unwet by tears, and I turned from the affecting scene. As I cast a glance behind, I saw Abraham Lincoln obeying the Divine kgunctitn by comforting the widowed and fatherless.
A writer in the San Francisco Bulletin, in the course of an article giving reminiscences of Mr. Lincoln, thus sketches still another phase of his legal career:—
A number of years ago, the writer of this lived in one of the judicial circuits of Illinois in which Abraham Lincoln had an extensive, though not very lucrative practice. The terms of the court were held quarterly, and usually lasted about two weeks. The occasions were always seasons of great importance and much gayety in the little town that had the honor of being the county seat. Distinguished members of the Bar from surrounding and even from distant counties, ex-judges and ex-members of Congress attended, and were personally, and many of them popularly known to almost every adult, male and female, of the limited population. They came in by stages and on horseback. Among them, the one above all whose arrival was looked forward to with the most pleasurable anticipations, and whose possible absence—although he never was absent— was feared with the liveliest emotions of anxiety, was uUncle Abe," as he was lovingly called by us all. Sometimes he might happen to be a day or two late, and then, as the Blooraington stage came in at sundown, the Bench and the Bar, jurors and the general citizens, would gather in crowds at the hotel where he always put up, to give him a welcome if he should happily arrive, and to experience the keenest feelings of disappointment if he should not. If he arrived, as he alighted and stretched out both his long arms to shake hands with those nearest to him and with those who approached—his homely face handsome in its broad and sunshiny smile, iiis voice touching in its kindly and cheerful accents—every one in his presence felt lighter in heart and became joyous. He brought light with him. He loved his fellow-men with all the strength of his great nature, and those who came in contact with him could not help reciprocating the love. His tenderness of the feelings of others was of sensitiveness in the extreme.
For several years after settling in Springfield, Mr. Lincoln remained a bachelor, residing in the family of Hon. William Butler, who was, a few years since, elected State Treasurer. On November 4th, 1842, he married Miss Mary Todd, daughter of Hon. Robert S. Todd, of Lexington, Kentucky. She now mourns the violent and untimely death of her lamented husband.
Mr. Lincoln's love for Henry Clay, which was enkindled by the life of that statesman, which he read when a boy, grew with his years, and when he reached manhood it had deepened into enthusiastic admiration. In 1844 he stumped Illinois for him, and even extended his labors to Indiana. None felt more keenly than lie the unexpected defeat of his favorite. In 1846 Mr. Lincoln was induced to accept the nomination for Congress, and in the district which had, two years before, given Mr. Clay, for President, a majority of nine hundred and fourteen votes, he astonished himself and his friends by rolling up a majority of fifteen hundred and eleven. To add to the significance of his triumph, he was the only AVhig representative from Illinois, which had then seven members in that body. This Congress had before it subjects of great importance and interest to the country. The Mexican War was in progress, and Congress had to deal with grave questions arising out of it, besides determining and providing the means by which it was to be carried on. The irrepressible Slavery Question was there also, in many of its Protean forms,—in questions on the right of petition, in questions as to the District of Columbia, in many questions as to the Territories.
Mr. Lincoln was charged by his enemies in later years, whim political hostility was hunting sharply for material out of which to make capital against him, with lack of patriotism, alleging that he voted against the war. The charge was sharply and clearly made by Judge Douglas, at the first of their joint discussions in the Senatorial contest of 1858. In his speech at Ottawa, he said of Mr. Lincoln, that u while in Congress he distinguished himself by his opposition to the Mexican war, talcing the side of the common enemy against his own country, and when he returned home he found that the indignation of the people followed him everywhere/'
No better answer can be given to this charge than that which Mr. Lincoln himself made, in his reply to this speech. He says: "I was an old Whig, and whenever the Democratic party tried to get me to vote that the war had been righteously begun by the President, I would not do it. But whenever they asked for any money or land-warrants, or any thing to pay the soldiers there, during all that time I gave the same vote that Judge Douglas did. You can think as you please as to whether