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THE brief remarks made about Abraham at this 1 time show his standing.
"He is always ready to do everything for everybody," remarked his mother.
“He is good-natured as the days are long,” said Dennis Hanks.
“Allers readin' when he is not workin',” said Josiah Crawford.
“More fun in him than there is in all the rest of us put together,” remarked David Turnham.
Such remarks as these were common concerning Abraham Lincoln from the time he was fourteen years of age. John Hanks, who went to live with the Lincolns, as we have said, when Abraham was fourteen, says,
“When Abe and I returned to the house from work, he would go to the cupboard, snatch a piece of cornbread, take down a book, sit down on a chair, cross his legs as high as his head, and read. He and I worked bare-footed, grubbed it, ploughed, mowed, and cradled together; ploughed corn, gathered it, and shucked corn. Abraham read constantly when he had an opportunity.”
Mr. Lamon says : “ Abe loved to lie under a shadetree, or up in the loft of the cabin, and read, cipher, and scribble. At night he sat by the chimney 'jamb;' and ciphered, by the light of the fire, on the wooden
fire-shovel. When the shovel was fairly covered, he would shave it off with Tom Lincoln's drawing-knife, and begin again. In the day time, he used boards for the same purpose, out of doors, and went through the shaving process everlastingly.”
His mother says: “Abe read every book he could lay his hands on ;-and when he came across a passage that struck him, he would write it down on boards if he had no paper, and keep it there until he did get paper. Then he would re-write it, look at it, and repeat it. He had a copy-book, a kind of scrap-book, in which he put down all things, and thus preserved them.”
There is no record of how and where he obtained the scrap-book. The idea was entirely original with him, since he had never heard of any such device in his part of the country. There is no question that he possessed a scrap-book, and that it became an important agent in making him a scholar and statesman. He copied into it chiefly from the books he borrowed, thinking he would not have the opportunity to see them again. Books that he owned, as well as those belonging to his parents, he marked, that he might refer to striking passages at his leisure. Also, he frequently wrote brief compositions in that scrap-book, improving his talent for the art thereby. As an invention, at that time, the scrap-book was worthy of his genius, and as a source of mental improvement its value was never over-estimated.
One of the finest and most touching tributes ever paid to his memory was spoken by his mother to Mr. Herndon, and we quote it here because it had reference to his early life. She said,
"Abe was a poor boy, and I can say what scarcely one woman-a mother-can say in a thousand, Abe never gave me a cross word or look, and never refused, in fact or appearance, to do anything I requested him. I never gave him a cross word in all my life.... His mind and my mind—what little I had — seemed to run together. ... He was here after he was elected President.” Here she stopped, unable to proceed any further, and after her. grateful emotions had spent themselves in tears, she proceeded : “He was dutiful to me always. I think he loved me truly. I had a son, John, who was raised with Abe. Both were good boys; but I must say, both being now dead, that Abe was the best boy I ever saw, or ever expect to see. I wish I had died when my husband died. I did not want Abe to run for President; did not want him elected; was afraid somehow,-felt it in my heart; and when he came down to see me, after he was elected President, I felt that something would befall him, and that I should see him no more.”
Mr. Lamon relates that, when this interview closed, and Mr. Herndon was about to retire, Mrs. Lincoln took one of his hands in both of hers, and wringing it, with the tears streaming down her cheeks, as if loth to separate from one who knew her “Abe” so intimately, said : " Good-bye, my good son's friend. Farewell.”
Abraham tried his father often by his persistent efforts to gain time to read and study, and by his disposition to turn night into day, that he might pore over some engrossing book, or compose a “poem" or "chronicle” upon some passing event, pleasant or otherwise. He was more tried, however, by Abraham's "preaching about” and making "political speeches' on stumps than anything; for this interfered with business. His step-sister, Matilda Johnson, says he
was remarkable for preaching and speech-making. , On Monday mornings, after he had listened to a sermon, he would mount a stump, and deliver the sermon, which his memory retained with wonderful accuracy. In the field he often amused his working companions with a speech upon some subject that was uppermost; and when he began to orate there was an end of labour. All hands gathered about him in admiration, and cheered him on. Thomas Lincoln thought Abraham was carrying the matter too far. But he said nothing especially authoritative until the community was visited by a preacher of singular eccentricities. He bellowed like a bull of Bashan in the pulpit, a fearful nasal twang accompanying his cracked voice; and he pounded the desk in his excitement, as if determined to reduce it to kindling wood. His performance was fun for the young people; and Abraham was especially amused. His gift of imitation enabled him to reproduce the sermon, with its nasal twang and other oddities, so that the eccentricities of the preacher were reproduced and repeated, over and over, on the stumps of the field, and at evening gatherings. When Abraham began to preach that sermon, in cabin or field, his audience could attend to nothing else until the discourse was finished. The exercise of laughing over it was well-nigh as exhaustive and violent as that of chopping. Even the old people, who thought it was not quite right to make so much merriment over a sermon, could not help laughing when Abraham became the eccentric pulpit orator. But his father felt obliged to interfere with this habit of public speaking. It became too much of an interruption to necessary work.
“You must stop it, Abe. I won't have it. You'll get to liking fun more than work; guess you do now. I've put up with it long enough,-shan't any longer,
Don't let me have to speak to you about it again." So Mr. Lincoln interrupted Abraham's practice of stumpspeaking, in his irritation manifesting considerable feeling on the subject.
Yet there is no doubt that Mr. Lincoln was proud of the ability of his son, and, at heart, enjoyed his precocity. In his ignorance, he might have feared that his habit of speech-making would make him lazy or shiftless. Whether he did or not, Abraham evidently laid the foundation of his future greatness as an orator and debater in those remarkable days of his youth. A better practice to discipline him for public service could not have engaged his attention. The pioneer boy was unconsciously schooling himself for the highest position in the land.
Abraham worked often for William Wood, who lived one mile and a half away. Mr. Lincoln worked there, also, as a carpenter, whenever labour in his line was demanded. Abraham loved to work for Mr. Wood, for he took two papers, which the boy could read through and through. One of them was a temperance paper, and its contents interested him more even than the political paper.
“I did not know that a paper like this was ever printed,” he said to Mr. Wood, who was one of the most intelligent and well-posted men of Spencer County. “It's true, every word of it.”
“Of course it is,” replied Mr. Wood. “Rum is well enough in its place, but there's no reason in men making such beasts of theinselves as many do about here."
“I shouldn't care if the whole of it was at the bottom of the Ohio River, where most of my father's whiskey went,” continued Abraham. “It does a great sight more evil than good any day.”