« AnteriorContinuar »
PUBLIC SERVICES AND STATE PAPERS
EARLY LIFE OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN.—His Own RECORD.—His ANCESTRY.
CHANGES OF RESIDENCE.—DEATH AND FUNERAL OF His Mother..—EnTRANCE UPON POLITICAL LIFE.-A MEMBER OF THE LEGISLATURE ANL OF CONGRESS.—THE MEXICAN WAR.
THE compiler of the “ Dictionary of Congress” states, that while preparing that work for publication, in 1858, he sent to Mr. Lincoln the usual request for a sketch of his life, and received the following reply:
“Born, FEBRUARY 12, 1809, in HARDIN COUNTY, KENTUCKY. “EDUCATION DEFECTIVE. “PROFESSION, A LAWYER. “ HAVE BEEN A CAPTAIN OF VOLUNTEERS IN BLACK HAWK WAR. “ POSTMASTER AT A VÉRY SMALL OFFICE.
“FOUR TIMES A MEMBER OF THE ILLINOIS LEGISLATURE, AND WAS A MEMBER OF THE LOWER HOUSE OF CONGRESS.
" YOURS, &o.
" A. LINCOLN."
Around the facts stated with such characteristic modesty and brevity clusters the history of the early life of our late President. The ancestors of Abraham Lincoln were of English descent; and although they are believed to have originally emigrated to this country with the followers of William Penn, it is difficult to trace them
farther back than to their place of residence in Berks County, Pennsylvania, whence a part of the family removed, in 1750, to that section of Virginia now known as Rockingham County. Thirty years later, Abraham Lincoln, the grandfather of our late President, finding civilization crowding him too closely, and possibly enticed by the stories which came back to the frontier settlements from that famous pioneer, Daniel Boone, but undeterred by the dangers which he knew he musť inevitably encounter, determined to make another bold push westward, and settled on Floyd's Creek, in Kentucky, in what is now known as Bullitt County. Hardly had he secured a home for his little family, when he was fatally shot by an Indian, who came upon him stealthily while he was at work, some distance from his log cabin. Thus deprived of her protector, his widow at once removed, with her three sons and two daughters, to that part of Kentucky now known as Washington County. Thomas, the eldest of the sons, the father of Abraham Lincoln, was but six years old when his mother was so suddenly made a widow. The necessity of assisting to provide for her probably delayed his own settlement in life, for it was not until he was twenty-eight years old, in 1806, that he married Nancy Hanks. His wife was a Virginian by birth ; but no facts regarding either her ancestry or early life have been preserved, although it is a tradition, possibly originating in the reputation achieved by her son, that she was a woman of rare mental endowment. Immediately after their marriage the couple removed to Hardin County, Kentucky, and there, on February 12th, 1809, as has already been stated, Abraham Lincoln was born. His early life was spent in poverty and toil; but his father, feeling keenly his own deficiencies, determined to give his son every possible advantage in the way of gaining an education, and, when but seven years old, he was equipped with an old copy of Dilworth’s Spelling Book, which constituted one-third of the family library, and was sent to school to a Mr. Hazel. It is also said that one Zachariah Riney, a Roman Catholic, having some connection with the Trappists, who had founded an institution on Pottinger's Creek, with Urban Guillet as superior, had the honor of instructing the future President in the rudiments. Whether Mr. Lincoln favored his other children, one a girl two years older than Abraham, and the other a boy two years his junior, to the same extent, is doubtful, for the routine of school life was not only broken in upon by his frequent demands upon his son's time, but finally it was interrupted altogether by his determination to abandon Kentucky and try his fortunes where his energies were not checked and repressed by the obstacles which slavery constantly thrust in his way. In 1817 Mr. Lincoln carried this plan into execution. The old home was sold, their small stock of valuables placed upon a raft, and the little family took their way to a new home in the wilds of Indiana, where free labor would have no competition with slave labor, and the poor white man might hope that in time his children could take an honorable position, won by industry and careful economy. The place of their destination was Spencer County, Indiana. For the last few miles they were obliged to cut their road as they went on. “With the resolution of veteran pioneers they toiled, sometimes being able to pick their way for a long distance without chopping, and then coming to a standstill in consequence of dense forests. Suffice it to say, that they were obliged to cut a road so much of the way that several days were employed in going eighteen miles. It was a difficult, wearisome, trying journey, and Mr. Lincoln often said, that he never passed through a harder experience than he did in going from Thompson's Ferry to Spenser County, Indiana.”
Thus, before he was eight years old, Abraham Lincoln began the serious business of life. The cabin in which the family lived was built of logs, and even the aid of such a mere child was of account in the wilderness where they now found themselves, after seven days of weary travel. Their neighbors, none of whom lived nearer than two or three miles, welcomed the strangers, and
lent a hand towards building the rude dwelling in which the future President lay down, after fatiguing but healthful toil, to dream the dreams of childhood, undisturbed by thoughts of the future.
But just as Abraham was becoming accustomed to his new residence, his home was made desolate by the death of his mother, which occurred when he was ten years old. She died long before she could have imagined, in her wildest dreams, the eminence and distinction which her son was to attain; but she was happy in the knowledge that, chiefly under her own tuition, for she had not intrusted his education entirely to the schoolmaster who chanced to settle within reach, her favorite son had learned to read the Bible—the book which, as a Christian woman, she prized above all others. It is impossible to estimate the influence which this faithful mother exerted in moulding the character of her child ; but it is easy to believe that the earnestness with which she impressed upon his mind and heart the holy precepts, did much to develop those characteristics which in after years caused him to be known as pre-eminently the “Honest” man. There is touching evidence that Abraham held the memory of his mother in sacred remembrance. She had instructed him in the rudiments of writing, and Mr. Lincoln, in spite of the disparaging remarks of his neighbors, who regarded the accomplishment as entirely unnecessary, encouraged his son to persevere, until he was able to put his thoughts upon paper in a style which, although rude, caused him to be regarded as quite a prodigy among the illiterate neighbors. One of the very first efforts of his faltering pen was writing a letter to an old friend of his mother's, a travelling preacher, urging him to come and deliver a sermon over her grave. The invitation must have been couched in impressive, if not affecting language ; for, although the letter was not written until nine months after his mother's remains had been deposited in their last resting-place, Parson Elkins, the preacher to whom it was extended, responded to the request, and three months subsequent