Abraham Lincoln.

...Life, speeches and anecdotes online

. (page 1 of 7)
Online LibraryAbraham Lincoln...Life, speeches and anecdotes → online text (page 1 of 7)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Lincoln







r:



457
.92
1907A



LINCOL






1/





ABRAHAM LINCOLN
From a photogranh {probably 1864)



LIJVCOLJV

Life, Speeches
and Anecdotes




The Old
Press*




Greek.

G/iicaao

Boston



h4^



o



LIBRARY of CONGRESS
Two Copies Received

APH 20 1907

' A iopynght Entry
ciiss A XX<J.,NO.
COPY B.




Lincolniana



COPYRIGHT, 1907
BY SHERWIN CODY






-\_^



CONTENTS

^ .^ ': .■ . Page

Lincoln, Life 7

Ideal American Hero. . . . .' 7

Lincoln's Mother. ....;.'... 10

Journey to Indiana 11

What Lincoln Read 14

Strikes Out for Himself 18

Politics and Love 19

Captain in the Black Hawk War 21

His First Speech 22

Studies Law 23

"A House Divided Against Itself" (Speech). 26

Elected President 27

Lincoln's Character ... 23

Assassination 31



Page
His Life at the White House 33

Lincoln's Domestic Life 37

An Autobiographic Letter 41

Personal Appearance. •. 43

Letters and Recollections 44

Speeches 66

Note for Law Lecture 66

Reply to Douglas at Peoria 68

Farewell Address at Springfield, 1861 74

First Inaugural 75

Emancipation Proclamation 89

Gettysburg Address 91

Second Inaugural 92

Anecdotes 95

Lincoln's Pardons 95

Lincoln's Own Stories 102

Miscellaneous Anecdotes 108



LINCOLN

Every man should have a hero. If there is any
one who confesses he has none, do not trust him;
he has no high ideals, he does not wish to be greater
or better than he is, and it is certain that he is in a
fair way to become one of earth's degenerates.

There is no nation that has ever attained greatness
without its list of heroes. Greece had Achilles and
Socrates and Demosthenes, Rome had Caesar, France
Napoleon, Germany Bismarck, England Alfred the
Great and Gladstone. America has her heroes, too,
whose names have been given to states and towns
and streets all over the land, until there is no one
who has not heard them often. Washington was
truly the Father of his Country, Franklin stands for
American wit and American common sense, and
Lincoln, born in poverty, brought up in a wilderness
full of ignorance, we worship as the savior of the
Nation.

Lincoln the Ideal American Hero.

Lincoln is an ideal hero for Americans, because he
came from the very lowest, poorest, meanest stock,
and rose to the very highest office we have to bestow.
As a boy and as a young man he was so like one of
us that there are few who cannot say they have as
many natural gifts or as many opportunities as he
had. He was plain, he was honest, he had good



8 LINCOLN

health, and he was determined to get along in the
world. He had his faults, too. He did not like to
work any better than you do, he had a weakness
for loafing and telling stories, and he was not as
polite and polished in manners as his wife would
have liked him to be. Even when he became Presi-
dent he was worth but a few hundred dollars, all
invested in his small house and plain furniture in
Springfield.

But money does not make a man, polished man-
ners do not make him, even education does not make
great a man whose soul is small. Lincoln had but
a few months' schooling at a district school, and
though he read a good many books and studied law
until he was fairly skilled in his profession, his self-
education was no greater than may easily be at-
tained by any average American.

Lincoln was great because he looked at every-
thing so honestly and with such healthy common
sense. He never felt himself above even the humblest
of his fellows ; and though he knew he could think
more clearly and act more vigorously than most of
the men he met, he did not fancy that to be a cause
for "putting on airs." He was always the same Lin-
coln, whether President in the White House or a
poor railsplitter on a Western farm. That made the
people love him. They wanted him to be great,
because they seemed all to share in his greatness;
they wished him to hold high office because they
felt they could trust their most difficult problems to
him; and they knew that however high he rose he



LIFE 9

would be just as ready to talk with them and help
them as when he was indeed one of themselves.

But much as his friends liked him and trusted
him, no one knew how really great he was until sud-
denly he was made President of the Union, just as
the Union seemed falling to pieces. He was like a
giant rock that has rolled down from a mountain
into the sea. The wind blew and the waters dashed
over it, and though it had come down so suddenly
it seemed as if it had been there forever. The
drowning and the hopeless clung to it, the boats all
anchored under its lee, and though the timid pre-
dicted the rock would fall on them and crush them
all, it stood unmoved till the gale was over.

Here is a hero whom we all may imitate. If we
have gifts and opportunities that he had not, let us
be thankful and make the most of them as he would
have done. But if we are no better off than he, as
is the case with many of us, let us take courage and
fight manfully on as he did; and while we may not
be great enough to fill as great a post as he did, in
whatever place our lot may fall we may act hon-
estly, nobly, and honestly, as he would have done.
This is what it means to choose an honest hero and
shape our lives after his. Caesar sacrificed his coun-
try to his ambition, and Napoleon, though a very
great man, was a very bad one. Lincoln fought a
bloody war, but, unlike Napoleon, he fought to save.
Even Napoleon's friends came in time to hate him.
To-day the South, who once thought Lincoln their
arch-enemy, have learned in a measure to look on
him as their best friend; and he is no longer the



10 LINCOLN

hero merely of the West, or merely of the North;
he is the hero of the whole nation, and perhaps some
day he will be the hero of other nations that have
not yet heard his name.

********

Poor White Trash.

Lincoln was assassinated more than forty years
ago, but it is still difficult to speak of him without
being tempted to pronounce a sort of funeral eulogy
over him. We shall understand him better, how-
ever, if we follow the homely details of his early
life.

Abraham Lnicoln was born in Hardin county,
Kentucky, February 12, 1809. His parents belonged
to that class known in the South as "poor white
trash." Lincoln himself was very reserved about
his origin and his early life. When he was nom-
inated for the Presidency one of the first newspaper
men to interview him was J. L. Scripps of the Chi-
cago Tribune, who wished to prepare a campaign
biography of him. "Why, Scripps," said he, "it is
a great piece of folly to try to make anything out
of me or my early life. It can all be condensed into
a single sentence, and that sentence you will find
in Gray's 'Elegy,'

'The short and simple annals of the poor.*
That's all my life, and that's all you or any one
else can make out of it."

Lincoln's Mother.

Lincoln seldom spoke of his mother, Nancy Hanks,
as she is usually called. Mr. Herndon, Lincoln's law



LIFE 11

partner, says in his biography that only once did the
future President refer in his hearing to his origin.
"It was about 1850, when he and I were driving in
his one-horse buggy to the court at Menard county,

lUinois During the trip he spoke for the

first time of his mother, dwelHng on her character-
istics, and mentioning or enumerating what quahties
he inherited from her. He said, among other things,
that she was the daughter of Lucy Hanks and a well-
bred but obscure Virginia farmer or planter; and he
argued that from this source came his power of
analysis, his logic, his mental activity, his ambition,
and all the qualities that distinguished him from the
other members and descendants of the Hanks fam-
ily."

His grandfather on his father's side was also
named Abraham. This Lincoln (or Linkhorn) went
from Virginia to Kentucky in 1780, and two years
later was killed by Indians, "not in battle," his
grandson tells us, "but by stealth when he was
laboring to open a farm in the forest." Abraham's
son Thomas, father of the President, was a remark-
ably shiftless man, and was always moving from
one farm to another, leaving his debts behind him.
Lincoln worked on the farm with his father until
he was grown up; but he had little respect for him,
and in later years did not often see him.

The Journey to Indiana.

Abraham had an older sister Sarah. When she
was seven years old they moved to Indiana, where
in the wilderness his father had purchased a farm



12 LINCOLN

of the Government for two dollars an acre. He
brought his carpenter's tools and a quantity of whis-
key down Rolling Fork Creek on a crazy flatboat he
had built himself. When he reached the Ohio River
the boat upset one day, and all his goods went to
the bottom; but he got them out again, by dint of
patient fishing; and leaving them in care of a farmer
and selling his boat, he secured his farm and walked
back to get his family, whom he brought on in a
borrowed wagon. In the woods they built what was
called a half-faced camp, being enclosed on all sides
but one. It had neither floor, door, nor windows.
In this hovel they lived for a year, at the end of
which time friends and relatives joined them, to
whom they gave up the "half-faced camp," moving
into a more pretentious cabin. "It was of hewed
logs, and was eighteen feet square. It was high
enough to admit of a loft, where Abe slept, and to
which he ascended each night by means of pegs
driven in the wall. The rude furniture was in keep-
ing with the surroundings. Three-legged stools an-
swered for chairs. The bedstead, made of poles
fastened in the cracks of the logs on one side, and
supported by a crotched stick driven in the ground
on the other, was covered with skins, leaves and
old clothes. A table of the same finish as the stools,
a few pewter dishes, a Dutch oven, and a skillet com-
pleted the household outfit."

Here Lincoln spent his boyhood. One day they
had only roasted potatoes for dinner. As usual the
father asked a blessing. Little Abe looked up, and



LIFE 13

remarked irreverently but very drolly, "Dad, I call
these mighty poor blessings."

The boy was somewhat mischievous, too. He
used to like to go coon hunting with the other boys.
There was, however, a little yellow dog that would
always bark when they tried to slip away. One
night, to prevent that, they carried the dog with
them. They got their coon and killed him, and
then for the fun of the thing sewed the coon's hide
on the yellow dog. The dog didn't like the operation,
and as soon as he was let loose made a beeline for
home. Bigger dogs, scenting coon, followed him,
and, perhaps mistaking him for a real coon, killed
him. The next morning Thomas Lincoln, the father,
found his yellow dog lying dead in the yard with the
coonskin on him. He was very angry, but the boys
knew that yellow Joe would never sound the call
again when they started on a coon hunt.

Scarcely two years had passed when Nancy Lin-
coln died of what was called "the milk-sick." Their
neighbors Betsey and Thomas Sparrow died of the
same disease, and even the cattle were affected by
this strange sickness. Mrs. Lincoln knew she was
going to die, and placing her feeble hands on little
Abe's head she said, "Be good to father and sister" ;
to all she said, "Be good to one another," and ex-
pressed the hope that they might live, as they had
been taught by her, to love their kindred and wor-
ship God. "She had done her work in this world.
Stoop-shouldered, thin-breasted, sad, — at times mis-
erable, — without prospect of any betterment in her
condition, she passed from earth, little dreaming of



14 LINCOLN

the grand future that lay in store for the ragged,
hapless little boy who stood at her bedside in the
last days of her life."

A Dreary Life.

What a life little Abe and his sister lived after
this can be better imagined than told. It was dreary
in the extreme. But in the spring Thomas Lincoln
went back to Kentucky and married an old sweet-
heart, Sally Bush, who was a widow. This is the
way Thomas proposed : "Miss Johnston, I have no
wife and you no husband. I came a-purpose to
marry you. I knowed you from a gal and you
knowed me from a boy. I've no time to lose; and
if you're willin', let it be done straight off." She
replied that she could not marry at once, as she had
some debts to pay. He said, "Give me the list of
them." He got the list and paid them that evening.
The next morning they were married.

The new Mrs. Lincoln had a good stock of house-
hold furniture, and took it with her to Indiana. For
the first time in their lives Sarah and Abe had a
comfortable bed to sleep on. They had also found
a new mother, and learned to love her even more
than their own. She also brought into the family hef
own three children, two girls and a boy, with whom
the Lincolns lived in perfect accord. She was espe-
cially kind to Abe, and when she was' old and pen-
niless he gave her a farm, on which she died in 1869,
five years after he himself had gone to his account.

What Lincoln Read.

So the boy grew up, attending school a few months



LIFE 15

each year, working on his father's farm, and reading
when he could, often lying at full length on the floor
before the fire, which gave the only light, for the
Lincolns were too poor to afford candle or lamp.
There were few books in those days. Lincoln read
the Bible, "Aesop's Fables," "Robinson Crusoe,"
Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," a "History of the
United States," and Weems' "Life of Washington."
The last-named book he borrowed from a close-
fisted neighbor named Josiah Crawford. He laid it
on a little shelf in the cabin, near which there hap-
pened to be a crack between the logs. One night a
storm came up and the covers of the book got wet.
Crawford, whom the boys called "Old Blue Nose,"
assessed the injury at seventy-five cents. Abe did
not have the money, but set to work and pulled
fodder for three days to pay off the debt.

He was over six feet before he was seventeen, and
when he attained his growth he was six feet four
inches, and proportionately strong. He was a great
story-teller, and always had his joke; but he liked
to read and study much better than he did to work.
The farmers sometimes thought him lazy, for "his
chief delight was to lie down under the shade of
some inviting tree to read and study. At night,
lying on his stomach in front of the open fireplace,
with a piece of charcoal he would cipher on a broad
wooden shovel. When the latter was covered over
on both sides he would take his father's drawing
knife or a plane and shave it off clean, ready for the
next day." Says his cousin John Hanks : "When
Abe and I returned to the house from work he



16 LINCOLN

would go to the cupboard, snatch a piece of corn
bread, sit down, take a book, cock his legs up as
high as his head, and read. We grubbed, plowed,
mowed, and worked together barefooted in the field.
Whenever Abe had a chance in the field while at
work, or at the house, he would stop and read."

One of Lincoln's early delights was going to mill,
where was ground the corn which formed the prin-
cipal food of the family. The mill had a long arm,
to which each customer hitched his horse, and
driving it round and round, ground his own corn.
One day Lincoln's turn did not come till nearly night.
The old flea-bitten gray mare was rather lazy, and
as he sat on the arm he kept urging her to go faster,
crying, "Get up, you old hussy." The mare bore it
for a while, but suddenly, in the midst of one of
these exclamations, she let her hoof fly and hit him
in the forehead, knocking him senseless. The miller
picked up the lifeless boy and sent for his father,
who came and took him home in a wagon. He lay
all night unconscious, but toward morning began to
show signs of recovering. As his blood began to
flow through his veins once more, he awoke and
blurted out, "you old hussy," thus finishing the
phrase he had begun when the mare's hoof struck
him. He always regarded this as a remarkable oc-
currence in his life.

Pioneer Social Life.

The place in which Lincoln's early life was spent
was known as Gentryville. The social life of the
people centered about the church, which they would
often go eight or ten miles to attend, sometimes



LIFE 17

staying over until the next day. Says Mr. Herndon,
"The old men starting from the fields and out of
the woods would carry their guns on their shoul-
ders and go with the women. They dressed in deer-
skin pants, moccasins, and coarse hunting shirts —
the latter usually fastened with a belt or leather
strap Arriving at the house where the services
were to be held they would recite to each other
thrilling stories of their hunting exploits, and smoke
their pipes with the old ladies. They were treated,
and treated each other, with the utmost kindness.
A bottle of liquor, a pitcher of water, sugar, and
glasses were set out for them ; also a basket of
apples or turnips, with now and then a pie or cake.
Thus they regaled themselves until the preacher
found himself in condition to begin. The latter,
having also partaken freely of the refreshments
provided, would "take off his collar, read his text,
and preach and pound till the sweat, produced alike
by his exertions and the exhilarating effects of the
toddy, rolled from his face in great drops. Shaking
hands and singing ended the service."

At nineteen Lincoln grew restless and wanted to
leave his father's home ; but a friend advised against
it, and soon after he had an opportunity to join
another friend in taking a flat-boat loaded with meat
and grain on a trading expedition to New Orleans.
Here on a second journey made a few years later
he attended a slave-market. He saw a girl put on
sale. The auctioneer trotted her up and down, and
the men pinched her fiesh and observed her gait as
if she had been a fine-bred mare instead of a human



18 LINCOLN

being. Turning away from the scene in disgust, he
then and there conceived a deep-rooted hatred for
the institution of slavery ; and though afterward he I
showed great tolerance toward the slave-owners, 1
and never wished to deprive them of their property
without compensation, he felt that the institution of
slavery was a violation of the essential spirit of the
Declaration of Independence.

Soon after his return his father removed with all
his family to Macon county, Illinois. One incident
of the journey is worth relating. They took a little
dog with them, which trotted along behind the ox
wagon. One day it fell behind and failed to catch
up till after they had crossed a stream. Soon they
saw him on the opposite bank, whining and jumping
about in great distress. As the stream was partly
frozen and the water was running over the edges of
the ice, the dog was afraid to cross. The majority
decided that it was not worth while to go back
merely for a dog, "but," says Lincoln himself in j
telling the story, *T could not endure the idea of i
abandoning even a dog. Pulling oflf shoes and socks j
I waded across the stream and triumphantly returned (
with the shivering animal under my arm. His frantic '
leaps of joy and other evidences of a dog's grati-
tude amply repaid me for all the exposure I had
undergone."

Strikes Out for Himself.

He helped his father and the others hew out the ;
logs from which their house was to be built, and
split the rails for the fences; but as he had now



LIFE 19

become of age, he felt that it was time to strike out
for himself.

He worked within sight of home for a while, and
then accepted an offer from one Denton Offut to
take a boat load of stock and provisions down to
New Orleans. He and John Hanks made their way
to Springfield. As Mr. Offut had no boat ready,
they set to work and built one themselves. At New
Salem their boat stuck on a dam, where it hung for
a day and a night. It was partly filled with water.
They unloaded it, but the water kept it from clearing
the dam, though one end projected over the edge.
Lincoln devised the simple expedient of rolling the
barrels forward and boring a hole in the bottom of
the boat at the end which stuck over the dam. Of
course the water ran out and the boat went over
easily. Offut thought this was wonderful ingenuity,
and said he would build a steamboat which should
have rollers for shoals and dams, runners for ice,
and with Lincoln in charge "By thunder, she'd have
to go."

A little farther down they had to take on some
pigs. The swine refused to be driven aboard,
always running back just as they seemed to be on
the point of going over the gangplank. Lincoln con-
iceived the idea of sewing up their eyes; but after
jthat was done they still refused to go, and they had
to catch the pigs one by one and carry them aboard.

Politics and Love.

On his return from New Orleans he promised to
act as clerk for Denton Offut, who proposed to open



20 LINCOLN

a store at New Salem. He described himself at
this time as a piece of floating driftwood, that after
the winter of deep snow had come down the river
with the freshet ; borne along by the swelling waters,
and aimlessly floating about, he had accidentally
lodged at New Salem. Here he was to make his
first eflforts as a speaker and a politician; here he
met the girl with whom he fell in love, whose early
death first called out that melancholy which always
brooded over him, and made him the saddest as well
as the drollest of men. Here, too, he first made his
reputation for spinning yarns, with which he was
always ready. He also gained the respect of the
whole town by his skill in wrestling. It happened
that a few miles southwest of the village was a
strip of woods known as Clary's Grove. The boys
who lived down there were the terrors of the whole
region. Yet they were also ever ready to fight for
the defenceless, or for any one who could command
their respect. Their leader was Jack Armstrong,
under whom they were in the habit of "cleaning out"
New Salem whenever his word went forth. Offut
maintained that Lnicoln "was a better man" than
Jack Armstrong, and arranged a bet with "Bill"
Clary. The contest was to be a friendly one fairly
conducted, and all New Salem turned out to see it'
Even to this day the people of New Salem (no\v
scattered far and wide, for New Salem no longer
exists) tell the exciting scenes of that day; how
Lincoln, suddenly enraged at a suspicion of foul
tactics, fairly lifted the great bully from the ground
by the throat and shook him like a rag; and how



LIFE 21

from that day the Clary Grove boys were his firm
friends and supporters.

Lincoln at this time weighed two hundred and
fourteen pounds, and had arms so long and muscles
so wiry that he could throw a cannon ball or maul
farther than any one else, while we hear that he
once raised a barrel of whiskey from the ground
and drank from the bunghole.

But this young giant had a strong head and a soft
heart, and many friends of a character very different
from the Clary Grove boys. Among these was Men-
tor Graham, the schoolmaster, on whose advice he
hunted up a man named Ganer, who was said to be
the owner of a Kirkham's grammar. After a walk
of several miles he returned to the store where he
was clerking, with the book under his arm. Some-
times he would lie at full length on the counter, his
head propped up by rolls of calico; or he would
steal away to the shade of a nearby tree, where he
tried patiently and persistently to master the rules of
grammar. How well he succeeded in mastering the
English language we may know when we remember
that in the Gettysburg speech we have one of the
most perfect specimens of oratory in the history of
any language.

Goes to the Black Hawk War.

Lincoln did not make a good clerk. Offut's store
failed, and Lincoln enlisted for the Black Hawk
war. He was elected captain of the company, an
honor which he appreciated; but he knew little of
military tactics. Once when he was marching the



22 LINCOLN

company twenty abreast they came to a narrow gate.
Lincoln could not remember the military order for
"turning the company endwise." The situation was
becoming decidedly embarrassing when he faced the
lines and called, "Halt! This company will break
ranks for two minutes and form again on the other
side of the gate." The company did as ordered,
and thought none the less of their leader. His com-
pany was somewhat unruly, and for their misdeeds
he was once deprived of his sword for a day, and
at another time he was made to carry a wooden
sword for two days.

His First Speech.

When he came home he decided to run for the


1 3 4 5 6 7

Online LibraryAbraham Lincoln...Life, speeches and anecdotes → online text (page 1 of 7)