Henry J. (Henry Jarvis) Raymond.

Lincoln, his life and time : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages and proclamations and closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 1) online

. (page 2 of 42)
Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and time : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages and proclamations and closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

.exhortation could have done, the precept that "honesty
is the best policy," and thus assisted to develop that
character of which integrity was so prominent a trait
in after years. Among the other volumes which Mr.
Lincoln was accustomed to refer to, as having been
eagerly read in his youthful days, were a Life of Henry
Clay, Esop s Fables, and Banyan s Pilgrim s Progress.
It is quite probable that the quaint phraseology of thes< s
last two volumes, and their direct and forcible illustra
tions, may have impressed upon the productions of Mr.
Lincoln s pen that style which is one of their most pecu
liar and favorite characteristics.

When nineteen years old, Abraham Lincoln, moved,
perhaps, equally by the desire to earn an honest liveli
hood in the shape of "ten dollars a month and found,"
and by curiosity to see more of tie world, made a trip
down the Mississippi to New Orleans, upon a flat-boat.
He went in company with the son of the owner of the
boat, who intrusted a valuable cargo to their care. The
trip was quite an eventful and exciting one, for on the


way down the great river they were attacked by sevou
negroes, who hoped to capture the boat and the cargo.
They found, however, that they had undertaken a task
to the execution of which they were unequal. After a
spirited contest the negroes were driven back, and com
pelled to abandon their attempt, leaving our boatmen
the undisputed masters of the field. Upon this trip
young Lincoln s literary acquirements were called into
useful action, and besides the stipulated ten dollars per
month, he gained a substantial reputation as a youth of
promising business talent.

During the twelve years that the family had been
living in Indiana, the advancing tide of civilization had
again encroached upon them almost imperceptibly, and
in 1830 Thomas Lincoln, impatient of the restrictions
which he found the gradually increasing population
drawing around him, again determined to seek a new
home farther west, and after fifteen days journey came
upon a site near Decatur, Macon County, Illinois, which
seemed to him a desirable one. lie immediately erected
a log cabin, and, with the aid of his son, who was now
twenty-one, proceeded to fence in his new farm. Abra
ham had little idea, while engaged in the unromantic
occupation of mauling the rails which were to bound his
father s possessions, that he was writing a page in his life
which would be read by the whole nation years after
ward. Yet so it proved to be. A writer, describing one
of the incidents in the earlier political career of the late
President, says:

During the sitting of the Republican State Convention, at Decatur, a
banner, attached to two of tl*ese rails, and bearing an appropriate inscrip
tion, was brought into the assemblage, and formally presented to that
body, amid a scene of unparalleled enthusiasm. After that, they were in
demand in every State of the Union in which free labor is honored,
where they were borne in processions of the people, and hailed by hun
dreds of thousands of freemen as a symbol of triumph, and as a glorioua
vindication of freedom and of the rights and dignity of free labor. These,
however, were far from being the first and only rails made by Lincoln
He was a practised hand at the business. Mr. Lincoln has now a caiw
ftjade from one of the rails split bv l>.is own hands in Viyhood.


Every one remembers how, during the presidential
campaign of 1860, Mr. Lincoln was characterized as a
4 k rail-splitter;" first, sneerhigly, by his opponents; after
wards by his own supporters, as the best possible proof
tli at 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 Iris
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 hds 1
father in his journeyings, 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 em
ployed 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 superin
tend a flouring-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 Lad
been ; but 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
hi 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 sec
tion 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. Lin
coln, 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 dis
banded. 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 mem
bers of his company, to induce him to return home, he
discharged his duties faithfully through the three months

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?
} es, sir, in the days of the Black Hawk war I fought, bled, and came
way. 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 swoid, 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
[ 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 iainted from loss of
Dlood, I certainly can say I was often very hungry.

His military career closed, Mr. Lincolr turned his atteii-


tion 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 de
feated, as he undoubtedly expected to be, although hi*
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 he 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
postmaster ship of the town ; but the venture was tin-
successful, and he sold out. Meanwhile, he was still
employing every opportunity ottered 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 con
tents 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 elect
ed to the legislature as one of the seven representatives
from Sangamon County, and during this term he waa
assigned a place on the Finance Committee, his mem Der-


ship of the Committee on Public Accounts and Expendi
tures during his first term haying qualified him for this

The following letter, which was written during this
canvass, besides being an interesting reminiscence of Mi .
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 :

NBW SALKM, June 21, 1886.

DEAR COLONEL: I am told that, during ray 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 haa needed favors more than I, and, generally, few have been
loss unwilling to accept them; but in this case favor to me would be in
justice to the public, and, therefore, 1 must beg your pardon for declining
it. That I once had the confidence of the people of Saugamon 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 tiie
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, how-
fcver 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 botL, if you
c\ oose. Very respectfully,



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
be did not then anticipate that he should, twenty-four
years afterwards, defeat in a presidential election. The
Democrats of course held the ascendency in thft Illinois


legislature at this time, and they took advantage of theii
strength to pass somo extreme pro-slavery resolution^
branding as " abolitionists" those who refused to indorse
them. That his position might not be misunderstood,
Mr. Lincoln took advantage of his parliamentary privi
lege to enter upon the Journal of the House, in connec
tion with a colleague, his reasons for voting in opposition
to the resolutions. This document, which now possesses
historical interest, reads as follows :

MARCH 8, 1837.

The following protest was presented to the House, which was read and
ordered to be spread on the journals, to wit:

"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.

44 They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power,
nnder 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,
nnder 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.

" The difference between these opinions and those contained in the said
resolutions, is their reason for entering this protest.

Representatives from the County of Sangamon"

In 1838, Mr. Lincoln was for the third time elected to
the State legislature ; and among his six colleagues, as rep
resentatives 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. Lin
coln 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 canvas
eing the State, in anticipation of the presidential election.


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 profes
sion. As already stated, he had been admitted to the bar
in 1836 ; and on April 15, 1837, he settled permanently
in Spring-field, the seat of Sangamon County, which wass
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, encour
aged him to remain with them until he should find some
thing u 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 graph
ically 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
melet in the night-time at a camp-meeting, and one of his associates
stated that the death-wound was inflicted hy young Armstrong. A pre
liminary examination was gone into, at which the accuser testified so
positively, that there seemed no douht of the guilt of the prisoner, and
therefore he was held for trial. As is too often the case, 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 ewli -eboolboy quarrel, was guddeoly


remembered and magnified, until they pictured him as a fiend of the inol
horrible hue. As these rumors spread abroad they were received as goa-
pel truth, and a feverish desire for vengeance seized upon the in&iuated
populace, whilst only prison bars prevented a horrible death at the hands
of a mob. The events were heralded in the county papers, pain ted in
highest colors, accompanied by rejoicing over the certainty of punishment
being meted out to the guilty party. The prisoner, overwhelmed by tb*
circumstances under which he found himself placed, fell into a melan
choly condition bordering on despair, and the widowed mother, lookin$
through her tears, saw no cause for hope from earthly aid.
j At this juncture, the widow received a letter from Mr. Lincoln, vol
unteering 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 Ibe
attorney was in his work, arid 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 \vere a tissue of fake-

When the trial was called on, the prisoner, pule and emaciated, with
hopelessness written on every feature, and accompanied by his half-
hoping, 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
" 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 guilt they regarded as certain.
The examination of the witnesses for the State was begun, and a well-
arranged 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 t-xcited no uneasiness oil the part of the prosecutor
merely, in most cases, requiring the main witnesses to be definite as to
the time and place. AY hen 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
rowdviah, had never been known to commit a vicious act; and to show
that a greater degree of ill feeling existed between the a-. -cursor and the
accused, than the accused and the deceased.

The prosecutor felt that the case was a clear one, and iris opening
speech was brief and formal. Lincoln arose, while a deathly silence
pervaded the vast audience, and So u clear and moderate tone began hii


irgument. Slowly and carefully lie reviewed the testimony, pointing out
the hitherto unobserved discrepancies in the statements of the principal
witness. That which had seemed plain and plausible he mado 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 slung-
shot. Mr. Lincoln showed that at the hour referred to the moon had no!
yet appeared above the horizon, and consequently the whole tale was s

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 of
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 sou] 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 thril
ling 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 lie alluded to the debt of gratitude which he owei
the boy s sire, tears were seen to fall from -many eyes unused to weep.

I* 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 ad
journed 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 seat-?. A- 1
repaired immediately to the court-house, and whilst the prisoner wan
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 fore
man 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
eon, 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:
" It is not yet sundown and you are free." I confess that my checks were
cot wholly unwet by tears, and I turned from the affecting SCOTS c. As 1
cast a glance behind, I saw Abraham Lincoln obeying the Divine injuno=
tk n 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 lusted about two weeks. The occasions were always season*
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 sur
rounding 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 antici
pations, and whose possible absence although he never was absent

Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondLincoln, his life and time : being the life and public services of Abraham Lincoln, sixteenth president of the United States, together with his state papers, including his speeches, addresses, messages and proclamations and closing scenes connected with his life and death (Volume 1) → online text (page 2 of 42)