Henry J. (Henry Jarvis) Raymond.

The life of Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois online

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By henry J. EAYMOND;

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No 5




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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1864, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the Southern
District of New York.

?3r{ntcr & .Stcrfotjjper,
No. 20 North William St.



Abraham Lincolist was born on the 12tli of Feb-
ruary, 1809, in Hardin county, Kentucky. His early
life, like that of most of the great men whom our
country has produced, was spent in poverty and in
toil. At seven years of age he was sent to school to
a Mr. Hazel, carrying with him an old copy of Dil-
worth's Spelling Book, one of the three books that
formed the family library. His father keenly felt the
disadvantages arising from his own lack of education,
and determined, in spite of difficulties almost incon-
ceivable, to give his son better facilities for study than
he had himself enjoyed. His mother was a Christian
woman, and desired earnestly that he should learn to
read the Bible.

Thomas Lincoln, his father, finding a life in a Slave
State a most unsatisfactory one for himself, and pre-
senting only the prospect of a hopeless struggle in the
future for his children, determined upon removal, and
when Abraham was in the eighth year of his age, the
plan was carried into execution. The old home was
sold, their small stock of valuables placed upon a raft,
and the little family took its 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


mignt liope that in time liis cliildren could take an
honorable position, won by industry and careful econo-
my. 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. Sufiice it to say, that they were obliged to cut
a road so much of the way that several days were em-
ployed in going eighteen miles. It was a difficult,
wearisome, trying journey, and Mr. Lincoln often said,
that be never passed through a harder experience than
he did in going from Thompson's Ferry to Spencer
county, Indiana."

Thus, before he was eight years old, Abraham Lin
coin began the serious business of life. Their cabin
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.

In this log-house, consisting of a room below and a
room above, furnished by Thomas Lincoln and his
son's own hands, Abraham passed the next twelve
years of his life. So long as his mother lived, she
assisted him in learning to read, and before her death,
which occurred when he was ten years of age, she had


the satisfaction of seeing him read that Book which ho
has never since neglected.

After a while he learned to write. This was an
accomplishment which some of the friendly neighbors
thought unnecessary, but his father quietly persisted,
and the boy was set down as a prodigy when he wrote
to an old friend of his mother's, a travelling preacher,
and begged him to come and preach a sermon over his
mother's grave. Three months after. Parson Elkins
came, and friends assembled, a year after her death, to
pay a last tribute of respect to one universally beloved
and respected. Her son's share in securing the pres-
ence of the clergyman was not unmentioned, and Abra-
ham soon found himself called upon to write letters for
his neighbors.

His father married a second time a Mrs. Sally John-
ston, who proved an excellent mother to her step-son,
and who now survives to take her share of the credit
to which she is entitled for her faithful care. In the
course of a year or two a Mr. Crawford, one of the set-
tlers; opened a school in his own cabin, and Abraham's
father embraced the opportunity to send him, in order
that he might add some knowledge of arithmetic to
his reading and writing. With buckskin clothes, a
raccoon skin cap, and an old arithmetic wdiich had
been somewhere found for him, he commenced his
studies in the " higher branches." His progress was
rapid, and his perseverance and faithfulness w^on the
interest and esteem of his teacher.

In that thinly settled country a book was a great
rarity, but whenever Mr. Lincoln hoard of one he en-
deavored to procure it for Abraham's perusal. In this


way he became acquainted with Banyan's Pilgrim's
Progress, Esop's Fables, a Life of Henry Clay, and
Weems's Life of Washington. The " hatchet" story of
"Washington, which has done more to make boys truth-
ful than a hundred solemn exhortations, made a stronsr
impression upon Abraham, and was one of those un-
seen, gentle influences, which helped to form his charac-
ter for integrity and honesty. Its effect may be traced
in the following story, which bids fair to become as
never-failing an accompaniment to a Life of Lincoln as
the hatchet case to that of Washington.

Mr. Crawford had lent him a copy of Ramsay's
Life of Washington. During a severe storm Abra-
ham iui. ioved his leisure by reading his book. One
night he laid it down carefully, as he thought, and the
next morning he found it soaked through ! The wind
had changed, the storm had beaten in through a crack
in the logs, and the appearance of the book was ruined.
How could he face the owner under such circumstan-
ces ? He had no money to offer as a return, but he
took the book, went directly to Mr. Crawford, showed
him the irreparable injury, and frankly and honestly
offered to work for him until he should be satisfied.
Mr. Crawford accepted the offer and gave Abraham the
book for his own, in return for three days' steady la-
bor in "pulling fodder." His manliness and straight-
forwardness won the esteem of the Crawfords, and
indeed of all the neighborhood.

At nineteen years of age he made a trip to New-
Orleans, in company with a son of the owner of a flat-
boat, who intrusted a valuable cargo to their care. On
the way they were attacked by seven negToes, and their


lives and property were in great danger, but owing to
tlieir good use of the muscular force tbej bad acquired
as backwoodsmen, they succeeded in driving olf the in-
vaders, and pushing their boat out into the stream in
safety. The result of the voyage was satisfactory
to the owner, and Abraham Lincoln gained, in addition
to his ten dollars a month, a reputation as a youth of
promising business talent.

In 1830 Thomas Lincoln decided to make another
change, and the log cabin which had been so long tlieir
home was deserted for a new one near Decatur, Illinois.
This time the journey occupied fifteen days. Abraham
was now twenty-one, but he did not begin his inde-
pendent life until he had aided his father in settling
his family, breaking the ground for corn, and making
a rail fence around the farm. These rails have passed
into song and story. "During the sitting of the Ee-
publican State Convention at Decatur, a banner, at-
tached to two of these rails, and bearing an appropriate
inscription, was brought into the assemblage, and form-
ally presented to that body, amid a scene of unparal-
leled 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 hundreds of thousands of freemen, as a sym-
bol of triumph, and as a glorious vindication of free-
dom and of the rights and dignity of free labor. These,
however, were far from being the first or only rails
made by Lincoln. He was a practised hand at the
business. Mr. Lincoln has now a cane made from one
of the rails split by his own hands in boyhood."
After the first winter in Illinois, which was one of un-


common seventy, and required more tlian his father's
care to keep the family in food, which was mostly ob-
tained by hunting, Abraham Lincoln began life for
himself Sometimes he hired himself out as a farm-
hand, sometimes his learning procured him a situation
as clerk in a store. When the Black Hawk war broke
out in 1832, he joined a volunteer company, and was
made captain. "He was an efficient, faithful officer,
watchful of his men, and prompt in the discharge of
duty, and his courage and patriotism shrank from no
dangers or hardships." Thus the Commander-in-Chief
of our armies has not been without a bit of military
experience — much moi^, in fact, than the most of our
Brigadier-Generals had had before the commencement
of the war.

After his military life was over he looked about for
something to do. He ran for the Legislature, but was
beaten, though his own precinct gave him 277 votes
out of 284. This was the only time he was ever
beaten before the people. He bought a store and
stock of goods on credit, and was appointed Post-
master. The store proved unprofitable, and he sold
out. All this time he pursued his studies. He had
already learned grammar, and he had now opportunities
for more extensive reading. He wrote out a synopsis
of every book he read, and thus fixed it 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.


In 1834 lie was sent to tlie' Legislature, and the po-
litical life commenced which his countrymen's votes
have since shown thej fully appreciated. When the
session of the Legislature was over, he set himself to the
study of law in good earnest. In 1836 he obtained a
law license, and in A])ril, 1837, he removed to Spring-
field and commenced the practice of the law in partner-
ship with his friend and former colleague in the Legis-
lature, Hon. John T. Stuart.

One incident of his law practice we cannot refrain
from narrating. When Lincoln first went out into the
world to earn a living for himself, he worked for a Mr.
Armstrong, of Petersburg, Menard Co., who, with his
wife, took a great interest in him, lent him books to
read, and, after the season for work was over, en-
couraged 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 bo}^ SVe cannot do
better than to transcribe the remarks of the Cleveland
Leader upon this interesting and touching incident.

" 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 eartli, — was arrested on
the charge of murder. A young man had been killed during a riotous
me^ee, in the night time at a camp-meeting, and one of his associates
stated that the death-wound was inflicted by young ^\jmstrong. A pre-
liminary 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 olten 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 of rowdyism — each schoolboy quarrel, — was suddenly
remembered and magnified, until they pictured him as a fieud of the


most horrible hue. As these rumors spread abroad they were received
as gospel truth, and a feverish desire for vengeance seized upon the in-
fatuated 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 beiiig meted out to tne 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, vol-
unteering his services in an eSbrt 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 impanoUing 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 unravelhng the history of the case, and satisfied himself that his
client was the victim of mahce, and that the statements of the accuser
were a tissue of falsehoods.

" "When the trial was called on, the prisoner, pale and emaciated, with
hopelessness written on every feature, and accompanied by his Jialf-
hoping, half-despairing mother — whose only hope was in a mother's
behef 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 * Btony firmness' hstened to the reading of the indictment
Lincoln sat quietly by, whilst 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 tho
State was begun, and a well-arranged mass of evidence, circumstantial
and positive, was introduced, which seemed to impale the prisoner be-
yond the possibility of extrication. The counsel for the defence pro-
pounded but few questions, and those of a character which excited no
uneasiness on the part of the prosecutor — merely, in most cases, requi-
ring 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 preri*


0U3 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, thai,
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 deatldy silence
pervaded the vast audience, and in a clear and moderate tone began
his argument. Slowly and carefuUy he reviewed the testimony, point-
ing out the hitherto unobserved discrepancies in the Btatements of the
principal witness. That which had seemed plain and plausible ho
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 a slung-shot. 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
of every tongue. But the advocate was not content with this intel-
lectual 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 ho owed the boy's sire, tears were seen to
fall from many eye^ unused to weep.

" It was near night when ho 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 offi-
cers 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 tilled to ovorflow-


ing 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,
dehvered the verdict of ' Not Guilty 1' The widow dropped into the
arms of her son, who Ufted her up and told her to look upon him as
before, free and innocent. Then, with tne words, ' Where is Mr. Lin-
coln ?' he rushed across the room and grasped the hand of his deUverer,
whilst his heart was too full for utterance. Lincoln turned his eyes
towards the West, where the sun still lingered in view, and then, turn-
ing to the youth, said, '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 injunction by comforting the widowed and

Mr. Lincoln was three times elected to the Legisla-
ture ; and here commenced his political acquaintance
with Stephen A. Douglas. He then remained six years
in private life, devoting himself to the practice of the
law, displaying remarkable ability, and gaining an
enviable reputation. His interest in politics never sub-
sided, and in 1844: he stumped the entire State of Illi-
nois during the Presidential campaign. We have before
mentioned that one of his earliest books was the "Life
of Henry Clay," and his enthusiastic admiration for
that Statesman, aroused in his boyhood, continued in
full force during his life. In 1847 Mr. Lincoln took
his seat in Congress, and was the only "Whig representa-
tive from Illinois, which had then seven members in
that body.

The Congress of which Mr.. Lincoln was a member,
had before it questions of great importance and interest
to the country. The Mexican War was then in pro-
gress, and Congress had to deal with grave questions
arising out of it, besides the many which were to be


passed upon as to tlie means by wMcli it was to be carried
on. The irrepressible Slaver/ 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,
when political enmity was hunting sharply for material
out of which to make political capital against him, with
lack of patriotism, in 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 says of Mr. Lincoln, that " while in Congress he
distinguished himself by' his opposition to the Mexican
war, taking the side (f the common enemy against his
oimi Gountr'y^ and when he returned home he found
that the indignation of the people followed him every-

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 when-
ever 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 that was consistent. Such is the truth, and
the Judge has a right to make all he can out of it. But
when he, by a general charge conveys the idea that I
withheld supplies from the soldiers who we^-e fighting
in the Mexican war, or did any thing else to hinder the


soldiers, lie is, to say tlie least, grossly and altogether
niistqjien, as a consultatk)n of the records will prove
to him."

We should need no more thorough refutation of this
imputation upon his patriotism than is embodied in
this clear and distinct denial. It required no little
sagacity, at that time, to draw a clear line of demarca-
tion between supporting the country while engaged in
war, and sustaining the war itself which Mr. Lincoln,
in common with the great body of the party with which
he was connected, regarded as utterly unjust. The
Democratic party made vigorous use of the charge
everywhere. The whole foundation of it, doubtless,
was the fact which Mr. Lincoln states, that, whenever
the Democrats tried to get him ." to vote that the war
had been righteously begun," he would not do it. He
showed, in fact, on this point, the same clearness and
directness, the same keen eye for the important point
in a controversy, and the same tenacity in holding it
fast and thwarting his opponent's utmost efforts to ob-
scure it and cover it up, to draw attention to other
points and raise false issues, which were the marked
characteristics of his great controversy with Judge
Douglas at a subsequent period of their political his-
tory. It is always popular, because it always seems
patriotic, to stand by the country when engaged in
war, — and the jDCople are not always disposed to judge
leniently of efforts to prove their country in the wrong
as against any foreign power. In this instance, Mr.
Lincoln saw that the strength of the position of the
Administration before the people in reference to the
beginning of the war, was in the point, which they lost


no opportunity of reiterating, viz., that Mexico had
shed the blood of our citizens on our own soil. This
position he believed to be false, and he accordingly
attacked it in a resolution requesting the President to
give the House information on that point ; which Pres-
ident Polk would have found as difficult to dodge as
Douglas found it to dodge the questions which Mr.
Lincoln proposed to him.

On the right of petition Mr. Lincoln, of course, held
the right side, voting repeatedly against laying on the
table without consideration petitions in favor of the
abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia, and
against the slave-trade.

On the question of abolishing Slavery in the District,
he took rather a prominent part. A Mr. Gott had in-
troduced a resolution directing the committee for the
District to introduce a bill abolishing the slave-trade in
the District. To this Mr. Lincoln moved an amend-
ment instructing them to introduce a bill for the aboli-
tion, not of the slave-trade, but of Slavery within the
District. The bill which he proposed prevented any
slave from ever being brought into the District, except
in the case of officers of the Government of the United
States, who might bring the necessary servants for
themselves and their families while in the District on
public business. It prevented any one then resident

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Online LibraryHenry J. (Henry Jarvis) RaymondThe life of Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois → online text (page 1 of 11)