Newman Hall.

From Liverpool to St. Louis online

. (page 10 of 16)
Online LibraryNewman HallFrom Liverpool to St. Louis → online text (page 10 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


above, the backs of the cattle as they grazed. A
brilliant yellow flower, resembling a small sun-flower,
was very abundant, brightening the prairie in every
direction. At long intervals we came to small clumps
of trees, standing alone, like islets in the vast ocean.
Why should those few trees be there, when the great
plain around is treeless ?



The Prairies and Lincoln's Home. 161



Very little of the primaeval grass remained. We
came upon it in small patches only, amidst the culti-
vation. Sometimes we saw nothing but corn — corn
to the right of us, corn to the left of us, corn in the
front of us — as far as the eye could reach, without
hedge or visible fence. Here and there we came upon
hamlets, where the first " squatters " on the soil were
founding what may some day become great cities.
The " frame-houses " were slight structures of wood-
like boxes placed upon the ground. We noticed one
of these hamlets, which had two churches, though
the population was only three hundred. But the
settlers from the district around come in on Sundays
to worship, and crowd them. There was no settle-
ment without its school and church. Education and
religion seemed to be never neglected, though the
former was dependent on self-imposed taxation in
each district, and the latter on the voluntary zeal of the
worshippers. Strange that religion could inspire men
with sufficient interest to maintain its institutions
without the compulsory interference of the State !
Yet I was assured that this was the case throughout
the Union. The Americans must be much more
earnest in religion than the English, if there is any

M



1 62 The Prairies and Lincoln's Home.

foundation for the fears of those who predict the
overthrow of Christianity should the Government
cease to uphold it.

An intelligent fellow-traveller — (but why do I say
intelligent? it was rarely I ever accosted an Ameri-
can in a railway-car who could not give me most in-
telligent replies to my numerous inquiries) — a fellow-
traveller described to me the process of cultivating
the prairies. In June or July the land is turned up
by the plough, and left fallow during the winter. In
May, Indian corn is sown, which is ripe about the end
of October. The stocks are cut off, and the stubble
left standing. The next spring, wheat may be planted
with a drill, dispensing with ploughing altogether, or
it may be sown, and then covered over by a " shovel-
plough." A good crop can be got in this way, though
generally the land is ploughed, when, of course, the
crop is better. Wheat may thus be sown for twenty
years in succession without manure of any sort being
placed on the land. There is a rocky subsoil, the
strata lying horizontal. Excellent stone may be easily
obtained very near the surface. The loam above is
so rich as to require no help. You have but to scatter
your seed and it grows of itself. My informant had



The Prairies and Lincoln's Home. 163

raised from seventy-five to a hundred and twenty-five
bushels of corn to the acre. That year the yield
would not exceed fifty. ' Wheat averaged from fifteen
to twenty bushels an acre. Corn (maize) was grown
chiefly for feeding stock. He had seen it at Cairo,
N.Y., growing nineteen feet high. The straw was
generally left on the ground for the cattle, or burnt ;
there was no market for it. At the " Board of Trade"
in Chicago they knew in the forenoon of each day
what was the price quoted for wheat in the London
market at three o'clock the same afternoon. We saw
no barns : the wheat is stored in small round stacks.

W T e observed the carcases of several cows, and
were told that at this season they break in through the
feeble fences to devour the green corn, of which they
are very fond, and which they eat so immoderately
that it kills them. I can make great allowance for
their greediness, as I know of no delicacy in the
vegetable world comparable with this " green corn,"
which in September is never absent from an American
dinner-table. It is boiled entire, and a little butter
being placed on it, it is held up to the mouth by both
hands and turned round for the teeth to lay hold of
the sweet and juicy, grains. It is to be feared that



164 The Prairies and Lincoln's Home.

some human beings every year share the fate of the
cattle. I hardly wonder.

I was informed that, eight or nine years ago, prairie-
land could be bought for about four shillings an acre,
which was now worth about £$', and, if cultivated,
£S. Pigs off the prairie were selling at from three to
five cents per lb. "live weight" (from i}4d. to 2j4d.).
Cattle at six cents per lb., gross weight, was considered
a high price. Wheat was one-eighty to two dollars a
bushel of sixty-two lbs. (about 6s. currency).

We observed many large rolled stones, or giant
pebbles, lying on the surface of the prairie where it
had been turned up by the plough. I remarked a
monster weed, which my communicative friend told
me was called the " horse-weed," and that it grows
from ten to fifteen feet in height. He had driven
through it when the ears of his horse, sixteen and a
half hands high, had been completely hidden from
view. We saw some " prairie chickens " running
about, and fluttering low ; and many large hawks
hovering above, as if hungry for dinner. Further on
in the prairie, as we approached St. Louis, we saw
hedges for the first time. They were composed of the
" Osage orange," and were very thorny. There was



The Prairies and Lincoln's Home. 165

not a tunnel or a cutting in the whole journey of
nearly three hundred miles. There were seldom any
fences alongside. We frequently saw pigs close to the
line, and were told that it is a common occurrence for
the " protector," in front of the engine, to catch them up
and toss them on one side, with all their bones crushed,
— a fate not unfrequently shared by cows and oxen.

In one place there were workmen excavating. I
was informed that they were lowering the bed of the
canal which unites the Michigan Lake with the
Mississippi. By this slight cutting of a few feet the
waters from the little river or creek of Chicago, in-
stead of entering the lake, will flow westward into the
Illinois River, and thus into the Mississippi, so flush-
ing the channel, and affording excellent drainage for
the great City of the West.

We passed Bloomington, a town of twelve thousand
inhabitants, with ten churches, a hundred and twenty-
six miles from Chicago. Here is the State-university,
a normal training-school for about eight hundred
teachers, whose education is paid for by the Govern-
ment of the State — all fees being remitted on condi-
tion of their exercising their profession a certain num-
ber of years within the State of Illinois.



1 66 The Prairies and Lincoln's Home.

While chatting with our unknown fellow-passengers,
and fancying we also were unknown, I was much sur-
prised by the conductor putting a telegram into my
hands, addressed to me " On board the cars." It had
been received at the station where we had last stopped
and we transmitted the answer from the next. It
was to ascertain what title might be announced for
my expected address that evening.

It was about four o'clock when we reached Spring-
field, a hundred and eighty-five miles south-west of
Chicago. Hearty friends, though previously unknown,
waited for us at the depot. No time was to be lost if
we were to see Lincoln's grave and house before dark.
We were first driven to the Court House, where we
were introduced to the Governor of Illinois. He was
a tall, broad-shouldered man, very homely in his man-
ners, and, with his Secretary of State, was chatting
and laughing familiarly with a group of citizens of
various conditions. As we drove away I referred to
the entire absence of state formality, guards, and
attendants in connection with a person who was virtu-
ally the constitutional monarch of a State larger than
some European kingdoms. My friend replied,
" We've no need of that sort of thing. He is sus-



The Prairies and Lincoln's Home. i6y

tained by the love of his fellow-citizens; and when he
doesn't deserve it, no outward pomp would do any-
good."

The cemetery is about two miles from the pleasant
little town. It is a bit of hilly forest land, almost in
its original wild condition, with rocks, and trees of
various ages and size. The tomb of the martyred
President resembles an ice-house, turfed over, with a
plain brick front, on which is the simple word
"LINCOLN." There is no ornament of any kind
but wild flowers growing about, of which he used to
be very fond. A notice-board forbids visitors to pluck
any of these from his resting-place.

Then we drove back to the town, and were kindly
received by the ladies who at present are the occu-
pants of the house where he lived many years. It is
a small, unpretending, comfortable, wooden residence,
at the corner of two roads, standing not above twelve
feet back from the thoroughfare. There are four small
rooms on the basement. The one to the right, on
entering, is " Mrs. Lincoln's parlour," and behind it is
the kitchen ; the one to the left is the " reception-
room," and behind it Mr. Lincoln's room, where he
sat and wrote. When, after " roughing it" in his



1 68 The Prairies and Lincoln's Home.

youth, he began to succeed as a lawyer, he built this
modest house, with only a half-storey above the base-
ment — the upper rooms having lean-to ceilings.
When he was nominated President, Mrs. Lincoln
wished the roof raised, and the upper rooms improved,
but her plain spouse steadily refused — the house was
good enough. But once, when he was absent for a
few weeks, she got it done, and great was his con-
sternation at his return ; he hardly knew his home,
for it had four little rooms upstairs instead of two,
with level instead of sloping ceilings !

In one room is a painful relic. Framed as a pic-
ture, is a bit of the dress of Laura Keene, the actress
who rushed from the stage when he was assassinated
in the theatre, and supported the President's head.
The gay-coloured silk is stained with blood.

There is a book for visitors to enrol their names.
We wrote ours on the desk at which Lincoln penned
his inaugural Presidential address. His table and
bedstead are still shown ; the rest of the furniture
was sold away after he became President, and the
house let to the tenants who now occupy it.

Our kind conductor told us of an amusing dia-
logue he had heard in that little room of Mr. Lin-



The Prairies and Lincoln s Home. 169

coin's. A man, who had called on him to ascertain
for himself if, according to his own views, Mr. Lin-
coln was suitable for high office, asked the future Presi-
dent — " Do you smoke ? " " Never." " Do you
drink ? " " Never," replied Lincoln. " O, yes ! once
I had a serenade, when the young men demanded
that I should join them in a toast. I protested ; but
they seized me, and poured some down my throat.
That was the only time." "Oh then, you'll do!"
replied the questioner.

We were told many anecdotes illustrative of his
character. The reader may not object to be re-
minded of the leading facts in his life. He was born
in Kentucky, in 1809, m a ru ^ e log-cabin. His
parents were both religious persons. In his eighth
year the family emigrated into Indiana, where they
built another cabin, and cleared the forest around.
Two years had not passed when his mother died.
Long afterwards he said, " All that I am, or hope to
be, I owe to my angel mother — blessings on her
memory ! " A letter from the orphan boy brought
" Parson Elkin," on horseback, a hundred miles
through the forest, to preach her funeral sermon
under the tree at the foot of which she was buried.



170 The Prairies and Lincoln s Home.



All the schooling of little Abraham was comprised
within a single year ; but he was fond of reading, and
greedily devoured every book he could lay hold of,
his favourites being the Bible, ^Esop, and Bunyan.
He was active in all the work of the little farm. He
learnt the use of tools, and at the age of eighteen
built a little boat for taking the produce of the farm
down the river to market. In after-years, he related
to his Secretary of State how once, as he stood at
the landing, a steamer approached, and two persons
came to the bank, wishing to be taken on board with
their luggage. Looking at the different boats, they
singled out his own, and when he had put them on
board the steamer, each of them threw him a half-
dollar coin as he was pushing off. " I could scarcely
believe my eyes," said he to Mr. Secretary Seward.
" You may think it was a very little thing, but it was
a most important incident in my life. I could scarcely
believe that I, a poor boy, had earned a dollar in
less than a day. The world seemed wider and fairer
before me. I was a more hopeful and confident being
from that time."

At the age of nineteen, he was employed to take
charge of a flat-boat and its cargo, down the Missis-



The Prairies and Lincoln's Home. jyi



sippi to New Orleans, and, though the voyage was
one of t,8oo miles, and he had never made the trip,
his ability and honesty were such, that the owner
trusted the cargo and his son to his care.

Abraham had now reached the stature of six feet
four inches. He was strong as well as tall ; and he
was " upright " morally. There was no stain on his
character. To guard against one prolific cause of
evil, he altogether abstained from intoxicating liquors.

In 1830, when he was twenty-one, the family re-
moved to Illinois. The tedious journey, of 200 miles
with ox-teams, occupied fifteen days. They "squatted"
on the Sangamon River, where the forest and prairie
join. The cabin which Abraham's long arms helped
to build is still standing. All their tools were two axes,
a hand-saw, and a knife. Then Abraham helped to
split rails to fence in a lot of ten acres, and after
ploughing and planting the enclosed prairie, left it to
his father, and went forth to seek his own fortune.
He hired himself out as a labourer to the neighbour-
ing farmers, ploughing, and splitting rails, and chop-
ping wood. He wore trousers of flax and tow, tight
at ancle, and " out at knees." Poor, he was every-
where a welcome guest. Then he worked at building



172 The Prairies and Lincoln's Home.

a boat. A drove of hogs was to be taken on board,
but neither force nor persuasion would avail with
them, and they were wild and savage. There was but
one alternative : so Abraham, by help of his long
arms and great strength, carried them on board one
by one.

He now made a step upward, for he became clerk
or assistant at a " store," or general-dealer's shop.
Here he acquired the title of " Honest Abe." Among
many other illustrations of his honesty, it is remem-
bered how, one night after a woman had left the store
he discovered he had charged her six cents ($d.) too
much ; so he closed the store, and walked above
three miles to deliver up the money to the customer.
The following incident illustrates another charac-
teristic : — While showing goods to some women, a
noted bully came in, and talked very offensively, as if
to provoke a quarrel. Lincoln leant over, and begged
him not to talk so in the presence of ladies. The
bully replied that he was glad of the opportunity he
had long desired, to find any one who could hinder
him saying whatever he liked. Lincoln told him if
he would wait till the ladies had gone he would give
him satisfaction. When they left, the man became



The Prairies and Lincoln's Home. 173

furious, and at length Lincoln, seeing him determined
to fight, said, " Well, if you must be whipped, I sup-
pose I may as well whip you as any other man." Lin-
coln soon rolled him on the ground, and punished
him as he deserved, till he roared for mercy. Lincoln
immediately went for water, and did all he could for
the man, who began to reform from that day, and
became Lincoln's fast friend through life.

Lincoln now began to study English grammar,
attended a debating club, and became much interested
in politics. .The Indians under "Black Hawk"
giving some trouble, volunteers were called for, and
Lincoln having enlisted, he was elected by the com-
pany their " Captain." At the conclusion of the
brief campaign, he contemplated learning the trade of
blacksmith, but gave this up for the appointment of
Postmaster of New Salem. The only office was his
hat, where all letters were deposited as Lincoln went
his rounds, and the contents of which he examined
when inquiries were made for letters or papers.
After this he was asked to assist a surveyor, and
easily acquiring the rudiments of the art, and fur-
nished with compass and chain, he surveyed the town
of Petersburgh. He became increasingly studious. He



174 The Prairies and Lincoln's Home.

was very fond of Shakespere, and could repeat the
whole of Burns. Holland, in his memoir, says, " He
was a religious man. He believed himself under
God's guidance. He believed in the ultimate triumph
of the right, through his belief in God. His con-
science took a broader grasp than the simple appre-
hension of right and wrong. He recognized an im-
mediate relation between God and himself in all the
actions and passions of his life. He was not pro-
fessedly a Christian — that is, he subscribed to no
creed, joined no organization. He spoke little of his
religious belief and experiences ; but that he' had a
deep religious life, sometimes imbued wiih supersti-
tion, there is no doubt. We guess at a mountain of
marble by the out-cropping ledges that hide' their
whiteness among the ferns. He was a child-like man.
He was exactly what he seemed. He was not awk-
ward for a purpose, but because he could not help it.
He was not honest because honesty was ' the best
policy,' but because honesty was with him ' the na-
tural way of living.' He never assumed to be more
or other than he was. A lie in any form seemed im-
possible to him, and in the light of this fact all the
words and acts of his life are to be judged."



The Prairies and Lincoln's Home. 175

About this time he was recommended to study law ;
so he walked over to Springfield, whence he carried
home a load of books, which he had borrowed. There
is an oak under which he used to read the whole day,
shifting his position with the sun so as to keep in the
shade. When the cupboard was cleared out, he went
forth to earn some more money at surveying, to en-
able him to resume his studies. In 1834 he was
elected a member of the Legislature of Illinois.
Shouldering his bundle, he went on foot a hundred
miles to attend to his new duties as an M.P. ! At
the close of the session he walked back as before, to
resume his surveying and his law studies. In 1836
he was admitted to the bar, and removed to Spring-
field to become a partner with his friend Major Stuart.
He was now twenty-five years of age.

In America the functions of solicitor and barrister
are united. Lincoln soon acquired reputation, both
as an accurate lawyer and able pleader. He was
very plain in his speech, attempting no rhetoric, and
displaying little passion ; but presenting his facts with
lucid arrangement, and illustrating his points with
homely wit, which told powerfully on juries. It was
his custom to present both sides of the case, and



176 The Prairies and Lincoln's Home.



he so did this that frequently his opponent had
nothing to add. He more than ever showed how he
deserved his soubriquet of " Honest Abe." He would
not undertake a case which did not seem to him to
be just. He refused to take fees on the wrong side.
It was a common thing with him to dissuade clients
from going to law. If, in the course of proceedings,
he discovered he had been deceived by false repre-
sentations, he lost all interest in the case. Once, in
the midst of an important trial, discovering he was
on the wrong side, he refused to plead. The
"learned brother" who was with him undertook it,
and their client gained the action. But Lincoln, con-
vinced that the verdict was wrong, would not receive
any portion of the fee of 900 dollars which the client
paid.

Once, when out on circuit, he was riding past a deep
slough, where a pig was hopelessly struggling in the
mud. Looking at the new clothes to which he had
lately treated himself, he gave verdict against the pig ;
but, after riding two miles, he turned back, and
dragged out the nearly suffocated animal with no
little damage to his new suit. Thinking about the
affair, he first attributed his action to pure benevo-



The Prairies and Lincoln's Home. 177



lence ; but afterwards, as he told a friend to whom
he related the incident, he concluded it was mere
selfishness, for that he pulled the pig out of the mud
in order to "take a pain out of his own mind."
Many would turn aside to succour a pig who would
avoid a poor relation. Not so Mr. Lincoln. Be-
coming prosperous and renowned, he took pains on
his circuit to find out and visit all his poor relations
and friends of former days, often leaving a merry party
of his associates, after a long day in the court-house,
to make these calls. On one occasion, being urged
not to leave the party, he said, " Aunt's heart would
break if I left town without seeing her ; " yet he had
to walk several miles to make the call.

In 1842, in his thirty-third year, he married. In
1846 he was elected a member of Congress. Return-
ing from Washington, he devoted himself anew to
the duties of his profession, and to the enjoyments
of domestic life. He had four sons, of whom the
eldest, Robert, and the youngest, Thomas, survive.
The latter was the pet of the White House, his father's
great joy, known as "Tad," from his father calling
him " Tadpole " when an infant and as yet without
a name. He was very fond of his children. Ayoung



N



178 The Prairies and Lincoln's Home.

man of Springfield speaks of a picture fixed on his
memory. His way to school was past the house of
the lawyer, whom he often saw in the morning draw-
ing a child about along the pavement in front of
his house, without hat or coat, wearing a pair of
rough shoes, and heedless of everything around him.

At this time he began to study mathematics, and
mastered the first six books of Euclid. He was too
generous- to make much money by his profession. It
was as common, for him to give money to a poor
client as to receive it. Other lawyers shrank from
undertaking the defence of people charged with help-
ing fugitive slaves. One such having applied else-
where in vain, was told to go to Mr. Lincoln, for he
was "not afraid of an unpopular case."

During an electioneering campaign, Lincoln was
once interrupted by the rude question, " Is it true you
entered this State barefoot, driving a yoke of oxen ? "
Lincoln paused half a minute, and then said he could
prove the fact by at least a dozen men in the crowd,
all more respectable than his questioner. He then,
stimulated by the inquiry, enlarged on the benefit of
free institutions under which he had prospered, and
the injury slavery did to the white man. " Yes," said



The Prairies and Lincoln's Home. 179

he, " we will speak for freedom and against slavery,
until everywhere in this wide land the sun shall shine,
and the rain shall fall, and the wind shall blow upon
no man who goes forth to unrequited toil."

In 1858 he was nominated as republican candidate
for Senator in the room of Mr. Douglas. On this
occasion he made a remarkable speech, in which,
with clear prophetic insight, he said, " A house di-
vided against itself cannot stand. I believe this
Government cannot endure permanently half slave
and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dis-
solved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do
expect it will cease to be divided. , It will become all
one thing, or all the other." After an exciting cam-
paign of canvassing and stumping, the Democrats
carried the day.

But this defeat only stimulated his friends, who
sought to nominate him as candidate for the Presi-
dency in i860. Now it was that the Southern party
began to declare that if a Republican were chosen
they would secede. In reference to this threat Mr.
Lincoln, addressing some Kentuckians present at a
meeting at Cincinnati, said, " I will tell you what we
mean to do with you. We will remember you are as



i8o The Prairies and Lincoln s Home



good as we— that you have as good hearts as other
people, and treat you accordingly. We mean to marry
your girls when we have a chance— the white ones I
mean— and I have the honour to inform you that I
once did have a chance in that way. I want to know


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryNewman HallFrom Liverpool to St. Louis → online text (page 10 of 16)