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Title: The Backwoods Boy - or The Boyhood and Manhood of Abraham Lincoln
Author: Horatio Alger Jr.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                   [Illustration: ABRAHAM LINCOLN.]

                           The Backwoods Boy

                      THE BOYHOOD AND MANHOOD OF
                            ABRAHAM LINCOLN


                          HORATIO ALGER, JR.

                               AUTHOR OF

        “Canal Boy to President,” “Farm Boy to Senator,” “Dean
                          Dunham,” etc., etc.

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                        DAVID McKAY, PUBLISHER
                      610 South Washington Square

                            Copyright, 1883
                         By Horatio Alger, Jr.

                           The Backwoods Boy


I venture to say that among our public men there is not one whose life
can be studied with more interest and profit by American youth than that
of Abraham Lincoln. It is not alone that, born in an humble cabin, he
reached the highest position accessible to an American, but especially
because in every position which he was called upon to fill, he did his
duty as he understood it, and freely sacrificed personal ease and
comfort in the service of the humblest. I have prepared the story of
Lincoln’s boyhood and manhood as a companion volume to the life of
Garfield, which I published two years since, under the title, “From
Canal Boy to President.” The cordial welcome which this received has
encouraged me to persevere in my plan of furnishing readers, young and
old, with readable lives of the greatest and best men in our history. I
can hardly hope at this late day to have contributed many new facts, or
found much new material. I have been able, however, through the kindness
of friends, to include some anecdotes not hitherto published. But for
the most part I have relied upon the well-known and valuable lives of
Lincoln by Dr. Holland and Ward H. Lamon. I also acknowledge, with
pleasure, my indebtedness to “Six Months in the White House,” by F. B.
Carpenter; Henry J. Raymond’s “History of Lincoln’s Administration,” and
the “Life of Lincoln,” by D. W. Bartlett. I commend, with confidence,
either or all of these works to those of my readers who may desire a
more thorough and exhaustive life of “The Backwoods Boy.”

Horatio Alger, Jr.

New York, _July 4, 1883_.


CHAPTER                                                             PAGE

I.--The Log-Cabin,                                                     9

II.--The New Mother,                                                  17

III.--Abe and his Family,                                             26

IV.--Abe’s Schooling,                                                 34

V.--Abe and his Neighbors,                                            43

VI.--A River Trip,                                                    51

VII.--Lincoln as a Clerk,                                             60

VIII.--In the Black Hawk Campaign,                                    69

IX.--In the Legislature,                                              78

X.--A Case in Court,                                                  87

XI.--Mr. Lincoln forms two Partnerships,                              96

XII.--The Lawyer in his Office and at Home,                          105

XIII.--The Rail-Splitter enters Congress,                            113

XIV.--The First Speech in Congress,                                  121

XV.--Mr. Lincoln’s Family,                                           136

XVI.--The Senatorial Campaign,                                       147

XVII.--The Two Giants,                                               155

XVIII.--Illinois declares for the Rail-Splitter,                     164

XIX.--Nominated for President,                                       173

XX.--Farewell to Springfield,                                        183

XXI.--A Visit to Mr. Lincoln,                                        191

XXII.--The Inauguration,                                             198

XXIII.--The War Begins,                                              208

XXIV.--Mr. Lincoln in the White House,                               217

XXV.--Mr. Lincoln and the little Boy--A Group of Incidents,          225

XXVI.--Mr. Lincoln’s Humanity,                                       237

XXVII.--Anecdotes of Mr. Lincoln,                                    246

XXVIII.--President Lincoln as a Religious Man,                       256

XXIX.--Emancipating the Slaves,                                      264

XXX.--Elected for a Second Term,                                     269

XXXI.--The Speech at Gettysburg,                                     237

XXXII.--The Curtain Falls,                                           277

XXXIII.--Mr. Herndon’s Estimate of Mr. Lincoln,                      285

XXXIV.--Mr. Lincoln’s Favorite Poem,                                 299




Three children stood in front of a rough log-cabin in a small clearing
won from the surrounding forest. The country round about was wild and
desolate. Not far away was a vast expanse of forest, including oaks,
beeches, walnuts and the usual variety of forest trees.

We are in Indiana, and the patch of land on which the humble log-cabin
stood is between the forks of Big Pigeon and Little Pigeon Creeks, a
mile and a half east of Gentryville, a small village not then in

The oldest of the three children was Nancy Lincoln, about twelve years
old. Leaning against the cabin in a careless attitude was a tall,
spindling boy, thin-faced, and preternaturally grave, with a swarthy
complexion. He was barefoot and ragged; the legs of his pantaloons,
which were much too short, revealing the lower part of his long legs;
for in his boyhood, as in after days, he ran chiefly to legs.

Who in the wildest flight of a daring imagination would venture to
predict that this awkward, sad-faced, ragged boy would forty years later
sit in the chair of Washington, and become one of the rulers of the
earth? I know of nothing more wonderful in the Arabian Nights than this.

The second boy was a cousin of the other two children--Dennis Hanks,
who, after the death of his parents, had come to live in the Lincoln

The sun was near its setting. It seemed already to have set, for it was
hidden by the forest trees behind which it had disappeared.

“Abe,” said the girl, addressing her brother, “do you think father will
be home to-night?”

“I reckon,” answered Abe laconically, shifting from one foot to the

“I hope so,” said Dennis. “It’s lonesome stayin’ here by ourselves.”

“There some one comin’ with father,” said Nancy slowly. “We’re goin’ to
have a new mother. I hope we’ll like her.”

“It’ll seem good to have a woman in the house,” said Dennis. “It seems
lonesome-like where they’re all men.”

“I reckon you mean yourself and me,” said Abe smiling.

The boy’s grave, thin face brightened up as he said this in a humorous

“Then I ought to be considered a woman if you two are goin’ to set up as
men,” said Nancy. “But Dennis is right. It’ll be good for us if she’s
the right sort. Some step-mothers ain’t.”

“I reckon you’re right,” said Abe again.

“I’m afraid she won’t like the house,” said Nancy. “It ain’t as good as
it might be, though it’s better than the ‘camp’ we used to live in.”

As she spoke her eyes turned toward an even more primitive dwelling
forty yards away. It was known as “a half-faced camp,” and was merely a
cabin enclosed on three sides and open on the fourth; built not of logs,
but of poles. It was fourteen feet square, and without a floor. Here it
was that the elder Lincoln lived with his family when first he settled
down in the Indiana wilderness after his removal from Kentucky. The
present dwelling was an improvement on the first, but how far it was
from being comfortable may be judged from a description.

It was indeed a cabin, while the other had been only a camp, but it had
neither floor, door, nor window. There was a doorway for an entrance,
but there was nothing to keep out intruders. There was small temptation,
however, for the professional burglar. The possessions of the Lincolns
were altogether beneath the notice of even the poorest tramp. A few
three-legged stools served for chairs. In one corner of the cabin was an
extemporized bedstead made of poles stuck in the cracks of the logs,
while the other end rested in the crotch of a forked stick sunk in the
earthen floor. A bag of leaves covered with skins and old petticoats
rested on some boards laid over the poles. Here had slept the elder
Lincoln and his wife, while Abe laid himself down in the loft above. A
hewed puncheon supported by four legs served for a table. A few dishes
of pewter and tin completed the list of furniture.

This was the home to which Thomas Lincoln was bringing his new wife. She
was a widow from Elizabethtown in Kentucky, where he had formerly lived.
She was an old flame of Mr. Lincoln, but had rejected him, being able,
as she thought, to do better. But when within a few years he became a
widower and she a widow, the suit was renewed and the answer was

Even now the married pair are on their way home.

Mrs. Johnston considered herself a poor widow, but she was much better
off than the man she had just married. She was the owner of a bureau
that cost forty dollars; this alone being a value far greater than her
new husband’s entire stock of furniture. Other articles, too, she had,
including a table, a set of chairs, a large clothes chest, cooking
utensils, knives, forks, bedding, and other articles.

“Look, Abe!” said Nancy in sudden excitement, pointing to an approaching

Abe followed the direction of his sister’s finger, and he opened his
eyes in astonishment. A large four-horse team was in sight--a strange
and unusual spectacle in that wilderness. The children could not have
been more excited if Barnum’s grand procession of circus chariots had
filed into view--a vision of Oriental splendor.

“There’s father!” exclaimed Abe, distinguishing with a boy’s keen vision
the well-known figure of his father sitting beside the driver.

“Father and Uncle Ralph,” corrected Nancy.

“And the team’s full of furniture. Can it be comin’ here?”

“I reckon your new mother’s aboard,” said Dennis.

This remark made the children thoughtful, because it recalled their own
sad-faced and gentle mother who had faded from life a year before and
gone uncomplainingly to her rest. Then, besides, the prospect of a
step-mother is apt to be disquieting when nothing is known of her
disposition or character.

“Is all that furniture comin’ here?” soliloquized Nancy wonderingly.

“I reckon so,” answered Abe.

When the team came nearer another exciting discovery was made. There
were others aboard the wagon besides their father, their new mother,
and their uncle Ralph Krame, who was the owner of the team. There were
two girls and a boy, children of Mrs. Lincoln by her former marriage.
They were not far from the same age as the three children who were
awaiting their arrival, but they were much better dressed. It was clear
that the log-cabin would no longer be lonely. It would be full and
running over. The six children and their parents were to be crowded into

“That is my house, Sally,” said Thomas Lincoln, pointing out the cabin
in the woods to his new wife.

“That!” she exclaimed in dismay, for her new husband had led her to
expect that he was tolerably well-to-do, not with any intention to
deceive, but mainly because they had different standards of comfort.

We can imagine that the heart of the new wife must have sunk within her
as from the wagon she caught the first sight of her future home. She had
not been accustomed to luxury, but her old home was luxurious compared
with this.

She relapsed into silence, and did not choose to make her husband
uncomfortable by revealing the true state of her feelings. She seems to
have been a capable woman, and probably made up her mind upon the
instant to make “the best of it.” Besides, she had already caught sight
of the children.

“And those are Nancy and Abe?” she said.

“Yes,” answered Thomas Lincoln. “That’s Abe with the long legs, and the
other boy is his cousin Dennis.”

The new Mrs. Lincoln regarded with womanly compassion the three
neglected children, and in her heart she resolved to make their lot more
desirable. Perhaps the children read her face aright, for, as they
scanned her kindly face, all fear of the new step-mother disappeared,
and they responded shyly, but cordially, to her greeting.



When the new Mrs. Lincoln entered the humble log-cabin which was to be
her future home, it may well be imagined that her heart sank within her
at the primitive accommodations, or rather, lack of accommodations.

“How do you like it?” asked Thomas Lincoln, who was much more easily
satisfied than his wife.

“Not at all at present. There are no doors or windows. There is not even
a plank floor.”

“We have got along without them,” said her husband.

“We can’t get along without them any longer. You are a carpenter, and
can easily provide them. I will put in my furniture, and after awhile we
will have things more comfortable.”

“I don’t think we need the bureau. You say it cost forty dollars. You
had better sell it. It is sinful extravagance to have so much money in

“I can’t consent to that,” said Mrs. Lincoln decidedly. “I have nothing
that is too good for us. I will see that you and the children live more
comfortably in future.”

Abe and Nancy looked on with interest while the bureau and the other
possessions of their new mother were taken from the wagon by their
father and their uncle Ralph. They began to think they were going to
live in city style. In particular they admired the bureau which had cost
forty dollars. Why, their cabin had not cost that. They felt something
like the country minister of sixty years since, to whom his parishioners
presented a carpet for the “fore room.” When it was spread on the floor,
he gazed at it admiringly and ejaculated, “What, all this and heaven
too! This is too much!”

Mrs. Lincoln was quite in earnest, and set her husband to work the next
day at the improvements she had specified. When after a time they were
completed; when the earthen floor was succeeded by one of boards; when
two windows had been set in the sides of the cabin, and a door closed
up the entrance; when the primitive bed and bedstead had been superseded
by the newcomer’s comfortable bedstead and bedding, and the three-legged
stools had been removed to give place to chairs, the three children were
very happy.

And indeed it was a happy day for Thomas Lincoln and his young family
when his second wife took charge of his household. She was kind-hearted
and energetic, and though she had three children of her own, she was
never found wanting in care or affection for her husband’s children. She
took a special interest in young Abe. She read him better than his
father, and saw that there was that in him which it would pay to

To begin with, she rigged him out in new clothes. His ragged condition
had excited her sympathy, and she rightly judged that neat attire helps
a boy’s or girl’s self-respect. I have no doubt that Abe, though he
never had a weakness for fine clothes, surveyed himself complacently
when for the first time he saw himself respectably dressed.

This is the description of Abe’s step-mother given many years after by
Mrs. Chapman, the daughter of Dennis Hanks:

“His wife, my grandmother, is a very tall woman, straight as an Indian;
fair complexion, and was, when I first remember her, very handsome,
sprightly, talkative, and proud; wore her hair curled till gray; is
kind-hearted and very charitable, and also very industrious.”

It may be mentioned here that this good lady lived long enough to see
the neglected boy whom she so kindly took in hand elected to the highest
place in the gift of his countrymen.

It was not long before Mrs. Lincoln began to broach her plans for the
benefit of her step-son.

“Abe,” she said one day, “have you ever been to school?”

“Yes, ma’am. I went to school a little while in Kentucky.”

“You didn’t learn much, I suppose?”

“Not much; I can read and write a little.”

“That’s a good beginning. In this country, Abe, you will never amount to
much unless you get an education. Would you like to go to school?”

“Yes,” answered the boy earnestly.

“I will speak to your father about it. Is there any school near here?”

“Yes, Mr. Dorsey keeps school about a mile and a half from here, near
the Little Pigeon Creek meeting-house.”

“You and Nancy and Dennis must go there.” Mrs. Lincoln broached the
subject to her husband.

“Abe ought to go to school, Thomas,” she said, “and so ought the other

“I don’t know as I can spare him,” said his father. “I need his help in
the shop and on the farm.”

“He can find time out of school hours. The boy must have an education.”

“I agree to that, wife. It shall be as you say.”

In Mr. Dorsey’s school Abe’s studies were elementary. His time was given
to reading, writing, and ciphering. The school-house was about as
primitive as the Lincoln cabin before the improvements were made on it.
It was built of unhewn logs, and holes stuffed with greased paper
supplied the place of windows. It was low-studded, being barely six feet
high. The scholars studied in classes, and Abe’s ambition was excited,
so that he soon came to be looked upon as one of the foremost scholars.

A year or two later, in the same humble school-house, a new teacher
named Andrew Crawford wielded the ferule. He was, it may be inferred, a
better scholar than Mr. Dorsey, and was able to carry his pupils

Abe was now in his fifteenth year, and was growing at an alarming rate.
He was already nearly six feet in height, and must have presented a
singular appearance in the rustic garb in which he presented himself at
this temple of learning. I quote Mr. Lamon’s description of his physical
appearance and dress:

“He was growing at a tremendous rate, and two years later attained his
full height of six feet four inches. He was long, wiry, and strong;
while his big feet and hands and the length of his legs and arms were
out of all proportion to his small trunk and head. His complexion was
very swarthy, and Mrs. Gentry says that his skin was shrivelled and
yellow even then. He wore low shoes, buckskin breeches, linsey-wolsey
shirt, and a cap made of the skin of an opposum or a coon. The breeches
clung close to his thighs and legs, but failed by a large space to meet
the tops of his shoes. Twelve inches remained uncovered and exposed that
much of ‘shin-bone--sharp, blue, and narrow.’ ‘He would always come to
school thus, good-humoredly and laughing,’ says his old friend, Nat
Grigsby. ‘He was always in good health, never was sick, had an excellent
constitution, and took care of it.’”

It impresses us rather curiously to learn that the new teacher Crawford
undertook to teach “manners” to the rough brood that was under his
charge. It was certainly a desirable accomplishment, but the teaching
must have been attended with some difficulties.

For the amusement of my young readers I will try to describe one of
these lessons. Mr. Crawford wished the boys to learn how to enter a room
and pay their respects to the assembled company.

“Abe, it is your turn,” he says.

Abe Lincoln, understanding what is meant, rose from his seat, and
retires from the room. A moment later a knock is heard at the door. A
scholar, specially deputed to do so--we will suppose Nat
Grigsby--advances to the door and opens it.

Before him stands Abe--tall, awkward, with the lower part of his limbs

Nat bows, and, taking him by the arm, leads him from bench to bench,
presenting him to his fellow-pupils, as though he were a guest going the
rounds in a drawing-room. Abe, who was never without a sense of fun, no
doubt stole timorous glances askance at his rustic garb as he strode
here and there, bowing politely to the boys and girls whom he knew so
well. Yet it is possible that this exercise may have made it less
awkward for him in later days to attend to his social duties when events
brought him prominently before the country.

So far from laughing at Master Crawford’s instruction in manners, I am
disposed to think very favorably of it. He must on the whole have been a
sensible man, and no doubt had a considerable influence over the rough
boys who submitted willingly to what possibly struck them as ludicrous.

I doubt, however, with all his pains, whether he succeeded in making Abe
Lincoln graceful or courtly. On the whole, he was rather unpromising
material; being long, lank, and awkward. Yet this tall, gawky boy was
laying the foundation of a noble manhood. He was making the most of his
slender advantages, not dreaming what greatness the Future had in store
for him.



My young readers may naturally feel some curiosity as to the Lincoln
family and their previous history.

The grandfather of Abraham was one of the pioneer settlers of Kentucky.
About the year 1780 he removed from Rockingham County, Virginia, to what
was then an unsettled wilderness. His death was tragical. Four years
later, while at work in the field, at some distance from his cabin, he
was shot down by a prowling Indian. How his widow managed, with the care
of five helpless children, we do not accurately know, but God helps the
struggling, and she reared them all till they reached man’s and woman’s
estate. Thomas Lincoln, born in 1778, was the third child, and the
future President was his son. He was a good-natured, popular man, but
inefficient and unsuccessful, and whatever there was great in his
eminent son did not come from him.

Nancy Hanks, Abe’s own mother, was born in Virginia, and was probably
related to some family emigrating from that State. Dr. Holland says of
her: “Mrs. Lincoln, the mother, was evidently a woman out of place among
these primitive surroundings. She was five feet five inches high, a
slender, pale, sad, and sensitive woman, with much in her nature that
was truly heroic, and much that shrank from the rude life around her. A
great man never drew his infant life from a purer or more womanly bosom
than her own.” Though she died young, she had taught her children to
read, and so laid the foundation of their education.

When Thomas Lincoln had made up his mind to move from Kentucky, he sold
his humble home, or rather bartered it for ten barrels of whisky and
twenty dollars in money. It must not be inferred that he was an
intemperate man--this would not be true--but money was scarce in those
days, and it was common to barter, taking pay in commodities which were
marketable. This was before the days of temperance societies; whisky
was generally drunk, even by ministers, and there was little risk in
accepting it.

So Thomas Lincoln, leaving home by himself to find a new residence for
his family, built a flat-boat, and launched it on the Rolling Fork, a
creek emptying into the Ohio River. He reached the river in safety, but
then came a disaster. His flat-boat was upset, and two-thirds of his
whisky, and many of his housekeeping and farm utensils were lost. He did
the best he could, however. With friendly assistance he saved all he was
able, and proceeding on his journey, carried his goods about eighteen
miles into Spencer County, Indiana, the place where we find him at the
commencement of our narrative. He returned to Kentucky for his family,
and brought them with him to the new home in the wilderness. Seven days,
we are told, were consumed on the journey, though the distance could not
have been very great. We can easily imagine what privations and
weariness of body this journey involved. People of to-day don’t know
what “moving” is. They should have lived in the year 1816, and made a
toilsome seven days’ march through the wilderness to understand what it
meant then.

Nor were their trials and privations over when the moving was
accomplished. I am tempted to quote here from Mr. Ward H. Lamon’s
interesting life of Lincoln, an account of life in the new Indiana home,
contained in a letter from Mr. David Turnham, a school-fellow of Abe:

“When my father came here in the Spring of 1819, he settled in Spencer
County, within one mile of Thomas Lincoln, then a widower. The chance
for schooling was poor; but, such as it was, Abraham and myself attended
the same schools.

“We first had to go seven miles to mill; and then it was a hand-mill
that would grind from ten to fifteen bushels of corn in a day. There was
but little wheat grown at that time; and when we did have wheat, we had
to grind it on the mill described, and use it without bolting, as there
were no bolts in the country. In the course of two or three years, a man
by the name of Huffman built a mill on Anderson River, about twelve
miles distant. Abe and I had to do the milling on horseback, frequently
going twice to get one grist. Then they began building horse-mills of a
little better quality than the hand-mills.

“The country was very rough, especially in the low lands, so thick with
brush that a man could scarcely get through on foot. These places were
called Roughs. The country abounded in game, such as bears, deer,
turkeys, and the smaller game.

“At that time there were a great many deer-licks; and Abe and myself
would go to these licks sometimes, and watch of nights to kill deer,
though Abe was not so fond of a gun as I was. There were ten or twelve
of these licks in a small prairie on the creek, lying between Mr.
Lincoln’s and Mr. Wood’s. This gave it the name of Prairie Track of
Pigeon Creek.”

I have already said that Thomas Lincoln was a carpenter. He did not,
however, understand his trade very well, and, though he was employed in
small jobs, there is no evidence that he was ever employed to build a
house, or was considered competent to do so. In fact, he derived but a
small income from his trade, and probably looked upon himself rather as
a farmer than a mechanic. It was a piece of good fortune for himself and
his children, that, shiftless and unambitious as he was, he should have
won a wife so much more capable and energetic than himself. He was much
shorter than his son Abe, being an inch or two under six feet. In some
respects they were alike, however, for Thomas Lincoln had a gift for
telling stories, and would sit about at “stores,” or under trees, and
amuse his neighbors with an inexhaustible fund of anecdotes. Of
education he had little or none. He could write his name, having learned
this much from his first wife, Abe’s mother, but he never had the
ambition or perseverance to go farther up the hill of learning. We are
told, however, that he was in favor of his children’s obtaining an
education, though it was probably the mother and step-mother to whom Abe
and his sister were especially indebted for such advantages as they
enjoyed. I may say, however, that the most valuable part of Abraham
Lincoln’s education was not derived from books. He was a close and keen
observer of men and things, and few men excelled him in insight into
human nature, and the motives, the weaknesses, and the subterfuges of
men. Yet with all this knowledge of the bad as well as the good that was
in men, he was always a kindly and sympathetic judge and critic.

I suppose all boys at some time or other in their early years have a
narrow escape. My young readers may be interested to know how near we
came to losing our future President. It was when Abe was seven years
old, and before he removed to Indiana.

He was accustomed to go on numerous tramps with his cousin, Dennis
Hanks, who sought to initiate him into the mysteries of fishing. On one
occasion he attempted to “coon” across Knot Creek, by swinging over on a
sycamore tree. But he lost his hold and tumbled into the deep water. He
would have drowned but for the exertions of his boy companion, who had
great difficulty in saving him. The readers of Garfield’s Life will
remember how he also came near death by drowning, when considerably
older than Abe was at this juncture. But God looks after the lives of
His chosen instruments, and saves them for His work.

There is no doubt that Abe found plenty to do outside of school. In
fact, that did not take up much of his time, for we are told that,
adding together all the time he spent in attendance, the aggregate would
not exceed a year.

As to the sort of work he did, his father found work for him on the land
which he had under cultivation. Then the “chores” which boys in such
households are always called upon to do, in his case exacted more time
on account of the lack of average accommodations. For instance, the
water had to be brought from a spring a mile away, and Abe and his
sister were employed to fetch it. There was no water to be had nearer,
except what was collected in holes in the ground after a rain, and this
was necessarily unfit for drinking, or, indeed, any other purpose unless
strained. But Abe is not to be pitied for the hardships of his lot. That
is the way strong men are made.



“Spell _defied_!”

This question was put a class in spelling by the master.

The first pupil in the straggling line of backwoods boys and girls who
stood up in class, answered with some hesitation: “D-e-f-i-d-e, defied.”

The master frowned.

“Next!” he called sharply.

The next improved upon the effort of the first speller, and in a
confident tone answered.


“Wrong again! The next may try it,” said the teacher.

“D-e-f-y-d!” said the third scholar.

“Worse and worse! You are entitled to a medal!” said Crawford,
sarcastically. “Next!”

“D-e-f-y-e-d!” was the next attempt.

“Really, you do me great credit,” said the teacher, a frown gathering on
his brow. “You can’t spell an easy word of two syllables. It is
shameful. I’ll keep the whole class in all the rest of the day, if
necessary, till the word is spelled correctly.”

It now became the turn of a young girl named Roby, who was a favorite
with Abe. She was a pretty girl, but, nevertheless, the terrible word
puzzled her. In her perplexity she chanced to turn toward the seat at
the window occupied by her long-legged friend, Abe.

Abe was perhaps the best speller in school. A word like defied was easy
enough to him, and he wanted to help the girl through.

As Miss Roby looked at him she saw a smile upon his face, as he
significantly touched his _eye_ with his finger. The girl took the hint,
and spelled the word correctly.

“Right at last!” said Master Crawford, whose back was turned, and who
had not seen Abe’s dumb show. “It’s lucky for you all that one of the
class knew how to spell, or I would have kept my word, and kept you all

Though Master Crawford’s school had a department of manners, there was
no department of English composition. Abe took this up on his own
account, according to his schoolmate Nat Grigsby, and probably the
teacher consented to examine his essays, though he did not require them
of his other pupils. Considering the kindness of heart which he
afterward exhibited on many occasions, my readers will not be surprised
to hear that his first composition was against cruelty to animals. This
is said to have been called forth by the conduct of some of his
fellow-pupils in catching terrapins and putting coals of fire on their

After a time Master Crawford’s school was discontinued, and some two or
three years later Abe attended another, kept by a Mr. Swaney. It gives
us an idea of the boy’s earnest desire to obtain an education, when we
learn that he had to walk four and a half miles to it from his father’s
house, and this walk had to be repeated, of course, in the afternoon.
How many of my young readers would care sufficiently for an education to
walk nine miles a day, to and from school?

We are told that the new school-house was no more impressive,
architecturally, than the first, already described. In fact, it was
very similar, though it had two chimneys instead of one. The course of
instruction does not seem to have been any higher than at Mr. Crawford’s
school. The department of “manners” was omitted, though it is doubtful
whether many of the pupils could have appeared to advantage in a city

Probably Abe did not attend Mr. Swaney’s school many weeks, and this, we
are told, was the end of his school attendance anywhere. He had,
however, in that short time imbibed a love of learning, which is to be
credited rather to his own tastes than to the influence of his teachers,
and carried on by himself the studies of which he had learned something
in the humble backwoods school. We are told that he was already the
equal of his teachers in learning, which probably was not saying much.
Nevertheless he did not regard his education as finished. He had his
books, and kept on studying at home, or wherever he was employed. In the
hard work which fell to his lot he did not take much interest. He knew
that it was necessary, but he did not enjoy it. He preferred to labor
with his brain rather than with his hands, and often seemed so listless
and preoccupied that he got the reputation of being “awful lazy.”

This is what his neighbor, Romine, says of him: “He worked for me; was
always reading and thinking; used to get mad at him. I say, Abe was
awful lazy; he would laugh, and talk, and crack jokes and tell stories
all the time; didn’t love work, but did dearly love his pay. He worked
for me frequently, a few days only at a time.... Lincoln said to me one
day, that his father taught him to work, but never learned him to love

All the information we can obtain about this early time is interesting,
for it was then that Abe was laying the foundation of his future
eminence. His mind and character were slowly developing, and shaping
themselves for the future.

From Mr. Lamon’s Life I quote a paragraph which will throw light upon
his habits and tastes at the age of seventeen:

“Abe loved to lie under a shade-tree, or up in the loft of the cabin,
and read, cipher, and scribble. At night he sat by the chimney ‘jamb,’
and ciphered by the light of the fire, on the wooden fire-shovel. When
the shovel was fairly covered, he would shave it off with Tom Lincoln’s
drawing-knife, and begin again. In the day-time he used boards for the
same purpose, out of doors, and went through the shaving process
everlastingly. His step-mother repeats often that ‘he read every book he
could lay his hands on.’ She says, ‘Abe read diligently. He read every
book he could lay his hands on, and when he came across a passage that
struck him, he would write it down on boards if he had no paper, and
keep it there until he did get paper. Then he would rewrite it, look at
it, repeat it. He had a copy-book, a kind of scrap-book, in which he put
down all things, and thus preserved them.’”

I am tempted also to quote a reminiscence of John Hanks, who lived with
the Lincolns from the time Abe was fourteen to the time he became
eighteen years of age: “When Lincoln--Abe--and I returned to the house
from work, he would go to the cupboard, snatch a piece of corn-bread,
take down a book, sit down on a chair, cock his legs up as high as his
head, and read. He and I worked barefooted, grubbed it, ploughed, mowed,
and cradled together; ploughed corn, gathered it, and shucked corn.
Abraham read constantly when he had opportunity.”

It may well be supposed, however, that the books upon which Abe could
lay hands were few in number. There were no libraries, either public or
private, in the neighborhood, and he was obliged to read what he could
get rather than those which he would have chosen, had he been able to
select from a large collection. Still, it is a matter of interest to
know what books he actually did read at this formative period. Some of
them certainly were worth reading, such as “Æsop’s Fables,” “Robinson
Crusoe,” “Pilgrim’s Progress,” a History of the United States, and
Weem’s “Life of Washington.” The last book Abe borrowed from a neighbor,
old Josiah Crawford, (I follow the statement of Mr. Lamon, rather than
of Dr. Holland, who says it was Master Crawford, his teacher). When not
reading it, he laid it away in a part of the cabin where he thought it
would be free from harm, but it so happened that just behind the shelf
on which he placed it was a great crack between the logs of the wall.
One night a storm came up suddenly, the rain beat in through the
crevice, and soaked the borrowed book through and through. The book was
almost utterly spoiled. Abe felt very uneasy, for a book was valuable
in his eyes, as well as in the eyes of its owner.

He took the damaged volume and trudged over to Mr. Crawford’s in some
perplexity and mortification.

“Well, Abe, what brings you over so early?” said Mr. Crawford.

“I’ve got some bad news for you,” answered Abe, with lengthened face.

“Bad news! What is it?”

“You know the book you lent me--the ‘Life of Washington’?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Well, the rain last night spoiled it,” and Abe showed the book, wet to
a pulp inside, at the same time explaining how it had been injured.

“It’s too bad, I vum! You’d ought to pay for it, Abe. You must have been
dreadful careless.”

“I’d pay for it if I had any money, Mr. Crawford.”

“If you’ve got no money, you can work it out,” said Crawford.

“I’ll do whatever you think right.”

So it was arranged that Abe should work three days for Crawford,
“pulling fodder,” the value of his labor being rated at twenty-five
cents a day. As the book had cost seventy-five cents this would be
regarded as satisfactory. So Abe worked his three days, and discharged
the debt. Mr. Lamon is disposed to find fault with Crawford for exacting
this penalty, but it appears to me only equitable, and I am glad to
think that Abe was willing to act honorably in the matter.



If Abe’s knowledge had increased in proportion to the increase in his
stature, he would have been unusually learned at the age of seventeen,
for he stood at that time nearly six feet four inches in his stockings,
and, boy as he was, was taller than any man in the vicinity.

I must not omit to state that he had a remarkable memory, and this was
of great service to him in his early efforts at oratory. Mr. Lamon tells
us that:

“He frequently amused his young companions by repeating to them long
passages from the books he had been reading. On Monday mornings he would
mount a stump and deliver, with a wonderful approach to exactness, the
sermon he had heard the day before. His taste for public speaking
appeared to be natural and irresistible.”

Let me describe one of the scenes in which Abe often took part.

Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln have gone to church, for it is Sunday morning. The
children are excused on account of the distance, and are left at home to
fill up the time as they may.

“Come in,” said Abe, appearing at the door of the cabin, “I’m going to

With more willingness, perhaps, than if the services were to be
conducted by a grown-up minister, the other young people in the family
enter and sit down in decorous style, while Abe pulls down the Bible,
reads a passage, and gives out a hymn. This is sung with more
earnestness than musical taste, and then the young preacher begins his

I am sure we should all like to have been present, and should have
listened with interest while the gaunt, awkward boy, gesticulating with
his long arms, delivered a homily not original with himself, but no
doubt marked by some of his peculiarities.

We are told that this young audience, the girls probably, were sometimes
affected to tears. One might have been tempted to predict that the boy
would develop into a preacher when he grew to man’s estate. But Abe did
not confine himself to “preaching.” He was just as fond of other kinds
of public speaking. Sometimes in the harvest field he mounted a stump
and began to talk on political subjects.

More than once Thomas Lincoln, going out to the field, found work at a
standstill, and a little group collected at one point, Abe being the
central figure.

“What’s all this?” he would ask angrily.

“It’s Abe,” one of the hands would answer. “He’s givin’ us a rousin’
speech on politics.”

“I’ll rouse him!” said the incensed father. “Only let me get at him!”

So he would push his way into the crowd unseen by Abe, and would
suddenly seize his son by the collar and drag him from his extemporized

“Now go to work!” he would exclaim in irritation. “You can’t make your
living by talking.”

Abe, with a comical smile, would close his speech, to resume it on some
more auspicious occasion.

I have already said that Thomas Lincoln was a carpenter, though a poor
one. Abe sometimes worked with him in the shop, but had no idea of
learning the trade. He preferred to work in the field, and, as he could
not fill up his time on the four acres his father cultivated, he hired
out to any one of the neighbors who required his services.

No prediction could have surprised his employers more than that the
tall, awkward youth, who had grown out of his clothes, would hereafter
hold in his hands the destinies of the country, and guide it
triumphantly to the end of a protracted and bloody struggle.

The career of Lincoln is a striking illustration of the often-repeated
saying that “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

While there is room for suspicion that Abe was not fond of physical
labor, he is said to have worked very satisfactorily for those who
employed him. He had no troublesome pride, but was willing to do
anything that was asked, and pleased the women especially by never
objecting when called upon “to make a fire, carry water, or nurse a

I am tempted to quote from Mr. Lamon’s interesting volume an account
furnished him by Mrs. Elizabeth Crawford of the people among whom Abe
lived and some of their peculiarities. It throws light upon the homely
side of the future President’s character and speech:

“You wish me to tell you how the people used to go to meeting--how far
they went. At that time we thought it nothing to go eight or ten miles.
The old ladies did not stop for the want of a shawl, or cloak, or
riding-dress, or two horses in the winter-time; but they would put on
their husbands’ old overcoats, and wrap up their little ones, and take
one or two of them on their beasts, and their husbands would walk, and
they would go to church, and stay in the neighborhood until the next
day, and then go home. The old men would start out of their fields from
their work, or out of the woods from hunting, with their guns on their
shoulders, and go to church. Some of them dressed in deer-skin pants and
moccasins, hunting-shirts, with a rope or leather strap around them.
They would come in laughing, shake hands all around, sit down and talk
about the game they had killed, or some other work they had done, and
smoke their pipes together with the old ladies. If in warm weather, they
would kindle up a little fire out in the meeting-house yard to light
their pipes.

“If in winter-time, they would hold church in some of the neighbors’
houses. At such times they were always treated with the utmost of
kindness; a bottle of whisky, a pitcher of water, sugar, and glass were
set out, or a basket of apples or turnips, or some pies and cakes.
Apples were scarce them times. Sometimes potatoes were used for a treat.
(I must tell you that the first treat I ever received in old Mr.
Linkhern’s house--that was our President’s father’s house--was a plate
of potatoes, washed and pared very nicely, and handed ’round. It was
something new to me, for I had never seen a raw potato eaten before. I
looked to see how they made use of them. They took off a potato, and ate
them like apples).

“Thus they spent the time till time for preaching to commence, then they
would all take their seats; the preacher would take his stand, draw his
coat, open his shirt-collar, and commence service by singing and prayer;
take his text and preach till the sweat would roll off in great drops.
Shaking hands and singing then ended the service. The people seemed to
enjoy religion more in them days than they do now. They were glad to see
each other, and enjoyed themselves better than they do now.”

Such is the testimony of an old lady, who, like old people generally, is
prone to praise the past at the expense of the present.

The ladies in Abe’s early days wore “corn-field bonnets, scoop-shaped,
flaring in front, and long, though narrow behind.” They were as fond of
dancing as our city ladies, but did not find an elaborate toilet so
essential. It was not uncommon for both sexes to discard shoes and dance
barefooted. I have no doubt they enjoyed themselves as well, if not
better, in this absence of restraint, than their more polished sisters
who are to be found in city drawing-rooms to-day.

Brought up in such an unconventional atmosphere, it is not surprising
that Abraham Lincoln never set much value upon form and ceremony, and
sometimes shocked his more conventional political associates.

Mr. John B. Alley, a member of the Massachusetts Congressional
delegation during the war of the Rebellion, described to me on one
occasion how much shocked Senator Sumner was when, on calling upon the
President, in company with Lord Lyons, the English Minister, they found
him sitting at ease in true Western style, with his heels resting on the

“How are you, Sumner?” was the President’s greeting. “Take a seat, Lord

And all the while the good President did not seem to be aware that he
was acting in a manner unbecoming the dignity of a great ruler. Yet he
might have been aware of it, and secretly enjoyed the annoyance of his
distinguished guests. I am not prepared to recommend my young readers to
imitate Lincoln in this respect, but I wish them to understand how he
was affected by his early acquaintances and surroundings. We shall all
agree that there are many things more important than polished manners
and personal dignity, and we shall find hereafter that Abraham Lincoln,
in spite of his homely manners, was a Providential man, who served his
country in her hour of need, as probably no other could have done.



Thus passed the early years of Abraham Lincoln. He was approaching
manhood, well prepared physically to undertake its responsibilities, but
with a very slender stock of knowledge. He had, however, acquired a
taste for learning, and was a close, careful, and shrewd observer. He
had also the ability to speak fluently in rough-and-ready style on any
subject of which he knew anything. Of the world he had seen very little,
but his knowledge in that direction was to be extended by a trip down
the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, which he took at the age of nineteen.

Early in 1828 he chanced to be in the employ of Mr. Gentry, the founder
of Gentryville, a village which had sprung up since Thomas Lincoln had
lived in the neighborhood.

One morning Allen Gentry said to Lincoln:

“Abe, how would you like to go to New Orleans with me?”

“Are you going?” asked Abe eagerly.

“Yes, I am almost sure of going. I have spoken to father about letting
me go on a trading trip down the river, and I should like to have you go
with me.”

“I’ll go,” said Abe promptly, “if you’ll give me the chance.”

“There is no one I would like better to have with me,” answered Allen,
“and I can’t go alone.”

He had good reason for preferring Abe to any of his other friends, not
only that young Lincoln was very strong and capable, but because he had
then, as in after years, a pleasant humor, which showed itself in
stories which he had pat for any occasion. Though homely enough, they
were never destitute of point, and were brimming over with shrewd fun.

To a backwoods boy the proposed trip was as fascinating--perhaps more
so, notwithstanding the hard work involved--as a European trip nowadays.
There was constant variety; there was a varying panorama of meadows and
villages, as they floated down the rapid current to the mouth of the
great river.

Mr. Gentry favored his son’s plan, and preparations were speedily made.

The craft on which the two young men embarked was a flat-boat, roughly
made. It was loaded with a cargo of bacon and other produce, such as it
was thought would sell readily down South. Abe was the leader of the
expedition, and the business was under his care, inexperienced as he
was. He was ready to take the responsibility then as in after years,
when he piloted the ship of State with its valuable cargo over rougher

My young readers may be interested to know that he was paid eight
dollars per month, eating and sleeping on board, and that he was
furnished with free return passage on a steamboat.

The custom was to stop at all important points and seek an opportunity
to trade. During the night the boat was tied up to the shore, and the
two young men slept on board in the little cabin.

Generally, there was no risk of robbery or hostile attack; but one
night, a few miles below Baton Rouge, the two young men were startled
by hearing footsteps on board.

“What’s that?” inquired Allen, starting.

“We must have visitors,” replied Abe quietly.

“Then they are not the right kind. They must be thieves.”

“I reckon so. Let us get up and give them a reception.”

Rising as quietly as possible, Abe and Allen Gentry looked out and saw
that the invading force consisted of seven stalwart negroes. They were
of the same class, only bolder, as the chicken thieves, who visit their
neighbors’ hen-roosts.

“They are after our bacon,” said Abe. “We must try to save our bacon if
we can,” he added, with a humorous smile.

Now, it requires some courage to get up in the dead of night and
confront a gang of thieves, especially when they are seven to two, but
the two young men were courageous, and they had no idea of submitting
tamely to robbery.

“Bring the guns, Abe!” exclaimed Allen in a loud tone, intending to be
heard by the marauders. “Bring the guns; shoot them!”

Lincoln had no gun, but he had a huge bludgeon, and he sprang upon
them, belaboring them with all the strength of his sinewy arm. No wonder
they were terrified as they surveyed the commanding stature of the
stripling and felt his terrible blows. Seven to two as they were, they
found discretion the better part of valor, and fled, some jumping into
the water.

But Allen and Abe were not satisfied with this victory. They felt that
they must give their guilty visitors a lesson. So they chased them far
back into the country, and, on returning, thought it best to cut loose
and float down the river, lest they should have another call from their
unwelcome visitors, possibly reinforced by others of the same stripe.
These seven negroes little dreamed that the intrepid young man who so
belabored them was destined under the providence of God to be the
champion and deliverer of their race from the bondage under which they
groaned. I may add that Abe himself would perhaps have been even more
surprised could this have been revealed to him, as, bludgeon in hand, he
chased the flying negroes over the meadows.

The time consumed in this river trip was about three months. The result
was satisfactory to his employer, and showed that his confidence in his
young neighbor was not misplaced. On his return, young Lincoln worked as
before, wherever opportunity offered, and probably, being under age,
turned in his earnings to the common fund. But the time was coming when
the family were to find a new home. Born in Kentucky, Abe had spent
rather more than half his life in Indiana, but a new State--the one
which now claims him as her most distinguished son--was soon to receive
him. In the spring of 1830, Thomas Lincoln pulled up stakes and moved to
Illinois. But his immediate family was smaller now than when he left
Kentucky. Abe’s sister had married early, and survived her marriage but
about a year. However, there were the step-children, and the families of
Dennis Hanks and Levi Hall, so that the company numbered thirteen in
all. Fifteen days’ journey brought them to a point ten miles west of
Decatur, where a small house was erected on the north bank of the north
fork of the Sangamon River. Abe and his cousin John broke up fifteen
acres of land and split rails enough to serve as a fence. This was the
first time, so far as we know, that young Lincoln justified the
appellation, which clung to him in after years, of _rail-splitter_.

But young Lincoln was now nearing the age of twenty-one. Largely because
of his affection for his step-mother, to whom he was always ready to
acknowledge his obligations, he had remained about home much longer than
many sons, who forget filial duty under the impulse of ambition or
enterprise. So his twenty-first birthday found him still a member of the
home household. Then, naturally enough, he felt that it was time to set
up for himself. So in March or April he left home, but he seemed to have
formed no definite plans--none at least likely to carry him far away
from home. He was a candidate for labor, and took whatever offered, but
the proceeds went into his own pocket.

One of the “jobs” which he undertook was splitting rails for a man named
Kirkpatrick. I quote from Dr. Holland in reference to this period:

“A man who used to work with Abraham occasionally during his first year
in Illinois, says that at that time he was the roughest-looking person
he ever saw. He was tall, angular, and ungainly, and wore trousers made
of flax and tow, cut tight at the ankle, and out at both knees. He was
known to be very poor, but he was a welcome guest in every house in the
neighborhood. This informant speaks of splitting rails with Abraham, and
reveals some interesting facts concerning wages. Money was a commodity
never reckoned upon. Abraham split rails to get clothing, and he made a
bargain with Mrs. Nancy Miller to split four hundred rails for every
yard of brown jeans, dyed with white walnut bark, that would be
necessary to make him a pair of trousers. In those days he used to walk
four, six, and seven miles to his work.”

My young readers will be interested in a story which relates to this
time. Abe was working for a Mr. Brown, “raising a crap,” when a traveler
stopped at the house and inquired if he could obtain accommodations for
the night, there being no tavern near.

“Well,” said Mr. Brown, “we can feed your crittur and give you somethin’
to eat, but we can’t lodge you unless you can sleep on the same bed with
the hired man.”

The man, who was sprucely dressed, hesitated, and inquired:

“Who is he?”

“Well,” said Mr. Brown, “you can come and see him.”

So the man followed the farmer to the back of the house, where young
Lincoln lay extended at full length on the ground in the shade.

“There he is,” said Brown.

“Well, I think he’ll do,” said the stranger, and he stayed and slept
with Abe, whom he then no doubt looked down upon as his “social”
inferior. Could he have looked forward with prophetic ken, he would have
felt honored by such chance association with a man destined to be
President of the United States.

I am sorry that some doubts are thrown upon this story, but I have
ventured to tell it, for the vivid contrast between the position which
young Lincoln undoubtedly occupied at that time and that which in after
years he so adequately filled.



Young Lincoln’s successful trip to New Orleans led to his engagement for
a similar trip in the early part of 1831. With him were associated John
Hanks and John Johnston. Their employer was a Mr. Denton Offutt, of
Lexington, Kentucky, and a part of the cargo consisted of a drove of
hogs. Each of the three was to be paid at the rate of fifty cents per
day, and the round sum of sixty dollars divided between them. Abe
considered this very good pay, and was very glad to make the engagement.
The three young men not only managed the boat, but built it, and this
retarded the expedition. We read with some interest that while they were
boarding themselves at Sangamontown, while building the boat, Abe
officiated as cook to the entire satisfaction of his associates.

“At New Orleans,” says John Hanks, “we saw negroes chained, maltreated,
whipped, and scourged. Lincoln saw it; his heart bled, he said nothing
much, was silent from feeling, was sad, looked bad, felt bad, was
thoughtful and abstracted. I can say, knowing it, that it was on this
trip that he formed his opinions of slavery. It run its iron in him then
and there,--May, 1831. I have heard him say so often and often.”

One day, soon after his return from his second river trip, Abe received
a visit from a muscular, powerfully-built man, who accosted him thus:
“You are Abe Lincoln, I reckon?”

“Yes,” said Abe; “you are right there.”

“I’ve heard you can wrestle some,” continued the stranger.

“A little,” answered young Lincoln, modestly.

“I’ve come to wrestle with you to see who’s the best man. My name’s
Daniel Needham.”

The stranger announced his name with evident pride, and young Lincoln
recognized it as that of a man who had a high reputation as an amateur

“I’m glad to know you,” said Lincoln, “and I don’t mind accepting your

Abe valued his popularity among the boys, and, though he did not feel
sure of the result, he felt that it would not do to back out. He would
lose his reputation, which was considerable.

“Where shall it be?” asked Needham.

“Just where and when you like,” answered Abe, promptly.

So the meeting was fixed in the “greenwood” at Wabash Point, and there
it was that the two met in friendly rivalry.

Though Daniel Needham was older and more firmly knit, Lincoln was sinewy
and strong, and his superior height, and long arms and legs gave him a
great advantage--sufficient to compensate for his youth and spareness.

The result was that Abe achieved victory in short order. He threw his
older opponent twice with so much ease that Needham rose to his feet
very much mortified as well as astonished.

“Lincoln,” said he, making the confession reluctantly, “you have thrown
me twice, but you can’t whip me.”

“Are you satisfied that I can throw you?” asked Abe. “If you are not,
and must be convinced through a thrashing, I will do that too for your

“I reckon we’ll put it off,” said Needham, finding his young rival more
willing than he had expected. He had hoped that, though not shrinking
from a friendly wrestling contest, Abe might hesitate to meet him in a
more serious encounter.

I have told this story partly because I know my young readers would be
interested in it, partly to give an idea of the strength and athletic
power of the hero of my story.

But wrestling contests would not earn a living for young Lincoln. He was
in search of employment, and found it. As one thing leads to another,
the same man who had sent him to New Orleans in charge of a flat-boat,
opened a store at New Salem, and needing a clerk, bethought himself of
young Lincoln. Abe unpacked the goods upon their arrival, and worked
energetically to put them in order. With a new store-book, serving as a
ledger, and a pen behind his ear, he made his début as a “first clerk”
of the leading mercantile establishment in the town. In the readiness
with which he turned from one thing to another, Abe might well be taken
for a typical Yankee, though born in Kentucky.

We are now to look upon the future President in a new capacity. As a
clerk he proved honest and efficient, and my readers will be interested
in some illustrations of the former trait which I find in Dr. Holland’s
interesting volume.

One day a woman came into the store and purchased sundry articles. They
footed up two dollars and six and a quarter cents, or the young clerk
thought they did. We do not hear nowadays of six and a quarter cents,
but this was a coin borrowed from the Spanish currency, and was well
known in my own boyhood.

The bill was paid, and the woman was entirely satisfied. But the young
store-keeper, not feeling quite sure as to the accuracy of his
calculation, added up the items once more. To his dismay he found that
the sum total should have been but two dollars.

“I’ve made her pay six and a quarter cents too much,” said Abe,

It was a trifle, and many clerks would have dismissed it as such. But
Abe was too conscientious for that.

“The money must be paid back,” he decided.

This would have been easy enough had the woman lived “just round the
corner,” but, as the young man knew, she lived between two and three
miles away. This, however, did not alter the matter. It was night, but
he closed and locked the store, and walked to the residence of his
customer. Arrived there, he explained the matter, paid over the six and
a quarter cents, and returned satisfied. If I were a capitalist, I would
be willing to lend money to such a young man without security.

Here is another illustration of young Lincoln’s strict honesty:

A woman entered the store and asked for half a pound of tea.

The young clerk weighed it out, and handed it to her in a parcel. This
was the last sale of the day.

The next morning, when commencing his duties, Abe discovered a
four-ounce weight on the scales. It flashed upon him at once that he had
used this in the sale of the night previous, and so, of course, given
his customer short weight. I am afraid that there are many country
merchants who would not have been much worried by this discovery. Not so
the young clerk in whom we are interested. He weighed out the balance
of the half pound, shut up store, and carried it to the defrauded
customer. I think my young readers will begin to see that the name so
often given, in later times, to President Lincoln, of “Honest Old Abe,”
was well deserved. A man who begins by strict honesty in his youth is
not likely to change as he grows older, and mercantile honesty is some
guarantee of political honesty.

There is another incident for which I am also indebted to Dr. Holland:

The young clerk was waiting upon two or three ladies, when a noted bully
entered the store, and began to talk in a manner offensive not only to
the ladies, but to any person of refinement.

Young Lincoln leaned over the counter, and said quietly, “Don’t you see
that ladies are present?”

“What is that to me?” demanded the bully.

“Out of respect for them, will you stop your rough talk?”

“I will talk as I please, and I should like to see the man that will
stop me,” answered the bully, arrogantly. “If you think you are the
better man, we’ll try it on the spot.”

Lincoln began to see that the man meant to

[Illustration: ABE’S EARLY HOME. THE LOG CABIN. Page 9]

force a quarrel upon him, and he did not shrink from it.

“If you will wait till the ladies retire,” he said quietly, “I will give
you any satisfaction you wish.”

The ladies had by this time completed their purchases, and were glad to
leave the store.

No sooner had they left than the bully broke out into a storm of abuses
and insults. The young clerk listened with the quiet patience habitual
to him, and finally observed: “Well, if you must be whipped, I suppose I
may as well whip you as any other man.”

“That’s what I’m after,” answered the bully.

“Come outdoors, then,” said Lincoln.

Abe, when they were fairly outside, thought there was no need of further
delay. He grappled with the bully, threw him upon the ground with ease,
and, holding him there, rubbed some “smart-weed” in his face and eyes
till he bellowed for mercy.

“Do you give up?” asked Abe, in no way excited.

“Yes, yes!”

Upon this, Lincoln went for some water, washed his victim’s face, and
did what he could to alleviate his sufferings. It is safe to say that
the fellow never wanted another dose of the same medicine. It will
further interest my young readers to learn that, so far from feeling a
grudge against Lincoln, the bully became his fast friend, and behaved
henceforth in a more creditable manner.



Though the young clerk proved faithful and efficient, his whole time was
not taken up by his duties in Offutt’s store. Knowing well the defects
of his education, it occurred to him that he could use profitably some
of his leisure by employing it in study. He knew little or nothing of
English grammar, and this was likely to interfere with him if called
upon to act in any public capacity where he would be required to make

“I have a notion to study English grammar,” he said to Mr. Graham, the

“That is the best thing you can do, if you expect to enter political
life,” said the teacher in reply.

“Where do you think I can find a grammar?” asked Lincoln.

It must be remembered that educational books, and indeed books of any
kind, were scarce in those days.

“I think you will find one at Vaner’s.”

“I will go at once and see,” said Lincoln.

He set out at once, though Vaner’s was six miles distant, but such a
walk did not trouble the young man at all. I am sure it will strike some
of my young readers who dislike grammar, as odd that he should be
willing to take so long a walk with such an object in view; but they too
might do the same if they were as earnestly bent upon self-improvement
as our hero. It is enough to say that he succeeded in obtaining the
coveted book, and began at once to study it. Sometimes he was able to go
out of doors and lie under a shade-tree; at other times he stretched his
long, ungainly form on the counter and pored intently over the little
book. I don’t know whether the obscure little text-book is still in
existence; if it were, it would be a valuable memorial of this
transition period in the young man’s mental growth.

The time came for a change in young Lincoln’s mode of life. Mr. Offutt’s
business declined, and the store was closed. He was once more out of
employment. Now it happened about this time that the peace of this
region was disturbed by a series of Indian difficulties. Black Hawk, a
chief of the Sacs, was the instigator and Indian leader. He was a man of
commanding presence and superior abilities. In defiance of a warning
given him by General Atkinson, commanding the United States troops at
Rock Island, he left his reservation, and announced his intention of
ascending the Rock River to the territory of the Winnebagoes. The force
under General Atkinson being small, he issued a call for volunteers. One
company was raised in New Salem and the vicinity, and Lincoln enlisted.
Though without military experience, he was elected to the post of
Captain by a large majority of the company, and accepted, This was a
tribute to his popularity among his friends and neighbors.

Though the Black Hawk campaign was in no way remarkable, and involved
very little fighting, it is noteworthy, as Dr. Holland remarks, that two
men afterward Presidents of the United States were engaged in it. These
were Zachary Taylor and Abraham Lincoln. I do not propose to enter into
a detailed account of this campaign and of Lincoln’s part in it; I
prefer to quote Mr. Lincoln’s own account of it, years afterward, when a
member of the House of Representatives at Washington. It was during the
political campaign when General Cass was the Democratic candidate, and
was intended to ridicule the claims of his friends, that he had rendered
distinguished military service to the republic.

“By the way, Mr. Speaker,” said Mr. Lincoln, “do you know I am a
military hero? Yes, sir, in the days of the Black Hawk war, I fought,
bled, and came away. Speaking of General Cass’ career reminds me of my
own. I was not at Sillman’s Defeat, but I was about as near it as Cass
to Hull’s surrender; and, like him, I saw the place soon afterward. It
is quite certain I did not break my sword, for I had none to break; but
I bent my musket pretty badly on one occasion. If General Cass went in
advance of me in picking whortleberries, I guess I surpassed him in
charges upon the wild onions. If he saw any live, fighting Indian, it
was more than I did; but I had a good many bloody struggles with the
mosquitoes, and although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can
truly say I was often very hungry.”

When Mr. Lincoln himself became a candidate for the Presidency, an
attempt was made to make capital for him out of this military episode,
but fortunately he possessed more substantial claims than this.

Though there was little fighting to be done, there was an occasion that
tested the young Captain’s courage and resolution. As the incident is
characteristic of Lincoln, and shows his love of justice and humanity, I
will transcribe, as better than any paraphrase of my own, the account
given by Mr. Lamon in his Life of Lincoln:

“One day, during these many marches and counter-marches, an old Indian
found his way into the camp, weary, hungry, and helpless. He professed
to be a friend of the whites; and, although it was an exceedingly
perilous experiment for one of his color, he ventured to throw himself
upon the mercy of the soldiers. But the men first murmured, and then
broke out into fierce cries for his blood.

“‘We have come out to fight the Indians,’ said they, ‘and by G--we
intend to do it!’

“The poor Indian, now in the extremity of his distress and trouble, did
what he ought to have done before: he threw down before his assailants a
soiled and crumpled paper which he implored them to read before his life
was taken. It was a letter of character and safe conduct from Gen. Cass,
pronouncing him a faithful man, who had done good service in the cause
for which this army was enlisted. But it was too late; the men refused
to read it, or thought it a forgery, and were rushing with fury upon the
defenceless old savage, when Capt. Lincoln bounded between them and
their appointed victim.

“‘Men,’ said he, and his voice for a moment stilled the agitation around
him, ‘_this must not be done; he must not be shot and killed by us_.”

“‘But,’ said some of them, ‘the Indian is a spy.’

“Lincoln knew that his own life was now in only less danger than that of
the poor creature that cowered behind him. During the whole of this
scene Capt. Lincoln seemed to rise to an unusual height of stature. The
towering form, the passion and resolution in his face, the physical
power and terrible will exhibited in every motion of his body, every
gesture of his arm, produced an effect upon the furious mob as
unexpected perhaps to him as to any one else. They paused, listened,
fell back, and then sullenly obeyed what seemed to be the voice of
reason as well as authority. But there were still some murmurs of
disappointed rage and half-suppressed exclamations, which looked toward
vengeance of some kind. At length one of the men, a little bolder than
the rest, but evidently feeling that he spoke for the whole, cried out:

“‘This is cowardly on your part, Lincoln!’

“Whereupon the tall Captain’s figure stretched a few inches higher
again. He looked down upon these varlets who would have murdered a
defenceless old Indian and now quailed before his single hand, with
lofty contempt. The oldest of his acquaintances, even Bill Green, who
saw him grapple Jack Armstrong and defy the bullies at his back, never
saw him so much aroused before.

“‘If any man thinks I am a coward, let him test it,’ said he.

“‘Lincoln,’ responded a new voice, ‘you are stronger and heavier than we

“‘This you can guard against; choose your weapons,’ returned the rigid

“Whatever may be said of Mr. Lincoln’s choice of means for the
preservation of military discipline, it was certainly very effectual in
this case. There was no more disaffection in his camp, and the word
‘coward’ was never coupled with his name again. Mr. Lincoln understood
his men better than those who would be disposed to criticise his
conduct. He has often declared himself that his life and character were
both at stake, and would probably have been lost had he not at that
supremely critical moment forgotten the officer and asserted the man. To
have ordered the offenders under arrest would have created a powerful
mutiny; to have tried and punished them would have been impossible. They
could scarcely be called soldiers; they were merely armed citizens, with
a nominal military organization. They were but recently enlisted, and
their term of service was about to expire. Had he preferred charges
against them, and offered to submit their differences to a court of any
sort, it would have been regarded as an act of personal pusillanimity,
and his efficiency would have been gone forever.”

Then, as afterward, Lincoln proved to be the man for the emergency. This
humble captain of volunteers was selected by Providence to guide and
direct his countrymen in the greatest and most bloody civil contest that
was ever waged, and at all times of doubt, danger, and perplexity he
manifested the same calm courage, the same firm resolution, and the same
humanity, which made him at the age of twenty-three the intrepid
champion of a friendless old Indian.



My young readers will have noticed how extremely slender thus far had
been the educational advantages of young Lincoln. Of the thousands of
men who have risen to eminence in this country from similar poverty, few
have had so little to help them. In England the path of promotion is
more difficult, and I doubt whether any one circumstanced as Abraham
Lincoln was could ever have reached a commanding position. It will be
interesting in this connection to read the statement made by John Bright
at his recent installation as Lord Rector of Glasgow University. It will
show what a difference there is between limited advantages in England
and in America:

“I am an entire stranger to University life in the University sense,”
says Mr. Bright. “I may be said to be a man who never had the
advantages of education. I had the teaching of some French--as
Englishmen teach French, and I had the advantages of a year’s
instruction in Latin by a most admirable tutor--a countryman of yours
from the University of Edinburgh. But there was not much Greek--not so
much that any trace of it is left. There was nothing in the shape of
mathematics or science. Looking at education as you take it, I am a
person who had the misfortune to have had almost none of it in my youth.
You will not, therefore, be surprised if I feel a certain humiliation in
seeming to teach you anything, and if I feel a strong sense of envy--but
not a blamable envy--that I never possessed the advantages which are
placed within your reach. But if I had no education such as colleges and
universities give, if my school-life ended at the precise time when your
university career begins; if I am unknown to literature and to science
and to arts, I ask myself what is it that has brought me within the
range of your sympathies--brought me to this distinguished position? I
suppose it must be because you have some sympathy with my labors. You
believe that I have been in some sort a political teacher; that I have
taken some pains and perhaps have been of some service in the
legislation and government of our country.”

Had Lincoln possessed one-half the educational equipment of John Bright
when he entered upon political life he would have felt much better

Abraham Lincoln on his return from the Black Hawk campaign was
twenty-three years old. Though he was about as poor as he had always
been, he was rich in the good opinion of his friends and neighbors. This
is evinced by an application then made to him to allow himself to run
for the Legislature. He consented, though surprised at the request, and
polled a vote considerably in advance of other candidates of the same
party. In New Salem he polled an almost unanimous vote, men voting for
him without regard to party lines. Still, he was defeated. A brief
speech which he made during the canvass has been preserved, and, as it
is characteristic, I quote it:

“Gentlemen and Fellow-citizens: I presume you all know who I am. I am
humble Abraham Lincoln. I have been solicited by many friends to become
a candidate for the Legislature. My politics are short and sweet, like
the old woman’s dance. I am in favor of a national bank. I am in favor
of the internal improvement system and a high protective tariff. These
are my sentiments and political principles. If elected, I shall be
thankful; if not, it will be all the same.”

It will be seen that Mr. Lincoln had cast in his lot with the Whig
party--the party of whom Henry Clay was at that time the most
distinguished representative, and for whom the young man had a strong

The great problem of how he was to make his living had not yet been
solved by young Lincoln. Dr. Holland is our authority for the statement
that he seriously took into consideration the project of learning the
blacksmith’s trade. An opportunity, however, offered for him to buy out
a stock of goods owned by a man of Radford, in connection with a man
named Berry. This supplied him employment for a time, but not of a
profitable nature, for his partner proved a hindrance rather than a
help, and failure ensued. Lincoln was involved in debt, and it was six
years before he freed himself from his obligations. About this time he
received his first political appointment--that of postmaster--from the
administration of General Jackson. It brought in very little revenue,
but gave him a privilege which he valued of reading all the newspapers
which came to the office. The office seemed to have been conducted in
free and easy style. When the young postmaster had occasion to go out he
closed the office and carried off the mail matter in his hat.

When his store was closed permanently, young Lincoln received an offer
from the surveyor of Sangamon County to undertake all his work in the
immediate neighborhood of New Salem. Though Lincoln knew nothing of
surveying, either practically or theoretically, he qualified himself for
the work, procured a compass and chain, and went to work. It is an
interesting proof of the young surveyor’s thoroughness that, in spite of
his inadequate preparation, the accuracy of his surveys has never been
called in question.

Two years later Lincoln ran again for the Legislature, and this time he
succeeded. Among his colleagues was Major John T. Stuart, a prosperous
lawyer of Springfield. He was a previous acquaintance of young Lincoln,
and their present companionship strengthened the interest of the older
man in his struggling young friend.

“Why don’t you study law?” he asked Lincoln.

“Because I am poor; I have no money to buy the necessary books,” said

“Have you ever thought of following the profession?”

“Yes, I have already read law some.”

“I believe you would succeed. If books are all you need, I have a large
law library and will lend you what you need.”

Abe’s face lighted up with pleasure.

“You are very kind,” he said, “and I will take you at your word. When
can I have the books?”

“Whenever you will call for them.”

This was not an offer which young Lincoln could afford to slight. At the
close of the canvass he walked to Springfield, called at the office of
his friend Stuart, and returned to New Salem with a load of books, which
he forthwith began to read and study.

“Abe’s progress in the law,” says Mr. Lamon, “was as surprising as the
intensity of his application to study. He never lost a moment that might
be improved. It is even said that he read and recited to himself on the
road and by the wayside, as he came down from Springfield with the books
he had borrowed from Stuart. The first time he went up he had ‘mastered’
forty pages of Blackstone before he got back. It was not long until,
with his restless desire to be doing something practical, he began to
turn his acquisitions to account in forwarding the business of his
neighbors. He wrote deeds, contracts, notes, and other legal papers, for
them, ‘using a small dictionary and an old form-book’; pettifogged
incessantly before the justice of the peace, and probably assisted that
functionary in the administration of justice as much as he benefited his
own clients. This species of country student practice was entered upon
very early, and kept up until long after he was a distinguished man in
the Legislature. But in all this he was only trying himself; as he was
not admitted to the bar until 1837, he did not regard it as legitimate
practice, and never charged a penny for his services.”

Young Lincoln took part in the legislative work of the first session
during which he served as a member, but did not push himself forward. He
listened and took notes of what was done, and how it was done. He was
assigned to an honorable place on the Committee on Public Accounts and
Expenditures. It was about this time that he saw for the first time
Stephen A. Douglas, with whom he was in after years to be associated in
the memorable canvass for the Senatorship. Douglas, who was only about
five feet in height, was also slender, and in personal appearance
presented a striking contrast to the long-legged young legislator who
overtopped him by more than a foot.

“He is the smallest man I ever saw,” said Lincoln.

Douglas filled up as he grew older, till he came to deserve the title by
which he was so long known, of “The Little Giant.” He was not at that
time a member of the Legislature, but was a successful candidate for the
position of District Attorney for the district in which he lived. Unlike
Lincoln, he was not a Western man by birth, having been born and
“raised” in Vermont. In fact he had only come West during the previous
year; but he was not a man to hide his light under a bushel, and soon
worked himself into prominence in his new home. Two years later, in
1838, Douglas, as well as Lincoln, was elected to the Legislature, and
they served together. In public life, therefore, Lincoln preceded
Douglas by two years, but the latter advanced much more rapidly and
became a man of national reputation, while Lincoln was still
comparatively obscure.



We are told by Mr. Lamon, that Mr. Lincoln got his license as an
attorney early in 1837, and commenced practice regularly as a lawyer in
the town of Springfield, in March of that year. It is with this place
that his name was associated for the remainder of his life. Though it
contained at that time less than two thousand inhabitants, it was a town
of considerable importance. The list of the local bar contained the
names of several men of ability and reputation. Stephen A. Douglas,
already referred to, was public prosecutor in 1836. Judge Stephen T.
Logan was on the bench of the Circuit Court. There was John T. Stuart
also, who had recommended young Lincoln to become a lawyer, and was now
his partner.

The law office of Stuart and Lincoln was in the second story above the
court-room, in Hoffman’s Row. It was small and poorly furnished.
Lincoln slept in the office, and boarded with Hon. William Butler, who
appears to have been a politician and wire-puller.

At last, then, after a youth of penury, a long hand-to-hand struggle
with privations in half a dozen different kinds of business, we find our
hero embarked in the profession which, for the remainder of his life, he
owned as mistress. He is twenty-eight years of age, with some
legislative experience, but a mere novice in law. But he was ambitious,
and in spite of his scanty equipment as regards book-knowledge, he made
up his mind to succeed, and he did succeed.

Though I am thereby anticipating matters, I propose to relate an
incident of his law practice which I find quoted in “Raymond’s History”
of Lincoln’s Administrations, from the _Cleveland Leader_. It
illustrates not merely Mr. Lincoln’s methods and shrewdness as a lawyer,
but also his fidelity to friends.

This is the story:

“Some four years since, the eldest son of Mr. Lincoln’s old friend, the
chief supporter of his widowed mother--the good old man having some
time previously passed from earth--was arrested on a charge of murder. A
young man had been killed during a riotous _mélée_ in the night time at
a camp-meeting, and one of his associates stated that the death-wound
was inflicted by young Armstrong. A preliminary 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 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 of rowdyism--each
school-boy quarrel--was suddenly remembered and magnified, until they
pictured him as a fiend 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 infatuated populace, whilst only prison bars
prevented a horrible death at the hands of the populace. The events were
heralded in the county papers, painted in the highest colors,
accompanied by rejoicing over the certainty punishment being meted out
to the guilty party. The prisoner, overwhelmed by the circumstances in
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,
volunteering 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 the attorney was in his work, and he set about it with
a will which 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 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
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, whilst the large body of auditors looked on him
as though wondering what he could say in defence of one whose guilt they
looked upon 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 defense propounded but few questions, and those of
a character which excited no uneasiness on the part of the
prosecutor--merely, in most cases, requiring the main witnesses to be
definite as to 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 previous 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 than between 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 deathly silence
pervaded the vast audience, and, in a clear and moderate tone, began his
argument. Slowly and carefully he reviewed the testimony, pointing out
the hitherto unobserved discrepancies in the statements of the principal
witness. That which had seemed plain and plausible he 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 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 intellectual
achievement. His whole being had for months been bound up in this work
of gratitude and mercy, and as the lava of the overcharged 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 he
owed the boy’s sire, tears were seen to fall from many eyes unused to

“It was near night when he concluded by saying that if justice were
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 adjourned 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 seats. All repaired immediately to
the court-house, and whilst the prisoner was being brought from the
jail, the court-room was filled to overflowing with citizens from the

“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, delivered the verdict of ‘Not Guilty!’
The widow dropped into the arms of her son, 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 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 fatherless.”

When a lawyer can so bravely and affectionately rescue the innocent from
the machinations of the wicked, we feel that he is indeed the exponent
and representative of a noble profession. It is unfortunate that lawyers
so often lend themselves to help iniquity, and oppress the weak. Mr.
Lincoln always did his best when he felt that Right and Justice were on
his side. When he had any doubts on this point, he lost all his
enthusiasm and his courage, and labored mechanically. He believed in
justice, and would not willingly act on the wrong side. On one occasion
he discovered that he had been deceived by his client, and informed his
associate lawyer that he (Lincoln) would not make the plea. His
associate, therefore, did so, and to Lincoln’s surprise gained a
verdict. Convinced, nevertheless, that his client was wrong, he would
not accept any part of the handsome fee of nine hundred dollars, which
he paid. Only an honest and high-minded lawyer would have acted thus.



Practicing law in those days, and in that region, had some peculiar
features. It was the custom for lawyers to “ride the circuit,” that is,
to accompany the judges from one country-town to another, attending to
such business as might offer, in different sections of the State.
Railroads had not yet found their way out so far West, and the lawyer
was wont to travel on horseback, stopping at cabins on the way to eat
and sleep, and, in brief, to “rough it.” One brought up like Lincoln was
not likely to shrink from any hardships which this might entail. Indeed,
it is likely that, upon the whole, he enjoyed it, and that these
journeys increased his natural shrewdness and knowledge of human nature,
and furnished him with no inconsiderable part of the apposite stories
which he was wont to quote in later years.

Here is an incident which will amuse my readers. It is told by Mr.
Francis E. Willard: “In one of my temperance pilgrimages through
Illinois, I met a gentleman who was the companion in a dreary ride which
Lincoln made in a light wagon, going the rounds of a Circuit Court where
he had clients to look after. The weather was rainy, the road heavy with
mud of the Southern Illinois pottery, never to be imagined as to its
blackness and profundity by him who has not seen it, and assuredly
needing no description to jostle the memory of one who has. Lincoln
enlivened the way with anecdote and recital, for few indeed were the
incidents that relieved the tedium of the trip.

“At last, in wallowing through a ‘slough’ of the most approved Western
manufacture, they came upon a poor shark of a hog, who had succumbed to
gravitation, and was literally fast in the mud. The lawyers commented on
the poor creature’s pitiful condition, and drove on. About half a mile
was laboriously gone over, when Lincoln suddenly exclaimed: ‘I don’t
know how you feel about it, but I’ve got to go back and pull that hog
out of the slough.’

“His comrade laughed, thinking it merely a joke; but what was his
surprise when Lincoln dismounted, left him to his reflections, and,
striding slowly back, like a man on stilts, picking his way as his long
walking implements permitted, he grappled with the drowning hog, dragged
him out of the ditch, left him on its edge to recover his strength,
slowly measured off the distance back to his buggy, and the two men
drove off as if nothing had happened.”

This little incident is given to show that Mr. Lincoln did not confine
his benevolence to his own race, but could put himself to inconvenience
to relieve the sufferings of an inferior animal. In fact, his heart
seemed to be animated by the spirit of kindness, and this is one of the
most important respects in which I am glad to hold him out as an example
to the young. Emulate that tenderness of heart which led him to
sympathize with “the meanest thing that breathes,” and, like him, you
will win the respect and attachment of the best men and women!

The young lawyer, successful as he was in court, did not make money as
fast as some of his professional associates. One reason I have already
given--he would not willingly exert his power on the wrong side.
Moreover, he was modest, and refrained from exorbitant charges, and he
was known at times to remit fees justly due when his client was
unfortunate. One day he met a client who had given him a note, nearly
due, for professional services.

“Mr. Lincoln,” he said, “I have been thinking of that note I owe you. I
don’t see how I am to meet it. I have been disabled by an explosion, and
that has affected my income.”

“I heard of your accident,” said Lincoln, “and I sympathize with you
deeply. As to the note, here it is.”

“But I can not meet it at present.”

“I don’t want you to. Take it, and destroy it. I consider it paid.”

No doubt many lawyers would have done the same, but it so happened that
Lincoln was at that moment greatly in need of money, and was obliged to
defer a journey on that account. It was not out of his abundance, but
out of his poverty, that he gave.

As to his professional methods, they were peculiar. He was always
generous to an opponent. Instead of contesting point by point, he often
yielded more than was claimed, and excited alarm in the breast of his
client. But when this was done, he set to work and stated his own view
of the case so urgently that the strength of his opponent’s position was
undermined, his arguments torn to pieces, and the verdict secured. He
was remarkably fair, and stated his case so clearly that no juror of
fair intelligence could fail to understand him.

It has already been said that Mr. Lincoln had a partner. It is a proof
of his scrupulous honesty that when upon his circuits he tried any cases
that were never entered at the office, he carefully set aside a part of
the remuneration for the absent partner, who otherwise would never have
known of them, and might be supposed hardly entitled to a share of the

For the following anecdote, in further illustration of Mr. Lincoln’s
conscientiousness in money matters, I am indebted to Mr. Frank B.
Carpenter’s very interesting little volume, entitled “Six Months at the
White House”: “About the time Mr. Lincoln came to be known as a
successful lawyer, he was waited upon by a lady who held a real-estate
claim which she desired to have him prosecute,--putting into his hands,
with the necessary papers, a check for two hundred and fifty dollars as
a retaining fee. Mr. Lincoln said he would look the case over, and asked
her to call again the next day. Upon presenting herself, Mr. Lincoln
told her that he had gone through the papers very carefully, and he must
tell her frankly that there was not a ‘peg’ to hang her claim upon, and
he could not conscientiously advise her to bring an action. The lady was
satisfied, and, thanking him, rose to go. ‘Wait,’ said Mr. Lincoln,
fumbling in his vest pocket; ‘here is the check you left with me.’ ‘But,
Mr. Lincoln,’ returned the lady, ‘I think you have earned _that_.’ ‘No,
no,’ he responded, handing it back to her, ‘that would not be right. I
can’t take _pay_ for doing my duty.’”

I must find a place here for one of Mr. Lincoln’s own stories, relating
to a professional adventure, which must have amused him. Mr. Carpenter
is my authority here also:

“When I took to the law I was going to court one morning, with some ten
or twelve miles of bad road before me, when ---- overtook me in his

“‘Hello, Lincoln!’ said he; ‘going to the court-house? Come get in, and
I will give you a seat.’

“Well, I got in, and ---- went on reading his papers. Presently the wagon
struck a stump on one side of the road; then it hopped off to the other.
I looked out and saw the driver was jerking from side to side in his
seat; so said I, ‘Judge, I think your coachman has been taking a drop
too much this morning.’

“‘Well, I declare, Lincoln,’ said he, ‘I should not much wonder if you
are right, for he has nearly upset me half a dozen times since

“So, putting his head out of the window, he shouted: ‘Why, you infernal
scoundrel, you are drunk!’

“Upon which, pulling up his horses, and turning round with great
gravity, the coachman said: ‘Bedad! but that’s the first rightful
decision your Honor has given for the last twelve months.’”

Mr. Lincoln’s law partnership with Mr. Stuart was of brief duration. It
was dissolved in 1840, and in the same year he formed a new partnership
with Judge S. T. Logan, a lawyer of learning and ability.

In 1842 he formed another partnership, of a still more important
character. He married Miss Mary Todd on the 4th of November of that
year. Miss Todd belonged to a family of social prominence, and it is a
matter of interest that, before marrying Mr. Lincoln, she is said to
have had an opportunity of marrying another person, whose name was
mentioned for the Presidency years before Mr. Lincoln’s. I refer to Hon.
Stephen A. Douglas, who is said to have been an unsuccessful suitor for
the hand of Miss Todd.

Six months after marriage, in a private letter written to an intimate
friend, Mr. Lincoln refers thus to his domestic arrangements: “We are
not keeping house,” he writes, “but boarding at the Globe Tavern, which
is very well kept by a widow lady of the name of Beck. Our rooms are the
same Dr. Wallace occupied there, and boarding only costs four dollars a

Abraham Lincoln had reached the age of thirty-three years before he
ventured to marry. Circumstances had until then proved unfavorable, for
his struggle with poverty had been unusually protracted. Now, however,
he was settled both matrimonially and professionally, and the most
important part of his life, for which he had been so long preparing, may
be said to have fairly begun.



I have already told my readers something of Mr. Lincoln as a lawyer. I
may add that he stood high in the estimation of his professional
brethren. “For my single self,” says one, “I have for a quarter of a
century regarded Mr. Lincoln as one of the finest lawyers I ever knew,
and of a professional bearing so high-toned and honorable as justly, and
without derogating from the claims of others, entitling him to be
presented to the profession as a model well worthy of the closest

Now these are general terms, and do not show us how the young lawyer who
had risen step by step from the hardest physical labor to an honorable
position at the bar, looked and spoke. Fortunately Judge Drummond, of
Chicago, gives us a graphic picture of him,--and I am glad to quote it:

“With a voice by no means pleasant, and, indeed, when excited, in its
shrill tones almost disagreeable; without any of the personal graces of
the orator; without much in the outward man indicating superiority of
intellect; without great quickness of perception--still, his mind was so
vigorous, his comprehension so exact and clear, and his judgment so
sure, that he easily mastered the intricacies of his profession, and
became one of the ablest reasoners and most impressive speakers at our
bar. With a probity of character known of all, with an intuitive insight
into the human heart, with a clearness of statement which was itself an
argument, with uncommon power and felicity of illustration,--often, it
is true, of a plain and homely kind--and with that sincerity and
earnestness of manner which carried conviction, he was, perhaps, one of
the most successful jury lawyers we have ever had in the State. He
always tried a case fairly and honestly. He never intentionally
misrepresented the evidence of a witness or the argument of an opponent.
He met both squarely, and if he could not explain the one or answer the
other, substantially admitted it. He never misstated the law according
to his own intelligent view of it.”

I hope my young readers will not skip this statement, but read it
carefully, because it will show them the secret of the young lawyer’s
success. _He inspired confidence!_ He was not constantly trying to gain
the advantage by fair means if possible, but at any rate to gain it. He
wanted justice to triumph, however it affected his own interests. I wish
there were more such lawyers. The law would then lose much of the odium
which unprincipled practitioners bring upon it.

Let us look in upon Mr. Lincoln as he sits in his plain office, some
morning. He is writing busily, when a timid knock is heard at his door.

“Come in!” he says, his pen still moving rapidly over the paper before

The door opens slowly, and an old woman, bending under the burden of
seventy-five years, enters, and stands irresolutely at the entrance.

“Mr. Lincoln!” she says in a quivering voice.

As these accents reach him, Mr. Lincoln woke up hastily, and seeing the
old lady hastily undoubles himself, and draws forward a chair.

“Sit down, my good lady!” he says. “Do you wish to see me on business?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Tell me what I can do for you?” and he fixes his eyes on the frail old
woman, showing a respect and consideration for her, poor as she
evidently is, which a rich client might not so readily receive.

Encouraged by the kindness of her reception she told her story. She was
entitled to a pension, as it appeared, on account of her husband, who
had fought in the Revolutionary war. This pension she had secured
through the agency of a certain pension agent, but he had charged her
the exorbitant sum of two hundred dollars for collecting her claim. This
was a heavy tax upon the poor old woman with her limited means, and she
was likely to be little better off for her pension if she should be
compelled to pay this money.

“Two hundred dollars! That is shameful!” said the sympathetic lawyer.
“Who is this agent?”

She told him.

“Do you live in Springfield?”

“No sir.”

“Are you in need of money?” he inquired delicately.

“Yes, sir, The agent has kept back what he has collected, and----”

“I see. We will try to bring him to terms.”

“Oh, sir if you can help me----” said the old lady, hopefully.

“I will do my best. Here is some money for your immediate wants. Now I
will ask you a few questions, and we will see what we can do for you.”

Mr. Lincoln immediately commenced suit against the agent to recover a
portion of the money which he had withheld. In his address to the jury
he did not omit to allude to the patriotism of the dead husband, and the
poverty of his widow, and no doubt castigated in fitting terms the
unfeeling rapacity of the claim agent. He gained the suit, and compelled
the fellow to disgorge one hundred dollars, which he had the pleasure of
paying over to his aged client.

Meanwhile he was pleasantly situated. His income would now allow him to
live in comfortable style. He established himself in a pleasant
two-story house, built after a fashion quite common in New England,
with a room on each side of the front door, and an extension in the
rear. It was situated at the corner of two streets, and though neither
costly nor sumptuous, might be considered a palace when contrasted with
the rude cabins in which his earlier years were passed.

Four children were born to him, and their childish ways were a source of
constant enjoyment, when he returned to his home, weary or perplexed.
One of these, Willie, died after his father became President; the
youngest, best known as Tad, who was the pet of the White House, is also
dead, and only the eldest, Robert Todd, now Secretary of War, survives.
It is said that he was a most indulgent father, and governed by Love
alone. His own father had often been stern and rough, but Abraham
Lincoln’s nature was full of a deep tenderness for all things weak,
small, or in distress, and he could not find it in his heart to be harsh
or stern at home.

On pleasant summer mornings the young lawyer, with his tall figure,
might have been seen drawing one of his children to and fro along the
sidewalk in a child’s wagon. “Without hat or coat, and wearing a pair
of rough shoes, his hands behind him holding to the tongue of the wagon,
and his tall form bent forward to accommodate himself to the service, he
paced up and down the walk, forgetful of everything around him, and
intent only on some subject that absorbed his mind.” A young man, who as
a boy used to see him thus occupied, admits that he used to wonder “how
so rough and plain a man could live in so respectable a house.”

I once asked a lady who for a considerable time lived opposite Mr.
Lincoln, at Springfield, whether he was really as plain as his pictures
all represented him.

“I never saw one of his pictures that did not flatter him,” she

“My oldest son was a companion and playfellow of Mr. Lincoln’s younger
boys,” she continued, “and was in and out of his house a dozen times a
day. He was a very quiet man. He used to stay at home in the evening,
and read or meditate, but Mrs. Lincoln was of a gayer temperament, and
cared more for company.”

Mr. Lincoln was always a thoughtful man, and though amid social
surroundings he could tell a droll story with a humorous twinkle of the
eye, his features in repose were grave and even melancholy. As he walked
along the street, he often seemed abstracted, and would pass his best
friends without recognizing them. Even at the table he was often
self-absorbed, and ate his food mechanically, but there was nothing in
his silence to dull or make uncomfortable those around him. After a time
he would arise from his silence, and make himself companionable as he
was always able to do, and lead conversation into some channel in which
members of his family could take part.



Abraham Lincoln’s professional success did not fill the measure of his
ambition. It certainly was a great step upward from the raw-boned,
ragged, barefooted lad to the prosperous lawyer, and our hero, if I may
so call him, doubtless felt complacent when he considered the change in
his position and surroundings. I may take occasion to say here that
Abe--to return to the name which he did not wholly lay aside when he
emerged from boyhood and youth--never put on airs because of his
elevation, nor looked down upon the humble relatives whom he had left
behind. Whenever in his journeyings he found himself near the residence
of any of his poorer relations, he took special pains to visit them,
and, if possible, to stay with them. Often he pressed upon them money
when they appeared to need it--not with the air of a liberal patron,
but with straight-forward friendliness and cordiality. Once when he was
urged to remain at the hotel with his professional friends, instead of
making a call upon an aged aunt, he said:

“Why, aunt’s heart would be broken if I should leave town without
calling upon her.”

Let me add that this call required something more than ordinary
good-natured consideration, for the aunt in question lived several miles
away, and her nephew had no horse at his command, but walked all the
way. I am very glad to call the attention of all my young friends to
this admirable trait in the character of President Lincoln. I wish it
were more common. I am sure we all admire the boy or girl who is always
thoughtful of the feelings and happiness of older relatives.

But to return from this digression, let me repeat that Mr. Lincoln had
other aspirations than to succeed as a lawyer. It has been said that
nine out of ten American boys cherish a vague ambition to become
President. This is plainly an exaggeration, but it is certain that a
large number entertain the hope of some day entering public life,
either as legislator or Congressman, or at any rate as a salaried
officer. That is one reason why there is such a horde of office-seekers
swarming to our National or State capitals, ambitious to earn a living
at the expense of the Government. Some throw up good mercantile
positions and spend months in the attempt to secure a position as
department clerk, foreign consul, or poorly-paid postmaster.

Abraham Lincoln’s ambition was of a more elevated character. He had a
pardonable ambition to take part in the government of his country, not
for the sake of the position so much, as because he felt within himself
the capacity to shape legislation to worthy ends. He was not alone in
this idea. His fellow-citizens had gauged him and felt that he was fit
to represent them. I have already spoken of his service in the State
Legislature; but he was only preparing himself there for a wider arena.
In 1846 he received the nomination for Congress from the Sangamon
district. Now it was not the fashion in those days for a candidate to
remain quietly at home pursuing his business as usual while waiting for
the popular verdict. It is perhaps the more dignified course to pursue,
but it would not have elected Mr. Lincoln. He understood at once that he
would have to “stump” the district. I need hardly explain to my young
readers what this means. He must visit the principal towns and villages,
and address public meetings of the people on political subjects of
present interest, explaining clearly how he stood, and how he proposed
to vote if elected.

For this service Lincoln was very well fitted. He had a vigorous Saxon
style, and he knew how to make things clear even to the humblest
intellect. Then, again, he possessed a fund of homely, but pertinent
stories, which often produced more effect than a protracted argument.
However, he was not limited to such means of influencing his audiences.
He had a logical mind and a happy faculty of stating things clearly and
precisely, so as to convince the reason as well as to persuade the

There was no lack of topics on which to speak. The country was in an
excited state. Texas had been admitted to the Union, war with Mexico had
succeeded, and opinions were divided as to the wisdom of entering upon
it. The Whig party, of which Mr. Lincoln was a member, considered it
unnecessary and unjustifiable. So also did the Anti-Slavery party, then
coming into existence. Many of my young readers have doubtless read the
“Biglow Papers,” by our eminent poet and diplomatist, James Russell
Lowell, and have enjoyed the quaint and pungent sarcasm with which he
assails those who were instrumental in bringing on this ill-advised war.
I speak of it as ill-advised, for, though some of the results, notably
the acquisition of California, have proved beneficial, the object for
which the war was commenced and waged was far from commendable. The
tariff also had been recently repealed, and the result was a disturbance
of the business interests of the country. Clearly, Congress and the
country had plenty to talk about and plenty to legislate about.

Mr. Lincoln’s speeches in this “stumping” tour have not been preserved,
but we have every reason to believe that he did himself credit, and
maintained the reputation he had already acquired as a strong and
forcible speaker. The best evidence we can adduce is his triumphant
election by much more than the usual party vote. Even Mr. Clay, with
all his popularity as a Presidential candidate in 1844, received a
majority less by about six hundred than were given to Abraham Lincoln in
his contest for a seat in Congress.

So we chronicle one more step in the upward progress of the young
rail-splitter. On the 6th of December, 1847, he took his seat in the
Thirtieth Congress, as a Representative from his adopted State of
Illinois. At the same time his future rival, Stephen A. Douglas, took
his seat in the United States Senate, representing the same State.
Lincoln was the tallest man among the nearly three hundred who sat in
the House. Douglas was the shortest man in the Senate. Both were to
achieve high distinction, and to fill a remarkable place in the history
of their country. To Lincoln distinction came with slower steps, but he
was destined to mount higher and achieve a more enduring fame. Of the
two, Douglas was more of a politician, and he was more ready to
sacrifice principle in the interest of personal ambition. Years later
they were to stump the State as competitors for Senatorial honors in a
memorable canvass, and still later to be rival candidates for the
Presidency. In the first, Douglas secured the election; in the second,
Lincoln. It is to the credit of Douglas that when the last contest was
decided, and his competitor, who had secured the prize for which he had
labored earnestly for years, was about to take his seat, at a time when
the first faint rumblings of the Civil War were being heard, and
well-grounded fears were entertained for the safety of the
President-elect, he laid aside all the bitterness of personal feelings
and disappointed ambition, and rode with his old rival to the capital on
Inauguration Day, content to share any personal risk in which he might
be placed.

The closing period of the life of Douglas does him great credit. It
shows him in the character of patriot, rather than as politician. In
former years he had been willing to make concessions to the slave power,
in order to further his own chances of the Presidential succession. Now,
when civil war was imminent and the integrity of the Government was
menaced, he forgot the politician and stood side by side with Lincoln
for the preservation of the Government which he had so long served. It
was a source of sincere regret to Abraham Lincoln that Douglas should
have been removed by death so early in the Civil War. It removed from
him a staunch friend and supporter, whose influence was all the greater
because he was perhaps the most prominent member of the opposition.

I have a personal remembrance of Mr. Douglas, to whom I was introduced
on the occasion of a visit to Massachusetts. Short as he was, he had a
dignified and impressive presence, and his massive figure well entitled
him to the name by which he was so commonly known, “The Little Giant.”
He was not destined to achieve the object of his ambition, but he will
long be remembered as an influential actor in our political history.



The backwoods-boy is now in Congress. He is one of the law-makers of the
nation, and is an equal associate of eminent statesmen gathered from all
parts of the country.

Let us look about us as we enter the old Hall of Representatives, and
see into what company the backwoods-boy has come.

In the Speaker’s chair sits a dignified-looking man, an accomplished
parliamentarian, whom friends and opponents alike concede to be amply
competent to discharge the duties of his high place--this is Robert C.
Winthrop, of Massachusetts, living still in a dignified and honored old
age. Among the notable members of this Congress were John Quincy Adams,
who had already been President, but who was willing notwithstanding to
serve his country in an humble place; George Ashmun, also representing
Massachusetts; Jacob Collamer; Alexander H. Stephens, afterward
Vice-President of the Southern Confederacy; Robert Toombs; Andrew
Johnson, afterward associated with Mr. Lincoln as Vice-President, and
upon whose shoulders fell the mantle of his lamented chief; Marsh,
Truman Smith, Wilmot, Rhett, Giddings, and others, whose names were
already conspicuous. This will give some idea of the personnel of the
House; while in the Senate chamber, at the other end of the Capitol,
Webster, Calhoun, Dix, Dickinson, Hale, Crittenden, and Corwin lent
weight and dignity to that co-ordinate legislative branch of the

Such were the men with whom the young Western member was to share the
labors of legislation. Time has given to some of them a fame which they
did not then possess. Their successors of our day may, after the lapse
of a generation, bear names as weighty; but I am afraid we shall look in
vain for successors of Webster, Calhoun, John Quincy Adams, A. H.
Stephens, and Crittenden.

The question will occur to my young readers, What part did Abraham
Lincoln take in the national councils? Was he a cipher, an obscure
member, simply filling his seat and drawing his pay, or did he take an
active part in the business of the session? I will say in answer, that
he was by no means a cipher. Though he did not aspire to be a
leader--for in a new member that would have been in bad taste--he was
always ready to take part when he felt called upon to do so, and his
vote and words were such as he would not in after years have felt it
necessary to recall or apologize for.

It is interesting to know that he arrayed himself with Mr. Giddings in
favor of abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia. Mr. Giddings
little suspected that the plain member from Illinois, whose co-operation
he had secured, was to be the instrument under Providence of abolishing
slavery, not only in the District of Columbia, but throughout the land.

But slavery was not at that time the leading political question of the
day. Parties were divided upon the subject of the Mexican war. While
opposed to the war, Mr. Lincoln was in favor of voting for the necessary
supplies and appropriations, and he took care, in an elaborate speech,
to explain his position. He felt that it was his duty as a citizen and
a patriot to see that the army which had been sent to Mexico should be
properly sustained; but he did not for a moment concede that the war was
just or necessary. As President Polk saw fit to construe such a vote as
a formal approval of his action and of the war, Mr. Lincoln made an
elaborate speech in arraignment of his interpretation. As this was Mr.
Lincoln’s first speech in Congress, I shall make considerable quotations
from it, partly to show where he stood on this important question, and
partly to prove to my readers that he was no novice, but well qualified
for the high position to which he had been elected by the suffrages of
his fellow-citizens. I am quite aware that many of my young readers will
skip this portion as uninteresting; but I hope that if in after years
they are led to read this biography once more, they will count it worth
while to read it.

After reviewing and controverting the reasons assigned by the President
for the statement that Mexico had invaded our soil, and that therefore
“by the act of the Republic of Mexico a state of war exists between that
Government and the United States,” Mr. Lincoln proceeds:

“I am now through the whole of the President’s evidence; and it is a
singular fact, that if any one should declare the President sent the
army into the midst of a settlement of Mexican people who had never
submitted, by consent or by force, to the authority of Texas or of the
United States, and that _there_ and _thereby_ the first blood of the war
was shed, there is not one word in all the President has said which
would either admit or deny the declaration. In this strange omission
chiefly consists the deception of the President’s evidence--an omission
which it does seem to me could scarcely have occurred but by design. My
way of living leads me to be about the courts of justice; and there I
have sometimes seen a good lawyer struggling for his client’s neck, in a
desperate case, employing every artifice to work round, befog, and cover
up with many words some position pressed upon him by the prosecution,
which he _dared_ not admit and yet _could_ not deny. Party bias may help
to make it appear so; but, with all the allowance I can make for such
bias, it still does appear to me that just such, and from such
necessity, are the President’s struggles in this case.

“Some time after my colleague (Mr. Richardson) introduced the
resolutions I have mentioned, I introduced a preamble, resolution, and
interrogatories, intended to draw the President out, if possible, on
this hitherto untrodden ground. To show their relevancy, I propose to
state my understanding of the true rule for ascertaining the boundary
between Texas and Mexico. It is that _wherever_ Texas was _exercising_
jurisdiction was hers; and wherever Mexico was exercising jurisdiction
was hers; and that whatever separated the actual exercise of
jurisdiction of the one from that of the other, was the true boundary
between them. If, as is probably true, Texas was exercising jurisdiction
along the western bank of the Nueces, and Mexico was exercising it along
the eastern bank of the Rio Grande; then neither river was the boundary,
but the uninhabited country between the two was. The extent of our
territory in that region depended not on any treaty-fixed boundary (for
no treaty had attempted it), but on revolution. Any people anywhere,
being inclined and having the power, have the _right_ to rise up and
shake off the existing Government, and form a new one that suits them
better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right--a right which, we
hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Nor is this right confined
to cases in which the whole people of an existing Government may choose
to exercise it. Any portion of such people that _can_ may revolutionize
and make their own of so much of the territory as they inhabit. More
than this, a majority of any portion of such people may revolutionize,
putting down a minority, intermingled, or near about them, who may
oppose their movements. Such minority was precisely the case of the
Tories of our own Revolution. It is a quality of revolutions not to go
by old lines or old laws, but to break up both and make new ones. As to
the country now in question, we bought it of France in 1803 and sold it
to Spain in 1819, according to the President’s statement. After this,
all Mexico, including Texas, revolutionized against Spain; and still
later, Texas revolutionized against Mexico. In my view, just so far as
she carried her revolution by obtaining the _actual_, willing or
unwilling, submission of the people, _so far_ the country was hers and
no further.

“Now, sir, for the purpose of obtaining the very best evidence as to
whether Texas had actually carried her revolution to the place where the
hostilities of the present war commenced, let the President answer the
interrogatories I proposed, as before mentioned, or some other similar
ones. Let him answer fully, fairly, and candidly; let him answer with
_facts_, and not with arguments. Let him remember he sits where
Washington sat; and, so remembering, let him answer as Washington would
answer. As a nation _should_ not, and the Almighty _will_ not be evaded,
so let him attempt no evasion, no equivocation; and if, so answering, he
can show that the soil was ours where the first blood of the war was
shed--that it was not within an inhabited country, or, if within such,
that the inhabitants had submitted themselves to the civil authority of
Texas or of the United States, and that the same is true of the site of
Fort Brown--then I am with him for his justification. In that case, I
shall be most happy to reverse the vote I gave the other day. I have a
selfish notion for desiring that the President may do this; I expect to
give some votes in connection with the war, which, without his so doing,
will be of doubtful propriety, in my own judgment, but which will be
free from the doubt, if he does so.

“But if he _can not_ or _will not_ do this--if on any pretense, or no
pretense, he shall refuse or omit it--then I shall be fully convinced of
what I more than suspect already, that he is deeply conscious of being
in the wrong; that he feels the blood of this war, like the blood of
Abel, is crying to heaven against him; that he ordered General Taylor
into the midst of a peaceful Mexican settlement, purposely to bring on
war; that originally having some strong motive--what I will not stop now
to give my opinion concerning--to involve the two countries in a war,
and trusting to escape scrutiny by fixing the public gaze upon the
exceeding brightness of military glory--that attractive rainbow that
rises in showers of blood--that serpent’s eye that charms to destroy--he
plunged into it, and has swept _on_ and _on_, till, disappointed in his
calculation of the ease with which Mexico might be subdued, he now finds
himself he knows not where. How like the half-insane mumbling of a fever
dream is the whole war part of the last message! At one time telling us
that Mexico has nothing whatever that we can get but territory; at
another showing us how we can support the war by levying contributions
on Mexico; at one time urging the national honor, the security of the
future, the prevention of foreign interference, and even the good of
Mexico herself, as among the objects of the war; at another, telling us
that ‘to reject indemnity by refusing to accept a cession of territory
would be to abandon all our just demands, and to wage the war, bearing
all its expenses, _without a purpose or definite object_.’

“So then, the national honor, security of the future, and everything but
territorial indemnity, may be considered _no purposes_ and _indefinite_
objects of the war! But having it now settled that territorial indemnity
is the only object, we are urged to seize, by legislation here, all that
he was content to take a few months ago, and the whole province of Lower
California to boot, and to still carry on the war--to take _all_ we are
fighting for, and _still_ fight on. Again the President is resolved,
under all circumstances, to have full territorial indemnity for the
expenses of the war; but he forgets to tell us how we are to get the
_excess_ after those expenses shall have surpassed the value

[Illustration: THE YOUNG RAIL SPLITTER. Page 57.]

of the _whole_ of the Mexican territory. So, again, he insists that the
separate national existence of Mexico shall be maintained; but he does
not tell us _how_ this can be done after we shall have taken _all_ her
territory. Lest the questions I here suggest be considered speculative
merely, let me be indulged a moment in trying to show they are not.

“The war has gone on some twenty months, for the expenses of which,
together with an inconsiderable old score, the President now claims
about one-half of the Mexican territory, and that by far the better
half, so far as concerns our ability to make anything out of it. It is
comparatively uninhabited, so that we could establish land offices in
it, and raise money in that way. But the other half is already
inhabited, as I understand it, tolerably densely for the nature of the
country; and all its lands, or all that are valuable, already
appropriated as private property. How, then, are we to make anything out
of these lands with this incumbrance on them, or how remove the
incumbrance? I suppose no one will say we should kill the people, or
drive them out, or make slaves of them, or even confiscate their
property? How, then, can we make much out of this part of the territory?
If the prosecution of the war has, in expenses, already equalled the
_better_ half of the country, how long its future prosecution will be in
equalling the less valuable half is not a _speculative_ but a
_practical_ question, pressing closely upon us, and yet it is a question
which the President seems never to have thought of.

“As to the mode of terminating the war and securing peace, the President
is equally wandering and indefinite. First, it is to be done by a more
vigorous prosecution of the war in the vital parts of the enemy’s
country; and, after apparently talking himself tired on this point, the
President drops down into a half-despairing tone, and tells us ‘that,
with a people distracted and divided by contending factions, and a
government subject to constant changes, by successive revolutions, _the
continued success of our arms may fail to obtain a satisfactory peace_.’
Then he suggests the propriety of wheedling the Mexican people to desert
the counsels of their own leaders, and, trusting in our protection, to
set up a government from which we can obtain a satisfactory peace,
telling us that ‘_this may become the only mode of obtaining such a
peace_.’ But soon he falls into doubt of this too, and then drops back
on to the already abandoned ground of ‘more vigorous prosecution.’ All
this shows that the President is in no wise satisfied with his own
positions. First, he takes up one, and, in attempting to argue us into
it, he argues himself _out_ of it; then seizes another, and goes through
the same process; and then, confused at being able to think of nothing
new, he snatches up the old one again, which he has some time before
cast off. His mind, tasked beyond its power, is running hither and
thither, like some tortured creature on a burning surface, finding no
position on which it can settle down and be at ease.

“Again, it a singular omission in the message, that it nowhere intimates
_when_ the President expects the war to terminate. At its beginning,
General Scott was, by this same President, driven into disfavor, if not
disgrace, for intimating that peace could not be conquered in less than
three or four months. But now, at the end of about twenty months, during
which time our arms have given us the most splendid successes--every
department and every part, land and water, officers and privateers,
regulars and volunteers, doing all that men could do, and hundreds of
things which it had ever before been thought that men could not do;
after all this, this same President gives us a long message without
showing us that, _as to the end_, he has himself even an imaginary
conception. As I have before said, he knows not where he is. He is a
bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man. God grant he may be
able to show that there is not something about his conscience more
painful than all his mental perplexity?”

It will be seen that, new as he is to the halls of Congress, Mr. Lincoln
speaks with the freedom, and in the assured tone, of a veteran member. I
have nothing to say as to the sentiments contained in these extracts. I
wished my readers to see what sort of a speech the Illinois Congressman,
trained in the backwoods, and almost absolutely without educational
advantages, was able to make. It will be conceded that the result, all
things considered, is remarkable. When, twelve years later, he was
nominated for the post of Chief Magistrate, it was a fashion among many,
in both political parties, to speak of him as an obscure member of
Congress, who had never attracted any attention during his service in
the House. This was not correct. He took a prominent part in legislation
of all kinds, and made himself acquainted with whatever subjects came up
for consideration.

It has often been said that fact is stranger than fiction, and I am
tempted to remark that the new Congressman who so boldly criticised
President Polk for his management of the war, was far from dreaming that
he himself would be subject to similar attacks when, as President, the
management of a far more important war devolved upon him.



When Mr. Lincoln’s first Congressional term expired, he declined to be a
candidate for re-election. He was a delegate to the convention that
nominated General Taylor for the Presidency, and did what he could to
bring about his election. He would have preferred Henry Clay, who was
unquestionably far more fit for the position of Chief Magistrate, being
an experienced statesman, while Taylor was only a rough soldier; but
availability then, as now, controlled the choice of conventions, and
Clay was laid aside, failing, like Webster, to reach the Presidency.

My young readers are aware that President Taylor died about a year after
his inauguration, and was succeeded by Millard Fillmore, the
Vice-President. Mr. Fillmore offered Lincoln the position of Governor of
Oregon, then a Territory. The offer was considered, and might have been
accepted but for the opposition of Mrs. Lincoln, who naturally objected
to going so far from home and friends. So, for the time, Mr. Lincoln
retired from politics, though he by no means ceased to feel an interest
in the state of the country. He, like other sagacious statesmen, saw
that slavery was to be the rock in the way of national harmony, and we
are told by Mr. Lamon, that when coming home to Springfield from the
Fremont Court in company with Mr. Stuart, he said: “The time will come
when we must all be Democrats or Abolitionists. When that time comes my
mind is made up. The slavery question can’t be compromised.”

About this time his father, who had lived to see the first political
success of his son, was drawing near the end of his life. His latter
years had been made comfortable by the pecuniary help freely tendered by
his son, who gave, but not out of his abundance. Anxious that his father
should have every comfort which his case required, he wrote the
following letter, which I quote, because it illustrates not only his
solicitude for his family, but also exhibits his faith in his Maker:

“Springfield, _January_ 12, 1851.

     “Dear Brother--On the day before yesterday I received a letter from
     Harriet, written at Greenup. She says she has just returned from
     your house, and that father is very low, and will hardly recover.
     She also says that you have written me two letters, and, although I
     have not answered them, it is not because I have forgotten them, or
     not been interested about them, but because it appeared to me I
     could write nothing which could do any good. You already know that
     I desire that neither father nor mother shall be in want of any
     comfort, either in health or sickness, while they live; and I feel
     sure you have not failed to use my name, if necessary, to procure a
     doctor or anything else for father in his present sickness. My
     business is such that I could hardly leave home now, if it were
     not, as it is, that my own wife is sick-a-bed.

     “I sincerely hope father may yet recover his health; but, at all
     events, tell him to remember to call upon and confide in our great
     and good and merciful Maker, who will not turn away from him in any
     extremity. He notes the fall of a sparrow, and numbers the hairs of
     our heads; and He will not forget the dying man who puts his trust
     in him. Say to him that, if we could meet now, it is doubtful
     whether it would not be more painful than pleasant, but that, if it
     be his lot to go now, he will soon have a joyous meeting with loved
     ones gone before, and where the rest of us, through the help of
     God, hope ere long to join him.

     “Write me again when you receive this.


“A. Lincoln.”

The money expended for his father and mother we may be sure that Mr.
Lincoln gave cheerfully, and I should have a very poor opinion of him if
it were otherwise; but he was also called upon to assist another member
of the family who was far less deserving. His step-brother, John
Johnston, was a rolling-stone, idle, shiftless, and always hard up. I am
going to quote here the greater part of a letter written to this
step-brother, because it contains some very practical advice, which most
of my young readers will not need, but it may fall under the eye of some
one who will be benefited by it. It appears that John had made
application for a loan of eighty dollars. Mr. Lincoln writes:

“Your request for eighty dollars I do not think it best to comply with
now. At the various times when I have helped you a little, you have said
to me, ‘We can get along very well now’; but in a very short time I find
you in the same difficulty again. Now this can only happen by some
defect in your conduct; what that defect is, I think I know. You are not
_lazy_, and still you are an _idler_. I doubt whether, since I saw you,
you have done a good whole day’s work in any one day. You do not very
much dislike to work, and still you do not work much, merely because it
does not seem to you that you could get much for it. This habit of
uselessly wasting time is the whole difficulty; and it is vastly
important to you, and still more so to your children, that you should
break the habit. It is more important to them because they have longer
to live, and can keep out of an idle habit before they are in it easier
than they can get out after they are in.

“You are now in need of some money; and what I propose is, that you
should go to work ‘tooth and nail’ for somebody who will give you money
for it. Let father and your boys take charge of things at home, prepare
for a crop, and make the crop, and you go to work for the best money,
wages, or in discharge of any debt you owe, that you can get; and, to
secure you a fair reward for your labor, I now promise you that, for
every dollar you will, between this and the first of next May, get for
your own labor, either in money or your own indebtedness, I will then
give you one other dollar. By this, if you hire yourself at ten dollars
a month, from me you will get ten more, making twenty dollars a month
for your work. In this I do not mean you shall go off to St. Louis, or
the lead mines, or the gold mines in California; but I mean for you to
go at it for the best wages you can get close to home, in Coles County.
Now, if you will do this, you will be soon out of debt, and, what is
better, you will have a habit that will keep you from getting into debt
again. But, if I should now clear you out of debt, next year you would
be just as deep in as ever. You say you would almost give your place in
heaven for seventy or eighty dollars. Then you value your place in
heaven very cheap; for I am sure you can, with the offer I make, get
the seventy or eighty dollars for four or five months’ work. You say, if
I will furnish you the money, you will deed me the land, and, if you
don’t pay me the money back, you will deliver possession. Nonsense! If
you can’t now live with the land, how will you then live without it? You
have always been kind to me, and I do not mean to be unkind to you. On
the contrary, if you will but follow my advice, you will find it worth
more than eighty times eighty dollars to you.”

This was certainly excellent advice, and the offer was a kind and
generous one. But it does not seem to have convinced the one who
received it, for we find him nursing plans of emigration. Shiftless
people are very apt to think they can earn a living away from home
better than at home. But the trouble is in themselves, not in their
surroundings. Abraham Lincoln finds it necessary, under date of November
4, 1851, to combat this fancy of his step-brother. I shall not apologize
for copying a second letter, and I hope all my young readers will
carefully read and consider it.

“When I came into Charleston day before yesterday, I learned that you
are anxious to sell the land where you live, and move to Missouri. I
have been thinking of this ever since, and can not but think such a
notion is utterly foolish. What can you do in Missouri better than here?
Is the land any richer? Can you there, any more than here, raise corn
and wheat and oats without work? Will anybody there, any more than here,
do your work for you? If you intend to go to work, there is no better
place than right where you are; if you do not intend to go to work you
can not get along anywhere.

“Squirming and crawling about from place to place can do no good. You
have raised no crop this year; and what you really want is to sell the
land, get the money, and spend it. Part with the land you have, and my
life upon it, you will never after own a spot big enough to bury you in.
Half you will get for the land you will spend in moving to Missouri, and
the other half you will eat and drink and wear out, and no foot of land
will be bought. Now, I feel it is my duty to have no hand in such a
piece of foolery. I feel that it is so even on your own account, and
particularly on mother’s account. The eastern forty acres I intend to
keep for mother while she lives; if you _will not cultivate it_, it will
rent for enough to support her; at least it will rent for something. Her
dower in the other two forties she can let you have, and no thanks to
me. Now, do not misunderstand this letter; I do not write it in any
unkindness--I write it, in order, if possible, to get you to _face_ the
truth, which truth is, you are destitute because you have idled away all
your time. Your thousand pretences for not getting along better are all
nonsense: they deceive nobody but yourself. _Go to work_ is the only
cure in your case.”

Nothing can be plainer, or more in accordance with common sense than
this advice. Though it was written for the benefit of one person only, I
feel that I am doing my young, and possibly some older, readers a
service in transferring it to my pages, and commending them to heed it.
In my own experience, which is by no means exceptional, I have known
many who have been willing to move anywhere, and make any change, for
the chance of earning a living more easily. About thirty years ago, a
great wave of emigration flowed toward the far Pacific, and men of all
callings and professions, including not a few college graduates, put on
the miner’s humble garb and delved for gold among the mountains and by
the river-courses of California. Some came back rich, but in many cases
had they been willing to work as hard and live as frugally at the East,
they would have fared as well. In this case, perhaps, it was as well to
remove where the incentives to work overcame their natural indolence,
and awakened their ambition.

In this country, fortunately, there are few places where an industrious
man can not get a living, if he is willing to accept such work as falls
in his way. This willingness often turns the scale, and converts
threatening ruin into prosperity and success. Some years since, I made
one of the passengers in a small steamer on Puget Sound. My attention
was drawn to a young man, apparently about twenty, who was accompanied
by his wife and two young children. They were emigrating from Indiana, I
believe. He was evidently an industrious man, and his brown face and
hands spoke of labor in the field, and under the summer sun. I entered
into conversation, and my new acquaintance told me with perfect
cheerfulness that when he arrived at Seattle, he would have just ten
dollars left, to keep himself and family till he could secure work.

“How should I feel,” I could not help asking myself, “if I were placed
in similar circumstances, though I had myself only to provide for?”

Yet the young man appeared quite undisturbed. He had faith in himself,
and in Providence, and borrowed no trouble. I have no doubt he found
something to do before his money gave out. He was not one of that
shiftless and restless class to whom it is very clear Mr. Lincoln’s
step-brother belonged. Such men thrive in a new country, and make a
living anywhere.



Mr. Lincoln had served a term in the House of Representatives with
credit to himself and profit to the country. He was regarded as a rising
man, and every year made him more prominent. It is not strange that his
ambition should have coveted a seat in the Senate. In 1855 he was a
candidate before the Legislature to succeed General Shields, but,
failing to get the required number of votes, he counselled his friends
to vote for Judge Trumbull, who was elected. It was a personal
disappointment, for he wished to be Senator, but in the end it proved to
his advantage. A seat in the Senate would have stood in the way of his
later triumph, and some one else in all probability would have been
nominated and elected President of the United States in 1860.

I have already spoken of Mr. Lincoln’s opposition to slavery. He was
not an extreme man, and he was never classed with the Abolitionists--that
intrepid band who worked early and late, and for years almost without
hope, against the colossal system of wrong whose life seemed so entwined
with the life of the republic that it looked as if both must fall
together. Abraham Lincoln moved slowly. He was not an impulsive man, but
took time to form a determination. Even in the war there were many who
blamed him for what appeared to be his slowness, but after a while they
were led to see that if slow he was sure, and struck only when the time
had come.

The ten years before the war were years of political commotion. The
“irrepressible conflict” between slavery and the spirit of freedom had
commenced, and Abraham Lincoln arrayed himself among the champions of
freedom. There was a desperate struggle to introduce slavery into the
Territories, so that in course of time more slave States might be added
to the Union, and thus the slave system might be strengthened and
continue to retain the political ascendency it had possessed for years.
The rapid growth of the free Northwest alarmed the slave power, and a
counterpoise was required. Northern statesmen who cherished an ambition
to be President had notice served upon them that they must help the
slave power or forfeit its support. Among those who weakly yielded to
this arrogant demand was Stephen A. Douglas. He favored the principle of
“squatter sovereignty,” permitting the inhabitants of any Territory to
establish slavery within its limits if so disposed. In the year 1854,
Mr. Lincoln, in a public debate with Mr. Douglas held at Springfield at
the State fair, used this significant language:

“My distinguished friend says it is an insult to the emigrants to Kansas
and Nebraska to suppose they are not able to govern themselves. We must
not slur over an argument of this kind because it tickles the ear. It
must be met and answered. I admit that the emigrant to Kansas and
Nebraska is able to govern _himself_, but,” the speaker rising to his
full height, “_I deny his right to govern any other person_ WITHOUT THAT

This was but a preliminary skirmish. Four years later came the memorable
series of debates between Lincoln and Douglas, each being the nominee
of his party for the United States Senate. The platform on which Lincoln
stood contained two significant planks, and these furnished the key-note
for the speeches called forth by the campaign. I quote them both, and I
hope that my young friends will not skip them.

“3. The present administration has proved recreant to the trusts
committed to its hands, and by its extraordinary, corrupt, unjust, and
undignified exertions, to give effect to the original intention and
purpose of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, by forcing upon the people of
Kansas against their will, and in defiance of their known and
earnestly-expressed wishes, a constitution recognizing slavery as one of
their domestic institutions, it has forfeited all claim to the support
of the friends of free men, free labor, and free rights.”

“5. While we deprecate all interference on the part of political
organizations with the action of the Judiciary, if such action is
limited to its appropriate sphere, yet we can not refrain from
expressing our condemnation of the principles and tendencies of the
extra judicial opinions of a majority of the Judges of the Supreme Court
of the United States in the matter of Dred Scott, wherein the political
heresy is put forth that the Federal Constitution extends slavery into
all the Territories of the republic, and so maintains it that neither
Congress nor people, through their territorial legislature, can by law
abolish it. We hold that Congress possesses sovereign power over the
Territories while they remain in a territorial condition, and that it is
the duty of the General Government to protect the Territories from the
curse of slavery, and to preserve the public domain for the occupation
of free men and free labor. And we declare that no power on earth can
carry and maintain slavery in the States against the will of the people
and the provisions of their constitutions and laws; and we fully endorse
the recent decision of the Supreme Court of our own State which declares
‘that property in persons is repugnant to the Constitution and laws of
Illinois, and that all persons within its jurisdiction are supposed to
be free; and that slavery, where it exists, is a municipal regulation
without any extra territorial operation.’”

With the other points of difference we are not concerned. Whether
slavery should or should not be allowed to extend its blight over the
virgin soil of the new Territories, and thus make its final extinction
well-nigh impossible: that was the all-important issue, and not Illinois
alone, but the country at large, was profoundly interested in the
arguments of the two contestants.

Which was likely to win?

It might have been supposed at the outset that Lincoln would find
himself overmatched. He was hardly known outside his own State, though
he had served two years in Congress. Douglas was a statesman of national
reputation. For fifteen years he had been in the thick of the conflict.
He was a recognized leader of his party, and already he was looked upon
as a probable President at no distant period. In scholastic training he
was far ahead of Mr. Lincoln. He was a forcible speaker, an adroit and
experienced politician, and his recognized position lent a certain
weight to his words which his opponent could not claim.

But, admitting all this, Mr. Douglas found himself confronted by no
inferior antagonist. Abraham Lincoln had a strong logical mind, quick to
detect sophistry and bold to expose it. He had a fine command of
language, a clear and pleasant voice, and a power of sarcasm which he
used with powerful execution at times. This is the way in which an
intelligent correspondent speaks of his speech at Galesburg:

“For about forty minutes he spoke with a power which we have seldom
heard equalled. There was a grandeur in his thoughts, a
comprehensiveness in his arguments, and a binding force in his
conclusions, which were perfectly irresistible. The vast throng was
silent as death, every eye was fixed upon the speaker, and all gave him
serious attention. He was the tall man eloquent; his countenance glowed
with animation, and his eye glistened with an intelligence that made it
lustrous. He was no longer awkward and ungainly; but graceful, bold, and

“Mr. Douglas had been quietly smoking up to this time, but here he
forgot his cigar and listened with anxious attention. When he rose to
reply he appeared excited, disturbed, and his second effort seemed to us
vastly inferior to his first. Mr. Lincoln had given him a great task,
and Mr. Douglas had not time to answer him, even if he had the ability.”

Yet there were many points of resemblance between the two contestants.
Both had been cradled in poverty, and had fought their way upward from
obscurity to distinction. Douglas had climbed the higher, but the
topmost round of the ladder on which he had for some time fixed longing
eyes, he was destined never to mount. He had sacrificed much to reach
the crowning distinction, but it was not for him. His awkward,
ungraceful opponent, obscure in comparison with him, was destined to
stride past him and sit in the coveted seat of power. But the smaller
prize--the Senatorship--was won by Douglas, though Lincoln carried the
popular vote.



If I were writing a complete and exhaustive biography of Mr. Lincoln, I
should be tempted to quote freely from the speeches made by both
contestants in the memorable campaign which made Douglas a Senator, and
his opponent the next President of the United States. But neither my
space, nor the scope of my book, allows this. I will, however, quote, as
likely to be of general interest, the personal description of Lincoln
given by his distinguished rival:

“In the remarks I have made on this platform,” said Judge Douglas, “and
the position of Mr. Lincoln upon it, I mean nothing personally
disrespectful or unkind to that gentleman. I have known him for nearly
twenty-five years. There were many points of sympathy between us when we
first got acquainted. We were both comparatively boys, and both
struggling with poverty in a strange land. I was a school-teacher in the
town of Winchester, and he a flourishing grocery-keeper in the town of
Salem. He was more successful in his occupation than I was in mine, and
hence more fortunate in this world’s goods. Lincoln is one of those
peculiar men who perform with admirable skill everything which they
undertake. I made as good a school-teacher as I could, and when a
cabinet-maker I made a good bedstead and tables, although my old boss
said I succeeded better with bureaus and secretaries than with anything
else; but I believe that Lincoln was always more successful in business
than I, for his business enabled him to get into the Legislature. I met
him there, however, and had a sympathy with him, because of the up-hill
struggle we both had in life.

“He was then just as good at telling an anecdote as now. He could beat
any of the boys in wrestling, or running a foot-race, in pitching
quoits, or tossing a copper; could ruin more liquor than all the boys of
the town together, and the dignity and impartiality with which he
presided at a horse-race or a fist-fight, excited the admiration and
won the praise of everybody that was present and participated. I
sympathized with him because he was struggling with difficulties and so
was I. Mr. Lincoln served with me in the Legislature in 1836, when we
both retired, and he subsided, or became submerged, and he was lost
sight of as a public man for some years. In 1846, when Wilmot introduced
the celebrated proviso, and the Abolition tornado swept over the
country, Lincoln again turned up as a Member of Congress from the
Sangamon district. I was then in the Senate of the United States, and
was glad to welcome my old friend and companion. While in Congress, he
distinguished himself by his opposition to the Mexican war, taking the
side of our common enemy against his own country; and when he returned
home he found that the indignation of the people followed him
everywhere, and he was again submerged, or obliged to retire into
private life, forgotten by his former friends.”

This sketch of Mr. Lincoln, though apparently friendly, was artfully
calculated to stir up prejudice against him, and the backwoods statesman
was not willing to leave it unanswered. Generally he was quite well
able to take care of himself, and did not fail in the present instance.

This is his reply:

“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 had 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 in a
little still-house up at the head of a hollow. And so I think my friend,
the Judge, is equally at fault when he charges me at the time when I was
in Congress with having opposed our soldiers who were fighting in the
Mexican war. The Judge did not make his charge very distinctly, but I
can tell you what he can prove by referring to the record. You remember
I was an old Whig, and whenever 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
anything 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 were fighting in the
Mexican war, or did anything else to hinder the soldiers, he is, to say
the least, grossly and altogether mistaken, as a consultation of the
records will prove to him.”

Not content with defending himself, Mr. Lincoln essayed on his side to
contrast his opponent and himself, and, like him, he indulged in
personal reminiscences.

“Twenty-two years ago Judge Douglas and I first became acquainted; we
were both young then--he a trifle younger than I. Even then we were both
ambitious,--I perhaps quite as much so as he. With me the race of
ambition has been a failure,--a flat failure; with him it has been one
of splendid success. His name fills the nation, and is not unknown even
in foreign lands. I affect no contempt for the high eminence he has
reached,--so reached that the oppressed of my species might have shared
with me in the elevation. I would rather stand on that eminence than
wear the richest crown that ever pressed a monarch’s brow.”

In another connection Mr. Lincoln says: “Senator Douglas is of
world-wide renown. All the anxious politicians of his party, or who had
been of his party for years past, have been looking upon him as
certainly, at no distant day, to be the President of the United States.
They have seen in his round, jolly, fruitful face, post-offices,
land-offices, marshalships, and cabinet appointments, chargéships and
foreign missions, bursting and sprouting out in wonderful exuberance,
ready to be laid hold of by their greedy hands. And as they have been
gazing upon this attractive picture so long, they can not, in the little
distraction that has taken place in the party, bring themselves to give
up the charming hope; but, with greedier anxiety, they rush about him,
sustain him, and give him marches, triumphal entries, and receptions,
beyond what, even in the days of his highest prosperity, they could have
brought about in his favor. On the contrary, nobody has ever expected me
to be President. In _my_ poor, lean, lank face nobody has ever seen that
any cabbages were sprouting out. There are disadvantages, all taken
together, that the Republicans labor under. We have to fight this battle
upon principle, and upon principle alone.”

It may be said, in summing up, that Mr. Lincoln proved himself to be
fully a match for Judge Douglas in this memorable campaign. I may go
further and say that he overmatched him, for he adroitly propounded
questions which his opponent was compelled to answer, and did answer in
a way that killed him as a Presidential candidate. Though he ran in
1860, it was as an independent candidate. He had failed to retain the
full confidence of his party, and could not secure the regular
nomination. Indeed, he contributed indirectly to Lincoln’s election, by
dividing his own party, so that Mr. Lincoln became President, though
receiving considerably less than one-half of the popular vote. It is
obvious that Mr. Lincoln, who admits, as we have seen, that he was quite
as ambitious as Douglas, was looking farther than the Senatorship. Yet
he was personally disappointed when the majority in the Legislature
proved to be for Douglas, and secured the election of the latter. He
expressed this in his usual quaint way when some one asked him how he
felt. He said, “that he felt like the boy that stubbed his toe,--it hurt
too bad to laugh, and he was too big to cry.”

It is probable that Abraham Lincoln, though he says no one had ever
expected him to be President, was not without Presidential aspirations.
He thought no doubt that an election as Senator would help his chances,
and that the Senatorial position would prove a stepping-stone. Even the
shrewdest, however, are liable to make mistakes, and we are led to
believe that Mr. Lincoln was mistaken in this instance. If he had
triumphed over Douglas in 1858, it is more than likely that by some word
or act as Senator he would have aroused prejudices that would have made
him unavailable in 1860, and the nation would never have discovered the
leader who, under Providence, led it out of the wilderness, and
conducted it to peace and freedom. I do not want to moralize overmuch,
but can not help saying to my readers that in the lives of all there are
present disappointments that lead to ultimate success and prosperity. It
would not be hard to adduce convincing proofs. Washington and Garfield
both desired to go to sea when they were boys. Had their wishes been
gratified their after-careers might have been very different. Cromwell
had made all arrangements to sail for America when still obscure. He
was prevented, and remained in his own country to control its destiny,
and take a position at the head of affairs. Remember this when your
cherished plans are defeated. There is a higher wisdom than ours that
shapes and directs our lives.



Henceforth Abraham Lincoln was a marked man. He had sprung into national
prominence. Limited as had been his tenure of office--including only two
years in the lower house of Congress--it is remarkable how suddenly he
came to be recognized as a leader. But at the East he was known only by
reputation. This was soon remedied. He received an invitation to lecture
in New York, or rather in Mr. Beecher’s church in Brooklyn. He was well
pleased to accept, but stipulated that he should be permitted to speak
on a political subject. When he reached New York, he found that a change
had been made in the place where he was to speak, and the Cooper
Institute, where at intervals nearly every eminent man in the country
has been heard, had been engaged for his début.

It was not without a feeling of modest shyness that he surveyed the
immense audience gathered to hear him, and he was surprised to see the
most cultivated citizens of the great metropolis upon the platform.
Among them was William Cullen Bryant, who was president of the meeting,
and in that capacity introduced him as “an eminent citizen of the West,
hitherto known to you only by reputation.”

Mr. Lincoln commenced his address in low tones, but his voice became
louder and his manner more confident as he proceeded. His speech was an
elaborate argument to prove that the original framers of the American
Government intended that the Federal Government should exercise absolute
control of the Federal territories, so far as the subject of slavery was
concerned, and had never surrendered this high privilege to local
legislation. This he established by incontrovertible proof, and in so
doing quite upset Senator Douglas’ theory of Squatter Sovereignty.
Incidentally he vindicated the right of the Republican party to exist.

I have not room to quote from this remarkable speech. I am afraid I have
already introduced more extracts from speeches than my young readers
will enjoy. They are necessary, however, if we would understand what
were the views of Mr. Lincoln, and what made him President.

The next day Mr. Lincoln’s speech was printed in full in two prominent
papers--the _Tribune_ and the _Evening Post_, accompanied by comments of
the most favorable character. The first was edited by Horace Greeley,
the latter by the poet Bryant, who was nearly as conspicuous a
politician as a poet. “No man ever before made such an impression on his
first appeal to a New York audience,” said the _Tribune_.

Robert Lincoln, Mr. Lincoln’s oldest son, was a student at Harvard, and
his father travelled into New England to visit him. He was besieged by
applications to speak at Republican meetings, and accepted a few
invitations, being everywhere cordially received. This visit no doubt
bore fruit, and drew many voters to his standard, when he had been
formally presented to the country as a candidate for the Presidency.
That my readers may learn how he spoke, and how he appeared, I quote
from the Manchester (N. H.) _Mirror_, an independent paper:

“He spoke an hour and a half with great fairness, great apparent candor,
and with wonderful interest. He did not abuse the South, the
administration, or the Democrats, or indulge in any personalities, with
the exception of a few hits at Douglas’ notions. He is far from
prepossessing in personal appearance, and his voice is disagreeable; and
yet he wins your attention and good-will from the start. He indulges in
no flowers of rhetoric, no eloquent passages. He is not a wit, a
humorist, or a clown; yet so great a vein of pleasantry and good-nature
pervades what he says, gilding over a deep current of practical argument
he keeps his hearers in a smiling mood, with their mouths open ready to
swallow all he says. His sense of the ludicrous is very keen; and an
exhibition of that is the clincher of all his arguments,--not the
ludicrous acts of persons, but ludicrous ideas. Hence he is never
offensive, and steals away willingly into his train of belief persons
who were opposed to him. For the first half hour his opponents would
agree with everything he uttered; and from that point he began to lead
them off little by little, until it seemed as if he had got them all
into his fold. He displays more shrewdness, more knowledge of the
masses of mankind, than any public speaker we have heard since Long Jim
Wilson left for California.”

On the day succeeding his speech in Norwich, he met in the cars a
clergyman named Gulliver, who sought his acquaintance.

“Mr. Lincoln,” he said, “I thought your speech last evening the most
remarkable I ever heard.”

“You do not mean this?” said Mr. Lincoln, incredulously.

“Indeed, sir,” said Gulliver, “I learned more of the art of public
speaking last evening than I could from a whole course of lectures on

Mr. Lincoln was puzzled, for he was not a man to accept extravagant

“I should like very much to know what it was in my speech which you
thought so remarkable,” he said.

“The clearness of your statements,” answered Gulliver, “the unanswerable
style of your reasoning, and especially your illustrations, which were
romance and pathos, and fun and logic, all welded together.”

“I am much obliged to you for this,” said Mr. Lincoln. “I have been
wishing for a long time to find some one who would make this analysis
for me. It throws light on a subject which has been dark to me. I can
understand very readily how such a power as you have ascribed to me will
account for the effect which seems to be produced by my speeches. I hope
you have not been too flattering in your estimate. Certainly I have had
a most wonderful success for a man of my limited education.”

“Mr. Lincoln, may I say one thing to you before we separate?” asked Mr.
Gulliver later.

“Certainly; anything you please.”

“You have spoken of the tendency of political life in Washington to
debase the moral convictions of our representatives there, by the
admixture of considerations of mere political expediency. You have
become, by the controversy with Mr. Douglas, one of our leaders in this
great struggle with slavery, which is undoubtedly _the_ struggle of the
nation and the age. What I would like to say is this, and I say it with
a full heart: _Be true to your principles, and we will be true to you,
and God will be true to us all!_”

“I say amen to that! amen to that!” answered Mr. Lincoln, taking his
hand in both his own, while his face lighted up sympathetically.

I may as well mention here the first public occasion on which Mr.
Lincoln’s name was mentioned for the Presidency.

On the 9th and 10th of May the Republican State Convention met at
Decatur. Mr. Lincoln was present as a spectator, but he attracted the
attention of Gov. Oglesby, who rose, and said: “I am informed that a
distinguished citizen of Illinois, and one whom Illinois will ever
delight to honor, is present; and I wish to move that this body invite
him to a seat on the stand.”

Public interest and curiosity were aroused. Who was this distinguished

The Governor paused a moment, and then uttered the name of Abraham

Instantly there was a roar of applause, there was a rush to where the
astonished Lincoln sat, he was seized, and the crowd being too dense to
press through, he was literally passed over the heads and shoulders of
the great throng until breathless he found himself on the platform.
Willing or unwilling he was literally for the time being “in the hands
of his friends.”

Later on Gov. Oglesby rose once more and said: “There is an old Democrat
outside who has something which he wishes to present to the Convention.”

“What is it?” “What is it?” “Receive it!” shouts the crowd.

The door of the wigwam opens, and an old man, bluff and hearty, comes
forward, bearing on his shoulder two small rails, surmounted by a
banner, with this inscription:--


     From a lot made by Abraham Lincoln and John Hanks, in the Sangamon
     Bottom, in the year 1830.

This old man was John Hanks himself! His entrance was greeted with
tumultuous applause.

“Lincoln! Lincoln! A speech!” shouts the crowd.

Mr. Lincoln seemed amused. He rose at length and said:

“Gentlemen, I suppose you want to know something about those things,”
(the rails). “Well, the truth is, John Hanks and I did make rails in
the Sangamon Bottom. I don’t know whether we made those rails or not;
fact is, I don’t think they are a credit to the makers,” (laughing as he
spoke). “But I do know this: I made rails then, and I think I could make
better ones than these now.”

Before the Convention dissolved, a resolution was passed, declaring that
“Abraham Lincoln is the first choice of the Republican party of Illinois
for the Presidency, and instructing the delegates to the Chicago
Convention to use all honorable means to secure his nomination, and to
cast the vote of the State as a unit for him.”

So Abraham Lincoln, “the rail-splitter,” as he was familiarly called,
was fairly in the field as a candidate for the highest office in the
gift of the nation.



On the 16th of May the Republican Convention assembled in Chicago.
Considered with reference to its outcome, no more important convention
had assembled since the organization of the Government. Though this
could not be realized at the time, its deliberations were followed with
great interest all over the country. The opponents of the slave power
were, for the first time, to make a formidable effort to prevent its
extension and indefinite perpetuation.

Of course, there had been more or less electioneering in advance. Half a
dozen candidates were in the field; but there were two who were
recognized as leading in strength and popularity. These were William H.
Seward and Abraham Lincoln. The former, in length and variety of public
service, in general culture, and national reputation, was far superior.
It was felt that he would make an admirable candidate, and that he
deserved the nomination; but there were many who were strongly opposed
to him. Three important States--Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and
Indiana--declared that, as against Douglas, they could do nothing if
Seward were the nominee. Illinois, of course, was for Lincoln, and this
giant of the Western prairies enjoyed a popularity which his more
experienced competitor could not boast. Yet for the first two days
Seward’s chances seemed the better of the two. The other candidates
whose names were presented to the Convention were Mr. Dayton, of New
Jersey; Mr. Cameron, of Pennsylvania; Edward Bates, of Missouri; and
Ohio offered two distinguished sons--Salmon P. Chase and John McLean.

On the first and second ballots Mr. Seward led; but, on the third, Mr.
Lincoln lacked but a vote and a half of the number necessary to make him
the nominee. An Ohio delegate rose and changed four votes from Chase to
Lincoln. This was sufficient. He was nominated. The vast building shook
with the cheers of the dense throng. State after State changed its vote
to the man of destiny, and his nomination was made unanimous. In the
afternoon, Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine, was nominated for Vice-President.

Meanwhile Mr. Lincoln was in Springfield, bearing the suspense as well
as he could. My boy readers will be interested to know that he spent a
considerable part of his time in playing baseball, his mind being too
preoccupied to do his ordinary work. Dispatches were received from time
to time, but nothing decisive.

Mr. Lincoln and some of his friends were waiting in the office of the
_Journal_ when the local editor rushed in, in a fever of excitement.

“What’s the news?” was the breathless inquiry.

“The Convention has made a nomination,” he said, “and Mr. Seward----”

A look of intense disappointment was beginning to show itself on the
faces of the listeners. They supposed that Seward was nominated.

“And Seward is--the second man on the list,” continued the editor.

He could no longer restrain himself. Jumping on the editorial table, he
shouted, “Gentlemen, I propose three cheers for Abraham Lincoln, the
next President of the United States.”

The cheers were given with a will.

The dispatch was handed to Mr. Lincoln, who read it quietly.

Then he put it in his pocket, saying, “There is a little woman on Eighth
Street who will be interested to hear this,” and he walked home.

In Springfield the news excited the greatest enthusiasm. All knew and
loved Abraham Lincoln. He set himself above no one, but greeted all with
cordial kindness. The nomination was felt to be a personal compliment to
Springfield. The country had come to them for a President, and to the
man above all others whom they would personally have selected.

That day Mr. Lincoln had to keep open house. His modest residence proved
quite too small to contain the crowds who wanted to enter and shake
hands with the man who had become so suddenly of national importance.
They received a cordial welcome; and no one could detect in the nominee
any unusual elation nor any deviation from his usual plain and modest

The next day Mr. Lincoln was formally notified of his election by a
Committee of the Convention, with Mr. Ashmun at the head. This was his

“Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Committee:--I tender to you, and
through you to the Republican National Convention, and all the people
represented in it, my profoundest thanks for the high honor done me,
which you now formally announce. Deeply and even painfully sensible of
the great responsibility which is inseparable from this high honor--a
responsibility which I could almost wish had fallen upon some one of the
far more eminent men and experienced statesmen whose distinguished names
were before the Convention, I shall, by your leave, consider more fully
the resolutions of the Convention, denominated the platform, and,
without unnecessary and unreasonable delay, respond to you, Mr.
Chairman, in writing, not doubting that the platform will be found
satisfactory, and the nomination gratefully accepted. And now I will not
longer defer the pleasure of taking you, and each of you, by the hand.”

Let us consider who were Mr. Lincoln’s rivals in the Presidential race.
Usually there are but two tickets in the field. This time there were
four. First in order of time had come the National Constitutional Union
Convention, made up largely of old Whigs. At this Convention John Bell,
of Tennessee, was nominated for President, and Edward Everett, of
Massachusetts, for Vice-President. The Democratic National Convention
had met at Charleston, but adjourned without deciding upon a candidate.
Mr. Douglas was the most prominent man before it, but extreme
Southerners doubted his entire devotion to slavery, and he was unable to
obtain the necessary two-thirds vote. The two factions into which the
Convention split afterward met: the one at Baltimore, the other at
Richmond. At the Baltimore Convention Stephen A. Douglas was nominated
for President, and Mr. Johnson, of Georgia, for Vice-President. At the
Richmond Convention of Southern seceders, John C. Breckinridge, of
Kentucky, and Joseph Lane, of Oregon, were selected as standard-bearers.

In this division of the Democracy lay the hope of the new Republican
party. With the Democracy united they would have been unable to cope;
but they were stronger than either faction. When the eventful 6th of
November arrived, the result was what might have been anticipated.
Abraham Lincoln, the poor boy whose fortunes we have so long followed,
reached the highest step of political preferment. He received 1,857,610
votes; Mr. Douglas came next, with 1,291,574; while Mr. Breckinridge
could muster only 850,082; Mr. Bell secured 646,124. Of the electoral
votes, however, Mr. Lincoln received a majority, namely, 180 out of 292.

To go back a little. From the day of Mr. Lincoln’s nomination he was
beset by callers--some drawn by curiosity, and many by considerations of
private interest. They found him the same unaffected, plain man that he
had always been. He even answered the door-bell himself, and personally
ushered visitors in and out. My readers will be interested in two
anecdotes of this time, which I transcribe from the interesting volume
of Dr. Holland, already more than once referred to:

“Mr. Lincoln being seated in conversation with a gentleman one day, two
raw, plainly-dressed young ‘Suckers’ entered the room and bashfully
lingered near the door. As soon as he observed them and apprehended
their embarrassment, he rose and walked to them, saying, ‘How do you do,
my good fellows? What can I do for you? Will you sit down?’

“The spokesman of the pair, the shorter of the two, declined to sit, and
explained the object of the call thus: he had had a talk about the
relative height of Mr. Lincoln and his companion, and had asserted his
belief that they were of exactly the same height. He had come in to
verify his judgment. Mr. Lincoln smiled, went and got his cane, and,
placing the end of it upon the wall, said, ‘Here, young man, come under

“The young man came under the cane, as Mr. Lincoln held it, and when it
was perfectly adjusted to his height, Mr. Lincoln said, ‘Now come out,
and hold up the cane.’ This he did, while Mr. Lincoln stepped under.
Rubbing his head back and forth to see that it worked easily under the
measurement, he stepped out, and declared to the sagacious fellow who
was curiously looking on, that he had guessed with remarkable
accuracy--that he and the young man were exactly of the same height.
Then he shook hands with them, and sent them on their way. Mr. Lincoln
would just as soon have thought of cutting off his right hand as he
would have thought of turning those boys away with the impression that
they had in any way insulted his dignity.

“They had hardly disappeared when an old and modestly-dressed woman made
her appearance. She knew Mr. Lincoln, but Mr Lincoln did not at first
recognize her. Then she undertook to recall to his memory certain
incidents connected with his ride upon the Circuit--especially upon his
dining at her house upon the road at different times. Then he remembered
her and her home. Having fixed her own place in her recollection, she
tried to recall to him a certain scanty dinner of bread and milk that he
once ate at her house. He could not remember it; on the contrary, he
only remembered that he had always fared well at her house. ‘Well,’ said
she, ‘one day you came along after we had got through dinner, and we had
eaten up everything, and I could give you nothing but a bowl of bread
and milk; and you ate it; and when you got up you said it was good
enough for the President of the United States.’ The good old woman,
remembering the remark, had come in from the country, making a journey
of eight or ten miles, to relate to Mr. Lincoln this incident, which, in
her mind, had doubtless taken the form of prophecy. Mr. Lincoln placed
the honest creature at her ease, chatted with her of old times, and
dismissed her in the most happy and complacent frame of mind.”



However bitter and acrimonious a political campaign may have been, the
result is usually accepted good-naturedly. The defeated party hopes for
better luck next time, and awaits with interest the course of the new
Executive. But this was not the case after the election which made Mr.
Lincoln President. The South was sullen, the North divided in sentiment.
The party that sustained slavery had staked all on the issue of the
campaign. They were not disposed to acquiesce in the result. They were
quiet, but it was a dangerous quiet. They were biding their time, and
meant mischief.

James Buchanan was President. He was an old man; cautious to timidity,
overawed by the bold, defiant spirits that constituted his Cabinet--not
seeing, or not caring to see, the evidences of their disloyalty. Never
did a President long more ardently for his term to close. He saw that a
storm was brewing, the like of which the country had never seen. He
earnestly hoped that it would not burst till he had laid down the
responsibilities of office.

Abraham Lincoln waited quietly at Springfield for the time to come that
should separate him from the tranquil course of life he had led hitherto
and precipitate him into the maelstrom of political excitement at
Washington, wherein he was to be the central figure. Knowing him as in
after years we learned to know him, we can not doubt that at times he
felt almost overwhelmed by his coming burdens. It was well, perhaps,
that he was not permitted to be too much alone. His attention was
distracted by throngs of visitors,--autograph-hunters and office-seekers
being the most conspicuous--who consumed a large part of his time.

As this story is written especially for young people, I will venture to
transcribe from Mr. Holland’s “Life” two incidents which connected him
with children:

“He was holding a reception at the Tremont House in Chicago. A fond
father took in a little boy by the hand who was anxious to see the new
President. The moment the child entered the parlor door, he of his own
motion, and quite to the surprise of his father, took off his hat, and,
giving it a swing, cried, ‘Hurrah for Lincoln!’ There was a crowd, but
as soon as Mr. Lincoln could get hold of the little fellow, he lifted
him in his hands, and, tossing him toward the ceiling, laughingly
shouted, ‘Hurrah for you!’

“To Mr. Lincoln it was evidently a refreshing episode in the dreary work
of hand-shaking.

“At a party in Chicago during this visit, he saw a little girl timidly
approaching him. He called her to him, and asked her what she wished
for. She replied that she wanted his name. Mr. Lincoln looked back into
the room, and said, ‘But here are other little girls--they would feel
badly if I should give my name only to you.’ The little girl replied
that there were eight in all. ‘Then,’ said Mr. Lincoln, ‘get me eight
sheets of paper and pen and ink and I will see what I can do for you.’
The paper was brought, and Mr. Lincoln sat down in the crowded
drawing-room, and wrote a sentence upon each sheet, appending his name;
and thus every little girl carried off her souvenir.”

On the 11th of February, 1861, Abraham Lincoln left his pleasant Western
home for the capital. It was to be a leisurely journey, for he would be
expected to stop at many points to meet friends and receive friendly
greetings. Three weeks were to elapse before he would be inaugurated,
but, as he bade farewell to his friends and neighbors, he felt that the
burden of care had already fallen upon him. How he felt may be
understood from the few farewell words which he spoke. As reported by
Mr. Lamon, they are as follows:

“Friends:--No one who has never been placed in a like position can
understand my feelings at this hour, nor the oppressive sadness I feel
at this parting. For more than a quarter of a century I have lived among
you, and, during all that time, I have received nothing but kindness at
your hands. Here I have lived from my youth, until now I am an old man.
Here the most sacred ties of earth were assumed. Here all my children
were born, and here one of them lies buried. To you, dear friends, I owe
all that I have--all that I am. All the strange, checkered past seems
to crowd upon my mind. To-day I leave you. I go to assume a task more
difficult than that which devolved upon Washington. Unless the great God
who assisted him shall be with and aid me, I must fail; but, if the same
Omniscient mind and almighty arm that directed and protected him shall
guide and support me, I shall not fail--I shall succeed. Let us all pray
that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now. To Him I commend you
all. Permit me to ask that, with equal security and faith, you will
invoke His wisdom and guidance for me. With these few words, I must
leave you; for how long, I know not. Friends, one and all, I must now
bid you an affectionate farewell.”

I have already alluded to Mr. Lincoln’s constitutional melancholy
inherited from his mother. With it was joined a vein of superstition,
which at times darkened the shadow that seemed to hover about him. In
this connection, and as an illustration of this characteristic of the
President-elect, I quote an interesting reminiscence of John Hay, the
secretary of Mr. Lincoln, in the words of his chief:

“It was just after my election in 1860, when the news had been coming in
thick and fast all day, and there had been a great ‘hurrah, boys!’ so
that I was well tired out, and went home to rest, throwing myself upon a
lounge in my chamber. Opposite to where I lay was a bureau with a
swinging glass upon it; and, in looking in that glass, I saw myself
reflected nearly at full length; but my face, I noticed, had two
separate and distinct images--the tip of the nose of one being about
three inches from the tip of the other. I was a little bothered--perhaps
startled, and got up and looked in the glass, but the illusion vanished.
On lying down again I saw it a second time--plainer, if possible, than
before; and then I noticed that one of the faces was a little
paler--say, five shades--than the other. I got up, and the thing melted
away; and I went off, and in the excitement of the hour forgot all about
it--nearly, but not quite; for the thing would once in a while come up
and give me a little pang, as if something uncomfortable had happened.
When I went home, I told my wife about it; and a few days after, I tried
the experiment again--when, sure enough, the thing came back again; but
I never succeeded in bringing back the ghost after that, though I once
tried very industriously to show it to my wife, who was worried about it
somewhat. She thought it was a ‘sign’ that I was to be elected to a
second term of office, and that the paleness of one of the faces was an
omen that I should not see life through the last term.”

Mrs. Lincoln’s impression was curiously correct, as it turned out; but
we must set it down as a singular coincidence, and nothing more.
Campbell, in one of his spirited lyrics, tells us that “Coming events
cast their shadows before”; but it is hardly likely that in this case
God should have sent the President-elect a premonition of the fate which
was to overtake him some years later. It is better to consider that the
vision had a natural cause in the rumors of assassination which were
even then rife on account of the bitter feeling excited by the election
of a Republican President. Such rumors had been brought to Mr. Lincoln
himself, and he had been urged to take measures against assassination.
But he considered them useless. “If they want to kill me,” he said,
“there is nothing to prevent.” He felt that it would be easy enough for
an enemy to take his life, no matter how many guards he might have
around him. If it were his destiny to die, he felt that death would come
in spite of all precautions.

I need hardly say that Mr. Lincoln was unfortunate in having such a
temperament. Fortunately, it is exceptional. A cheerful, sunny
temperament, that rejoices in prosperity and makes the best of
adversity, providing against ill-fortune, but not anticipating it, is a
happy possession. In Mr. Lincoln his morbid feelings were lighted up and
relieved by a strong sense of humor, which made him in his lighter
moments a very agreeable companion.



Before proceeding to speak of Abraham Lincoln as President, I desire
that my readers may know him as well as possible, and for that purpose I
will transcribe an account of a visit to him by a correspondent of the
New York _Evening Post_. I find it in D. W. Bartlett’s book, entitled
“The Life and Public Services of Hon. Abraham Lincoln”:

“It had been reported by some of Mr. Lincoln’s political enemies that he
was a man who lived in the lowest Hoosier style, and I thought I would
see for myself. Accordingly, as soon as the business of the Convention
was closed, I took the cars for Springfield. I found Mr. Lincoln living
in a handsome, but not pretentious, double two-story frame house, having
a wide hall running through the center, with parlors on both sides,
neatly, but not ostentatiously furnished. It was just such a dwelling
as a majority of the well-to-do residents of these fine Western towns
occupy. Everything about it had a look of comfort and independence. The
library I remarked in passing particularly, and I was pleased to see
long rows of books, which told of the scholarly tastes and culture of
the family.

“Lincoln received us with great, and, to me, surprising, urbanity. I had
seen him before in New York, and brought with me an impression of his
awkward and ungainly manner; but in his own house, where he doubtless
feels himself freer than in the strange New York circles, he had thrown
this off, and appeared easy if not graceful.

“He is, as you know, a tall, lank man, with a long neck, and his
ordinary movements are unusually angular, even out West. As soon,
however, as he gets interested in conversation, his face lights up, and
his attitudes and gestures assume a certain dignity and impressiveness.
His conversation is fluent, agreeable, and polite. You see at once from
it that he is a man of decided and original character. His views are all
his own; such as he has worked out from a patient and varied scrutiny
of life, and not such as he has learned from others. Yet he can not be
called opinionated. He listens to others like one eager to learn, and
his replies evince at the same time both modesty and self-reliance. I
should say that sound common-sense was the principal quality of his
mind, although at times a striking phrase or word reveals a peculiar
vein of thought. He tells a story well, with a strong idiomatic smack,
and seems to relish humor, both in himself and others. Our conversation
was mainly political, but of a general nature. One thing Mr. Lincoln
remarked which I will venture to repeat. He said that in the coming
Presidential canvass he was wholly uncommitted to any cabals or cliques,
and that he meant to keep himself free from them, and from all pledges
and promises.

“I had the pleasure also of a brief interview with Mrs. Lincoln, and, in
the circumstances of these persons, I trust I am not trespassing on the
sanctities of private life, in saying a word in regard to that lady.
Whatever of awkwardness may be ascribed to her husband, there is none of
it in her. On the contrary, she is quite a pattern of ladylike courtesy
and polish. She converses with freedom and grace, and is thoroughly _au
fait_ in all the little amenities of society. Mrs. Lincoln belongs, by
the mother’s side, to the Preston family of Kentucky; has received a
liberal and refined education, and, should she ever reach it, will adorn
the White House. She is, I am told, a strict and consistent member of
the Presbyterian church.

“Not a man of us who saw Mr. Lincoln but was impressed by his ability
and character. In illustration of the last, let me mention one or two
things which your readers, I think, will be pleased to hear. Mr.
Lincoln’s early life, as you know, was passed in the roughest kind of
experience on the frontier, and among the roughest sort of people. Yet,
I have been told, that, in the face of all these influences, he is a
strictly temperate man, never using wine or strong drink, and, stranger
still, he does not ‘twist the filthy weed,’ nor smoke, nor use profane
language of any kind. When we consider how common these vices are all
over our country, particularly in the West, it must be admitted that it
exhibits no little strength of character to have refrained from them.

“Mr. Lincoln is popular with his friends and neighbors; the habitual
equity of his mind points him out as a peace-maker and composer of
difficulties; his integrity is proverbial; and his legal abilities are
regarded as of the highest order. The _sobriquet_ of ‘Honest Old Abe’
has been won by years of upright conduct, and is the popular homage to
his probity. He carries the marks of honesty in his face and entire

“I am the more convinced by this personal intercourse with Mr. Lincoln,
that the action of our Convention was altogether judicious and proper.”

I call the attention of my readers to what is said of Mr. Lincoln’s
freedom from bad habits of every kind, though brought up as he had been,
and with the surroundings of his early life, it would have been natural
for him to fall into them.

During Mr. Lincoln’s visit to New York, he visited the Five Points House
of Industry. This was probably at the time of his first visit, already
referred to, when he made an address at the Cooper Institute. One who
was at that time a teacher in the House of Industry, gives this account
of the visit:

“Our Sunday-school in the Five Points was assembled one Sabbath morning,
a few months since, when I noticed a tall and remarkable-looking man
enter the room and take a seat among us. He listened with fixed
attention to our exercises, and his countenance manifested such genuine
interest that I approached him and suggested that he might be willing to
say something to the children.

“He accepted the invitation with evident pleasure, and, coming forward,
began a simple address, which at once fascinated every little hearer,
and hushed the room into silence. His language was strikingly beautiful,
and his tones musical with intensest feeling. The little faces around
would droop into sad conviction as he uttered sentences of warning, and
would brighten into sunshine as he spoke cheerful words of promise. Once
or twice he attempted to close his remarks, but the imperative shouts of
‘Go on!’ ‘Oh, do go on!’ would compel him to resume. As I looked upon
the gaunt and sinewy frame of the stranger, and marked his powerful head
and determined features, now touched into softness by the impressions of
the moment, I felt an irrepressible curiosity to learn something more
about him, and when he was quietly leaving the room, I begged to know
his name. He courteously replied:

“‘It is Abraham Lincoln, from Illinois!’”

It is easy to understand how the sight of these poor children should
have touched the heart of the backwoods boy. Doubtless they recalled to
his memory his own neglected childhood, and his early privations, when
he was not in a position to learn even as well as these poor waifs from
the city streets. If only that speech could have been reported, with
what interest would we read it to-day. It must have been instinct with
sympathy to have made such a powerful impression on these poor children
and the teacher who tells the story.



There were unusual circumstances attending the close of Mr. Lincoln’s
journey to the Capital. So bitter was the feeling engendered among his
opponents that plots were entered into against his life. Dr. Holland
states that the President-elect was cognizant of his danger. An attempt
was made to throw the train off the track on which he journeyed from
Springfield. There was a rumor that when he reached Baltimore
conspirators would surround his carriage in the guise of friends, and
accomplish his assassination. These reports were probably exaggerated,
and Mr. Lamon discredits them altogether, but it is likely that they
were well founded. At any rate, measures were taken to ferret out the
conspiracy, and, by advice of General Scott and Senator Seward, then in
Washington, Mr. Lincoln quietly left Harrisburg by a special train in
advance of his party, and arrived in Washington at half-past six in the
morning, when no one expected him except those who had arranged this
deviation from the regular programme. The moment he left Harrisburg the
telegraph wires were cut, so that intelligence of his departure could
not be sent to a distance.

It was strange and as yet unprecedented, this secret and
carefully-guarded journey, but the circumstances seemed to make it
necessary. His friends received him with a feeling of happy relief, and,
as the morning advanced, and it was learned that he was in the city,
Washington enjoyed a sensation. There were many at the time who
ridiculed the fears of Mr. Lincoln’s friends, and disapproved of the
caution which counselled his secret arrival; but sad events that have
since saddened and disgraced the nation, show that both he and his
friends were wise. The assassination of Lincoln on his way to the
Capital would have had far more disastrous effects than the unhappy
tragedy of April, 1865, and might have established Jefferson Davis in
the White House.

There was a strong disloyal element in Washington, and there were more
perhaps who regarded Mr. Lincoln with hostility than with friendship,
but among those who probably were heartily glad to hear of his arrival
was President James Buchanan, who was anxious and eager to lay down the
sceptre, and transfer his high office to his lawful successor. Timid by
nature, he was not the pilot to guide the ship of State in a storm. No
one ever more willingly retired to the peace and security of private

Indeed, as we consider the condition of the country and the state of
public feeling, we are disposed rather to condole with the new President
than to congratulate him. In times of peace and prosperity the position
of Chief Magistrate is a prize worth competing for; but, in 1861, even a
strong man and experienced statesman might well have shrunk from
assuming its duties.

General Winfield Scott was at that time in military command of
Washington. He was fearful that the inaugural exercises might be
interrupted by some violent demonstration, and made preparations
accordingly, but he was happily disappointed. The day dawned bright and
clear. Washington was in holiday attire. Business was generally
suspended, and there was an unusual interest to hear Mr. Lincoln’s
inaugural address. Among the attentive listeners were the retiring
President and Chief-Justice Taney, of the Supreme Court, a man whose
sympathies were with the slave power. It was a creditable and noteworthy
incident of this memorable occasion, that among the friends who stood by
Mr. Lincoln most staunchly, even holding his hat as he delivered his
inaugural, was his old Senatorial and Presidential competitor, Stephen
A. Douglas. Whatever his sentiments were on the issues of the day, he
was not willing to side with, or in any way assist, those who menaced
the national existence. Another defeated candidate, Mr. Breckinridge,
was present, having just surrendered the Vice-President’s chair to Mr.
Hamlin. It was a scene for an artist. There could be no more striking
picture than one which should faithfully represent Abraham Lincoln,
reading his first inaugural before an audience of representative men,
half of whom were hostile, and many of whom, three months later, were in
arms against the Government. All alike, foes as well as friends, were
eager to hear what the new President had to say. Had it been Seward
instead of Lincoln, they could have formed a reasonable conjecture, but
this giant from the Western prairies; this Backwoods Boy, who had grown
to maturity under the most unpromising circumstances; this man, with his
limited experience in but one national office, was an unknown quantity
in politics, and no one knew what manner of man he was. But we shall
never have such a picture. People had more important things to think of
then, and it is too late now. In a time of intense feeling, when the
national existence was at stake, and no one knew what events the next
week would bring forth, there was little taste or time for art.

We, too, may well feel interested in the utterances of the
President-elect. I should be glad to quote the entire address, but as
this is impracticable, I will make a few significant extracts:

“I do not consider it necessary at present,” said Mr. Lincoln, “for me
to discuss those matters of administration about which there is no
special anxiety or excitement. Apprehensions seem to exist among the
people of the Southern States, that, by the accession of a Republican
administration, their property and their peace and personal security
are to be endangered. There has never been any reasonable cause for such
apprehension. Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary has all
the while existed, and been open to their inspection. It is found in
nearly all the published speeches of him who now addresses you. I do but
quote from one of those speeches, when I declare that ‘I have no
purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of
slavery in the States where it exists.’ I believe I have no lawful right
to do so; and I have no inclination to do so. Those who nominated and
elected me did so with the full knowledge that I had made this, and made
many similar declarations, and had never recanted them.”

Further on he says:

“It is seventy-two years to-day since the first inauguration of a
President under our national Constitution. During that period fifteen
different and very distinguished citizens have, in succession,
administered the executive branch of the Government. They have conducted
it through many perils, and generally with great success. Yet, with all
this scope for precedent, I now enter upon the same task, for the brief
constitutional term of four years, under great and peculiar

“A disruption of the Federal Union, heretofore only menaced, is now
formidably attempted. I hold that in the contemplation of universal law
and of the Constitution, the union of these States is perpetual.
Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all
national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper
ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.
Continue to execute all the express provisions of our national
Constitution, and the Union will endure forever, it being impossible to
destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument

“It follows from these views that no State, upon its own mere motion,
can lawfully get out of the Union; that resolves and ordinances to that
effect are legally void; and that acts of violence within any State or
States against the authority of the United States are insurrectionary or
revolutionary, according to circumstances.

“I therefore consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws,
the Union is unbroken, and, to the extent of my ability, I shall take
care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the
laws of the Union shall be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing
this, which I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, I shall
perfectly perform it, so far as is practicable, unless my rightful
masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisition, or in some
authoritative manner direct the contrary.

“I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared
purpose of the Union, that it will constitutionally defend and maintain

After arguing at some length against separation, Mr. Lincoln closes his
address with an appeal to his fellow-citizens:

“My countrymen, one and all, think calmly and well upon this whole
subject. Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.

“If there be an object to hurry any of you, in hot haste, to a step
which you would never take deliberately, that object will be frustrated
by taking time; but no good object can be frustrated by it.

“Such of you as are now dissatisfied still have the old Constitution
unimpaired, and, on the sensitive point, the laws of your own framing,
under it; while the new administration will have no immediate power, if
it would, to change either.

“If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side
in the dispute, there is still no single reason for precipitate action.
Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who
has never yet forsaken this favored land, are still competent to adjust,
in the best way, all our present difficulties.

“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is
the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you.

“You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You
have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I
shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend’ it.

“I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be
enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds
of affection.

“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and
patriotic grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this
broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched,
as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”



No President ever assumed office under such circumstances as Abraham
Lincoln. Nominally chief magistrate of the whole United States, seven
members of the confederation had already seceded. These were South
Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana.
Some had been hurried out of the Union by a few hot-headed politicians,
against the wishes of a considerable part of their inhabitants. It is
known that General Lee and Alexander H. Stephens, though they ultimately
went with their States, were exceedingly reluctant to array themselves
in opposition to the Government.

Mr. Stephens used these patriotic words in an address before the
Legislature of Georgia, Nov. 14, 1860, after the result of the election
was made known: “The first question that presents itself is, shall the
people of the South secede from the Union in consequence of the election
of Mr. Lincoln to the Presidency of the United States? My countrymen, I
tell you candidly, frankly, and earnestly that I do not think that they
ought. In my judgment the election of no man, constitutionally chosen to
that high office, is sufficient cause for any State to separate from the
Union. It ought to stand by and aid still in maintaining the
Constitution of the country. To make a point of resistance to the
Government, to withdraw from it because a man has been constitutionally
elected, puts us in the wrong.... We went into the election with this
people. The result was different from what we wished; but the election
has been constitutionally held. Were we to make a point of resistance to
the Government, and go out of the Union on this account, the record
would be made up hereafter against us.”

These wise and moderate counsels did not prevail. There was a feeling of
bitterness which impelled Southern men to extreme measures. More over,
the temper and firmness of the North were misunderstood. It was thought
they would make the most humiliating concessions to preserve the
integrity of the Union, while on the other hand the constancy and
determination of the Southern people were not sufficiently appreciated
at the North.

Mr. Lincoln’s first necessary act was to make choice of a Cabinet. He
demonstrated his sagacity in surrounding himself with trained and
experienced statesmen, as will be seen at once by the following list:

Secretary of State, William H. Seward, of New York; Secretary of the
Treasury, Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio; Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, of
Pennsylvania; Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, of Connecticut;
Secretary of the Interior, Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana; Postmaster-General,
Montgomery Blair, of Maryland; Attorney-General, Edward Bates, of

These gentlemen were confirmed, and entered upon the discharge of their
duties. Thus the new Administration was complete. Simon Cameron, as
Secretary of War, was superseded in less than a year by Edwin M.
Stanton, who proved to be the right man in the right place. A man of
remarkable executive talent, never shrinking from the heavy burden of
labor and care which his office imposed, he worked indefatigably, and
though he may have offended some by his brusque manners, and unnecessary
sternness, it is doubtful whether a better man could have been selected
for his post. He had been a member of Mr. Buchanan’s Cabinet in its last
days, and did what he could to infuse something of his own vigor into
the timid and vacillating Executive.

It will be seen that Mr. Lincoln called to the most important place in
the Cabinet the man who was his most prominent rival for the nomination,
William H. Seward. In doing this he strengthened his administration
largely in the minds of the people at large, for who was there who was
ignorant of Mr. Seward’s great ability and statesmanship? It may be
remarked here that the new President left to each of his Secretaries
large discretion in their respective departments, and did not interfere
with or overrule them except in cases of extreme necessity. A man of
smaller nature would have gratified his vanity and sense of importance
by meddling with, and so marring the work of his constitutional
advisers; but having selected the best men he could find, Mr. Lincoln
left them free to act, and held them responsible for the successful
management of their departments.

The new President was not long left in uncertainty as to the intentions
of the seceding States. On the 13th of March he received a communication
from two gentlemen, claiming to be commissioners from a government
composed of the seven seceding States, expressing a desire to enter upon
negotiations for the adjustment of all questions growing out of the
separation. To have received them would have been to admit the fact and
right of secession, and therefore their request was denied. On the 11th
of April, General Beauregard, in accordance with instructions from the
rebel Secretary of War, demanded of Major Anderson, in command at Fort
Sumter, the surrender of the fort. Major Anderson declined, but was
compelled to do so on the morning of the 4th, after a bombardment of
thirty-three hours. Thus the South had taken the initiative, and had
made an armed attack upon the Government. Thus far the President had
pursued a conciliatory--some thought it a timid--policy, but when he
heard that Sumter had been taken forcible possession of by rebellious
citizens, he felt that there was no more room for hesitation. The time
had come to act.

On the day succeeding the evacuation of the fort, he issued a
proclamation calling for 75,000 soldiers to recover possession of the
“forts, places, and property which have been seized from the Union,” and
at the same time summoned an extra session of both Houses of Congress,
to assemble on Thursday, the fourth day of July, “to consider and
determine such measures as, in their wisdom, the public safety and
interest may seem to demand.”

It is needless to say that the evacuation of Fort Sumter, and the
President’s proclamation, created a whirlwind of excitement. The South
was jubilant, the North was deeply stirred, and the proclamation was
generally approved and promptly responded to. These spirited lines of
the poet Whittier are well called


    Up the hill-side, down the glen
    Rouse the sleeping citizen;
    Summon out the might of men!

    Like a lion growling low--
    Like a night-storm rising slow--
    Like the tread of unseen foe--

    It is coming--it is nigh!
    Stand your homes and altars by,
    On your own free threshold die!

    Clang the bells in all your spires,
    On the grey hills of your sires
    Fling to heaven your signal fires!

    Oh! for God and duty stand,
    Heart to heart, and hand to hand,
    Round the old graves of the land.

    Who so shrinks or falters now,
    Who so to the yoke would bow,
    Brand the craven on his brow.

    Freedom’s soil has only place
    For a free and fearless race--
    None for traitors false and base.

    Perish party--perish clan,
    Strike together while you can,
    Like the strong arm of one man.

    Like the angel’s voice sublime,
    Heard above a world of crime,
    Crying for the end of Time.

    With one heart and with one mouth
    Let the North speak to the South;
    Speak the word befitting both.

In contrast with this, I will cite a poem, which might be called, not


    Rebels! ’tis a holy name!
      The name our fathers bore,
    When battling in the cause of Right
    Against the tyrant in his might,
      In the dark days of yore.

    Rebels! ’tis our family name!
      Our father, Washington,
    Was the arch rebel in the fight,
    And gave the name to us--aright
      Of father unto son.

    Rebels! ’tis our given name!
      Our mother Liberty
    Received the title with her fame,
    In days of grief, of fear and shame,
      When at her breast were we.

    Rebels! ’tis our sealed name!
      A baptism of blood!
    The war--ay, and the din of strife--
    The fearful contest, life for life--
      The mingled crimson flood!

    Rebels! ’tis a patriot’s name!
      In struggles it was given;
    We bore it then when tyrants raved,
    And through their curses ’twas engraved
      On the doomsday book of heaven.

    Rebels! ’tis our fighting name!
      For peace rules o’er the land,
    Until they speak of craven woe--
    Until our rights received a blow,
      From foes’ or brother’s hand.

    Rebels! ’tis our dying name!
      For although life is dear,
    Yet freemen born and freemen bred,
    We’d rather live as freemen dead
      Than live in slavish fear.

    Then call us Rebels if you will--
      We glory in the name;
    For bending under unjust laws,
    And swearing faith to an unjust cause.
      We count a greater shame.



And thus commenced the great war of the Rebellion--a war which in some
respects has never had its parallel. Commencing but a few weeks after
Mr. Lincoln’s administration began, it was at its last gasp when upon
the 4th of March, 1865, he was for the second time inaugurated.

If I were to write a full account of Mr. Lincoln’s administration, it
must include a history of the war. I propose to do neither. As my title
imports, I have aimed only to show by what steps a backwoods boy, born
and brought up on the Western prairies, with the smallest possible
advantages of education and fortune, came to stand in the foremost place
among his fellow-citizens. I might, therefore, consider my task
accomplished; but, if I should stop here, I should have failed to set
forth fully the character and traits of this remarkable man; for it was
only in the years of his Presidency that the world, and, I may add, his
friends, came to know him as he was. I doubt even if he knew himself
until the responsibilities of office fell upon him; and, under the
burden, he expanded to the full stature of a providential man. There are
some aspects in which I shall consider him, and, in the incidents and
anecdotes I may have to relate, I shall not attempt to preserve the
order of time.

First, then, the consciousness of official rank never appeared present
to Mr. Lincoln. In the White House, as in his modest Western home, he
was the same plain, unpretending Abraham Lincoln. Nor did he lose his
sympathy for the humble class from which he had himself sprung. Upon
this point I quote from Mr. F. B. Carpenter’s very interesting volume,
already referred to:

“The Hon. Mr. Odell gave me a deeply interesting incident which occurred
in the winter of 1864 at one of the most crowded of the Presidential
levees, illustrating very perfectly Mr. Lincoln’s true politeness and
delicacy of feeling.

“On the occasion referred to the pressure became so great that the usual
ceremony of hand-shaking was for once discontinued. The President had
been standing for some time, bowing his acknowledgments to the thronging
multitude, when his eye fell upon a couple who had entered unobserved--a
wounded soldier and his plainly-dressed mother. Before they could pass
out he made his way to where they stood, and, taking each of them by the
hand, with a delicacy and cordiality which brought tears to many eyes,
he assured them of his interest and welcome. Governors, Senators, and
diplomats passed with simply a nod; but that pale, young face he might
never see again. To him and to others like him did the nation owe his
life; and Abraham Lincoln was not the man to forget this, even in the
crowded and brilliant assembly of the distinguished of the land.”

“Mr. Lincoln’s heart was always open to children,” says the same writer.
“I shall never forget his coming into the studio one day and finding my
own little boy of two summers playing on the floor. A member of the
Cabinet was with him, but, laying aside all restraint, he took the
little fellow at once in his arms, and they were soon on the best of

“Old Daniel gave me a touching illustration of this element in his
character. A poor woman from Philadelphia had been waiting with a baby
in her arms for several days to see the President. It appeared by her
story that her husband had furnished a substitute for the army, but some
time afterward, in a state of intoxication, was induced to enlist. When
reaching the post assigned his regiment he deserted, thinking the
Government was not entitled to his services. Returning home he was
arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to be shot. The sentence was
to be executed on a Saturday. On Monday his wife left her home with her
baby to endeavor to see the President.

“Said Daniel, ‘She had been waiting here three days, and there was no
chance for her to get in. Late in the afternoon of the third day, the
President was going through the passage to his private room to get a cup
of tea. On the way he heard the baby cry. He instantly went back to his
office and rang the bell.

“’“Daniel,” said he, “is there a woman with a baby in the anteroom?”

“‘I said there was, and if he would allow me to say it, it was a case
he ought to see; for it was a matter of life and death.

“’“Send her to me at once,” said he.

“‘She went in, told her story, and the President pardoned her husband.
As the woman came out from his presence her eyes were lifted and her
lips moving in prayer, the tears streaming down her cheeks.’ Said
Daniel, ‘I went up to her, and, pulling her shawl, said, “Madam, it was
the baby that did it.”’”

It may readily be supposed that a man of Mr. Lincoln’s democratic tastes
and training might on some occasions act very unconventionally, and in a
way to shock those who are sticklers for etiquette. Certainly, he was
very far from aping royalty, as may be judged from the following

When the Prince of Wales was betrothed to the Princess Alexandra, Queen
Victoria announced the fact to each of the European sovereigns and to
the rulers of other countries by an autograph letter. Lord Lyons, the
British ambassador at Washington, who was a bachelor, called upon
President Lincoln to present this important document in person.

“May it please your Excellency,” said the ambassador, with formal
dignity, “I hold in my hand an autograph letter from my royal mistress,
Queen Victoria, which I have been commanded to present to your
Excellency. In it she informs your Excellency that her son, His Royal
Highness, the Prince of Wales, is about to contract a matrimonial
alliance with Her Royal Highness, the Princess Alexandra, of Denmark.”

The President’s eye twinkled as he answered, briefly, “Lord Lyons, go
thou and do likewise.”

Says Dr. Holland: “Mr. Lincoln’s habits at the White House were as
simple as they were at his old home in Illinois. He never alluded to
himself as ‘President,’ or as occupying ‘the Presidency.’ His office he
always designated as ‘this place.’ ‘Call me Lincoln,’ said he to a
friend. ‘Mr. President’ had become so very tiresome to him. ‘If you see
a newsboy down the street, send him up this way,’ said he to a passenger
as he stood waiting for the morning news at his gate.

“Friends cautioned him against exposing himself so openly in the midst
of enemies, but he never heeded them. He frequently walked the streets
at night entirely unprotected, and he felt any check upon his free
movements as a great annoyance. He delighted to see his familiar Western
friends, and he gave them always a cordial welcome. He met them on the
old footing, and fell at once into the accustomed habits of talking and
story-telling. An old acquaintance with his wife visited Washington. Mr.
and Mrs. Lincoln proposed to these friends a ride in the Presidential
carriage. It should be stated in advance that the two men had probably
never seen each other with gloves on in their lives, unless when they
were used as protection from the cold. The question of each--Mr. Lincoln
at the White House and his friend at the hotel--was whether he should
wear gloves. Of course, the ladies urged gloves; but Mr. Lincoln only
put his in his pocket, to be used or not, according to circumstances.

“When the Presidential party arrived at the hotel to take in their
friends, they found the gentleman, overcome by his wife’s persuasions,
very handsomely gloved. The moment he took his seat he began to draw off
the clinging kids, while Mr. Lincoln began to draw his on.

“‘No, no, no!’ protested his friend, tugging at his gloves; ‘it is none
of my doings. Put up your gloves, Mr. Lincoln.’

“So the two old friends were on even and easy terms, and had their ride
after their old fashion.”

The President of the United States can afford to be more unconventional
than kings and emperors, but I should not be surprised to learn that
they too, at times, would be glad to escape from the rigid rules of
etiquette and enjoy the freedom of a private citizen. Even Queen
Victoria, it is related, can unbend when she meets her early friends,
and forget for the time that she must maintain the dignity of a Queen.



Ex-Governor Rice, of Massachusetts, tells a story of President Lincoln,
which will prove of especial interest to my young readers. I transcribe
it from the _Union Signal_:

On an occasion (while he was in Congress) he and Senator Wilson found it
necessary to visit the President on business, he says:

“We were obliged to wait some time in the anteroom before we could be
received; and, when at length the door was opened to us, a small lad,
perhaps ten or twelve years old, who had been waiting for admission
several days without success, slipped in between us, and approached the
President in advance.

“The latter gave the Senator and myself a cordial but brief salutation,
and turning immediately to the lad, said, ‘And who is the little boy?’

“During their conference the Senator and myself were apparently
forgotten. The boy soon told his story, which was in substance that he
had come to Washington seeking employment as a page in the House of
Representatives, and he wished the President to give him such an
appointment. To this the President replied that such appointments were
not at his disposal, and that application must be made to the
door-keeper of the House at the Capitol.

“‘But, sir,’ said the lad, still undaunted, ‘I am a good boy, and have a
letter from my mother, and one from the supervisors of my town, and one
from my Sunday-school teacher; they all told me that I could earn enough
in one session of Congress to keep my mother and the rest of us
comfortable all the remainder of the year.’

“The President took the lad’s papers and ran his eye over them with that
penetrating and absorbent look so familiar to all who knew him, and then
took his pen and wrote upon the back of one of them. ‘If Capt. Goodnow
can give a place to

PAGE 267]

this good little boy, I shall be gratified,’ and signed it ‘A. Lincoln.’

“The boy’s face became radiant with hope, and he walked out of the room
with a step as light as though all the angels were whispering their

“Only after the lad had gone did the President seem to realize that a
Senator and another person had been for some time waiting to see him.

“Think for a moment of the President of a great nation, and that nation
engaged in one of the most terrible wars waged against men, himself worn
down with anxiety and labor, subjected to the alternations of success
and defeat, racked by complaints of the envious, the disloyal, and the
unreasonable, pressed to the decision of grave questions of public
policy, and encumbered by the numberless and nameless incidents of civil
and martial responsibility, yet able so far to forget them all as to
give himself up for the time being to the errand of a little boy, who
had braved an interview uninvited, and of whom he knew nothing, but that
he had a story to tell of his mother and of his ambition to serve her.”

Of a different character, but equally characteristic of Mr. Lincoln, is
a story told by General Charles G. Dahlgren, brother of Admiral

“As Mr. Lincoln and my brother were about to go to dinner, and while the
President was washing his hands, Secretary Stanton entered excitedly
with a telegram in his hand and said, ‘Mr. President, I have just
received a dispatch from Portland that Jake Thompson is there waiting to
take the steamer to England and I want to arrest him.’ Mr. Lincoln began
to wipe his hands on a towel, and said, in a long, drawling voice,
‘Better let him slide.’

“‘But, Mr. President,’ said Secretary Stanton, ‘this man is one of the
chief traitors--was one of Buchanan’s Cabinet, betrayed the country
then, and has fought against us ever since. He should be punished.’

“‘W-e-l-l,’ said the President, ‘if Jake Thompson is satisfied with the
issue of the war, I am. B-e-t-t-e-r let him slide.’

“‘Such men should be punished to the full extent of the law,’ said Mr.
Stanton. ‘Why, if we don’t punish the leaders of the rebellion, what
shall we say to their followers?’

“B-e-t-t-e-r let them slide, Stanton,” said the President, laying aside
his towel.

“Mr. Stanton went out, evidently annoyed, and Mr. Lincoln, turning to my
brother, said: ‘Dahl, that is one of the things I don’t intend to allow.
When the war is over, I want it to stop, and let both sides go to work
and heal the wounds, which, Heaven knows, are bad enough; but jogging
and pulling them is not the best way to heal a sore.’

“And the old General, turning to his work, said, with a sigh, ‘If that
policy had been carried out, the wounds would have healed long ago.’”

The following story, told by M. J. Ramsdell, shows that Mr. Lincoln
judged men sometimes by their spirit rather than their military

“A sergeant of infantry, whom I shall call Dick Gower, commanded his
company in a great many battles in the West in the early days of the
war. His company officers had all been killed, but right royally did
Dick handle his men. At the first lull in the campaign, the officers of
his regiment, of his brigade, and of his division, united in
recommending him for a lieutenancy in the regular army. The commanding
officer joined in the recommendation. Mr. Lincoln ordered the
appointment. Forthwith, Sergeant Dick was ordered before an examining
board here in Washington, for the regular army officers were tenacious
of what they thought their superiority. Dick presented himself in a
soiled and faded sergeant’s uniform, his face and hands bronzed and
cracked by the winds and suns of a hot campaign.

“The curled darling of Washington society, the perfumed graduates of
West Point, who had never seen a squadron set in the field, conducted
the examination to ascertain if Dick was fit to be an officer in the
regular army. They asked him questions as to engineering, mathematics,
philosophy, and ordnance, of harbor warfare, of field campaigns, and all
such stuff. Not a single question could Dick answer. ‘What is an
echelon?’ was asked. ‘I don’t know,’ answered Dick; ‘I never saw one.’
‘What is an abbattis?’ was the next question? Dick answered: ‘You’ve got
me again. We haven’t got ’em in the West.’ ‘Well, what is a hollow
square?’ continued his tormentors. ‘Don’t know,’ said Dick sorrowfully;
‘I never heard of one.’ ‘Well,’ finally said a young snip in
eye-glasses, ‘what would you do in command of a company if the cavalry
should charge on you?’ They had at last got down to Dick’s
comprehension, and he answered with a resolute face and a flashing eye,
‘I’d give them Jesse, that’s what I’d do, and I’d make a hollow square
in every mother’s son of them.’ A few more technical questions were
asked, but poor Dick was not able to answer them, and the examination

“The report was duly sent to the Secretary of War, who submitted it to
Mr. Lincoln, saying that evidently Dick would not do for an officer. Mr.
Lincoln, when through with the report, and found that Dick had not
answered a single question, but he came to where Dick said what he would
do if attacked by cavalry, and then he did what sensible Abe Lincoln did
in all such matters, he threw the report on his table and made a little
memorandum in pencil ordering the Secretary of War to appoint Dick Gower
a lieutenant in the regular army. Dick achieved distinction afterward,
and was everywhere known in the army as a man without fear, who never
made a mistake.”

A correspondent of the Boston _Traveller_ furnishes a humorous story
told by President Lincoln, to show the embarrassment which he felt as to
the disposal of Jefferson Davis:

“A gentleman told me a story recently which well illustrates Lincoln’s
immense fund of anecdotes. Said he: ‘Just after Jeff Davis had been
captured I called over at the White House to see President Lincoln. I
was ushered in, and asked him: “Well, Mr. President, what are you going
to do with Jeff Davis?” Lincoln looked at me for a moment, and then
said, in his peculiar, humorous way: “That reminds me of a story. A boy
’way out West caught a coon and tamed it to a considerable extent, but
the animal created such mischief about the house that his mother ordered
him to take it away and not to come home until he could return without
his pet. The boy went down-town with the coon, secured with a strong
piece of twine, and in about an hour he was found sitting on the edge of
the curbstone, holding the coon with one hand and crying as though his
heart would break. A big-hearted gentleman, who was passing, stopped and
kindly inquired: ‘Say, little boy, what is the matter?’ The boy wiped a
tear from his eye with his sleeve, and in an injured tone, howled:
‘Matter! Ask me what’s the matter! You see that coon there? Well, I
don’t know what to do with the darn thing. I can’t sell it, I can’t kill
it, and ma won’t let me take it home.’ That,” continued Lincoln, “is
precisely my case. I am like the boy with the coon. I can’t sell him, I
can’t kill him, and I can’t take him home!”’”

I have already remarked that Mr. Lincoln was superstitious. He seemed to
be deeply impressed by dreams, and claimed to be notified in this way of
the approach of important events.

“On the Friday of his death he called his Cabinet together at noon, and
he seemed dispirited. He said: ‘I wish I could hear from Sherman.’
General Grant, who was present, said: ‘You will hear well from Sherman.’
He said: ‘I don’t know. I have had a dream, the same that I had before
the battles of Bull Run, of Chancellorsville, and of Swan River. It
has,’ he said, ‘always boded disaster.’ It made a great impression on
all of the Cabinet and on General Grant. Mr. Lincoln had been
remonstrated with for going about unattended, but he said: ‘What is the
use of precautions? If they want to kill me they will kill me.’ He was
killed, but history will place him next to Washington in the list of
beloved Presidents. The skill displayed by him in managing Chase,
Stanton, Sumner, Fessenden, Wade, Seward, and other candidates for the
Presidency, was wonderful, and when there was any hitch he was reminded
of a story, illustrating the situation. His stories were, in short,
‘parables.’”--_Boston Budget._

Even in the hour of victory he was thoughtful, not jubilant.

“When General Weitzel escorted President Lincoln and his companions
through the Capitol at Richmond the day after the occupation, in April,
1865, they reached what the rebels called the Cabinet room of the great
President of the Southern Confederacy. General Weitzel said: ‘This, Mr.
President, is the chair which has been so long occupied by President
Davis.’ He pulled it from the table and motioned the President to sit
down. Mr. Lincoln’s face took an extra look of care and melancholy. The
narrator says ‘he looked at it a moment and slowly approached and
wearily sat down. It was an hour of exultation with the soldiers; we
felt that the war was ended, and we knew that all over the North bells
were pealing, cannon booming, and the people were delirious with joy
over the prospect of peace. I expected to see the President manifest
some spirit of triumph as he sat in the seat so long occupied by the
rebel Government; but his great head fell into his broad hand and a sigh
that seemed to come from the soul of a nation, escaped his lips and
saddened every man present. His mind seemed to be travelling back
through the dark years of the war, and he was counting the cost in
treasure, life, and blood that made it possible for him to sit there. As
he rose without a word and left the room slowly and sadly, tears
involuntarily came to the eyes of every man present, and we soldiers
realized that we had not done all the suffering nor made all the

Where Abraham Lincoln obtained some of his anti-slavery ideas may be
learned from a recent article in the _Century_, by Leonard W. Bacon, who
describes the effects of his father’s writings upon this subject on the
mind of the future President:

“‘These essays’--from the preface to which I have just quoted--had been
written at divers times from 1833 onward, and were collected, in 1846,
into a volume which has had a history. It is a book of exact
definitions, just discriminations, lucid and tenacious arguments; and it
deals with certain obstinate and elusive sophistries in an effective
way. It is not to be wondered at that when it fell into the hands of a
young Western lawyer, Abraham Lincoln,--whose characteristic was ‘not to
be content with an idea until he could bound it north, east, south, and
west,’--it should prove to be a book exactly after his mind. It was to
him not only a study on slavery, but a model in the rhetoric of debate.
It is not difficult to trace the influence of it in that great
stump-debate with Douglas, in which Lincoln’s main strength lay in his
cautious wisdom in declining to take the extreme positions into which
his wily antagonist tried to provoke or entice him. When, many years
after the little book had been forgotten by the public, and after
slavery had fallen before the President’s proclamation, it appeared from
Lincoln’s own declaration to Dr. Joseph P. Thompson that he owed to that
book his definite, reasonable, and irrefragable views on the slavery
question, my father felt to sing the _Nunc dimittis_.”



Martial law is severe, and, doubtless, not without reason. Desertion in
time of war is a capital offence, and many a poor fellow suffered the
penalty during the terrible four years of the civil war. Many more would
have suffered but for the humane interposition of the President, who was
glad to find the slightest excuse for saving the life of the unfortunate
offender. As Dr. Holland observes, he had the deepest sympathy for the
soldiers who were fighting the battles of their country. He knew
something of their trials and privations, their longing for home, and
the strength of the temptation which sometimes led them to lapse from
duty. There was infinite tenderness in the heart of this man which made
him hard to consent to extreme punishment.

I propose to cull from different sources illustrations of Mr. Lincoln’s
humanity. The first I find in a letter written to Dr. Holland by a
personal friend of the President:

“I called on him one day in the early part of the war. He had just
written a pardon for a young man who had been sentenced to be shot, for
sleeping at his post as a sentinel. He remarked as he read it to me, ‘I
could not think of going into eternity with the blood of the poor young
man on my skirts.’ Then he added, ‘It is not to be wondered at that a
boy, raised on a farm, probably in the habit of going to bed at dark,
should, when required to watch, fall asleep, and I can not consent to
shoot him for such an act.’”

Dr. Holland adds that Rev. Newman Hall, of London, in a sermon preached
upon and after Mr. Lincoln’s death, says that the dead body of this
youth was found among the slain on the field of Fredericksburg, wearing
next his heart the photograph of his preserver, beneath which he had
written, “God bless President Lincoln.” On another occasion, when Mr.
Lincoln was asked to assent to the capital punishment of twenty-four
deserters, sentenced to be shot for desertion, he said to the General
who pleaded the necessity of enforcing discipline, “No, General, there
are already too many weeping widows in the United States. For God’s
sake, don’t ask me to add to the number, for I won’t do it.”

From Mr. Carpenter’s “Six Months at the White House,” I make the
following extract:

“The Secretary of War and Generals in command were frequently much
annoyed at being overruled,--the discipline and efficiency of the
service being thereby, as they considered, greatly endangered. But there
was no going back of the simple signature, ‘A. Lincoln,’ attached to
proclamation or reprieve.

“My friend Kellogg, Representative from Essex County, New York, received
a dispatch one evening from the army, to the effect that a young
townsman who had been induced to enlist through his instrumentality,
had, for a serious misdemeanor, been convicted by a court-martial, and
was to be shot the next day. Greatly agitated, Mr. Kellogg went to the
Secretary of War, and urged in the strongest manner, a reprieve.

“Stanton was inexorable.

“‘Too many cases of the kind had been let off,’ he said; ‘and it was
time an example was made.’

“Exhausting his eloquence in vain, Mr. Kellogg said: ‘Well, Mr.
Secretary, the boy is not going to be _shot_--of that I give you fair

“Leaving the War Department, he went directly to the White House,
although the hour was late. The sentinel on duty told him that special
orders had been issued to admit no one that night. After a long parley,
by pledging himself to assume the responsibility of the act, the
Congressman passed in. The President had retired; but, indifferent to
etiquette or ceremony, Judge Kellogg pressed his way through all
obstacles to his sleeping apartment. In an excited manner he stated that
the dispatch announcing the hour of execution had but just reached him.

“‘This man must not be shot, Mr. President,’ said he. ‘I can’t help what
he may have done. Why, he is an old neighbor of mine; I can’t allow him
to be shot!’

“Mr. Lincoln had remained in bed, quietly listening to the vehement
protestations of his old friend (they were in Congress together). He at
length said, ‘Well, I don’t believe _shooting_ him will do him any
good. Give me that pen. And, so saying, ‘red tape’ was unceremoniously
cut, and another poor fellow’s lease of life was indefinitely extended.”

I continue to quote from Mr. Carpenter:

“One night Speaker Colfax left all other business to ask the President
to respite the son of a constituent who was sentenced to be shot at
Davenport for desertion. He heard the story with his usual patience,
though he was wearied out with incessant calls and anxious for rest, and
then replied, ‘Some of our generals complain that I impair discipline
and subordination in the army by my pardons and respites, but it makes
me rested after a hard day’s work if I can find some good excuse for
saving a man’s life, and I go to bed happy, as I think how joyous the
signing of my name will make him and his family and his friends.’

“The Hon. Thaddeus Stevens told me that on one occasion he called at the
White House with an elderly lady in great trouble, whose son had been in
the army, but for some offence had been court-martialed, and sentenced
either to death or imprisonment at hard labor for a long term. There
were some extenuating circumstances; and, after a full hearing, the
President turned to the Representative, and said:

“‘Mr. Stevens, do you think this is a case which will warrant my

“‘With my knowledge of the facts and the parties,’ was the reply, ‘I
should have no hesitation in granting a pardon.’

“‘Then,’ returned Mr. Lincoln, ‘I will pardon him,’ and he proceeded
forthwith to execute the paper.

“The gratitude of the mother was too deep for expression, and not a word
was said between her and Mr. Stevens until they were half-way
down-stairs on their passage out, when she suddenly broke forth in an
excited manner with the words, ‘I knew it was a copperhead lie!’

“‘What do you refer to, madam?’ asked Mr. Stevens.

“‘Why, they told me he was an ugly-looking man!’ she replied with
vehemence. ‘He is the handsomest man I ever saw in my life!’

“Doubtless the grateful mother voiced the feeling of many another, who,
in the rugged and care-worn face had read the sympathy and goodness of
the inner nature.”

_Another Case._

“A young man connected with a New York regiment had become to all
appearances a hardened criminal. He had deserted two or three times,
and, when at last detected and imprisoned, had attempted to poison his
guards, one of whom subsequently died from the effects of the poison
unconsciously taken. Of course, there seemed no defence possible in such
a case. But the fact came out that the boy had been of unsound mind.

“Some friends of his mother took up the matter, and an appeal was made
to the Secretary of War. He declined positively to listen to it,--the
case was too aggravating. The prisoner (scarcely more than a boy) was
confined at Elmira, N.Y. The day for the execution of his sentence had
nearly arrived, when his mother made her way to the President. He
listened to her story, examined the record, and said that his opinion
accorded with that of the Secretary of War; he could do nothing for her.

“Heart-broken, she was compelled to relinquish her last hope. One of the
friends who had become interested, upon learning the result of the
application, waited upon Senator Harris. That gentleman said that his
engagements utterly precluded his going to see the President upon the
subject, until twelve o’clock of the second night following. This
brought the time to Wednesday night, and the sentence was to be executed
on Thursday. Judge Harris, true to his word, called at the White House
at twelve o’clock on Wednesday night. The President had retired, but the
interview was granted. The point made was that the boy was insane,--thus
irresponsible, and his execution would be murder. Pardon was not asked,
but a reprieve, until a proper medical examination could be made.

“This was so reasonable that Mr. Lincoln acquiesced in its justice. He
immediately ordered a telegram sent to Elmira, delaying the execution of
the sentence. Early the next morning he sent another by a different
line, and, before the hour of execution had arrived, he had sent no less
than four different reprieves by different lines to different
individuals in Elmira, so fearful was he that the message would fail or
be too late.”

These are but a few of the stories that have been told in illustration
of President Lincoln’s humanity. Whatever may have been the opinion of
the generals in command, as to the expediency of his numerous pardons,
they throw a beautiful light upon his character, and will endear his
memory to all who can appreciate his tender sympathy for all, and his
genuine and unaffected goodness.



A man’s character often is best disclosed by trifling incidents, and it
is for this reason, perhaps, that the public is eager to read anecdotes
of its illustrious men. I shall devote the present chapter to anecdotes
of President Lincoln, gathered from various quarters. I shall not use
quotation-marks, but content myself with saying at the outset that they
are all borrowed.

At the reception at the President’s house one afternoon, many persons
present noticed three little girls poorly dressed, the children of some
mechanic or laboring man, who had followed the visitors fully into the
house to gratify their curiosity. They passed round from room to room,
and were hastening through the reception-room with some trepidation when
the President called to them, “Little girls, are you going to pass me
without shaking hands?”

Then he bent his tall, awkward form down, and shook each little girl
warmly by the hand. Everybody in the apartment was spell-bound by the
incident--so simple in itself, yet revealing so much of Mr. Lincoln’s

_The President and the Paymaster._

One of the numerous paymasters at Washington sought an introduction to
Mr. Lincoln. He arrived at the White House quite opportunely, and was
introduced to the President by the United States Marshal, with his
blandest smile. While shaking hands with the President the paymaster

“I have no official business with you, Mr. President; I only called to
pay my compliments.”

“I understand,” was the reply, “and, from the complaints of the
soldiers, I think that is all you do pay.”

_The Interviewer._

An interviewer, with the best intentions in the world, once went to Mr.
Lincoln’s room in the White House while he was President, and inquired:

“Mr. President, what do you think of the war and its end?”

To which Mr. Lincoln politely and laughingly replied:

“That question of yours puts me in mind of a story about something which
happened down in Egypt, in the southern part of Illinois.”

The point of it was that a man burned his fingers by being in too much
haste. Mr. Lincoln told the story admirably well, walking up and down
the room, and heartily laughing all the while. The interviewer was quick
to see the point. As a matter of course he was cut to the quick, and
quickly down-stairs he rushed, saying to himself:

“I’ll never interview that man again.”

_How Mr. Lincoln secured a Ride._

When Abraham Lincoln was a poor lawyer, he found himself one cold day at
a village some distance from Springfield, and with no means of

Seeing a gentleman driving along the Springfield road in a carriage, he
ran up to him and politely said:

“Sir, will you have the goodness to take my overcoat to town for me?”

“With pleasure,” answered the gentleman. “But how will you get it

“Oh, very easily,” said Mr. Lincoln, “as I intend to remain in it.”

“Jump in,” said the gentleman laughing. And the future President had a
pleasant ride.

_The President’s Influence._

Judge Baldwin, of California, an old and highly respectable and sedate
gentleman, called on General Halleck, and, presuming on a familiar
acquaintance in California a few years since, solicited a pass outside
of the lines to see a brother in Virginia, not thinking he would meet
with a refusal, as both his brother and himself were good Union men.

“We have been deceived too often,” said General Halleck, “and I regret I
can’t grant it.”

Judge B. then went to Stanton, and was very briefly disposed of with the
same result.

Finally he obtained an interview with Mr. Lincoln and stated his case.

“Have you applied to General Halleck?” said the President.

“And met with a flat refusal,” said Judge B.

“Then you must see Stanton,” continued the President.

“I have, and with the same result,” was the reply.

“Well, then,” said the President, with a smile of good humor, “I can do
nothing, for you must know that I have very little influence with this

_The German Lieutenant._

A lieutenant, whom debts compelled to leave his father-land, succeeded
in being admitted to President Lincoln, and, by reason of his
commendable and winning deportment and intelligent appearance, was
promised a lieutenant’s commission in a cavalry regiment.

He was so enraptured with his success, that he deemed it a duty to
inform the President that he belonged to one of the oldest noble houses
in Germany.

“Oh, never mind that,” said Mr. Lincoln, with a twinkle of the eye; “you
will not find that to be any obstacle to your advancement.”

_A Pass for Richmond._

A gentleman called on the President, and solicited a pass for Richmond.

“Well,” said Mr. Lincoln, “I would be very happy to oblige you if my
passes were respected; but the fact is, sir, I have, within the last two
years, given passes to two hundred and fifty thousand men to go to
Richmond, and not one has got there yet.”

_Mr. Lincoln and the Preacher._

An officer under the Government called at the Executive Mansion,
accompanied by a clerical friend.

“Mr. President,” said he, “allow me to present to you my friend, the
Rev. Mr. F., of ----. Mr. F. has expressed a desire to see you, and have
some conversation with you, and I am happy to be the means of
introducing him.”

The President shook hands with Mr. F., desired him to be seated, and
took a seat himself. Then--his countenance having assumed an expression
of patient waiting--he said: “I am now ready to hear what you have to

“Oh, bless you, sir,” said Mr. F., “I have nothing special to say. I
merely called to pay my respects to you, and, as one of the million, to
assure you of my hearty sympathy and support.”

“My dear sir,” said the President, rising promptly, his face showing
instant relief, and with both hands grasping that of his visitor, “I am
very glad to see you; I am _very_ glad to see you, indeed. I thought you
had come to preach to me.”

_Mr. Lincoln and his Advisers._

Some gentlemen from the West waited upon the President. They were in a
critical mood. They felt that things were not going on as they should,
and they wanted to give advice. The President heard them patiently, and
then replied:

“Gentlemen, suppose all the property you were worth was in gold, and you
had put it in the hands of Blondin to carry across the Niagara River on
a rope; would you shake the cable, or keep shouting out to
him--‘Blondin, stand up a little straighter!’ ‘Blondin, stoop a little
more!’ ‘Go a little faster!’ ‘Lean a little more to the North!’ ‘Lean a
little more to the South!’ No, you would hold your breath as well as
your tongue, and keep your hands off till he was safely over. The
Government is carrying an immense weight. Untold treasures are in its
hands. It is doing the best it can. Don’t badger it. Keep silence, and
we’ll get you safe across.”

This simple illustration answered the complaints of half an hour, and
not only silenced but charmed the audience.

Somewhat similar is the answer made to a Western farmer, who waited upon
Mr. Lincoln, with a plan for the successful prosecution of the war, to
which the President listened with as much patience as he could. When he
was through, he asked the opinion of the President upon his plan.

“Well,” said Mr. Lincoln, “I’ll answer by telling you a story. You have
heard of Mr. Blank, of Chicago? He was an immense loafer in his way--in
fact, never did anything in his life. One day he got crazy over a great
rise in the price of wheat, upon which many wheat speculators gained
large fortunes. Blank started off one morning to one of the most
successful of the wheat speculators, and, with much enthusiasm, laid
before him a plan by which he (the said Blank) was certain of becoming
independently rich. When he had finished he asked the opinion of his
hearer upon his plan of operations. The reply came as follows: ‘I advise
you to stick to your business.’ ‘But,’ asked Blank, ‘what is my
business?’ ‘I don’t know, I’m sure, what it is,’ said the merchant, ‘but
whatever it is, I advise you to stick to it.’

“And now,” said Mr. Lincoln, “I mean nothing offensive, for I know you
mean well, but I think you had better stick to your business, and leave
the war to those who have the responsibility of managing it.”

It is said that Mr. Gladstone, the English premier, is known for his
skill in chopping wood. The following anecdote shows that President
Lincoln also was not without experience in the same direction:

During one of the last visits that he made to James River, a short time
before the capture of Richmond, he spent some time in walking around
among the hospitals, and in visiting various fatigue parties at work in
putting up cabins and other buildings.

He came upon one squad who were cutting logs for a house; and chatting a
moment with the hardy woodsmen, asked one of them to let him take his
axe. Mr. Lincoln grasped the helve with the easy air of one perfectly
familiar with the tool, and remarked that he used to be “good on the

The President then let in on a big log, making the chips fly, and making
as smooth a cut as the best lumberman in Maine could do.

Meantime, the men crowded round to see the work; and, as he handed back
the axe, and walked away with a pleasant joke, the choppers gave him
three as hearty cheers as he ever heard in the whole of his political



Soon after the death of Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Noah Brooks published in
_Harper’s Monthly_ an interesting article, devoted to reminiscences of
his dead friend. From this article, I make a few extracts, for which my
readers will thank me:

“Just after the last Presidential election, he said: ‘Being only mortal,
after all, I should have been a little mortified if I had been beaten in
this canvass; but that sting would have been more than compensated by
the thought that the people had notified me that all my official
responsibilities were soon to be lifted off my back.’ In reply to the
remark that in all these cares he was daily remembered by all who
prayed, not to be heard of men, as no man had ever before been
remembered, he caught at the homely phrase, and said, ‘Yes, I like that
phrase, “not to be heard of men,” and, again, it is generally true as
you say; at least I have been told so, and I have been a good deal
helped by just that thought.’ Then he solemnly and slowly added: ‘I
should be the most presumptuous blockhead upon this footstool, if I, for
one day, thought that I could discharge the duties which have come upon
me since I came into this place, without the aid and enlightenment of
One who is stronger and wiser than all others.’”

“At another time he said cheerfully, ‘I am very sure that if I do not go
away from here a wise man, I shall go away a better man, for having
learned here what a very poor sort of man I am.’ Afterward, referring to
what he called a change of heart, he said he did not remember any
precise time when he passed through any special change of purpose or
heart; but he would say, that his own election to office, and the crisis
immediately following, influentially determined him in what he called ‘a
process of crystallization’ then going on in his mind. Reticent as he
was, and shy of discoursing much of his own mental exercises, these few
utterances now have a value with those who knew him, which his dying
words would scarcely have possessed.”

“On Thursday of a certain week, two ladies from Tennessee came before
the President, asking the release of their husbands, held as prisoners
of war at Johnson’s Island. They were put off until Friday, when they
came again, and were again put off until Saturday. At each of the
interviews one of the ladies urged that her husband was a religious man.
On Saturday, when the President ordered the release of the prisoner, he
said to this lady: ‘You say your husband is a religious man: tell him,
when you meet him, that I say I am not much of a judge of religion, but
that, in my opinion, the religion which sets men to rebel and fight
against their Government, because, as they think, that Government does
not sufficiently help _some_ men to eat their bread in the sweat of
other men’s faces, is not the sort of religion upon which people can get
to heaven.’”

“On an occasion I shall never forget,” says the Hon. H. C. Denning, of
Connecticut, “the conversation turned upon religious subjects, and Mr.
Lincoln made this impressive remark: ‘I have never united myself to any
church, because I have found difficulty in giving my assent, without
mental reservation, to the long, complicated statements of Christian
doctrine which characterize their Articles of Belief and Confessions of
Faith. When any church will inscribe over its altar, as its sole
qualification of membership, the Saviour’s condensed statement of the
substance of both Law and Gospel, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with
all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and thy neighbor as thyself,” that
church will I join with all my heart and with all my soul.’”

Though Mr. Lincoln never formally united himself with any church,
doubtless for the reason given above, because he knew of none broad and
tolerant enough for him, it is clear that his mind was much occupied
with matters connected with religion. No one could charge him with
scoffing at sacred things. Had he even been so inclined, the bereavement
which visited him in the death of his son Willie, who died February
20th, 1862, would assuredly have changed him. Devoted as he was to his
children, this loss affected him deeply, and it was not till several
weeks had passed that he was in any measure reconciled.

“Gentlemen,” said one of the guests at a dinner-party in Washington,
during which the President had been freely discussed, “you may talk as
you please about Mr. Lincoln’s capacity. I don’t believe him to be the
ablest statesman in America, by any means, and I voted against him on
both occasions of his candidacy. But I happened to see, or rather to
hear, something the other day that convinced me that, however deficient
he may be in the head, he is all right in the heart. I was up at the
White House, having called to see the President on business. I was shown
into the office of his private secretary, and told that Mr. Lincoln was
busy just then, but would be disengaged in a short time. While waiting,
I heard a very earnest prayer being uttered in a loud female voice in
the adjoining room. I inquired what it meant, and was told that an old
Quaker lady, a friend of the President’s, had called that afternoon and
taken tea at the White House, and that she was then praying with Mr.
Lincoln. After the lapse of a few minutes the prayer ceased, and the
President, accompanied by a Quakeress, not less than eighty years old,
entered the room where I was sitting. I made up my mind then, gentlemen,
that Mr. Lincoln was not a bad man; and I don’t think it will be easy
to efface the impression that the scene I witnessed, and the voice I
heard, made upon my mind!”

To some members of the Christian Commission who were calling upon him,
Mr. Lincoln said: “If it were not for my firm belief in an overruling
Providence, it would be difficult for me, in the midst of such
complications of affairs, to keep my reason on its seat. But I am
confident that the Almighty has His plans, and will work them out; and,
whether we see it or not, they will be the wisest and best for us. I
have always taken counsel of Him, and referred to Him my plans, and have
never adopted a course of proceeding without being assured, as far as I
could be, of His approbation. To be sure, He has not conformed to my
desires, or else we should have been out of our trouble long ago. On the
other hand, His will does not seem to agree with the wish of our enemy
over there (pointing across the Potomac). He stands the Judge between
us, and we ought to be willing to accept His decision. We have reason to
anticipate that it will be favorable to us, for our cause is right.”

It was during this interview, as Dr. Holland tells us, that the fact
was privately communicated to a member of the Commission that Mr.
Lincoln was in the habit of spending an early hour each day in prayer.

It will hardly be necessary, after the reader has read thus far, to
answer the charge made in some quarters that Mr. Lincoln was an infidel.
Few of his critics possess his simple faith in God and his deep
reverence for the Almighty, whose instrument he firmly believed himself
to be. I can not deny myself the satisfaction of reproducing here Dr.
Holland’s remarks upon the life and character of the President:

“Mr. Lincoln’s character was one which will grow. It will become the
basis of an ideal man. It was so pure, and so unselfish, and so rich in
its materials, that fine imaginations will spring from it to blossom and
bear fruit through all the centuries. This element was found in
Washington, whose human weaknesses seem to have faded entirely from
memory, leaving him a demi-god; and it will be found in Mr. Lincoln to a
still more remarkable degree. The black race have already crowned him.
With the black man, and particularly the black freedman, Mr. Lincoln’s
name is the saintliest which he pronounces, and the noblest he can
conceive. To the emancipated he is more than man--a being scarcely
second to the Lord Jesus Christ himself. That old, white-headed negro,
who undertook to tell what ‘Massa Linkum’ was to his dark-minded
brethren, embodied the vague conceptions of his race in the words:
‘Massa Linkum, he ebery whar; he know ebery ting; he walk de earf like
de Lord.’ He was to these men the incarnation of power and goodness; and
his memory will live in the hearts of this unfortunate and oppressed
race while it shall exist upon the earth.”

While the names of Lincoln and Washington are often associated, the
former holds a warmer place in the affections of the American people
than his great predecessor, who, with all his excellence, was far
removed by a certain coldness and reserve from the sympathies of the
common people. Abraham Lincoln, on the other hand, was always
accessible, and his heart overflowed with sympathy for the oppressed and
the lowly. The people loved him, for they felt that he was one of



The “great central act” of Mr. Lincoln’s administration, as he himself
calls it, was the emancipation of the slaves. At the stroke of a pen the
shackles fell from four millions of persons in a state of servitude. On
the 1st of January, 1863, emancipation was proclaimed, and the promise
was made that “the Executive Government of the United States, including
the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain
the freedom of said persons.”

This important proclamation carried joy, not only to the persons most
interested, but to the friends of Freedom everywhere.

Mr. Lincoln had been importuned to take this step before. Earnest
anti-slavery men like Charles Sumner and Horace Greeley felt that he
delayed too long; but the President was wiser than they. He had always
been an anti-slavery man, but his own wishes did not give him the right
to abolish slavery. I can not do better than to give Mr. Lincoln’s
reasons for the course he pursued, in his own words, spoken to George
Thompson, an eminent English anti-slavery man, in April, 1864:

“Mr. Thompson,” said the President, “the people of Great Britain and of
other foreign governments were in one great error in reference to this
conflict. They seemed to think that, the moment I was President, I had
the power to abolish slavery, forgetting that, before I could have any
power whatever, I had to take the oath to support the Constitution of
the United States, and execute the laws as I found them. When the
Rebellion broke out, my duty did not admit of a question. I did not
consider that I had a _right_ to touch the ‘State’ institution of
slavery until all other measures for restoring the Union had failed. The
paramount idea of the Constitution is the preservation of the Union. It
may not be specified in so many words, but that this was the idea of its
founders is evident; for, without the Union, the Constitution would be
worthless. It seems clear, then, that in the last extremity, if any
local institution threatened the existence of the Union, the Executive
could not hesitate as to his duty. In our case, the moment came when I
felt that slavery must die--that the nation must live! I have sometimes
used the illustration in this connection of a man with a diseased limb
and his surgeon. So long as there is a chance of the patient’s
restoration, the surgeon is solemnly bound to try to save both life and
limb; but when the crisis comes, and the limb must be sacrificed as the
only chance of saving the life, no honest man will hesitate.

“Many of my strongest supporters urged Emancipation before I thought it
indispensable, and, I may say, before I thought the country ready for
it. It is my conviction that, had the proclamation been issued even six
months earlier than it was, public sentiment would not have sustained
it. Just so as to the subsequent action in reference to enlisting blacks
in the Border States. The step, taken sooner, could not, in my judgment,
have been carried out. A man watches his pear-tree day after day,
impatient for the ripening of the fruit. Let him attempt to force the
process, and he may spoil both fruit and tree. But let him patiently
wait, and the ripe pear at length falls into his lap! We have seen this
great revolution in public sentiment slowly, but _surely_, progressing,
so that, when final action came, the opposition was not strong enough to
defeat the purpose. I can now solemnly assert that I have a clear
conscience in regard to my action on this momentous question. I have
done what no man could have helped doing, standing in my place.”

I find an interesting account in Mr. Carpenter’s volume, of the
circumstances attending Mr. Lincoln’s signing the Emancipation
Proclamation, quoted, I believe, from Col. Forney. It runs thus:

“The roll containing the Emancipation Proclamation was taken to Mr.
Lincoln at noon on the 1st day of January, 1863, by Secretary Seward and
his son Frederick.

“As it lay unrolled before him, Mr. Lincoln took a pen, dipped it in
ink, moved his hand to the place for the signature, held it a moment,
and then removed his hand and dropped the pen. After a little hesitation
he again took up the pen and went through the same movement as before.
Mr. Lincoln then turned to Mr. Seward, and said:

“‘I have been shaking hands since nine o’clock this morning, and my
right arm is almost paralyzed. If my name ever goes into history it will
be for this act, and my whole soul is in it. If my hand trembles when I
sign this Proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter will say,
“He hesitated.”’

“He then turned to the table, took up the pen again, and slowly, firmly
wrote that ‘Abraham Lincoln,’ with which the world is now familiar. He
looked up, smiled, and said: ‘That will do.’”

That act linked the name of Abraham Lincoln with one of the greatest
acts in all history. That act gave him an earthly immortality!



In hard and incessant labor, under a burden of care and anxiety that
were making him an old man before his time, the term for which Mr.
Lincoln was elected President passed slowly away. And the question came
to the Nation, “Who shall be our next President? Shall it be the man who
has led us thus far through the wilderness, or shall we make choice of
another leader?”

There was a difference of opinion. Some were in favor of General
Fremont, many favored Mr. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury, and
there is no doubt that both of these two eminent men wished for the
office. Mr. Lincoln, too, wished to be re-elected, not, I am sure,
because power was sweet, but because he wished to carry out to the end
the mighty work which it had been given to him to do. He knew that Mr.
Chase desired to succeed him, but it did not make him less friendly;
nor when it devolved upon him to appoint a successor to Chief-Justice
Taney, did it prevent him from conferring upon his chief rival that high
office. He considered Mr. Chase, of all men, most fit to fill the
position, and that with him was the paramount consideration.

However politicians may have differed with regard to the Presidency, the
people were with Mr. Lincoln. They had learned to trust him, and the
politicians were obliged to acquiesce in their choice. He was nominated,
and duly elected, and the country breathed more freely. It was an
assurance that the war would proceed till the rebellion was crushed out,
and the restoration of the Union was now looked upon, under God, as

During the campaign, Senator Sherman, of Ohio, in a speech at Sandusky,
gave this rough but accurate sketch of Mr. Lincoln and his claims to
support. It was addressed to a Western audience, and doubtless produced
a powerful impression:

“I know old Abe,” said the Senator, “and I tell you there is not, at
this hour, a more patriotic or a truer man living than that man Abraham
Lincoln. Some say he is an imbecile; but he not only held his own in his
debates with Douglas, whose power is admitted, and whom I considered the
ablest intellect in the United States Senate, but got a little the
better of him. He has been deliberate and slow, but when he puts his
foot down it is with the determination and certainty with which our
generals take their steps; and, like them, when he takes a city he never
gives it up. This firm old man is noble and kind-hearted. He is a child
of the people. Go to him with a story of woe, and he will weep like a
child. This man so condemned works more hours than any President that
ever occupied the chair. His solicitude for the public welfare is
never-ceasing. I differed from him at first myself, but at last felt and
believed that he was right, and shall vote for this brave, true,
patriotic, kind-hearted man. All his faults and mistakes you have seen;
all his virtues you never can know. His patience in labor is wonderful.
He works far harder than any man in Erie County. At the head of this
great nation--look at it! He has all the bills to sign passed by
Congress. No one can be appointed to any office without his approval.
No one can be punished without the judgment receives his signature, and
no one pardoned without his hand. This man--always right, always
just--we propose to re-elect now to the Presidency.”



One of the most important and critical battles of the Civil War took
place on the soil of Pennsylvania. The battle of Gettysburg commenced on
the 1st day of July, 1863, and lasted for three days. The invasion of
Pennsylvania by Lee’s forces was a bold turning of the tables upon the
Federal forces, but fortunately they had a brave, cool, and skillful
commander in General Meade, who beat back the Confederates with terrible

It is needless to say that excitement, amounting to panic, prevailed
throughout the North. Had Lee been successful in his bold movement, he
would probably have continued his victories through the State, and
menaced more than one Northern city. The danger was averted, but the
victory was won at large cost. The Federal loss in dead, wounded, and
missing amounted to twenty-three thousand, though considerably less than
the losses on the other side. A piece of land adjoining the cemetery of
the town was given by the State as a last resting-place for the loyal
soldiers who had fallen in the battle, and on the 19th of November it
was dedicated. Two addresses were made--one by Hon. Edward Everett,
which was not unworthy of the eminent Massachusetts orator; but the
second, though brief, was a gem which will live longer than the stately
periods of Everett. It was by President Lincoln himself, and surprised
even those who best appreciated him. There are few of my readers to whom
it is not familiar, but I can not deny myself the pleasure of recording
it here:

“Four score and seven years ago,” said Mr. Lincoln, “our fathers brought
forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and
dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are
engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation
so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great
battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that
field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that
that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we
should do this. But in a larger sense we can not dedicate, we can not
consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and
dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our power to add
or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say
here; but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the
living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they
who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to
be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these
honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they
gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that
these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God,
shall have a new birth of freedom, and that the government of the
people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the

Is there anything to be found in the addresses of any orator, ancient or
modern, more elevated in sentiment or admirable in expression? Yet the
speaker had been reared in the backwoods, a stranger to schools and
colleges, and his eloquence was neither acquired nor inherited. This
speech alone proclaims Abraham Lincoln a man of genius.



An Oriental monarch, fearing that in the plenitude of his power he might
forget the common fate, engaged a trusted attendant from time to time to
remind him of his mortality.

Abraham Lincoln needed no such reminder. Before his first inauguration,
and at intervals during his official life, he received frequent
threatening letters, menacing him with death. These he kept in a package
by themselves. Though he never permitted them to influence his action,
they had their natural effect upon a mind and temperament subject to
despondency, and not free from superstition. Mr. Lincoln had a strong
impression that he would not live through his term of office. When,
however, he was inaugurated for a second time, amid the plaudits of the
nation, and the clouds of civil war seemed lifting to reveal a brighter
future, his spirits, too, became buoyant, and he permitted himself to
believe that all would end well, and he would be permitted to reconcile
the disaffected States, and bring them back into the national fold. His
heart was full of tenderness and magnanimity toward the States in
rebellion. His large heart was incapable of harboring malice, or
thirsting for revenge.

But he was only to come in sight of the Promised Land. It was for
another leader to finish his weary and protracted task, and reap where
he had sown.

On the evening of the fourteenth of April, 1865, President Lincoln and
wife with two friends occupied a box at Ford’s Theatre, by invitation of
the manager, to witness a performance of Tom Taylor’s “American Cousin.”
They arrived late, and their entrance was greeted with enthusiasm, the
large audience rising to their feet and cheering.

Not long afterward, John Wilkes Booth, a young actor, who, throughout
the war, had made no secret of his sympathy with the Confederate cause,
entered the theatre, and, not without difficulty, made his way through
the crowded dress circle to the back of the box in which the President’s
party were seated.

“The President has sent for me,” he said to the servant, showing his
card, and thus he gained admission.

Standing in the door-way, after a hasty glance at the interior, he took
a small Derringer pistol in one hand, holding at the same time a
double-edged dagger in the other, he aimed deliberately at Mr. Lincoln,
who sat in an arm-chair, with his back to him. There was a quick report,
and the fatal bullet had entered Mr. Lincoln’s brain. Major Rathbone,
the only other gentleman present in the box, quickly comprehending the
truth, tried to seize the assassin, but he was too quick for him.
Striking at him with his dagger, he sprang to the front of the box,
leaped upon the stage, crying in a theatrical tone, “Sic semper
tyrannis!” and “The South is avenged!” and, favored by his knowledge of
the stage, escaped at the rear before the actors and audience, stupefied
by the suddenness of his act, could arrest his flight.

Too well had the assassin done his work! The President never spoke, or
recovered consciousness. He was carried from the theatre to a house near
at hand, where, at twenty-two minutes past seven the next morning, he
expired, with his mourning friends around him.

On the same evening another tragedy came near being enacted in another
part of the city--a branch, no doubt, of the same wicked conspiracy. Mr.
Seward, Secretary of State, lay sick at his house, having been thrown
from his carriage and severely injured a few days before. A man, who
proved to be Lewis Payne Powell, gained admission by a subterfuge, and,
though warned by the servant that no one was admitted to see Mr. Seward,
pushed past him into the Secretary’s chamber. At the entrance the
Secretary’s son, Mr. Frederick Seward, forbade him to enter, but Powell
struck him upon the forehead with the butt of a pistol, and, rushing to
the bed, stabbed the helpless Secretary three times, and would have
killed him but for his nurse, a soldier named Robinson, who grappled
with him, receiving severe blows in the struggle. Powell escaped from
the house, after stabbing no less than five persons.

To describe the grief, anger, and consternation which these two
tragedies produced throughout the country, would be well-nigh
impossible. Then, for the first time, it became apparent how dear to the
popular heart was the plain, honest, untiring man who, for more than
four dark and gloomy years, had borne the national burden, and labored
as best he might to restore peace and harmony to a distracted land.

The conspirators had been only too successful, but they had not
accomplished all they had in view. It had been expected that General
Grant would form one of the President’s party; fortunately, he had
excused himself, and left the city. Could he, too, have fallen a victim,
dark indeed would have been the dawning of the next day, and the
wide-spread feeling of horror would have been deepened.

In a recent conversation General Grant thus speaks of this sad time:
“The darkest day of my life was the day I heard of Lincoln’s
assassination. I did not know what it meant. Here was the rebellion put
down in the field, and starting up again in the gutters; we had fought
it as war, now we had to fight it as assassination. Lincoln was killed
on the 14th of April. I was busy sending out orders to stop recruiting,
the purchase of supplies, and to muster out the army. Lincoln had
promised to go to the theatre, and wanted me to go with him. While I was
with the President a letter came from Mrs. Grant, saying that she must
leave Washington that night. She wanted to go to Burlington to see her
children. Some incident of a trifling nature had made her resolve to
leave that evening. I was glad to have it so, as I did not want to go to
the theatre. So I made my excuse to Lincoln, and, at the proper hour, we
started for the train. As we were driving along Pennsylvania Avenue, a
horseman rode past us on a gallop, and back again around our carriage,
looking into it.

“Mrs. Grant said: ‘There is the man who sat near us at lunch to-day with
some other men, and tried to overhear our conversation. He was so rude
that we left the dining-room. Here he is now, riding after us.’

“I thought it was only curiosity, but learned afterwards that the
horseman was Booth. It seemed that I was to have been attacked, and Mrs.
Grant’s sudden resolve to leave changed the plan. A few days after I
received an anonymous letter from a man, saying that he had been
detailed to kill me; that he rode on my train as far as Havre de Grace,
and as my car was locked he failed to get in. He thanked God that he had
failed. I remembered that the conductor had locked the car, but how true
the letter was I can not say. I learned of the assassination as I was
passing through Philadelphia. I turned around, took a special train, and
came on to Washington. It was the gloomiest day of my life.”

Of the imposing funeral ceremonies, and the manifestations of deep grief
throughout the nation, I need not speak. As Dr. Holland well says:
“Millions felt that they had lost a brother, or a father, or a dear
personal friend. It was a grief that brought the nation more into family
sympathy than it had been since the days of the Revolution. Men came
together in public meetings, to give expression to their grief.... There
were men engaged in the rebellion who turned from the deed with horror.
Many of these had learned something of the magnanimity of Mr. Lincoln’s
character; and they felt that the time would come when the South would
need his friendship.”

There is no reason to believe that the Southern leaders countenanced or
instigated this atrocious deed. It was the act of a half-crazed
political fanatic, and the few who were in sympathy with him, and
cognizant of his plans, were men of like character. Justice overtook
them in the end, as might have been expected, but they had wrought
irreparable mischief, and plunged a whole people into mourning.



No one probably was better fitted to give a discriminating analysis of
Mr. Lincoln’s character than Mr. W. H. Herndon, for more than twenty
years his law-partner. From an address delivered at Springfield, Ill.,
Dec. 12, 1865, by that gentleman, I shall, therefore, quote freely,
without indorsing everything that is said, but submitting it as the
opinion of a man who knew Mr. Lincoln well:

“Mr. Lincoln read _less_ and thought _more_ than any man in his sphere
in America. No man can put his finger on any great book written in the
last or present century that he read. When young he read the Bible, and
when of age he read Shakespeare, This latter book was scarcely ever out
of his mind. Mr. Lincoln is acknowledged to have been a great man, but
the question is, What made him great? I repeat that he read less and
thought more than any man of his standing in America, if not in the
world. He possessed originality and power of thought in an eminent
degree. He was cautious, cool, concentrated, with continuity of
reflection; was patient and enduring. These are some of the grounds of
his wonderful success.

“Not only was nature, man, fact, and principle suggestive to Mr.
Lincoln--not only had he accurate and exact perceptions, but he was
causative; i.e., his mind ran back behind all facts, things, and
principles to their origin, history, and first cause,--to that point
where forces act at once as effect and cause. He would stop and stand in
the street and analyze a machine. He would whittle things to a point,
and then count the numberless inclined planes and their pitch, making
the point. Mastering and defining this, he would then cut that point
back and get a broad transverse section of his pine stick and point and
define that. Clocks, omnibuses, and language, paddle-wheels, and idioms,
never escaped his observation and analysis. Before he could form any
idea of anything--before he would express his opinion on any subject,
he must know it in origin and history, in substance and quality, in
magnitude and gravity. He must know his subject inside and outside,
upside and downside. He searched his own mind and nature thoroughly, as
I have often heard him say. He must analyze a sensation, an idea, and
words, and run them back to their origin, history, purpose, and

“All things, facts, and principles had to run through his crucible and
be tested by the fires of his analytic mind; and hence, when he did
speak, his utterances rang out gold-like--quick, keen, and current--upon
the counters of the understanding. He reasoned logically, through
analogy and comparison. All opponents dreaded him in his originality of
idea, condensation, definition, and force of expression, and woe be to
the man who hugged to his bosom a secret error if Mr. Lincoln got on the
chase of it! I say, woe to him! Time could hide the error in no nook or
corner of space in which he would not detect and expose it.”

“Mr. Lincoln was a peculiar man, having a peculiar mind. He was gifted
with a peculiarity--namely, a new lookout on nature. Everything had to
be newly created for him--facts newly gathered, newly arranged, and
newly classed. He had no faith, as already expressed. In order to
believe, he must see and feel and thrust his hand into the place. Such a
mind as this must act strongly,--must have its time. His forte and power
lay in his love of digging out for himself and hunting up for his own
mind its own food, to be assimilated unto itself; and then, in time, he
could and would form opinions and conclusions that no human power could
overthrow. They were as irresistible as iron thunder, as powerful as
logic embodied in mathematics.”

“An additional question naturally suggests itself here, and it is this:
Had Mr. Lincoln great, good common sense? Different persons of equal
capacity and honesty hold different views on this question--one class
answering in the affirmative and the other in the negative.

“These various opinions necessarily spring out of the question just
discussed. If the true test is that a man shall quickly, wisely, and
well judge the rapid rush and whirl of human transactions as accurately
as though indefinite time and proper conditions were at his disposal,
then I am compelled to follow the logic of things, and say that Mr.
Lincoln had no more than ordinary common sense. The world, men, and
their actions must be judged as they rush and pass along. They will not
wait on us--will not stay for our logic and analysis; they must be
seized as they run. We all our life act on the moment. Mr. Lincoln knew
himself, and never trusted his dollar or his fame on his casual
opinions--he never acted hastily on great matters.”

“The great predominating elements of Mr. Lincoln’s peculiar character
were--first, his great capacity and power of reason; secondly, his
excellent understanding; thirdly, an exalted idea of the sense of right
and equity; and fourthly, his intense veneration of what was true and
good. His reason ruled despotically all other faculties and qualities of
his mind. His conscience and heart were ruled by it. His conscience was
ruled by one faculty--reason; his heart was ruled by two
faculties--reason and conscience. I know it is generally believed that
Mr. Lincoln’s heart, his love and kindness, his tenderness and
benevolence were his ruling qualities; but this opinion is erroneous in
every particular. First, as to his reason. He dwelt in the mind; not in
the conscience, and not in the heart. He lived and breathed and acted
from his reason,--the throne of logic and the home of principle, the
realm of Deity in man. It is from this point that Mr. Lincoln must be
viewed. His views were correct and original. He was cautious not to be
deceived; he was patient and enduring. He had concentration and great
continuity of thought; he had a profound analytic power; his vision was
clear, and he was emphatically the master of statement. His pursuit of
the truth was indefatigable--terrible. He reasoned from his well-chosen
principles with such clearness, force, and compactness, that the tallest
intellects in the land bowed to him with respect. He was the strongest
man I ever saw--looking at him from the stand-point of his reason, the
throne of his logic. He came from that height with an irresistible and
crushing force. His printed speeches will prove this; but his speeches
before courts, especially before the Supreme Courts of the State and
Nation, would demonstrate it. Unfortunately none of them have been
preserved. Here he demanded time to think and prepare. The office of
reason is to determine the truth. Truth is the power of reason--the
child of reason. He loved and idolized truth for its own sake. It was
reason’s food.

“Conscience, the second great quality and forte of Mr. Lincoln’s
character, is that faculty which loves the just. Its office is justice;
right and equity are its correlatives. It decides upon all acts of all
people at all times. Mr. Lincoln had a deep, broad, living conscience.
His great reason told him what was true, good and bad, right, wrong,
just or unjust, and his conscience echoed back its decision; and it was
from this point that he acted and spoke and wove his character and fame
among us. His conscience ruled his heart; he was always just before he
was gracious. This was his motto--his glory; and this is as it should
be. It can not be truthfully said of any mortal man that he was always
just. Mr. Lincoln was not always just, but his general life was. It
follows that if Mr. Lincoln had great reason and great conscience, he
was an honest man. His great and general life was honest, and he was
justly and rightfully entitled to the appellation, ‘Honest Abe!’ Honesty
was his great polar star.

“Mr. Lincoln had also a good understanding, that is, the faculty that
understands and comprehends the exact state of things, their near and
remote relation. The understanding does not necessarily inquire for the
reason of things. I must here repeat that Mr. Lincoln was an odd and
original man; he lived by himself and out of himself. He could not
absorb. He was a very sensitive man, unobtrusive and gentlemanly, and
often hid himself in the common mass of men, in order to prevent the
discovery of his individuality. He had no insulting egotism and no
pompous pride; no haughtiness and no aristocracy. He was not
indifferent, however, to approbation and public opinion. He was not an
upstart and had no insolence. He was a meek, quiet, unobtrusive
gentleman. These qualities of his nature merged somewhat his identities.
Read Mr. Lincoln’s speeches, letters, messages, and proclamations; read
his whole record in his actual life, and you can not fail to perceive
that he had good understanding. He understood and fully comprehended
himself; and what he did, and why he did it, better than most living

       *       *       *       *       *

“There are two opinions--radically different opinions--expressed about
Mr. Lincoln’s will by men of equal and much capacity. One opinion is
that he had _no_ will, and the other is that he was _all_
will--omnipotently so. These two opinions are loudly and honestly
affirmed. Mr. Lincoln’s mind loved the true, the right, and good--all
the great truths and principles in the mind of man. He loved the true
first, the right second, and the good the least. His mind struggled for
truths and his soul for substances. Neither in his heart nor in his soul
did he care for forms, methods, ways,--the _non_-substantial facts or
things. He could not by his very structure and formation in mind and
body care anything about them. He did not intensely or much care for
particular individual man--dollar, property, rank, order, manners, and
such like things. He had no avarice in his nature, or other like
vice.... What suited a little, narrow, critical mind, did not suit Mr.
Lincoln’s, any more than a child’s clothes did his body. Generally, Mr.
Lincoln did not take any interest in little local elections--town
meetings. He attended no gatherings that pertained to local or other
such interests, saving general political ones. He did not care (because
he could not in his nature) who succeeded to the presidency of this or
that Christian Association or Railroad Convention; who made the most
money; who was going to Philadelphia; when and for what; and what were
the costs of such a trip. He could not care who among friends got this
office or that--who got to be street inspector or alley commissioner. No
principle of goodness, of truth, or right was here. How could he be
moved by such things as these? He could not understand why men struggled
for such things. He made this remark to me one day--I think at
Washington: ‘If ever this free people--if this Government itself is ever
utterly demoralized, it will come from this human wriggle and struggle
for office; a way to live without work; from which nature I am not free
myself.’ It puzzled him a good deal at Washington to know and to get at
the root of this dread desire,--this contagious disease of national
robbery in the nation’s death-struggle.

“Because Mr. Lincoln could not feel any interest in such little things
as I have spoken of, nor feel any particular interest in the success of
those who were then struggling and wriggling, he was called
indifferent--nay, ungrateful--to his friends. Especially is this the
case with men who have aided Mr. Lincoln all their life. Mr. Lincoln
always and everywhere wished his friends well; he loved his friends, and
clung to them tenaciously, like iron to iron welded; yet he could not be
actively and energetically aroused to the true sense of his friends’
particularly strong feelings of anxiety for office. From this fact Mr.
Lincoln has been called ungrateful. He was not an ungrateful man by any
means. He may have been a cool man--a passive man in his general life;
yet he was not ungrateful. Ingratitude is too positive a word--it does
not convey the truth. Mr. Lincoln may not have measured his friendly
duties by the applicant’s hot desire; I admit this. He was not a selfish
man,--if by selfishness is meant that Mr. Lincoln would do any act, even
to promote himself to the Presidency, if by that act any human being was
wronged. If it is said that Abraham Lincoln preferred Abraham Lincoln to
any one else in the pursuit of his ambitions, and that, because of this,
he was a selfish man, then I can see no objections to such an idea, for
this is universal human nature.

“It must be remembered that Mr. Lincoln’s mind acted logically,
cautiously, and slowly. Now, having stated the above facts, the question
of his will and its power is easily solved. Be it remembered that Mr.
Lincoln cared nothing for simple facts, manners, modes, ways, and such
like things. Be it remembered, that he _did_ care for truth, for right,
for principle, for all that pertains to the good. In relation to simple
facts, unrelated to substance, forms, rules, methods, ways, manners, he
cared nothing; and if he could be aroused, he would do anything for
anybody at any time, as well foe as friend. As a politician he would
courteously grant all facts and forms--all non-essential things--to his
opponent. He did so because he did not care for them; they were rubbish,
husks, trash. On the question of substance, he hung and clung with all
his might. On questions of truth, justice, right, the good, on
principle--his will was as firm as steel and as tenacious as iron....
Ask Mr. Lincoln to do a wrong thing, and he would scorn the request; ask
him to do an unjust thing, and he would cry ‘Begone!’; ask him to
sacrifice his convictions of the truth, and his soul would indignantly
exclaim, ‘The world perish first!’”

       *       *       *       *       *

“Mr. Lincoln sometimes walked our streets cheerily, good-humoredly,
perhaps joyously--and then it was, on meeting a friend, he cried, ‘How
d’ye?’ clasping one of his friend’s hands in both of his, giving a good,
hearty soul-welcome. Of a winter’s morning he might be seen stalking and
stilting it toward the market-house, basket on arm, his old gray shawl
wrapped around his neck, his little Willie or Tad running along at his
heels, asking a thousand little quick questions, which his father heard
not, not even then knowing that little Willie or Tad was there, so
abstracted was he. When he thus met a friend, he said that something put
him in mind of a story which he heard in Indiana or elsewhere, and tell
it he would, and there was no alternative but to listen.

“Thus, I say, stood and walked and looked this singular man. He was odd,
but when that gray eye and face, and every feature were lit up by the
inward soul in fires of emotion, _then_ it was that all those apparently
ugly features sprang into organs of beauty, or sunk themselves into a
sea of inspiration that sometimes flooded his face. Sometimes it
appeared to me that Lincoln’s soul was just fresh from the presence of
its Creator.”

“This man, this long, bony, wiry, sad man, floated into our county in
1831, in a frail canoe, down the north fork of the Sangamon River,
friendless, penniless, powerless, and alone--begging for work in this
city,--ragged, struggling for the common necessaries of life. This man,
this peculiar man, left us, in 1861, the President of the United States,
backed by friends and power, by fame and all human force; and it is well
to inquire _how?_

“To sum up, let us say, here is a sensitive, diffident, unobtrusive,
natural-made gentleman. His mind was strong and deep, sincere and
honest, patient and enduring; having no vices and having only negative
defects, with many positive virtues. His is a strong, honest, sagacious,
manly, noble life. He stands in the foremost rank of men in all
ages,--their equal,--one of the best types of this Christian



One evening when Mr. Carpenter, the artist, was alone with Mr. Lincoln
in his study, the President said: “There is a poem that has been a great
favorite with me for years, to which my attention was first called when
a young man, by a friend, and which I afterward saw and cut from a
newspaper and carried in my pocket till, by frequent reading, I had it
by heart. I would give a great deal to know who wrote it, but I could
never ascertain.”

He then repeated the poem, now familiar to the public, commencing, “Oh!
why should the spirit of mortal be proud?”

This poem, which was written by William Knox, a young Scotchman, a
contemporary of Sir Walter Scott, suits well the thoughtful, melancholy
mood habitual to Mr. Lincoln. It is said that a man may be known by his
favorite poem. Whether this can be said of men in general may be
doubted. In the case of Abraham Lincoln I think those who knew him best
would agree that the sadness underlying the poem found an echo in the
temperament he inherited from his mother. I am sure my readers will be
glad to find the poem recorded here, even though they may have met with
it before:

    Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
    Like a swift-fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
    A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
    He passeth from life to his rest in the grave.

    The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
    Be scattered around and together be laid;
    And the young and the old, the low and the high,
    Shall moulder to dust, and together shall lie--

    The infant a mother attended and loved;
    The mother that infant’s affection who proved:
    The husband, that mother and infant who blest--
    Each, all, are away to their dwellings of rest.

    The maid on whose cheek, on whose brow, in whose eye
    Shone beauty and pleasure,--her triumphs are by;
    And the memory of those who loved her and praised,
    Are alike from the minds of the living erased.

    The hand of the king that the sceptre hath borne,
    The brow of the priest that the mitre hath worn,
    The eye of the sage and the heart of the brave,
    Are hidden and lost in the depths of the grave.

    The peasant, whose lot was to sow and to reap,
    The herdsman, who climbed with his goats up the steep,
    The beggar, who wandered in search of his bread,
    Have faded away like the grass that we tread.

    The saint, who enjoyed the communion of Heaven,
    The sinner, who dared to remain unforgiven,
    The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,
    Have quietly mingled their bones in the dust.

    So the multitude goes--like the flower or the weed
    That withers away to let others succeed;
    So the multitude comes--even those we behold,
    To repeat every tale that has often been told.

    For we are the same our fathers have been;
    We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
    We drink the same stream, we view the same sun,
    And run the same course our fathers have run.

    The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think;
    From the death we are shrinking, our fathers would shrink
    To the life we are clinging, they also would cling,--
    But it speeds from us all like a bird on the wing.

    They loved--but the story we can not unfold;
    They scorned--but the heart of the haughty is cold;
    They grieved--but no wail from their slumber will come;
    They joyed--but the tongue of their gladness is dumb.

    They died--ay, they died; we things that are now,
    That walk on the turf that lies over their brow,
    And make in their dwellings a transient abode,
    Meet the things that they met on their pilgrimage road.

    ’Tis the wink of an eye--’tis the draught of a breath--
    From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
    From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud:--
    Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?

The last stanza will call to mind the startling suddenness with which
Abraham Lincoln, the Chief Magistrate of a great nation, passed from the
summit of power to the solemn stillness of death. Was it a sad,
prophetic instinct that caused the mind of the great martyr to dwell so
constantly upon these solemn strains?

No man seems to have been more clearly indicated as the instrument of
Providence than Abraham Lincoln. It seems strange in the eyes of men
that a rough youth, born and reared in the backwoods, without early
educational advantages, homely and awkward, and with no polish of manner
save that which proceeded from a good heart, should have been selected
as the Guide and Savior of a great nation. But God’s ways are not as our
ways, nor is His choice as ours. Mr. Lincoln had this advantage,--coming
from the ranks of the people, he never lost sight of his sympathy for
his class. His nature and his sympathies were broad and unconfined.

He has been well described by one reared like himself, in the free
atmosphere of the West: “Nearly every great figure of history is a kind
of great monstrosity. We know nothing about Washington. He is a steel
engraving. No dirt of humanity clings to his boots. Lincoln lived where
men were free and equal, and was acquainted with the people, not much
with books. Every man is in some sort a book. He lived the poem of the
year in the fields, the woods, the blessed country. Lincoln had the
advantage of sociability. He was thoughtful, and saw on the horizon of
his future the perpetual star of hope. To him every field was a
landscape; every landscape a poem; every poem a lesson, and every grove
a fairy land. Oaks and elms are far more poetical than streets or
houses. A country life is in itself an education. It gives the man an
idea of home. He hears the rain on the roofs, the rustle of the breeze,
the music of nature’s fullest control. You have no idea how many men
education spoils. Lincoln’s education was derived from men and things,
and hence he had a chance to develop. He had many sides. He not only
had laughter, but he had tears, and never that kind of solemnity which
is a wash to hide the features. He was not afraid to seek for knowledge
where he had it not. When a man is too dignified he ceases to learn. He
was always honest with himself. He was an orator; that is, he was
natural. If you wish to be sublime you must keep close to the grass. You
must sit close to the heart of human experience--above the clouds it is
too cold. If you want to know the difference between an orator and a
speaker read the oration of Lincoln at Gettysburg, and then read the
speech of Everett at the same place. One came from the heart, the other
was from out of the voice. Lincoln’s speech will be remembered forever.
Everett’s no man will read. It was like plucked flowers.

“If you want to find out what a man is to the bottom, give him power.
Any man can stand adversity--only a great man can stand prosperity. It
is the glory of Abraham Lincoln that he never abused power only on the
side of mercy. When he had power he used it in mercy. He loved to see
the tears of the wife whose husband he had snatched from death.”

I draw near the close of my task, having given, as I hope, some fair
idea of one whose memory will always remain dear to the hearts of his
countrymen. In that chequered life there is much to imitate, much to
admire, little to avoid or censure. Happy will be the day when our
public men copy his unselfishness, his patriotic devotion to duty!

Within a few months, on the eighteenth anniversary of Mr. Lincoln’s
assassination, a poem was read at his grave by John H. Bryant, of
Princeton, which will fitly close my story of the Backwoods Boy:

    Not one of all earth’s wise and great
    Hath earned a purer gratitude
    Than the great Soul whose hallowed dust
    This structure holds in sacred trust.

    How fierce the strife that rent the land,
    When he was summoned to command;
    With what wise care he led us through
    The fearful storms that ’round us blew.

    Calm, patient, hopeful, undismayed,
    He met the angry hosts arrayed
    For bloody war, and overcame
    Their haughty power in Freedom’s name.

    ’Mid taunts and doubts, the bondsman’s chain
    With gentle force he cleft in twain,
    And raised four million slaves to be
    The chartered sons of Liberty.

    No debt he owed to wealth or birth;
    By force of solid, honest worth
    He climbed the topmost height of fame
    And wrote thereon a spotless name.

    Oh! when the felon hand laid low
    That sacred head, what sudden woe
    Shot to the Nation’s farthest bound,
    And every bosom felt the wound.

    Well might the Nation bow in grief,
    And weep above the fallen chief,
    Who ever strove, by word or pen,
    For “peace on earth, good-will to men.”

    The people loved him, for they knew,
    Each pulse of his large heart was true
    To them, to Freedom, and the right,
    Unswayed by gain, unawed by might.

    This tomb, by loving hands up-piled,
    To him, the merciful and mild,
    From age to age shall carry down
    The glory of his great renown.

    As the long centuries onward flow,
    As generations come and go,
    Wide and more wide his fame shall spread,
    And greener laurels crown his head.

    And when this pile is fall’n to dust,
    Its bronzes crumbled into rust,
    Thy name, O Lincoln! still shall be
    Revered and loved from sea to sea.

    India’s swart millions, ’neath their palms,
    Shall sing thy praise in grateful psalms,
    And crowds by Congo’s turbid wave
    Bless the good hand that freed the slave.

    Shine on, O Star of Freedom, shine,
    Till all the realms of earth are thine;
    And all the tribes, through countless days,
    Shall bask in thy benignant rays.

    Lord of the Nations! grant us still
    Another patriot sage, to fill
    The seat of power, and save the State
    From selfish greed. For this we wait.

       *       *       *       *       *



A Selection of the Best Books for Boys by the Most Popular Authors

The titles in this splendid juvenile series have been selected with
care, and as a result all the stories can be relied upon for their
excellence. They are bright and sparkling; not over-burdened with
lengthy descriptions, but brimful of adventure from the first page to
the last--in fact they are just the kind of yarns that appeal strongly
to the healthy boy who is fond of thrilling exploits and deeds of
heroism. Among the authors whose names are included in the Boys’ Own
Library are Horatio Alger, Jr., Edward S. Ellis, James Otis, Capt. Ralph
Bonehill, Burt L. Standish, Gilbert Patten and Frank H. Converse.


All the books in this series are copyrighted, printed on good paper,
large type, illustrated, printed wrappers, handsome cloth covers stamped
in inks and gold--fifteen special cover designs.

_146 Titles--Price, per Volume, 75 cents_

For sale by all booksellers, or sent, postpaid, on receipt of price by
the publisher,



       *       *       *       *       *


One of the best known and most popular writers. Good, clean, healthy
stories for the American Boy.

  Adventures of a Telegraph Boy
  Dean Dunham
  Erie Train Boy, The
  Five Hundred Dollar Check
  From Canal Boy to President
  From Farm Boy to Senator
  Backwoods Boy, The
  Mark Stanton
  Ned Newton
  New York Boy
  Tom Brace
  Tom Tracy
  Walter Griffith
  Young Acrobat


One of the best stories ever written on hunting, trapping and adventure
in the West, after the Custer Massacre.

Gilbert, the Boy Trapper


A splendid story, recording the adventures of a boy with smugglers.

Smuggler’s Cave, The


Capt. Bonehill is in the very front rank as an author of boys’ stories.
These are two of his best works.

  Neka, the Boy Conjurer
  Tour of the Zero Club


An excellent story of adventure in the celebrated Sunk Lands of Missouri
and Kansas.

In the Sunk Lands


This writer has established a splendid reputation as a boys’ author, and
although his books usually command $1.25 per volume, we offer the
following at a more popular price.

  Gold of Flat Top Mountain
  Happy-Go-Lucky Jack
  Heir to a Million
  In Search of An Unknown Race
  In Southern Seas
  Mystery of a Diamond
  That Treasure
  Voyage to the Gold Coast

DAVID McKAY, Publisher, Philadelphia.


One of England’s most successful writers of stories for boys. His best
story is

Pirate Island


Two books we highly recommend. One is a splendid story of adventure at
sea, when American ships were in every port in the world, and the other
tells of adventures while the first railway in the Andes Mountains was
being built.

  Boys in the Forecastle
  Old Man of the Mountain


Three stories by one of the very greatest writers for boys. The stories
deal with boys’ adventures in India, China and Abyssinia. These books
are strongly recommended for boys’ reading, as they contain a large
amount of historical information.

  Tiger Prince
  War Tiger
  White Elephant


These books are considered the best works this well-known writer ever
produced. No better reading for bright young Americans.

  Arthur Helmuth
  Check No. 2134
  From Tent to White House
  Perils of the Jungle
  On the Trail of Geronimo
  White Mustang


For the past fifty years Mr. Fenn has been writing books for boys and
popular fiction. His books are justly popular throughout the
English-speaking world. We publish the following select list of his
boys’ books, which we consider the best he ever wrote.

  Commodore Junk
  Dingo Boys
  Golden Magnet
  Grand Chaco


A graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and thoroughly
familiar with all naval matters. Mr. Fitch has devoted himself to
literature, and has written a series of books for boys that every young
American should read. His stories are full of very interesting
information about the navy, training ships, etc.

  Bound for Annapolis
  Clif, the Naval Cadet
  Cruise of the Training Ship
  From Port to Port
  Strange Cruise, A


An author of world-wide popularity. Mr. Graydon is essentially a friend
of young people, and we offer herewith ten of his best works, wherein he
relates a great diversity of interesting adventures in various parts of
the world, combined with accurate historical data.

  Butcher of Cawnpore, The
  Camp in the Snow, The
  Campaigning with Braddock
  Cryptogram, The
  From Lake to Wilderness
  In Barracks and Wigwam
  In Fort and Prison
  Jungles and Traitors
  Rajah’s Fortress, The
  White King of Africa, The


Every American boy takes a keen interest in the affairs of West Point.
No more capable writer on this popular subject could be found than
Lieut. Garrison, who vividly describes the life, adventures and unique
incidents that have occurred in that great institution--in these famous
West Point stories.

  Off for West Point
  Cadet’s Honor, A
  On Guard
  West Point Treasure, The
  West Point Rivals, The


The hunt for gold has always been a popular subject for consideration,
and Mr. Hill has added a splendid story on the subject in this romance
of the Klondyke.

Spectre Gold


Mr. Lewis is a graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, and has
written a great many books for boys. Among his best works are the
following titles--the subjects include a vast series of adventures in
all parts of the world. The historical data is correct, and they should
be read by all boys, for the excellent information they contain.

  Centreboard Jim
  King of the Island
  Midshipman Merrill
  Ensign Merrill
  Sword and Pen
  Valley of Mystery, The
  Yankee Boys in Japan

DAVID McKAY, Publisher, Philadelphia.

       *       *       *       *       *


A series of books embracing many adventures under our famous naval
commanders, and with our army during the War of 1812 and the Civil War.
Founded on sound history, these books are written for boys, with the
idea of combining pleasure with profit; to cultivate a fondness for
study--especially of what has been accomplished by our army and navy.

  Cadet Kit Carey
  Captain Carey
  Kit Carey’s Protegé
  Lieut. Carey’s Luck
  Out With Commodore Decatur
  Randy, the Pilot
  Tom Truxton’s School Days
  Tom Truxton’s Ocean Trip
  Treasure of the Golden Crater
  Won at West Point


Four splendid books of adventure on sea and land, by this well-known
writer for boys.

  Giant Islanders, The
  How He Won
  Nature’s Young Nobleman
  Rival Battalions


This charming story contains thirty-two chapters of just the sort of
school life that charms the boy readers.

Bob Porter at Lakeview Academy


Mr. Norris is without a rival as a writer of “Circus Stories” for boys.
These four books are full of thrilling adventures, but good, wholesome
reading for young Americans.

  Phil, the Showman
  Young Showman’s Rivals, The
  Young Showman’s Pluck, The
  Young Showman’s Triumph


When a boy has read one of Lieut. Orton’s books, it requires no urging
to induce him to read the others. Not a dull page in any of them.

  Beach Boy Joe
  Last Chance Mine
  Secret Chart, The
  Tom Havens with the White Squadron

DAVID McKAY, Publisher, Philadelphia.


Mr. Otis is known by nearly every American boy, and needs no
introduction here. The following copyrights are among his best:

  Chased Through Norway
  Inland Waterways
  Unprovoked Mutiny
  Wheeling for Fortune
  Reuben Green’s Adventures at Yale


Mr. Patten has had the distinction of having his books adopted by the U.
S. Government for all naval libraries on board our war ships. While
aiming to avoid the extravagant and sensational, the stories contain
enough thrilling incidents to please the lad who loves action and
adventure. In the Rockspur stories the description of their Baseball and
Football Games and other contests with rival clubs and teams make very
exciting and absorbing reading; and few boys with warm blood in their
veins, having once begun the perusal of one of these books, will
willingly lay it down till it is finished.

  Boy Boomers
  Boy Cattle King
  Boy from the West
  Don Kirke’s Mine
  Jud and Joe
  Rockspur Nine, The
  Rockspur Eleven, The
  Rockspur Rivals, The


Mr. Rathborne’s stories for boys have the peculiar charm of dealing with
localities and conditions with which he is thoroughly familiar. The
scenes of these excellent stories are along the Florida coast and on the
western prairies.

  Canoe and Camp Fire
  Paddling Under Palmettos
  Rival Canoe Boys
  Sunset Ranch
  Chums of the Prairie
  Young Range Riders
  Gulf Cruisers
  Shifting Winds


An American story by an American author. It relates how a Yankee boy
overcame many obstacles in school and out. Thoroughly interesting from
start to finish.

Gay Dashleigh’s Academy Days

DAVID McKAY, Publisher, Philadelphia.


An exceptionally good story of frontier life among the Indians in the
far West, during the early settlement period.

Jack Wheeler

The Famous Frank Merriwell Stories.


No modern series of tales for boys and youths has met with anything like
the cordial reception and popularity accorded to the Frank Merriwell
Stories. There must be a reason for this and there is. Frank Merriwell,
as portrayed by the author, is a jolly whole-souled, honest, courageous
American lad, who appeals to the hearts of the boys. He has no bad
habits, and his manliness inculcates the idea that it is not necessary
for a boy to indulge in petty vices to be a hero. Frank Merriwell’s
example is a shining light for every ambitious lad to follow. Six
volumes now ready:

  Frank Merriwell’s School Days
  Frank Merriwell’s Chums
  Frank Merriwell’s Foes
  Frank Merriwell’s Trip West
  Frank Merriwell Down South
  Frank Merriwell’s Bravery
  Frank Merriwell’s Hunting Tour
  Frank Merriwell’s Races
  Frank Merriwell’s Sports Afield
  Frank Merriwell at Yale


These books are full of good, clean adventure, thrilling enough to
please the full-blooded wide-awake boy, yet containing nothing to which
there can be any objection from those who are careful as to the kind of
books they put into the hands of the young.

  Cast Away in the Jungle
  Comrades Under Castro
  For Home and Honor
  Zip, the Acrobat
  From Switch to Lever
  Little Snap, the Post Boy
  Zig-Zag, the Boy Conjurer
  Zip, the Acrobat


Good, healthy, strong books for the American lad. No more interesting
books for the young appear on our lists.

  Adventures of a Young Athlete
  Eric Dane
  Guy Hammersley
  My Mysterious Fortune
  Tour of a Private Car
  Young Editor, The


One of the most popular authors of boys’ books. Here are three of his

  Mark Dale’s Stage Venture
  Young Bank Clerk, The
  Young Bridge Tender, The


This very interesting story relates the trials and triumphs of a Young
American Actor, including the solution of a very puzzling mystery.

  Young Actor, The


This book is not a treatise on sports, as the title would indicate, but
relates a series of thrilling adventures among boy campers in the woods
of Maine.

  Boats, Bats and Bicycles

DAVID McKAY, Publisher, Philadelphia.

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