By john g. Nioolay and john hay

Download 4.94 Mb.
Size4.94 Mb.
1   ...   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   ...   45

chap. tv. activity was a greater pro­tection to him than his in­offensive good-nature. But the loud admiration of Offutt gave them umbrage. It led to dispute, contradic­tions, and finally to a formal banter to a wrestling-match. Lincoln was greatly averse to all this "wool-ing and pulling," as he called it. But Offutt's indis­cretion had made it necessary for him to show his mettle. Jack Arm­strong, the leading bully of the gang, was selected to throw him, and expected an easy victory. But he soon found him­self in different hands from any he had heretofore engaged with. See­ing he could not manage the tall stranger, his friends swarmed in, and by kicking and tripping nearly succeeded in getting Lincoln down. At this, as has been said of another hero, " the spirit of Odin entered into him," and putting forth his whole strength, he held the


pride of Clary's Grove in his arms like a! child, and chap. iv. almost choked the exuberant life out of him. For a moment a general fight seemed inevitable; but Lincoln, standing undismayed with his back to the wall, looked so formidable in his defiance that an ... honest admiration took the place of momentary fury, and his initiation was over. As to Armstrong, he was Lincoln's friend and sworn brother as soon as he recovered the use of his larynx, and the bond thus strangely created lasted through life. Lincoln had no further occasion to fight his own battles while Armstrong was there to act as his champion. The two friends, although so widely different, were helpful to each other afterwards in many ways, and Lincoln made ample amends for the liberty his hands had taken with Jack's throat, by saving, in a memorable trial, his son's neck from the halter.

This incident, trivial and vulgar as it may seem, was of great importance in Lincoln's life. His behavior in this ignoble scuffle did the work of years for him, in giving him the position he required in the community where his lot was cast. He became from that moment, in a certain sense, a personage, with a name and standing of his own. The verdict of Clary's Grove was unanimous that he was "the cleverest fellow that had ever broke into the settlement." He did not have to be con­stantly scuffling to guard his self-respect, and at the same time he gained the good-will of the better sort by his evident peaceableness and integrity.

He made on the whole a satisfactory clerk for Mr. Offutt, though his downright honesty must have seemed occasionally as eccentric in that posi­tion as afterwards it did to his associates at the

vol. I.— 6


The page liere shown in reduced fac-simile is from the Exercise Book presented by William H. Herndon to the Keyes-Lincoln Memorial Collection. When the book was written Lincoln was about seventeen.



bar. Dr. Holland has preserved one or two inci- chap.iv. dents of this kind, which have their value. Once, after he had sold a woman a little bill of goods and received the money, he found on looking over the account again that she had given him six and a quarter cents too much. The money burned in his hands until he locked the shop and started on a walk of several miles in the night to make restitu­tion before he slept. On another occasion, after weighing and delivering a pound of tea, he found a small weight on the scales. He immediately weighed out the quantity of tea of which he had innocently defrauded his customer and went in search of her, his sensitive conscience not permit­ting any delay. To show that the young merchant was not too good for this world, the same writer gives an incident of his shop-keeping experience of a different character. A rural bully having made himself especially offensive one day, when women were present, by loud profanity, Lincoln requested him to be silent. This was of course a cause of war, and the young clerk was forced to follow the incensed ruffian into the street, where the combat was of short duration. Lincoln threw him at once to the ground, and gathering a handful of the dog-fennel with which the roadside was plentifully bor­dered, he rubbed the ruffian's face and eyes with it until he howled for mercy. He did not howl in vain, for the placable giant, when his discipline was finished, brought water to bathe the culprit's smarting face, and doubtless improved the occasion with quaint admonition.

A few passages at arms of this sort ^ave Abra­ham a redoubtable reputation in the neighborhood.


chap. iv. But the principal use he made of his strength and his prestige was in the capacity of peacemaker, an office which soon devolved upon him by general consent. Whenever old feuds blossomed into fights by (Mutt's door, or the chivalry of Clary's Grove attempted in its energetic way to take the conceit out of some stranger, or a canine duel spread con­tagion of battle among the masters of the beasts, Lincoln usually appeared upon the scene, and with a judicious mixture of force and reason and invinci­ble good-nature restored peace.

While working with Offutt his mind was turned in the direction of English grammar. From what he had heard of it he thought it a matter within his grasp, if he could once fall in with the requisite machinery. Consulting with Menton1 Graham, the schoolmaster, in regard to it, and learning the whereabouts of a vagrant " Kirkham's Grammar," he set off at once and soon returned from a walk of a dozen miles with the coveted prize. He devoted himself to the new study with that pecu­liar intensity of application which always remained his most valuable faculty, and soon knew all that can be known about it from rules. He seemed sur­prised, as others have been, at the meager dimen­sions of the science he had acquired and the ease with which it yielded all there was of it to the student. But it seemed no slight achievement to the New Salemites, and contributed not a little to the prevalent impression of his learning.

His name is prominently connected with an event which just at this time caused an excitement

iThis nam§ has always been daughter, Mrs. Bell, says that written in Illinois "Minter," but her father's name is as given in a letter from Mr. Graham's the text.


and interest in Salem and the neighboring towns chap.iv. entirely out of proportion to its importance. It was one of the articles of faith of most of the settlers on the banks of the Sangamon Elver that it was a navigable stream, and the local politicians found that they could in no way more easily hit the fancy of their hearers than by discussing this assumed fact, and the logical corollary derived from it, that it was the duty of the State or the nation to clear out the snags and give free course to the commerce which was waiting for an opportunity to pour along this natural highway. At last one Captain Yineent Bogue, of Springfield, determined to show that the thing could be done by doing it. The first promise of the great enterprise appears in the " Sangamo Journal" of January 26, 1832, in a letter from the Captain, at Cincinnati, saying he would ascend the Sangamon by steam on the breaking up of the ice. He asked that he might be met at the mouth of the river by ten or twelve men, having axes with long handles, to cut away the overhanging branches of the trees on the banks. From this moment there was great excite­ment,— public meetings, appointment of commit­tees, appeals for subscriptions, and a scattering fire of advertisements of goods and freight to be bargained for,— which sustained the prevailing interest. It was a day of hope and promise when the advertisement reached Springfield from Cin­cinnati that "the splendid upper-cabin steamer Talisman" would positively start for the Sangamon on a given day. As the paper containing this joy­ous intelligence also complained that no mail had reached Springfield from the east for three weeks,


chap. iv. it is easy to understand the desire for more rapid and regular communications. From week to week the progress of the Talisman, impeded by bad weather and floating ice, was faithfully recorded, until at last the party with long-handled axes went down to Beards town to welcome her. It is needless to state that Lincoln was one of the party. His standing as a scientific citizen of New Salem would have been enough to insure his selection even if he had not been known as a bold navigator. He piloted the Talisman safely through the wind­ings of the Sangamon, and Springfield gave itself up to extravagant gayety on the event that proved she " could no longer be considered an inland town." Captain Bogue announced " fresh and seasonable goods just received per steamboat Talisman? and the local poets illuminated the columns of the " Journal" with odes on her advent. The joy was short-lived. The Talisman met the natural fate of steamboats a few months later, being burned at the St. Louis wharf. Neither State nor nation has ever removed the snags from the Sangamon, and no subsequent navigator of its waters has been found to eclipse the fame of the earliest one.




NEW period in the life of Lincoln begins chap.v. with the summer of 1832. He then obtained 18~^ his first public recognition, and entered upon the course of life which was to lead him to a position of prominence and great usefulness.

The business of Offutt had gone to pieces, and his clerk was out of employment, when Governor Reynolds issued his call for volunteers to move the tribe of Black Hawk across the Mississippi. For several years the raids of the old Sac chieftain upon that portion of his patrimony which he had ceded to the United States had kept the settlers in the neigh­borhood of Rock Island in terror, and menaced the peace of the frontier. In the spring of 1831 he came over to the east side of the river with a con­siderable band of warriors, having been encouraged by secret promises of cooperation from several other tribes. These failed him, however, when the time of trial arrived, and an improvised force of State volunteers, assisted by G-eneral E. P. Gaines and his detachment, had little difficulty in compelling the Indians to recross the Mississippi, and to enter into a solemn treaty on the 30th of June by which the former treaties were ratified and Black Hawk



chap. v. and his leading warriors bound themselves never again to set foot on the east side of the river, with­out express permission from the President or the Governor of Illinois.

But Black Hawk was too old a savage to learn respect for treaties or resignation under fancied wrongs. He was already approaching the allotted term of life. He had been a chief of his nation for more than forty years. He had scalped his first enemy when scarcely more than a child, having painted on his blanket the blood-red hand which marked his nobility at fifteen years of age. Peace under any circumstances would doubtless have been irksome to him, but a peace which forbade him free access to his own hunting-grounds and to the graves of his fathers was more than he could now school himself to endure. He had come to believe that he had been foully wronged by the treaty which was his own act ; he had even convinced him­self that "land cannot be sold," a proposition in polit-ical economy which our modern socialists would be

Tim ps *

p. 325'. puzzled to accept or confute. Besides this, the ten-

derest feelings of his heart were outraged by this

exclusion from his former domain. He had never

passed a year since the death of his daughter with-

out making a pilgrimage to her grave at Oquawka

and spending hours in mystic ceremonies and con-

pord) templation. He was himself prophet as well as war-

mnoij"°f rior, and had doubtless his share of mania, which is

p> 110' the strength of prophets. The promptings of his

own broken heart readily seemed to him the whisper-

ings of attendant spirits ; and day by day these un-

seen incitements increased around him, until they

could not be resisted even if death stood in the way.


He made his combinations during the winter, and chap. v. had it not been for the loyal attitude of Keokuk, he could have brought the entire nation of the Sacs and Foxes to the war-path. As it was, the flower of the young men came with him when, with the opening spring, he crossed the river once more. He came this time, he said, " to plant corn," but as a preliminary to this peaceful occupation of the land he marched up the Bock River, expecting to be joined by the Winnebagoes and Pottawatomies. But the time was passed for honorable alliances among the Indians. His oath-bound confederates gave him little assistance, and soon cast in their lot with the stronger party.

This movement excited general alarm in the State. General Henry Atkinson, commanding the United States troops, sent a formal summons to Black Hawk to return; but the old chief was already well on his way to the lodge of his friend, the prophet Wabokishick, atProphetstown, and treated the sum­mons with contemptuous defiance. The Governor immediately called for volunteers, and was him­self astonished at the alacrity with which the call was answered. Among those who enlisted at the first tap of the drum was Abraham Lincoln, and equally to his surprise and delight he was elected captain of his company. The volunteer organiza­tions of those days were conducted on purely democratic principles. The company assembled on the green, an election was suggested, and three-fourths of the men walked over to where Lincoln was standing; most of the small remainder joined themselves to one Kirkpatrick, a man of some sub­stance and standing from Spring Creek. We have


Share with your friends:
1   ...   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   ...   45

The database is protected by copyright © 2020
send message

    Main page