PART TWO: LINCOLN AT NEW SALEMPage [unnumbered]Page 41
LINCOLN AT NEW SALEM
ONE day in late April, 1831, a crowd gathered on the river bank near the New Salem mill. They were watching four men who were working over a flat|boat that had stranded on the dam. The men had tried to float the boat over the dam; but halfway across it had stuck. Now, with its bow raised in the air and shipping water at the stern, it was in danger of sinking.
One of the crew, a long, ungainly looking individual, took charge. He was dressed in "a pair of blue jeans trowsers indefinitely rolled up, a cotton shirt, striped white and blue, . . . and a buckeye-chip hat for which a demand of twelve and a half cents would have been exorbitant." Under his direction the cargo in the stern was unloaded until the weight of the cargo in the bow caused the boat to right itself. The young man then went ashore, borrowed an auger at Onstot's cooper shop, bored a hole in the bow and let the water run out. He then plugged the hole; and the boat, with lightened cargo, was eased over the dam.
Poling the flatboat over to the bank, the crew came ashore, where the onlookers congratulated them. The owner of the boat introduced himself as Denton Offut. The others were John Hanks, John Johnston and "Abe" Lincoln. The latter was the ungainly youth who had directed operations, and the villagers looked at him with interest. Well over six feet tall, lean and gangling, raw-boned and with coarsened hands, he was a typical youth of the American frontier. He had been born in Kentucky, and had lived there seven years. Then he had gone with his parents to Indiana where they had lived for fourteen years. About a year ago they had moved to Macon County, Illinois. He was now twenty|two. Johnston was his step-brother and Hanks was his Page 42 cousin. Offut had hired them to take the flatboat to New Orleans.
During their brief stay in New Salem, Offut looked about appraisingly. He believed the place had possibilities, for the tide of immigration to the Sangamo country was rising steadily. He was convinced that the Sangamon could be navigated by steamboats, and loudly announced that he would build a boat with rollers to enable it to get over shoals and runners for use on ice. With Lincoln in charge, "By thunder, she would have to go!" He made arrange|ments to open a store on his return from New Orleans and to rent the mill.
A strange combination, Offut was enterprising and enthusiastic, but also boastful and vain. "He talked too much with his mouth." He was dreamy, impractical, too fond of drink. In a sense, however, he was the discoverer of Lincoln. "During this boat enterprise," as Lincoln later said, "he conceived a liking for Abraham, and believing he could turn him to account, he contracted with him to act as clerk for him on his return from New Orleans."
The remainder of the voyage was uneventful. At New Orleans cargo and boat were sold, and the crew returned by steamboat to St. Louis. From there Lincoln walked to New Salem, while Offut stayed behind to purchase a stock of goods.
Lincoln reached New Salem in late July, 1831. Shortly after his arrival, on August 1, an election was held. The polls were at John Camron's house. Here Lincoln voted, probably for the first time. His selections were Edward Coles for Congress, Edmund Greer and Bowling Green for magistrates, and Jack Armstrong and Henry Sinco for con|stables. The three last named were elected. Lincoln did not serve as clerk at this election, as has been often stated.^1^6 Throughout the day he loitered about the polls, talking, gossiping and making acquaintances. By evening he had met most of the male inhabitants of the precinct.
Page 43At slack moments during the election he amused the by|standers with stories. Among others, he told of an old preacher in Indiana who was accustomed to appear before his congregation dressed in a coarse linen shirt and old-fashioned pantaloons with baggy legs and a flap in front, which buttoned tightly about his waist with a single button, thus making suspenders unnecessary. His shirt was also held together by a single button at the collar. Rising in his pulpit, he announced as his text: "I am the Christ, whom I shall represent today." About that time a small lizard ran up inside his baggy trousers. Continuing his discourse, the preacher slapped at the lizard, but without success. As it continued to ascend, the old man loosed the button on his pantaloons, and with a swinging kick divested himself of them. But the lizard was now above the "equatorial line of waist band," exploring the small of his back. The sermon flowed steadily on, but in the midst of it the preacher tore open his collar button and with a sweep of his arm threw off his shirt. The congregation was dazed for an instant; but at length an old lady rose, stamped her foot and shouted: "Well! If you represent Christ, I'm done with the Bible!"*
While waiting for Offut Lincoln lounged about town getting better acquainted. He boarded at John Camron's. As days passed and Offut did not come he picked up a little money by piloting a family, bound for Texas, down the Sangamon to Beardstown on a raft, and returned to New Salem on foot.
Page 44Offut finally arrived, and the store was opened about September 1. It was the usual type of frontier store, its shelves covered with articles of every sort. Like other country stores, it was a general meeting place, where all the questions of the day were discussed. William G. Greene, Jr., a youth of nineteen, known familiarly as "Slicky Bill," whose parents lived about two miles southwest of town, was hired to assist Lincoln in the store and at the mill. Both men slept in the store. They became life-long friends; and after Lincoln's election to the presidency he appointed Greene, a Democrat, and by that time a prosperous farmer and real estate and railroad promoter, to be Collector of Internal Revenue at Peoria.
The store was situated on the bluff above the river near Bill Clary's grocery. Bill's brother, John, was the founder of Clary's Grove, and the grocery was the hang-out of the Clary's Grove boys when they came to town to trade, gossip, drink or play. A reckless, roistering, fearless crowd, in in|dividual and "free-for-all" fights they had settled the ques|tion of supremacy with the boys from other settlements. Rough and sometimes cruel, they were also generous and sympathetic. Not too respectful of law, they nevertheless had standards of right conduct which they observed them|selves and to which they made others conform. They were typical American frontiersmen, with physical strength and courage as their ideals. Herndon said, "A stranger's intro|duction was likely to be the most unpleasant part of his acquaintance with them." Jack Armstrong was their leader.
Denton Offut bragged continually of Lincoln's mental and physical might. He claimed that his clerk could out|run, throw or whip any man in the community. The Clary's Grove boys were willing to concede his intellectual supe|riority. That was immaterial to them. But physical honors at New Salem had "to be won before they were worn." Soon Jack Armstrong challenged Lincoln to a wrestling match.
Page 45Lincoln accepted, and the town turned out to see the fun. Bill Clary and Offut laid a bet of ten dollars, while others wagered knives, trinkets, money and drinks.
Armstrong was a formidable opponent, experienced, hard, and heavy-set. Lincoln stood six feet four inches, and weighed 185 pounds. He had been a recognized champion in his former home. The two men circled warily, grappled and twisted, neither able to throw the other. Then Arm|strong began to get the worst of it. Unwilling to see their leader go down, Armstrong's friends rushed in. Lincoln, thoroughly aroused, backed against Offut's store, denounced them for their treachery and offered to fight any or all of them individually. None accepted; and Armstrong and Lincoln finally shook hands, and agreed to call the match Page 46 a draw. From that time Lincoln had no better friends than Armstrong and his wife, Hannah.^1^7
The match with Armstrong was an important event in Lincoln's life. It gave him the reputation for courage and strength that was so essential to success on the frontier, and convinced his associates that he "belonged." It gave him standing with the whole Greene-Armstrong-Clary-Watkins clan. While his physical prowess commanded their admira|tion and respect, his honesty and truthfulness soon won their confidence. During his remaining years in New Salem, they followed and supported him in anything he did. Some|times he acted as second in their fights; but whenever pos|sible he persuaded antagonists to compose their differences. His jokes and anecdotes evoked roars of merriment. Once he was second in a bloody fight in which his man was whipped. While the contestants were washing themselves in the river, the second of the victor, a small man, some|what the worse for drink, cried, "Abe, my man licked yours and I can lick you." Lincoln gravely accepted the challenge provided his opponent would chalk his outline on Lincoln and agree not to hit outside the lines.
The boys made him judge of many of their contests. It is said that he once refereed a cock fight in which one of the roosters belonged to Babb McNabb. Babb had bragged a great deal about the fighting qualities of his bird, and it was matched with a hardy veteran of the New Salem pit. Bets ran high. When the two roosters were thrown into the pit, McNabb's, seeing his battle-scarred opponent ad|vancing upon him, turned tail and ran. At a safe distance he mounted a fence, proudly spread his feathers and crowed lustily. Babb, paying over his wager to the owner of the victor, looked at his own bird. "Yes, you little cuss," said he, "you're great on dress parade, but not worth a damn in a fight." Years later, when General McClellan was exhaust|ing the patience of Lincoln and the country by continually drilling and reviewing the Army of the Potomac, but per|sistently Page 47 refusing to fight, Lincoln remembered this in|cident and likened McClellan to Babb McNabb's rooster.
During the winter of 1831-32, Lincoln became a regular attendant at the meetings of the New Salem Debating Society. He had always aspired to be a good speaker. In Indiana he had sometimes stopped work to deliver ex|temporaneous addresses to stumps and corn stalks. In Macon County he had discomfitted a visiting political candidate with an impromptu speech on the navigation of the Sanga|mon River. His efforts at New Salem were his first attempts at formal debate. R. B. Rutledge described his first appear|ance before the Society. "As he rose to speak, his tall form towered above the little assembly. Both hands were thrust down deep into the pockets of his pantaloons. A perceptible smile at once lit up the faces of the audience, for all antici|pated the relation of some humorous story, but he opened up the discussion in splendid style, to the infinite astonish|ment of his friends. As he warmed to his subject, his hands would forsake his pockets, and would enforce his ideas by awkward gestures; but would very soon seek their resting place. He pursued the question with reason and argument so pithy and forcible that all were amazed. The president, at his fireside after the meeting, remarked to his wife that there was more than wit and fun in Abe's head; that he was already a fine speaker; that all he lacked was culture to enable him to reach the high destiny that he knew was in store for him."
Stimulated by the activities of the Debating Society, Lin|coln determined to improve his education. In Kentucky he had been sent for short periods to "ABC schools," and in Indiana he had attended similar schools "by littles." But the aggregate of his schooling was less than a year. As time passed fewer people came to Offut's store, and in the inter|vals Lincoln read. "After he was twenty-three and had separated from his father," he stated in the autobiographical sketch that he wrote in 1860, "he studied English grammar— Page 48 imperfectly of course, but so as to speak and write as well as he now does." This places the beginning of his study of grammar in the spring of 1832, during his last months in Offut's store.
According to New Salem tradition he began to study grammar on the advice of Mentor Graham. Graham told him that John C. Vance, who lived on a farm to the north, had a copy of Kirkham's Grammar, and Lincoln walked six or eight miles to get it. When a passage was obscure to him he went to Graham for help. He had Bill Greene and other friends ask questions from the book, while he recited answers and definitions. After he became President, Greene called on him in Washington, and according to the story, he embarrassed Greene by introducing him to Seward as the man who taught him grammar. When Seward had left, Greene said: "Abe, what did you mean by telling Mr. Seward that I taught you grammar? Lord knows I don't know any grammar myself, much less could I teach you." Lincoln replied: "Bill, don't you recollect when we stayed in Offut's store at New Salem and you would hold the book and see if I could give the correct definitions and answers to the questions?" "Yes," said Greene, "but that was not teaching you grammar." "Well," responded Lincoln, "that was all the teaching of grammar I ever had."
Mathematics claimed his attention next. It held a lasting fascination for his analytical mind. In after years, while riding the circuit, he occupied his leisure by working out propositions in geometry, and according to his own state|ment "nearly mastered the six books of Euclid." He read history at New Salem, and his interest in literature was stimulated by Jack Kelso, the village philosopher, who, though shy of work, was fond of hunting, fishing and poetry. Kelso's wife took in boarders to supplement his earnings. Lincoln boarded with them for awhile, and listened eagerly while Kelso read or quoted Shakespeare and Burns. But he owed most to Graham. Always ready with help and en|couragement, Page 49 Graham was a constant stimulus. Rutledge said: "I know of my own knowledge that Graham did more than all others to educate Lincoln."
In the spring of 1832, "encouraged," as he said, "by his great popularity among his immediate neighbors," Lincoln determined to run for the State Legislature. On March 9, he announced his candidacy in a circular addressed to the voters of the county, which was published in the Sangamo Journal, and which Graham and McNeil helped him write.
The Illinois frontier seethed with politics. The national parties that emerged by the middle of the decade were just beginning to take shape and political alignments were still factional or personal, with individual popularity and in|fluential contacts as the requisites of success. Andrew Jack|son was the hero of the frontier, and men were either Jack|son or anti-Jackson, although many who supported Jackson personally did not agree with all his policies. These were known as "nominal Jackson men" as opposed to his "whole hog" supporters. Henry Clay was not far behind Jackson in popularity, and Lincoln made no secret of his preference for Clay. He had little to say on national issues, however, for while these evoked a lively interest, local issues and local contests were of paramount importance to those whose votes he sought.^1^8
Because of the absence of party organizations formal nominations were unknown. A candidate, wishing to ap|pear to run by popular demand, got his friends to insert in the local paper an announcement that "Many Voters" would support him if he would run. Other candidates sought the backing of influential politicians. Occasionally a man announced his candidacy by a direct appeal to the voters as Lincoln did.
Internal improvements, usury laws and education were dealt with in Lincoln's address. The two latter subjects show the respective influence of McNeil and Graham, but the remainder of the address, and especially its conclusion, Page 50 is typically Lincolnian. With respect to the first subject, he considered the improvement of the Sangamon River the most practicable improvement for his own community. From personal knowledge of the river he believed that by cutting through some of its bends, digging a straight, shal|low ditch of sufficient width through its lower course and damming the old channel, the river could be made to cut a straighter and deeper channel that would not clog with driftwood. This would be much cheaper than building roads or railroads. He believed that a law "fixing the limits of usury" could be passed "without materially injuring any class of people." In cases of extreme necessity, he said, means could always be found to cheat the law! Education he believed to be the most important subject that a people could consider. He held that every man should have an education sufficient to enable him to read the history of his own and other countries, "by which he may duly ap|preciate
He concluded with the following frank statement of his own position. "Every man is said to have his peculiar ambi|tion. Whether it be true or not, I can say, for one, that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition is yet to be developed. I am young, and unknown to many of you. I was born, and have ever remained in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular rela|tions or friends to recommend me. My case is thrown ex|clusively upon the independent voters of the country; and, if elected, they will have conferred a favor upon me for which I shall be unremitting in my labors to compensate. But, if the good people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the background, I have been too familiar with dis|appointments to be very much chagrined."
John G. Nicolay and John Hay, his war-time secretaries and biographers, who were probably more familiar with his later style than anyone, observed that "this is almost precisely the style of his later years. The errors of grammar and construction which spring invariably from an effort to avoid redundancy of expression remained with him through life. He seemed to grudge the space required for necessary parts of speech. But his language was at twenty-two, as it was thirty years later, the simple and manly attire of his thought, with little attempt at ornament and none at disguise."
Lincoln's advocacy of the improvement of the Sangamon was well chosen and well timed. For months the possibility of navigating the river had been discussed; now it was to be demonstrated. In January, 1832, Captain Vincent Bogue, of Springfield, announced that he was at Cincinnati where Page 52 he had chartered the small steamer Talisman, which he proposed to bring to Beardstown and with which he would ascend the Sangamon as soon as the ice was out. Naviga|tion would mean cheaper goods, more accessible markets, constant contact with the outside world. The Sangamon country thrilled at the prospect. Merchants advertised the impending arrival of goods from the East. New settlers came; prospective towns were laid out; lots were sold, land values boomed.
Early in March, Bogue arrived in Beardstown. While at Cincinnati he had requested that several men with long|handled axes meet him and precede the Talisman to cut off overhanging limbs and clear snags from the stream. Accordingly, a boatload of men under the direction of Washington Iles, Thomas M. Neale and Edmund D. Taylor, made their way down the river, clearing the channel as they went. Lincoln was one of them.
Followed by a cheering crowd of men and boys, some mounted, others on foot, most of them seeing a steamboat for the first time, the Talisman puffed up the river. Passing New Salem, she finally tied up at Bogue's mill at Portland Landing, about seven miles from Springfield. Her arrival was celebrated with a reception and dance at the court|house to which Springfield society turned out in force. A local rhymester was moved to write the following effusion, which was published in the Journal:
The Talisman lay about a week at the landing. Then receding water forced her to start the return trip. Rowan Herndon, an experienced boatman, was engaged to pilot her to Beardstown, and upon his recommendation Lincoln was hired as his assistant. Making about four miles a day, the boat barely kept afloat as the river fell. At New Salem part of the dam had to be torn down to let her pass. Herndon and Lincoln got her to Beardstown, however, received forty dollars apiece for their work, and walked back to New Salem.
Lincoln had hardly arrived when there was another cause for excitement. For some time trouble had been brewing in northwestern Illinois between white settlers and Indians. In 1804, the Sauk and Fox tribe had ceded their lands in the Rock River valley to the United States with the pro|vision that they might remain on them as long as they were the property of the government. As squatters moved into the region there were arguments and minor outbreaks. In 1831, hostilities almost broke out, but the Indians were finally persuaded to move west of the Mississippi and to agree never to return without permission from the President of the United States or the Governor of Illinois. Neverthe|less, in April, 1832, Chief Black Hawk recrossed the river with five hundred braves. They came ostensibly to plant corn; but they were well mounted and well armed, and their coming spread terror along the Illinois frontier. A detach|ment of United States troops at Fort Armstrong on Rock Island watched their movements suspiciously, and an overt act by nervous militiamen precipitated hostilities.
Governor Reynolds immediately called for volunteers from the state militia to help repel the Indians. At that Page 54 time all male white inhabitants between the ages of eight|een and forty-five were required to enroll in the militia and to provide themselves with "proper accoutrements." Refusal to enroll made one liable to punishment as a de|serter. Those physically unfit or "conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms" were exempt in peace time on payment of seventy-five cents a year. The men chose their own officers.
Lincoln was of necessity a militiaman. When Governor Reynolds' messenger arrived at New Salem he was still clerking in Offut's store. But the store was about to "wink out," and having nothing better to do, Lincoln promptly volunteered for thirty days service.
He was enrolled at Richland, near New Salem, on April 21, 1832. His company was composed chiefly of his friends and neighbors. The Clary's Grove boys constituted a large part of it. Lincoln was elected captain by an overwhelm|ing majority.^1^9 In each of the two brief autobiographies which he later wrote he asserted that this honor gave him more satisfaction than any subsequent success in his life.
Jack Armstrong was first sergeant of the company. Wil|liam F. Berry, soon to be Lincoln's partner in business, and Alexander Trent were corporals. In the ranks were Hugh Armstrong, David Pantier, George Warburton, John M. Rutledge, Bill Clary, Bill Greene, Royal Clary, Pleasant Armstrong, David Rutledge and Isaac Golliher. A soldier of another command described Lincoln's company as "the hardest set of men he ever saw." William Cullen Bryant, who was traveling in Illinois in 1832, said that the volun|teers "were a hard-looking set of men, unkempt and un|shaved, wearing shirts of dark calico, and sometimes calico capotes." Some of the settlers whose farms they passed com|plained that they "made war on the pigs and chickens." For elected officers to exact obedience from such a group was no small task, and it is said that Lincoln's first com|mand drew forth a request to "go to the devil."
Page 55The volunteers assembled at Beardstown, where Lincoln's company was attached to the Fourth Regiment of Mounted Volunteers of the Brigade of Samuel Whiteside. They were mustered into state service on April 28. From Beardstown the brigade marched to Rock Island, where Lincoln's com|pany was sworn into Federal service on May 9.
From Rock Island they marched along the Rock River to Dixon's Ferry, then south to Ottawa, where they were disbanded on May 27, their thirty days having expired. The march was uneventful. Lincoln saw no fighting. Once he was arrested and deprived of his sword for a day for dis|obeying an order prohibiting the discharge of firearms within fifty yards of camp. And when some of his men, without his knowledge, broke into the officers' quarters, stole their liquor and got too drunk to march next day, Lincoln was again put under arrest and made to carry a wooden sword for two days. One day he saved the life of an old Indian who wandered into camp. The Indian had a letter from General Cass certifying that he was friendly to the whites; but this meant nothing to the frontier soldiers to whom "the only good Indian was a dead one." They had enlisted to kill Indians, and saw no reason why they should not start with this one. But Lincoln intervened. When some of the men denounced him as a coward, he, "swarthy with resolution and rage," offered to disillusion them. The Clary's Grove boys supported him, as they always did in a pinch, and the others sullenly gave in.^2^0
All of Lincoln's resourcefulness and adaptability were needed to supplement his scanty knowledge of military tactics. On one occasion, when he was leading his company across a field, twenty abreast, they came to a fence with a narrow gate. Unable to think of the proper command to "turn the company endwise," Lincoln shouted, "Halt! This company will break ranks for two minutes and form again on the other side of that gate!" Herndon said that the movement was successfully executed.
Page 56In their leisure moments the volunteers sang, wrestled, raced, gambled and played pranks upon each other. About the campfires Lincoln enhanced his reputation as a story teller. He wrestled with champions from other companies, and at Beardstown met his match in Lorenzo D. Thompson.
When his term of enlistment expired, he re-enlisted in Captain Alexander White's Company, on May 26. He served in this company only one day; and on the 27th enlisted again, this time as a private in the mounted Company of Captain Elijah Iles. He was mustered into Iles' Company by Second-Lieutenant Robert Anderson, of the Third U. S. Artillery, famous later as the commander of Fort Sumter.^2^1 Iles' command was made up of "generals, colonels, captains and distinguished men" from disbanded detachments. It was attached to a "spy battalion" or scouting detachment. While it was encamped near Ottawa, word came that the Indians had cut off the town of Galena, and it and other companies were immediately despatched to the rescue. Pro|ceeding by forced marches, they reached the town without encountering the Indians, and found the inhabitants fright|ened but unharmed.
When Lincoln's enlistment expired on June 16, he re-enlisted for another thirty days, this time in Jacob M. Ear|ley's Company. Still he saw no fighting, but at Kellogg's Grove he helped bury five men who had been killed and scalped the day before. Their appearance made a lasting impression on him. Years later he recalled that "the red light of the morning sun was streaming upon them as they lay heads towards us on the ground. And every man had a round, red spot on top of his head, about as big as a dollar where the redskins had taken his scalp. It was frightful, but it was grotesque, and the red sunlight seemed to paint every|thing all over. I remember that one man had on buckskin breeches."
Lincoln was mustered out of the service at Black River, Wisconsin, on July 16. His horse and that of his mess-mate, Page 57 George Harrison, having been stolen the previous night, the two men made their way to Peoria, most of the way on foot. Harrison said: "I laughed at our fate, and he joked at it, and we all started off merrily. The generous men of our Company walked and rode by turns with us, and we fared about equal with the rest." John T. Stuart, Lincoln's future law partner, was one of those who accompanied him. At Peoria Lincoln and Harrison bought a canoe and paddled down the Illinois River to Havana. From there Lincoln trudged across country to New Salem.
In later years he treated his military career lightly. In 1848 in a speech in Congress in which he ridiculed the at|tempts of the Democrats to magnify the military record of Lewis Cass, their candidate for president, he said: "By the way, Mr. Speaker, did 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's career reminds me of my own. I was not at Stillman's defeat, but I was about as near it as Cass was to Hull's surrender; and, like him, I saw the place very soon afterward. It is quite certain I did not break my sword, for I had none to break; but I bent a musket pretty badly on one occasion. If Cass broke his sword, the idea is he broke it in desperation; I bent the musket by accident. If General Cass went in advance of me in picking huckleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charges upon the wild onions. If he saw any live, fighting Indians, it was more than I did; but I had a good many bloody strug|gles with the mosquitoes, and although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can truly say I was often hungry. Mr. Speaker, if I should ever conclude to doff whatever our Democratic friends may suppose there is of black-cockade federalism about me, and therefore they shall take me up as their candidate for the presidency, I protest they shall not make fun of me, as they have of General Cass, by attempting to write me into a military hero."
Yet in spite of Lincoln's bantering attitude towards his Page 58 military service, Herndon believed that "he was rather proud of it after all."
The experience was valuable to Lincoln in many ways. It provided him with a store of anecdotes. He learned to know something of soldiers and the soldier's life, the ne|cessity of discipline and morale, the value and difficulties of leadership. He met men whose acquaintance was helpful to him—John T. Stuart, John J. Hardin, Joseph Gillespie, Edward D. Baker and other rising young Illinois politicians. Just before they disbanded the men of his mess agreed to support his candidacy for the Legislature.^2^2
Lincoln got back to New Salem late in July, only two weeks before the election. He resumed his campaign at once, traveling from house to house, talking, making friends, telling anecdotes. As he talked to a farmer he would help him pitch his hay or cradle his wheat. At the crossroads he pitched horse shoes and wrestled with local champions.
He made few speeches; but at Pappsville a large crowd which was attending a sale of goods called on him to ad|dress them. As he rose to speak, a fight broke out in the audience. His friend, Rowan Herndon, was set upon by the friends of a man whom Herndon had recently whipped. The fight threatened to become general, but Lincoln strode through the crowd, grabbed the principal assailant by the neck and seat of the trousers and threw him several feet. Hostilities stopped; whereupon Lincoln mounted a box, and according to A. Y. Ellis, a New Salem merchant for whom he worked for a time, gave the following terse speech. "Fellow Citizens," said he, "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 in|ternal 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."
Page 59Stephen T. Logan, a lawyer of Springfield, who was later to be Lincoln's partner, described him as he saw him for the first time at a political rally during this campaign. "He was a very tall and gawky and rough looking fellow then," said Logan, "his pantaloons didn't meet his shoes by six inches. But after he began speaking I became very much interested in him. He made a very sensible speech. It was the time when Benton was running his theory of a gold circulation. Lincoln was attacking Benton's theory and I thought did it very well. . . . The manner of Mr. Lincoln's speech then was very much the same as his speeches in after life—that is the same peculiar characteristics were apparent then, though of course in after years he evinced both more knowledge and experience. But he had then the same individuality that he kept through all his life. I knew nothing then about his avocation or calling at New Salem. The impression that I had at the time was that he was a sort of loafer down there. . . . But one thing we very soon learned was that he was im|mensely popular, though we found that out more at the next election than then. . . . In the election of 1832 he made a very considerable impression upon me as well as upon other people."
A. Y. Ellis told Herndon: "I well remember how he was dressed. He wore flax and tow linen pantaloons—I thought about five inches too short in the legs,—and frequently he had but one suspender, no vest or coat. He wore a calico shirt, such as he had in the Black Hawk War; coarse bro|gans, tan color; blue yarn socks, and straw hat, old style, without a band."
Lincoln was not elected in 1832. Sangamon County was entitled to four representatives, and there were thirteen candidates. Lincoln ran eighth with 657 votes.^2^3 As he later said, this was the only time that he was ever defeated on a direct vote of the people. But he was not discouraged, for in his own precinct he received 277 of the 300 votes cast, while the same precinct, in November, gave Jackson 185 votes to Page 60 70 for Clay. He had been in New Salem only a year, and his defeat was due to his being relatively unknown outside the New Salem community. From the campaign he derived an extensive acquaintance, valuable experience in public speak|ing, and increased confidence in himself. He began to real|ize his political possibilities, and he got a zest for politics that endured to the end of his life.
The election over, Lincoln was out of a job. He pondered what he should do. He thought of becoming a blacksmith, but decided against it; thought of studying law, but was afraid to attempt it with his deficient education. "What he seemed to want," said Herndon, "was some lighter work, employment in a store or tavern where he could meet the village celebrities, exchange views with strangers, discuss politics, horse races, cock-fights, and narrate to listening loafers his striking and significant stories. In the commu|nities where he had lived the village storekeeper held undis|puted sway. He took the only newspaper, owned the only collection of books and half the property in the village; and in general was the social, and oftentimes the political head of the community. Naturally, therefore, the prominence the store gave the merchant attracted Lincoln. But there seemed no favorable opening for him—clerks in New Salem were not in demand just then."
Soon, however, an opportunity to become a merchant presented itself. New Salem had three general stores at that time—Hill's, Reuben Radford's and one owned by Rowan Herndon and William F. Berry. The latter had acquired his interest from James Herndon, Rowan's brother, who, wish|ing to leave New Salem, sold out to Berry in the summer of 1832. In August or September, Rowan Herndon offered to sell out to Lincoln. At that time Lincoln was boarding with Herndon, who told his cousin, William H. Herndon, "I be|lieved he was thoroughly honest, and that impression was so strong in me I accepted his note in payment of the whole. He had no money, but I would have advanced him still Page 61 more had he asked for it." The Herndon brothers' store, where Lincoln and Berry first operated, was situated south of Main Street to the west of Peter Lukins' house.
In January, 1833, Lincoln and Berry bought out Reuben Radford. He had incurred the ill-will of the Clary's Grove boys, who smashed his windows, broke into his store and de|molished
William F. Berry was a son of Rev. John M. Berry, but was a confirmed drunkard. He devoted himself to the con|sumption of the firm's whiskey, while Lincoln spent most of his time talking, joking and reading books. Naturally, as Page 62 Lincoln said, such a combination "did nothing but get deeper and deeper in debt."
At that time the question of how liquor should be sold was as much a problem as it is today. No license was re|quired to sell it in quantities greater than a quart for con|sumption off the premises, and practically every general store sold it in that way. It was only when it was sold by the drink, for consumption on the premises that a license was required, and that the seller incurred any degree of opprobrium. Places where liquor was sold by the drink were called "gro|ceries."
Lincoln and Berry undoubtedly sold liquor in quantities larger than a quart; but there has long been controversy as to whether Lincoln sold it by the drink. Douglas in his de|bate with Lincoln at Ottawa, on August 21, 1858, claimed, half jokingly, that when he first became acquainted with Lincoln the latter was a "flourishing grocery-keeper in the town of Salem," and could "ruin more liquor than all the boys of the town together." Lincoln replied: "The Judge is woefully at fault about his friend Lincoln being a 'grocery keeper.' I don't know that it would be a great sin, if I had been; but he is mistaken. Lincoln never kept a grocery any|where in the world."^2^4
In view of this positive denial we may be sure that Lin|coln never sold liquor by the drink. Yet, on March 6, 1833, the County Commissioners Court of Sangamon County is|sued a "tavern license," permitting the firm of Lincoln and Berry to sell wines and spirituous liquors in quantities less than a quart, and beer, ale and cider in quantities less than two gallons. The following entry appears in the records of the Country Clerk:
- Page 63French Brandy per ½ pint
- 25 Peach " " "
- 18 ¾ Apple " " "
- 12 Holland Gin " "
- 18 ¾ Domestic Gin " "
- 12 ½ Wine " "
- 25 Rum " "
- 18 ¾ Whiskey " "
- 12 ½ Breakfast dinner Supper
- 25 Lodging per night
- 12 ½ Horse per night
- 25 Single feed
- 12 ½ Breakfast, dinner or Supper for Stage passengers
- 37 ¼
It will be noted that the license was taken out by Berry. The bond required in connection with its issuance was signed with Lincoln's as well as Berry's name; but neither signature is in Lincoln's handwriting. Moreover, there is local tradition that sale of liquor by the drink was a primary cause of the dissolution of the Lincoln-Berry partnership. This is probably true; for in April, 1833, a few weeks after the license was obtained, Lincoln disposed of his interest in the store to Berry.
At this time Lincoln's fortunes were at low ebb. In debt and out of a job, he said in his autobiography that he was reduced to the elemental problem of securing bread to keep body and soul together. Many men in similar circumstances would have blamed the town for their failure, and moved away, leaving their debts unpaid. But Lincoln remained. He believed that if he could succeed anywhere he could do so at New Salem. He had no intention of evading his obligations, and he wished to remain with his friends.
Except for the problem of debt he was not badly off, for with his strength and skill and reputation for honesty he had no trouble getting work. Travelers in Sangamon County in the early thirties remarked time and again about the scar|city of laborers and the good wages paid to them. Patrick Page 64 Shirreff, a Scotsman, stated that "labor is scarce and highly remunerated. A good farming help obtains $120, an in|different one $100 a year, with bed and board." He calcu|lated that this was equivalent to eighty acres of land a year, and in proportion to the cost of living and of land, about 800 times as much as English farm laborers got. Clarke pleaded with his family to send one of the boys to Illinois. "If he will learn house carpenters trade and come into this country," he wrote, "I will warrant him a rich man in a few years, finally tradesmen of all kinds are in great demand here and will be for many years, they get from two to five dollars pr. day." Under such circumstances Lincoln could have had no difficulty in earning a living, and certainly there was little chance of his being in want.
But he was looking for a chance to become something more than a laborer; and on May 7, 1833, his ambition was gratified to some extent when he was appointed postmaster at New Salem, succeeding Samuel Hill. His explanation of his securing the position under President Jackson when he was "an avowed Clay man," was that the office was "too in|significant to make his politics an objection." He retained the position until the removal of the office to Petersburg on May 30, 1836.
According to one story, Lincoln's appointment was the result of a petition circulated by the New Salem women. Irked at the treatment accorded them by Hill, who neg|lected the distribution of mail while he sold liquor to the men, they petitioned the Post Office Department for his removal. Herndon did not know whether Lincoln solicited the appointment or whether it came to him without effort on his part. Upon appointment, Lincoln, like other post|masters, was required to furnish bond of $500. Nelson Alley and Alexander Trent were his bondsmen.
New Salem was on a mail route which ran from Spring|field through Sangamontown, Athens, New Salem, Havana, Lewistown, Jackson Grove, Canton and Knox Courthouse Page 65 (Knoxville) to Warren Courthouse (Monmouth), a dis|tance of about 125 miles. The mail was scheduled to leave Springfield on Saturday at four A. M. and to arrive at War|ren Courthouse on Monday at eight P. M. On the return trip it left Warren Courthouse at six A. M. on Tuesday and arrived in Springfield at ten P. M. on Thursday, if on time. It was carried on horseback by Harvey L. Ross, whose father, Ossian Ross, of Havana, held the contract for the route. After the stage line was established, the mail was carried by it.^2^5
Postal rates varied with the distance traversed and the number of pages in a letter. A single sheet cost six cents for the first thirty miles, ten cents for thirty to eighty miles, twelve and a half cents for eighty to 150 miles, eighteen and three-quarters cents for 150 to 400 miles, and twenty-five cents for more than 400 miles. Two sheets cost twice as much, three sheets three times as much, and so on. Neither stamps nor envelopes were used.^2^6 Letters were simply folded and sealed, and the postage charge was written in the upper right hand corner on the outside. Postage was paid by the addressee.
The high rates on letters elicited numerous complaints. To conserve space people frequently covered a sheet, then turned it sidewise and wrote across what they had already written, sometimes following this by writing obliquely across the page. Postmasters had difficulty in determining the number of sheets in a folded and sealed letter; and if the receiver questioned the rate charged he could open the let|ter in the postmaster's presence and have the error, if any, corrected.
As postmaster, Lincoln was exempt from militia and jury duties, was permitted to send and receive personal letters free, and to receive one newspaper daily without charge. The law provided, however, that "if any person shall frank any letter or letters, other than those written by himself, or by his order, on the business of the office, he shall, on con|viction Page 66 thereof, pay a fine of ten dollars." A letter of Sep|tember 17, 1835, from Mathew S. Marsh to George M. Marsh, his brother, throws light on Lincoln's conduct of his office. "The Post Master (Mr. Lincoln)," wrote Marsh, "is very careless about leaving his office open and unlocked during the day—half the time I go in and get my papers, etc., without anyone being there as was the case yesterday. The letter was only marked twenty-five and even if he had been there and known it was double, he would not have charged me any more—luckily he is a very clever fellow and a particular friend of mine. If he is there when I carry this to the office—I will get him to 'Frank' it—. . . ." Lincoln was there, and did frank it, thereby making himself liable to a ten dollar fine; for on the outside of the letter, in Lin|coln's hand, is written: "Free, A. Lincoln, P.M. New Salem, Ill., Sept. 22."
A note from Lincoln to George Spears also reveals his in|difference to postal regulations. "At your request," wrote Lincoln, "I send you a receipt for the postage on your paper —I am somewhat surprised at your request—I will however comply with it—The law requires Newspaper postage to be paid in advance and now that I have waited a full year you choose to wound my feelings by insinuating that unless you get a receipt I will probably make you pay it again—"
The postal law required every postmaster to maintain an office "in which one or more persons shall attend on every day on which a mail shall arrive." By the time that Lincoln became postmaster he had terminated his connection with the Lincoln-Berry store, and there is doubt as to whether his office was ever located there. Possibly it was for awhile. Later it was in Hill's store.^2^7 According to Harvey Ross, Lincoln kept his receipts in a wooden chest under the coun|ter in an old blue sock.
Lincoln gave general satisfaction in his administration of the office. He was always anxious to please and accommo|date. When he thought that someone was especially anxious Page 67 to receive a letter, he would walk several miles, if necessary, to deliver it. Herndon recalled that "Mr. Lincoln used to tell me that when he had a call to go to the country to survey a piece of land, he placed inside his hat all the letters belong|ing to people in the neighborhood and distributed them
As postmaster, Lincoln could read all the newspapers that came to New Salem. At this time he formed the habit of newspaper reading which he continued through life, and through which, in part, he learned to interpret public opinion. His position also enabled him to become acquainted with almost every settler in that part of the country and made more formidable his subsequent candidacies for the Legislature.
Page 68Financially the job was not much help to him. His re|muneration depended upon the receipts of his office, which were small. More than a year after the New Salem office was discontinued, and after he had moved to Springfield, he turned over the balance of his receipts to William Car|penter, the Springfield postmaster. Carpenter's account book contains the following entry under date of June 14, 1837: "For Cash recd of A. Lincoln late P.M. New Salem $248.63."^2^8 We do not know how long this sum had been accumulating; but if it was the receipts of the office for a year, Lincoln's commissions for that year would have to|taled about seventy-five or eighty dollars.^2^9 If it represented the total receipts of the office for the three years of Lincoln's tenure, his commissions were about twenty-five or thirty dol|lars a year.
The Sangamo Journal of April 9, 1834, published the receipts of some of the Illinois post offices for 1833. The Jacksonville office took in $956. That at Springfield received $681. The Chicago office received $369; that at Beardstown $187; Peoria, $136; Pekin, $178; Vandalia, $426. On the New Salem route the Havana office took in $54; Knoxville, $36; Lewistown, $130. No figures are given for the New Salem office, but in comparison with these figures the es|timate of twenty-five or thirty dollars a year as Lincoln's remuneration seems more likely to be correct.
The position of postmaster was not confining, and Lin|coln supplemented his commissions by doing all sorts of odd jobs, such as splitting rails, helping at the mill, harvest|ing and tending store for Hill. In December, 1834, he suc|ceeded Doctor Allen as local agent for the Sangamo Journal. On election days he often made a dollar by serving as clerk, and sometimes returned the poll book to the courthouse in Springfield, for which service he was paid $2.50.
In the latter part of 1833, he secured employment as a deputy to John Calhoun, the county surveyor. Calhoun was one of the most prominent Jacksonian politicians in the Page 69 county and Herndon says that Lincoln probably got the job through the recommendation of some Democrat. Knowing Calhoun's political affiliation, Lincoln hesi|tated to accept the job at first, but upon being assured that it would entail no political commitment, he did so.^3^0
Surveying in those days, when the country was rapidly fill|ing with settlers and the division lines of farms were being run for the first time, when speculators were buying large tracts and laying off towns, and when miles of wagon road were being opened, was an important and responsible job. Lincoln knew nothing about it; but borrowing books from Calhoun and enlisting the help of Mentor Graham, he went to work. Using Robert Gibson's Theory and Practice of Surveying and Flint's Treatise on Geometry, Trigonometry and Rectangular Surveying as texts, he studied day and night. Often he and Graham were up until midnight, in|terrupting their calculations only when Mrs. Graham or|dered them out for a fresh supply of wood for the fire. But he mastered the books, obtained a fifty-dollar horse on credit, procured a compass and chain, and by the end of the year was ready to start work.^3^1
Calhoun assigned him to the northern part of the county —what is now Menard and the southern part of Mason County—where his first work of which there is record was done for Russell Godbey, on January 14, 1834. For this, ac|cording to Godbey, he received two buckskins, which Han|nah Armstrong "foxed" on his pants to protect them from briars. Ordinarily he was paid according to the following scale, established by the Legislature on February 19, 1827:
- For establishing each quarter section of land
- $2.50 For establishing each half-quarter section
- 2.00 For each town lot over ten, and not exceeding forty
- .37 ½ For each town lot over forty and not exceeding one hundred
- .25 For laying off land under a writ of ad quod damnum
Page 70For several months things went well. With his commis|sions as postmaster, his fees as surveyor and what he could make at odd jobs, Lincoln's earnings were better than they had been for some time. But in the spring of 1834 his good fortune was interrupted by his creditors.
While the speculative fever raged in 1832 and 1833 men ran up excessive debts, ventured on a shoe string, signed each other's notes promiscuously, discounted the future far beyond its possibilities. Lincoln succumbed like the rest, and had plunged heavily. His career in "high finance" be|gan in August or September, 1832, when he bought Rowan Herndon's interest in the Herndon-Berry store, and gave Herndon his note.
On October 30, 1832, Lincoln and Nelson Alley signed a note for $104.87 ½, payable to Sheriff J. D. Henry, for the benefit of the creditors of Vincent Bogue, the owner of the Talisman. The Talisman venture and other speculations had ruined Bogue and he fled the country. His creditors started attachment proceedings, and in some manner Lin|coln and Alley became involved.
On January 4 or 5, 1833, Lincoln received about $125 for his service in the Black Hawk War, and Berry also got some money for his military service.^3^3 Instead of applying this on their debts the partners plunged deeper than ever by buying Reuben Radford's stock from William G. Greene. Radford, discouraged and disgusted when the Clary's Grove boys smashed his store, had sold his stock for $400 to Greene, from whom he rented his store. Greene paid twenty-three dollars cash and for the balance gave two notes for $188.50 each, secured by a mortgage on the store. Lincoln drew and witnessed the mortgage, and that same day, he and Berry bought this stock from Greene, paying $265 cash, assuming the payment of Greene's notes to Radford, and throwing in a horse to boot. Thus Greene, on a rapid turnover, made a profit of $242 and one horse. Berry and Lincoln merged their old and new stocks and moved into Greene's store.
Page 71On January 31, 1833, David Rutledge signed a bond agreeing to convey a half lot to Alexander and Martin S. Trent, and Lincoln and Greene signed the bond as surety. Rutledge was a minor, and had no title to the lot; but, on the frontier circumstances such as these were often of little consequence.
In April, 1833, Lincoln signed a note payable to Eli C. Blankenship, a merchant in Springfield. Rowan Herndon endorsed it, and on April 29, Berry executed a mortgage for $250 on the first Lincoln-Berry store (formerly the Herndon Brothers' store) to secure it. It was at this time that Lincoln and Berry dissolved their partnership, and Lincoln prob|ably executed this note to Blankenship to get money to pay his debt to Herndon. Blankenship demanded that Lincoln get someone to endorse his note, and Herndon, in order to get his money, agreed to do so. Berry, unable to pay cash for Lincoln's interest in the store, helped out to the extent of securing his note.
By the summer of 1833, Lincoln's financial chickens were coming home to roost. On August 10, Sheriff Henry, for the use of James McCandless, one of Bogue's creditors, sued Lincoln and Alley on their note for $104.87 ½. Six days later the Trent brothers brought suit against David Rut|ledge, Lincoln and Greene on the conveyance bond that they had signed in January. On September 13, judgment for the full amount of the Bogue note was entered against Lincoln and Alley in the Sangamon Circuit Court. Three days later Rutledge, Lincoln and Greene reached an ami|cable settlement of the suit which the Trent brothers had brought against them, and the court dismissed the suit, each party paying half the costs. It was about this time that the Trent brothers took over the Lincoln-Berry store, and pos|sibly the transfer of the store was the means of settling the suit.
On October 19, 1833, Greene's notes to Radford, which Berry and Lincoln had assumed and which were secured by Page 72 a mortgage on Greene's store, matured, and Berry, Lincoln and Greene signed a new note for $379.82, payable to Rad|ford one day after date. The same day, Radford credited them with a payment of $125, leaving a balance of $254.82.
March 17, 1834, Lincoln and Alley paid the judgment on the Bogue note. But in the meantime Lincoln, when he be|gan surveying in January, 1834, had incurred an additional debt of $57.86 by purchasing a horse on credit from Thomas Watkins. Thus he was now indebted to Radford, Blanken|ship and Watkins, to the total amount of $562.68. Lincoln failed to pay Watkins, who sued him and Berry—the latter having evidently gone on Lincoln's note—before a justice of the peace, and got judgment. The defendants appealed to the Sangamon Circuit Court, where the judgment was upheld on April 26.
Meanwhile, Radford had made a partial assignment of his notes to Peter Van Bergen; and on April 7, Van Bergen, with Radford's consent, brought suit against Lincoln, Berry and Greene in the Circuit Court for $500 and $50 damages. The sheriff was unable to serve Lincoln and Berry; but Greene was summoned, and on April 29 judgment for $204.82 and $18.42 damages was entered against him. Of this amount, $154 was owed to Van Bergen under the as|signment and the remainder to Radford. A writ of scire facias was issued to Lincoln and Berry to show cause why they should not be made parties to the judgment. Berry was served with process on August 15 and Lincoln on the 20th.
On October 11, Berry turned over a horse to Radford at an agreed value of $35, and on the 19th paid the balance due Radford. The same day Lincoln and Berry were made parties to the judgment, which, by reason of Berry's pay|ments, was reduced by order of the court to $154, all of which was owed to Van Bergen.
Lincoln and Berry were unable to pay either this or the Watkins judgment, and the sheriff levied upon their per|sonal possessions, including Lincoln's horse, saddle, bridle Page [unnumbered]
On January 10, 1835, Berry died, leaving Lincoln solely responsible for the debts of the partnership. After he became a practicing attorney Lincoln repaid Short and Greene in full. As late as 1848, according to Herndon, he was sending part of his salary as a congressman to his partner to be ap|plied on his debts. Years after this, when Lincoln was presi|dent, Short was in serious financial straits, and Lincoln re|ciprocated his earlier favor by appointing him supervisor of the Round Valley Indian Reservation in California at a salary of $1800 a year.^3^4
On February 11, 1835, the State Legislature passed an act providing that county surveyors should henceforth be elected instead of appointed, with the first election to be held the following August. Calhoun, who was running for the State Senate, was not a candidate for surveyor, and Thomas M. Neale was elected to succeed him. Lincoln con|tinued as Neale's deputy, probably until he left New Salem in 1837, certainly until the latter part of 1836.^3^5
There is ample evidence of Lincoln's skill as a surveyor. Disputants over land boundaries frequently submitted their controversies to him, confident of his honesty and compe|tence.  He surveyed the towns of New Boston,^3^7 Bath,^3^8 Al|bany^3^9 and Huron,^4^0 and resurveyed Petersburg on February 17, 1836. Roads that Lincoln surveyed are still in use, and the boundaries of many Menard and Mason County farms were run originally by him. All over the territory he made more friends as he worked. "Not only did his wit, kindliness, and knowledge attract people," observed Cole|man Page 75 Smoot, "but his strange clothes and uncouth awkward|ness advertised him, the shortness of his trousers causing particular remark and amusement. Soon the name 'Abe Lincoln' was a household word."
In the spring of 1834, Lincoln decided to run for the Legislature again. Development of parties had proceeded further than in 1832; but the fact that there was no presi|dential contest in 1834 tended to subordinate national and partisan issues and make personal popularity a more impor|tant factor. Indeed, Lincoln received backing from both Whigs and Democrats. The latter, "purely out of personal regard for him," offered their support through Bowling Green, a justice of the peace and local Democratic leader, who lived about a mile north of New Salem. Lincoln hesi|tated to accept it at first; but after consultation with John T. Stuart, Whig leader in Springfield, agreed to do so. "In this," according to Stephen T. Logan, "he made no conces|sion of principle whatever. He was as stiff as a man could be in his Whig doctrines." His name first appears on the list of candidates—which was published regularly in the Sangamo Journal—on April 19.
Stuart told John G. Nicolay that while Lincoln ran by general consent, there were strong efforts on the part of some of the Jackson men to defeat him (Stuart), because they believed that he was planning to run for Congress later. "I remember we were out at Danley's on Clear Lake," said Stuart. "They had a shooting match there. The country people met to shoot for a beef. The candidates, as was the custom, were expected to pay for the beef—and we were there electioneering. Lincoln came to me and told me that the Jackson men had been to him and proposed that they would drop two of their men and take him up and vote for him, for the purpose of beating me. Lincoln acted fairly and hon|orably about it by coming and submitting the proposition to me. From my experience in the former race of '32 I had great confidence in my strength—perhaps too much—as I Page 76 was a young man. But I told Lincoln to go and tell them that he would take their votes—that I would risk it—and I believe he did so. I and my friends, knowing their tactics, then concentrated our fight against one of their men—it was Quinton—and in this we beat Quinton and elected Lincoln and myself."
Since Lincoln ran by common consent he issued no formal declaration of principles. He made some speeches, but for the most part campaigned quietly, talking to farmers whom he met on surveying trips and soliciting votes as he de|livered mail. At Mechanicsburg he won admirers by jump|ing into a free-for-all fight and ending it. Rowan Herndon, who had moved to Island Grove, remembered that during this campaign Lincoln "came to my house during harvest. There were some thirty men in the field. He got his dinner, and went out in the field where the men were at work. I gave him an introduction, and the boys said that they could not vote for a man unless he could make a hand. 'Well, boys,' said he, 'if that is all, I am sure of your votes.' He took hold of the cradle, and led the way all the round with per|fect ease. The boys were satisfied, and I don't think he lost a vote in the crowd." Doctor R. F. Barrett of Island Grove, seeing Lincoln, inquired, "Can't the party raise any better material than that?" But after hearing him speak he de|clared that Lincoln amazed him, that "he knew more than all the other candidates put together." On election day, August 4, Lincoln was elected easily, polling the second highest number of votes.^4^1
During the legislative campaign, John T. Stuart, in a pri|vate conversation, encouraged Lincoln to study law. His mind had always had a legal bent. Back in Indiana he had borrowed a copy of the Revised Statutes of Indiana and read it with care. In 1832 he had thought of studying law, but hesitated to attempt it. His interest continued, however, and in 1833, he bought a book of legal forms, with the aid of which he drew up mortgages, deeds and other legal in|struments Page 77 for his friends, whom he never charged for these services.^4^2 He had even argued minor cases before Squire Bowling Green.
Green had his own methods as a judge. Although he was not yet forty, he weighed over 250 pounds, and from his protuberant stomach was known as "Pot." He loved to laugh, and as he presided over court, clad only in a shirt and trousers held up "by one linen suspender over the shoul|der," Lincoln, pointing his long finger at him, would argue with great dignity and solemnity, then suddenly convulse him with a comical remark. In one case in which the owner|ship of a hog was in dispute between the Trent brothers and Jack Kelso the preponderance of evidence was on the side of the Trents. But Green awarded the hog to Kelso. "I know that shoat, myself," said he. "I know it belongs to Kelso and that the plaintiffs and their witnesses lied." Green was very hospitable and often entertained Lincoln at his home. On such occasions Lincoln browsed through Green's scanty li|brary and read such law books as he had.
After the election, acting upon Stuart's advice, Lincoln decided to study law with the idea of entering it as a pro|fession. He borrowed books from Stuart, took them home with him, "and went at it in good earnest," studying alone, and as he said in his autobiography, still mixing in the sur|veying "to pay board and clothing bills." At an auction in Springfield he bought a copy of Blackstone's Commen|taries.^4^3 H. E. Dummer, Stuart's law partner from 1833 to 1837, reported that "Lincoln used to come to our office— Stuart's and mine—in Springfield from New Salem and bor|row law books. Sometimes he walked, but generally rode. He was the most uncouth looking young man I ever saw. He seemed to have but little to say; seemed to feel timid, with a tinge of sadness visible in the countenance, but when he did talk all this disappeared for the time and he demon|strated that he was both strong and acute. He surprised us more and more at every visit."
Page 78Herndon said: "On the road to and from Springfield he would read and recite from the book he carried open in his hand, and claimed to have mastered forty pages of Black|stone during the first day after his return from Stuart's of|fice. At New Salem he frequently sat barefooted under the shade of a tree near the store, poring over a volume of Chitty or Blackstone, sometimes lying on his back, putting his feet up the tree."
As Lincoln applied himself to books and worked less with his hands, some of his New Salem friends, unable to under|stand his ambition, accused him of laziness. Russell Godbey, seeing him stretched out on a woodpile with a book before him, asked what he was reading. "I am not reading," replied Lincoln, "I am studying law." "Law," exclaimed Godbey, "Good God A'mighty!" and walked on.
In November Lincoln interrupted his studies to prepare for the session of the Legislature. Borrowing $200 from Cole|man Smoot for clothes, traveling expenses and the payment of his most pressing debts, he was ready to leave for Van|dalia, the state capital. Before his departure, a meeting of citizens of Sangamon County, held at the courthouse in Springfield, on November 22, 1834, elected him and ten others delegates to a State Education Convention to be held at Vandalia on December 5.
Lincoln traveled to Vandalia by stage, arriving in time for the opening of the session on December 1.^4^4 Vandalia, in 1834, was far from prepossessing. Its hundred-odd buildings, mostly log cabins, housed a population of about 600. Vis|itors were accommodated in "the very large tavern house, called the Vandalia Inn"—it had a dining room 40x20 and thirteen lodging rooms—"and the extensive houses of Cols. Black, Blackford, Remann and Leidig." The House met on the first floor and the Senate on the second floor of the dilapidated two-story brick State House, erected by the citizens of the town in 1824. Two weekly newspapers, one Whig, the other Democratic, reported the political news.
Page 79The town was situated at the intersection of two impor|tant roads, the "National Road" from Washington to St. Louis—not yet improved this far west—and a road which ran from Shawneetown, through Vandalia to Springfield, and thence to the northwestern corner of the state. The Legislature, the State Supreme Court and the Federal Court for the District of Illinois held their sessions at Vandalia. Executive officials, legislators, judges, prominent lawyers, capitalists and lobbyists congregated there. Many men brought their wives and daughters and rounds of parties and dances enlivened the sessions. Vandalia was the hub of the state, its social as well as its political capital.
As a new member Lincoln played a minor part in the Legislature's work. He was conscientious in attendance, missing few roll calls. He received a few unimportant com|mittee assignments, and drafted and introduced a few bills. He saw skilful lobbyists in action and learned at first hand of the log-rolling that goes on behind the scenes in legis|lative halls. Saying little, he observed closely and learned much. Occasionally he dropped into the Supreme or Federal courtroom and listened to the arguments. The salary of three dollars a day was a welcome addition to his income.
Among Lincoln's fellow-members at this session were men of affairs, with trained minds and experience in prac|tical politics. In the Senate were Benjamin Bond, brother of Shadrach Bond, first governor of the state, Cyrus Ed|wards, of the prominent and wealthy Edwards family, William Gatewood, first commissioner of the Gallatin saline, Thomas Mather, soon to be president of the State Bank, Adam W. Snyder, who died during his campaign for gov|ernor in 1842, John W. Vance, wealthy salt manufacturer from Vermilion County, and Dr. Conrad Will, mem|ber of the first State Constitutional Convention. In the House were Robert Blackwell, one of the first Illinois state printers, Nathaniel Buckmaster, sheriff of Madison County in territorial days, Newton Cloud, noted Morgan County Page 80 preacher, later a member of the Board of Canal Commis|sioners, Gen. William McHenry, for whom McHenry County was named, Thomas J. V. Owen, later the first mayor of Chicago, and William Ross, whose brother, Os|sian Ross of Havana, father of Harvey Ross, was an early political leader. With such younger members as Orlando B. Ficklin, Jesse K. Dubois, William Fithian and John T. Stuart, Lincoln was to have important contacts in later life. At Vandalia, in 1834, Lincoln first met Stephen A. Douglas, then a young lawyer, whom he pronounced "the least man" he had ever seen, and against whom he voted for State's At|torney for the First Judicial Circuit.
Much more important than his participation in legisla|tive activities at this session were the acquaintances that he made. Here he saw wealth, education, breeding, charm— things relatively unknown to him. Indeed, to Lincoln, with his hitherto limited contacts, narrow horizon, and in some respects provincial point of view, his first term in the Legis|lature was a liberal education, more valuable than any|thing that he could learn in books. Small wonder that when the session ended, on February 13, 1835, he returned to New Salem with his ambition fired, and resumed his legal studies with such determination that his friends were concerned for his health.
And now, according to tradition, Lincoln, in his twenty-fifth year, had his first romance. So far he had had no se|rious affair of the heart. Toward women in general he was indifferent or shy. At New Salem his closest female friends had been older married women. Hannah Armstrong, Jack's wife, at whose home he was a frequent visitor, patched his shirts and trousers while he rocked the baby's cradle or amused the older children. Mrs. Bennett Abell and Mrs. Bowling Green befriended him.
In 1832, Lincoln boarded at the Rutledge tavern, where he became well acquainted with James Rutledge's daughter Ann, a pretty, unaffected, lovable girl of nineteen, with Page 81 blue eyes and auburn hair. She was betrothed to John Mc|Neil, a thrifty young man from New York state, who came to New Salem in 1829, and formed a partnership with Samuel Hill. With his share of the profits from the Hill-McNeil store he accumulated considerable property.
Meanwhile, he fell in love with Ann, and became en|gaged to her. It is said that Hill was also in love with her, and that jealousy was a cause of the dissolution of the Hill-McNeil partnership. One day, quite unexpectedly, McNeil told Ann that he must leave New Salem temporarily. Be|fore leaving he confided to her the story of his life. His real name was MacNamar, and he had left home and come West to seek his fortune, assuming the name McNeil to prevent his relatives, who were poor, from finding him until he could establish himself. Now that he was comfortably fixed he intended to return to his parents, provide for their sup|port, and then return and marry Ann. Before his departure he bought a forty-acre farm about seven miles north of New Salem on Sand Ridge, and to this farm the Rutledge family moved soon after his departure.
In Ohio, MacNamar was stricken with fever, and for a month was seriously ill, part of the time unconscious. Fin|ally, he recovered and continued his journey. Arriving home, he found his father mortally sick; and after several months the old man died. Several more months were re|quired to settle the family affairs. He wrote to Ann, explain|ing the delay, and she replied; but with the prolongation of his absence each exchange of letters became more formal. Finally the correspondence ceased.
Meanwhile, in New Salem, gossip circulated. MacNamar's long absence, his assumption of a false name, the improb|ability of his story, convinced many people that he had been insincere with Ann.
Soon after Lincoln began to board at the tavern he fell in love with Ann. MacNamar was a friend of his, however, and for some time he made no avowal of his love. But as Page 82 time passed and MacNamar did not return, Lincoln pressed his suit. By that time the Rutledges had moved to Sand Ridge, and Lincoln plodded frequently across country to see Ann. Sometimes he stayed all night at the neighboring farm of "Uncle Jimmy" Short. After a courtship of several months Ann became engaged to him. They planned that she would spend a year at the Female Academy at Jackson|ville, while he pursued his legal studies and saved a little money. Then they would be married.
But in the summer of 1835, Ann became ill. Unable to eat or sleep, racked with fever, she became weak and ema|ciated, growing steadily worse. Despite all that could be done, it was evident that she would die. At first Lincoln was not allowed to see her for fear the excitement would be harmful; but when it was seen that there was no hope he was admitted to her room. "The meeting was quite as much as either could bear," said Herndon, "and more than Lin|coln, with all his coolness and philosophy, could endure. The voice, the face, the features of her; the love, sympathy and interview fastened themselves on his heart and soul for|ever." About two weeks later, on August 25, 1835, Ann died.^4^5
Lincoln was distraught. For days he could not eat or sleep. His face was haggard with mental agony. Ann's brother said: "The effect upon Mr. Lincoln's mind was ter|rible. He became plunged in despair, and many of his friends feared that reason would desert her throne. His ex|traordinary emotions were regarded as strong evidence of the existence of the tenderest relations between himself and the deceased." He complained that he could not bear the thought of "the snow and rain falling on her grave," and on stormy, gloomy days was closely watched for fear he would take his own life.
As his depression continued, he was persuaded to leave New Salem with its memories, and for a week or ten days he lived at Bowling Green's. There he pulled himself to|gether. Page 83 But for months, according to Herndon, he was sub|ject to fits of deep melancholy, which recurred in less acute form throughout his life.
This story, discovered by William H. Herndon, first given to the public in one of his lectures, and elaborated in his biography of Lincoln, had immediate appeal. Popularized and sentimentalized by other writers, it did more than any|thing to create a general public interest in New Salem. In the minds of many people it came to be considered Lin|coln's one true love—a mystic, guiding force throughout his life. Edgar Lee Masters expressed the feeling in the poem that is inscribed on Ann's tombstone.
The story is based entirely upon reminiscences, none of them dated earlier than 1865. Some historians have ques|tioned it, and especially its enduring effect on Lincoln.^4^6 But regardless of its genuineness it is, and will remain, the best known incident of Lincoln's New Salem life. It has be|come part of American folklore, and popular opinion re|sents any effort to disprove it. There is an unexpressed, per|haps unconscious feeling that a life with so much sadness, so much tragedy as Lincoln's deserved to be enriched by such a romance.
A little more than a year after Ann's death, Lincoln had a love affair with Mary Owens. Lincoln met Miss Owens, a Page 84 good-looking, well-dressed, sensible girl from Kentucky, in 1833, when she visited her sister, Mrs. Abell. In the autumn of 1836, Mrs. Abell returned her visit, and proposed to Lin|coln, banteringly perhaps, that on her return she would bring her sister with her if he would marry her. Lincoln ac|cepted the proposition in the spirit in which it was made, and was pleased at the prospect of seeing Miss Owens again. But he was surprised when she did return with her sister. Since he first saw her she had grown stout and lost much of her comeliness; to Lincoln she did not seem nearly so at|tractive as she had been before. Nevertheless, he resolved to go through with it. They had some sort of indefinite under|standing, and after Lincoln left New Salem to attend the Legislature, in December, 1836, several letters passed be|tween them.
From Lincoln's letters it is evident that he was much per|plexed, that he wanted to do the honorable thing, but that he was giving Miss Owens every opportunity to change her mind. Finally, in the fall of 1837, Lincoln made a definite proposal of marriage, and was rejected, much to his surprise and chagrin. He later wrote, half-jokingly, to Mrs. Orville H. Browning: "My vanity was deeply wounded by the re|flection that I had so long been too stupid to discover her intentions, and that at the same time never doubting that I understood them perfectly; and also that she, whom I had taught myself to believe nobody else would have, had actually rejected me with all my fancied greatness. And, to cap the whole, I then for the first time began to suspect that I was really a little in love with her."^4^7
In a correspondence with Herndon, who investigated the whole affair in 1866, Miss Owens, who had in the meantime married a Mr. Vineyard and moved to Weston, Missouri, ex|plained that she rejected Lincoln because he was "de|ficient in those little links which make up the chain of a woman's happiness." Brought up in a masculine environ|ment, his social training had been crude compared to hers. Page 85 He neglected the little courtesies and attentions that she deemed desirable in a husband. She mentioned, for exam|ple, his allowing Mrs. Bowling Green to carry her baby up a steep hill without thinking to offer his help. She also told of his escorting her to "Uncle Billy" Greene's in company with other young folks. In crossing a rather treacherous branch, the other men helped their partners across, but Lin|coln, riding ahead, left her to shift for herself. When she chided him he laughingly replied, she supposed by way of compliment, that he knew that she was smart enough to take care of herself.
In the summer of 1836, Lincoln was a candidate for re|election to the Legislature. His campaign was similar to his previous ones. On June 13, he announced his views in the following letter to the editor of the Sangamo Journal: "In your paper of last Saturday I see a communication, over the signature of 'Many Voters,' in which the candidates . . . are called upon to 'show their hands.' Agreed. Here's mine.
"I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist in bearing its burdens. Consequently, I go for ad|mitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms (by no means excluding females.)
"If elected, I shall consider the whole people of Sangamon my constituents, as well those that oppose me as those that support me.
"While acting as their representative, I shall be governed by their will on all subjects upon which I have the means of knowing what their will is; and upon all others, I shall do what my own judgment teaches me will best advance their interests. Whether elected or not, I go for distributing the proceeds of the sales of the public lands to the several States, to enable our State, in common with others, to dig canals and construct railroads without borrowing money and pay|ing the interest on it.
"If alive on the first Monday in November, I shall vote for Hugh L. White for President."
Page 86During the week following the appearance of this an|nouncement, Colonel Robert Allen, a Democrat, campaign|ing at New Salem while Lincoln was away, stated publicly that he was in possession of facts, which, if generally known, would destroy Lincoln's chances of election, but that out of regard for him he would not disclose them. Upon his re|turn, Lincoln wrote a forthright letter to Allen, declaring himself at a loss as to what Allen had in mind, and de|manding that for the sake of the public interest the facts in question be revealed. "That I once had the confidence of the people of Sangamon, is sufficiently evident," wrote Lin|coln, "and if I have since done anything either by design or misadventure, which if known would subject me to a for|feiture of that confidence, he that knows of that thing, and conceals it, is a traitor to his country's interest." Allen was silenced.
By this time Lincoln could take good care of himself on the stump. In the course of this campaign he made a speech in Springfield at the conclusion of which George Forquer, a prominent lawyer, arose and said that he was sorry, but "the young man would have to be taken down." Forquer had recently left the Whig Party and become a Democrat and had immediately been appointed Register of the Land Office. He had also built a new frame house, upon which he erected a lightning rod, the first one in town. After Forquer, with some show of superiority, had spoken at length, Lin|coln replied. "Mr. Forquer commenced his speech," said Lin|coln, "by announcing that the young man would have to be taken down. It is for you, fellow citizens, not for me to say whether I am up or down. The gentleman has seen fit to al|lude to my being a young man; but he forgets that I am older in years than I am in the tricks and trades of poli|ticians. I desire to live, and I desire place and distinction; but I would rather die now than, like the gentleman, live to see the day that I would change my politics for an office worth three thousand dollars a year, and then feel com|pelled Page 87 to erect a lightning rod to protect a guilty conscience from an offended God." Herndon records that the effect of this was "wonderful," and gave Forquer and his lightning rod a widespread notoriety. Forquer's house has been torn down long since, but even today Springfield residents re|member their parents pointing out Forquer's lightning rod.
In the election, on August 1, Lincoln polled the highest vote of all the Sangamon candidates.^4^8
The legislative session of 1836-37, which convened on De|cember 5, was momentous in the history of Illinois. At that session was enacted the famous "internal improvement scheme," that provided for the construction of a central railroad, a system of minor lines, deepening of rivers, build|ing of canals and appropriation of $200,000 to be divided among the counties not otherwise benefited. In this orgy the Sangamon delegation, known from their stature as the "Long Nine," stuck together with a single purpose, skilfully casting their ballots for this project and that in return for promises of votes for the location of the state capital at Springfield. In this Lincoln took the lead, and it was largely due to his efforts that on February 28, 1837, when the mat|ter came to a vote, Springfield was chosen as the capital.
At this session Lincoln for the first time gave public ex|pression to his views on slavery. During the early thirties, Northern Abolitionists, led by William Lloyd Garrison, were driving Southerners to frenzy by their incessant at|tacks on slavery. Several Southern state legislatures passed resolutions denouncing such agitation and transmitted them to Northern legislatures, some of which adopted reso|lutions sympathetic toward the South. There was very little anti-slavery sentiment in Illinois, and the Legislature passed a series of resolutions disapproving of abolition societies, affirming the constitutional right of Southern states to per|mit slavery, and declaring that the abolishment of slavery in the District of Columbia by the Federal government, with|out the consent of the people of the District, would be mani|fest Page 88 breach of faith. These resolutions were adopted by a vote of seventy-seven to six, Lincoln voting nay.
Six weeks later, he and Daniel Stone entered a protest upon the House Journal, explaining that their refusal to vote for the resolutions was due to their belief "that the in|stitution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils," that Congress had no power to interfere with it in the states, but could abolish it in the District of Columbia, although it should exercise that power only at the request of the people of the District. Lincoln was not aggressive in his stand, and was careful to disclaim any sympathy for abolitionism. He went no further than his conscience demanded, and it is sig|nificant that his protest was not entered before his larger purpose of securing the state capital for Springfield had been achieved.
In this session Lincoln so impressed his colleagues with his qualities of leadership that in the following session he was the Whig candidate for speaker. Although defeated for that office he was recognized throughout the session as the Whig floor leader.
On September 9, 1836, Lincoln had applied for a license to practice law, and on March 1, 1837, the Supreme Court granted him a certificate of admission to the bar. When the Legislature adjourned, on March 15, he returned to New Salem. But the town held no promise for him. There was no chance there for a legal or a wider political career. Spring|field, however, offered opportunities for both. Already Lin|coln was well acquainted there, and his efforts in securing the removal of the capital had increased his popularity. John T. Stuart was willing to take him as his law partner. On April 15, 1837, Lincoln, astride a borrowed horse, with all his personal possessions in his saddle-bags, moved to Springfield. Joshua Speed, a young merchant, learning that he did not have money enough to buy a bedstead, offered to Page 89 share with him his double bed and large room above his store. Lincoln accepted gratefully. Slinging his saddle bags over his arm, he climbed the stairs, desposited the bags on the floor and returned; and with his face beaming with smiles, remarked, "Well, Speed, I'm moved."
In his six years at New Salem Lincoln had gone far. He could justly take pride in his progress. Coming to the vil|lage like "a piece of floating driftwood," as he said, he had worked his way up to a position of leadership not only in New Salem but in the state as well. He was recognized as a skilful politician. He had made valuable friendships in the county and the state at large. He had learned to think straight and express himself with force and clarity. He had equipped himself to make a living with his brain instead of his hands.
To New Salem he owed much. His associations there were more varied than any he had known in Kentucky, Indiana or his earlier home in Illinois. His advent there was a def|inite step forward—one that freed him from the retarding influence of his family and revealed to him the possibility of betterment.
The New Salem years left a lasting impress. To the end of his life the rural background of his early years colored his writings and speech. Many of the similes and metaphors which enrich his literary style smack of the countryside. The "twang of the crossroads" was in his anecdotes. Often in later life he illustrated his remarks with rural analogies drawn from his New Salem experiences.
In New Salem as well as in his former homes in Ken|tucky and Indiana, Lincoln lived in a Southern pioneer at|mosphere. His contact with its people helped him under|stand the Southern temperament and point of view. He entered with zest into the theological discussions of the community, and profited by the niceties of thought, the subtle distinctions and fine-spun argument that they ne|cessitated. Yet, while he enjoyed them as a mental exercise, Page 90 and while he eventually attained to a deep faith, emotion|ally the bitterness of sectarian prejudice must have been repellent to him, and was probably a cause of his lasting re|luctance to affiliate with any sect.
The New Salem environment, typical of that of the West in general, offered opportunities which Lincoln would not have had in an older community. Humble origin and lack of schooling were no handicaps, for they were common deficiencies. A newcomer had no difficulty in establishing himself, for no one had been there long, no propertied class had emerged, and social castes were unknown. Equality of opportunity was in large degree a fact, and democracy and nationalism were the political ideals.
Lincoln accepted these ideals, and benefited by the op|portunities that the frontier afforded. But at the same time he avoided the frontier's weaknesses or, learning from ex|perience, outgrew them. He became self-reliant without be|coming boastful and without overestimating himself; analytical and conservative rather than opportunistic and impulsive. He realized the value of law, and was respectful of form and tradition, in a region where men sometimes made their own law, where informality prevailed, and where people were concerned with the present and future rather than the past.
His support of Clay rather than Jackson, his defense of the old Indian in the Black Hawk War, his stand on slavery show that he was thinking for himself, and that here—as later in his opposition to the Mexican War and in the tolerant and forgiving spirit that he maintained toward the South in the prevailing bitterness of Civil War— he dared stand against the crowd. His standards and ambi|tions transcended those of the community. At New Salem, as in later life, his individuality stands out. Yet while be|coming a leader of his fellows Lincoln never lost touch with them. He grew beyond his associates, but not away from them.