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The Life of Abraham Lincoln.
THE LINCOLN ANCESTRY.
Condition of the People at the End of the War for Independence
Migrations of the Earlier Lincolns—A Tragedy in the Wilderness
the condition of the people of the United States was one of deep poverty. The credit of thư government was not good. Money was scarce.
There was no mint for coinage of American specie, and the paper currency authorized by the Continental Congress was very low in value. Immediately after the end of the war, the young republic had had a slight wave of prosperity. Various kinds of useful manufactures had been established, and people dwelling in cities were at ease, and they who dwelt on plantations and farms were plentifully supported by the yields of their acres, flocks, and herds.
But this did not last long. Very soon the country was deluged with English goods, and, instead of being large exporters, the people of the United States imported more than they sent away. During
the two years next succeeding the declaration of peace, the value of goods imported from England was about thirty million dollars, while those exported did not amount to nine millions. At the beginning of 1783, the public debt of the republic was about forty-two millions, and the debts of the separate States, added together, were about one half of that sum. Specie went rapidly out of the country to pay for imports, and the almost worthless currency remaining was all that the people had for daily use.
So great was this depression among the towns and villages of the old thirteen States that many families began to turn their eyes and thoughts westward, where, it was said, was a land of plenty. There, at least, the soil yielded abundantly; the forests were filled with game, the rivers with fish, and the prime necessities of human life were easily met. Among those who went with this wave of Western migration was the family of Lincoln, from which was to spring, in years to come, the President of illustrious name.
The Lincolns originally came from England, settling in Hingham, Massachusetts, about the year 1638. Thence to Pennsylvania went Mordecai Lincoln, the great-great-grandfather of the President. The later Lincolns who moved westward in 1782, at the period of which we have just spoken, were Abraham Lincoln and Mordecai, Josiah, and Thomas, his sons. They went from Rockingham County, Virginia, to Mercer County, Kentucky, in the year before mentioned. At that time, Kentucky was a part of the great State of Virginia. It was almost an untrodden wilderness, and the few settlers who
were scattered over its vast area were brave, hardy, adventurous, and sometimes terrible men. To the savages who roamed the forests they were indeed a terror and a constant threat. The Indians, irritated by the unceasing incoming of the whites, and vainly thinking that they could stem the tide that poured in upon them, were always at war with the intruders, and they omitted no opportunity to pick them off singly, or to drive them out by sudden and deadly attacks on small settlements.
Abraham Lincoln, grandfather of the President, entered four hundred acres of land on the south side of Licking Creek, under a government warrant. He built a log cabin near the military post known as Fort Beargrass, the site of the present city of Louisville, Kentucky. Here the family began to open their farm, breaking up the virgin soil and planting their first crops. In the second year of their Kentucky settlement, Abraham Lincoln and his son Thomas being at work in the field, a sneaking Indian waylaid the twain, and, firing from the brush, killed the father at his task. Mordecai and Josiah, the elder brothers, were chopping in the forest near at hand, and, while Josiah ran to the fort for help, Mordecai dashed into the cabin and seized the everready rifle. Looking through one of the port-holes cut in the logs, he saw the Indian, who, taking advantage of the flight of the boys, had seized little Tom, then only six years old, and was making off with him to the woods. Levelling his rifle, Mordecai shot and killed the Indian, and, as he dropped to the ground, the boy, liberated by the death of his would-be captor,
sprang to his feet and fled to the cabin, where the future father of the President was clasped in his mother's arms. Josiah speedily returned from the fort with a party of settlers, who took up the bodies of Abraham Lincoln and his slayer.
This scene, as may be imagined, made a deep impression on the minds of the three boys. It is said that Mordecai, standing over the form of his slain father, on the soil to be known for generations thereafter as “the dark and bloody ground,” vowed that that precious life should be richly paid for in Indian blood. Certain it is that, from that time forth, Mordecai Lincoln was the mortal enemy of the red man, and many an Indian fell before his terrible rifle.
By this lamentable death, the widow of Abraham Lincoln was left alone to care for five children Mordecai, Josiah, Thomas, Mary, and Nancy. Of their struggles and hardships we know nothing positively; but these can be imagined. Poverty oppressed the entire republic. In the wilderness of Kentucky there were few gleams of light: no schools, scanty means for acquiring even the art of reading and writing, and no apparent need of the higher branches of a common-school education. In the hard, rude life of the frontier, in ignorance and poverty, the father of the President grew to man's estate. In later years, his son Abraham, asked to tell what he knew of his father's life, said: “My father, at the time of the death of his father, was but six years old, and he grew up literally without education." He was a tall, well-built, and muscular man, quick with his rifle, an expert hunter, good-natured