ePub 版

then came down again, good-humoredly laughing, and said: "Speed, I am moved.” And Lincoln was then settled in his new quarters with his steadfast friend Mr. Speed.

The new capital of Illinois was a large village, its population being about eighteen thousand. It was the county-seat of Sangamon, and the United States Court for that circuit was held there. These, with the annual session of the Legislature, imparted to the embryo metropolis considerable importance. Men famous afterwards in the history of the county, State, and the republic were found among the assemblies of the citizens. Some social grandeur was apparent, and Lincoln has recorded his notion that Springfield was putting on pretensions to elegance. To the shy son of the Kentucky backwoods, doubtless, there was a great deal of "flourishing about' among the people of the capital; but we must make allowance for the fact that Springfield, like Lincoln, was only just emerging from the backwoods. The courthouse was built of logs, and this was true of nearly all the courthouses on the circuit. The judge sat at a cloth-covered table, behind a rail that separated the awful majesty of the bench from the bar and people. The rest of the space was occupied by a promiscuous crowd, and it was a very dull day when the courthouse audience did not press hardly upon the accommodations allotted for clerk, bar, and official attendants at the trial. For the courthouse afforded, in those days of few amusements, almost the only in-door entertainment of the people. Here they found tragedy, comedy, elocution, contests of

wit and logic, and all that material for neighborhood gossip that is needed so keenly in sparsely settled communities.

The lawyers rode horseback from courthouse to courthouse, trying cases and following the presiding judges in their circuit. Each limb of the law carried with him, in his saddle-bags, a change of raiment, a few lawbooks, and the articles of use indispensable to the hard-faring traveller. Manners were simple, even rude, but kindly and hospitable. It was on these long jaunts, travelled in company with judges, witnesses, and jurymen, that Lincoln picked up a vast proportion of the stories of wild Western life and manners, that, in after years, made him famous as an impromptu story-teller. Once, Lincoln, having assisted the prosecuting attorney in the trial of a man who had appropriated some of the tenants of his neighbor's chicken-house, fell in, next day, jogging along the highway, with the foreman of the jury who had convicted the hen-stealer. The man complimented Lincoln on the zeal and ability of the prosecution, and remarked: “Why, when the country was young and I was stronger than I am now, I did n't mind backing off a sheep now and again. But stealing hens!” The good man's scorn could not find words to express his opinion of a man who would steal hens.

On another occasion, while riding the circuit Lincoln was missed from the party, having loitered, apparently, near a thicket of wild plum-trees where the cavalcade had stopped to water their steeds. One of the company, coming up with the others,

reported, in answer to questions: “When I saw him last, he had caught two young birds that the wind had blown out of their nest, and was hunting for the nest to put them back.” The men rallied Lincoln on his tender-heartedness, when he caught up with them. But he said: “I could not have slept unless I had restored those little birds to their mother."

Lincoln formed a law partnership with John T. Stuart, of Springfield, in April, 1837, and this relation continued until April, 1841, when Lincoln associated himself in business with Stephen T. Logan. This partnership was dissolved in September, 1843, when the law firm of Abraham Lincoln and William H. Herndon was formed, and this copartnership was not dissolved until the death of Lincoln, in 1865.

As a lawyer, Lincoln soon proved that the qualities that had won him the title of honest Abe Lincoln, when he was a store-keeper, still stuck to him. He was an honest lawyer; he never undertook a case of doubtful morality. If it was a criminal whom he was defending, and he became convinced of the guilt of the prisoner, he lost all heart in the case. No fee, no expectation of winning fame for his shrewdness, would induce him to undertake a suit in which it would be necessary to resort to quibbles and nice little tricks to win. Perhaps there was less of that sort of legal management in those days than now. But he certainly never did resort to it. And, as those who practised at the bar when he did have left this record of him, it is evident that he was thought to be peculiar, different from the rest of his associates. There were men of ability and skill in the circuit in

those days. Some of them became famous in later years. Among these were Lyman Trumbull, afterwards United States Senator from Illinois; 0. H. Browning, Senator, and Secretary of the Interior under Lincoln's administration; W. H. Bissell, Representative in Congress, and Governor of the State; David Davis, Senator, acting Vice-President, and also a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; Stephen A. Douglas, Senator, and a candidate for the Presidency. So far as we know, none of these men, afterwards eminent in their time, had any expectation of their future successes in public life. But the modest Lincoln was in training for his exalted station: and it is worth while to note here that his associations were those that inspired and lifted him up, not dragged him down. It is likely that he regarded those about him with a respect akin to awe and that he never hoped at that time to be equal to them in reputation. How they regarded him, it is not necessary to inquire, except to know that nobody ever thought that he would, in time, distance them all in the race for distinction. He determined to excel, not to outstrip anybody; to do his best, leaving the results to God. Long after he had become President, he said that the true rule of life was to do one's “level best,” leaving the rest to take care of itself. He believed that the best preparation for the duties of to-morrow was the faithful performance of the duties of to-day.

When we look at what young Lincoln had accomplished at the time of which we are writing, we shall see that he had already begun to evince great talent,

although he may not have been a man of mark. For example, in 1837, when he was not yet twenty-eight years old, he was asked to deliver a lecture before an association of young men in Springfield. He chose for his theme “The Perpetuation of our Political Institutions,"rather an ambitious topic, one might say. But it was not a crude effort. Considering that it was the work of a self-taught man, who had never seen the inside of a college, it was remarkable as a piece of literary composition. It was the address of a thinking man, an ardent and devoted patriot. In order that the reader may have some notion of the earlier beginnings of Lincoln's statesmanship, one extract from this speech is subjoined. Alluding to our Revolutionary ancestors, he said:

“In history, we hope, they will be read of and recounted so long as the Bible shall be read. But even granting that they will, their influence cannot be what it heretofore has been. Even then, they cannot be so universally known nor so vividly felt as they were by the generation just gone to rest. At the close of that struggle, nearly every adult male had been a participator in some of its


“The consequence was, that of those scenes, in the form of a husband, a father, a son, or a brother, a living history was to be found in every family—a history bearing the indubitable testimonies to its own authenticity in the limbs mangled, in the scars of wounds received in the midst of the very scene related; a history, too, that could be read and understood alike by all, the wise and the ignorant, the learned and the unlearned. But those histories are gone. They can be read no more forever. They were a fortress of strength; but what the invading

« 上一頁繼續 »