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bending beneath their tasks on the levees of the river towns, and, what was more memorable than all,. slaves in squads and coffles, torn from old homes and families far away, bound up the river on the steamboats that were now frequent on the busy Mississippi. He who was to be known through all coming time as The Emancipator had made his first study of his fellow-man in hopeless bondage.
It is well to consider here that Abraham Lincoln, up to this point, was what is called a self-made man in the strictest sense of that word. What he had learned, he had learned of himself. What he knew, he knew with absolute accuracy. Self-taught and self-dependent, he had all his resources, mental, moral, and physical, well in hand. So self-reliant and yet, withal, so modest and diffident a character was probably never known before. Growing up in the almost trackless forest, he had absorbed the influences of the wild-wood. He had been held close to nature, had had as much time for solitary meditation as was wholesome for him; and he had never been for an hour dependent on other people, or on other than the humblest means, for intellectual stimulus. Such as he was, it may be said, God had made and nurtured him in the wilderness. The man that was within him was thoroughly original. He was not a copy of any man, nor the imitator of any human being.
Henceforth he was not to be hidden in the backwoods. The backwoods, indeed, had begun to recede before the onward march of civilization. Immigration was streaming into Indiana. It could be no longer said of the settlers along Pigeon Creek that they were so far apart that the smoke of one fireside could not be seen from the next nearest. There were neighborhoods almost populous; and with these came social sports and occasional visitings, house-raisings, husking-bees, Sabbath worship, and something like a neighborly intimacy. In these changes the stalwart young pioneer, now six feet four inches tall, cut no mean figure. He could outrun and outwalk any one of his comrades, and, as has been said by those who knew him then, "hecould strike the hardest blow with axe or maul, jump higher and farther than any of his fellows, and there was no one, far or near, that could lay him on his back."
These accomplishments, we may be sure, counted for much in a community where physical endurance and muscular strength were needed for every day's duties. But the honest-eyed and kindly youth, strong though he was, had a gentle manner that endeared him to everybody that came in contact with him. He had a wonderful power of narration. The fables of ^Esop were new as they fell from his lips. A grotesque incident, a comical story, or one of the frontier traditions learned from his mother, was a dramatic entertainment in his hands. He kept his audiences at the country store until midnight, says one of his comrades, listening to his shrewd wisdom, native wit, and vivid recitals. Poor Dennis Hanks, weary and sleepy, was often obliged to trudge home without him, after vainly trying to coax the eloquent and fascinating story-teller from the group of which he was the admired centre.
Unconsciously to himself, this simple-hearted and humble-minded young man was absorbing into his own experience the rude lore of the backwoodsman. He was studying character, fining his mind with facts and experiences; and in after years, in other scenes and in a far busier life than this, the fresh and original pictures that he sketched in speech or story came from the panorama of human action unrolled before him in old Kentucky and southern Indiana.
THE LINCOLNS IN ILLINOIS.
The Land of Full-Grown Men—Lincoln Attains his Majority—Striking Out for Himself—Another River Voyage—An Odd Introduction to New Salem—Some Rough and Tumble Discipline—The Backwoodsman Conquers Friends—He Vanquishes English Grammar.
NCE more the Lincoln family "pulled up
stakes" and moved westward. This time it was to Illinois, which, in the Indian vernacular, signifies "the land of the full-grown men," that the easily-entreated Thomas Lincoln went. Thomas Hanks, one of the most steady and well-balanced of this somewhat erratic group of people, had gone to Macon County, Illinois, in the autumn of 1829. He had been so favorably impressed with what he saw and heard that he had written to Thomas Lincoln to come on and bring the family. It does not appear to have required much persuasion ever to induce Thomas Lincoln to change his place. He had made no progress in Indiana beyond providing for their actual wants. He could do no worse in Illinois, accounts of which as a land literally flowing with milk and honey were already spreading over the older States. So, in the spring of 1830, as soon as the frost was out of the ground, Lincoln, having sold crops, hogs, and farm improvements to Mr. Gentry, packed all his remaining earthly possessions, and those of his sons-in-law, into a wagon and set his face westward.
The migrating family was as follows: Thomas Lincoln and Sarah, his wife; his only son, Abraham, John Johnston, Mrs. Lincoln's son; Mrs. Hall and Mrs. Hanks, daughters of Mrs. Lincoln, and their husbands. Sarah Lincoln, Abraham's sister, had married Aaron Grigsby, a few years before, and had died recently. These eight people took their weary way across the fat and oozy prairies, black with rich loam, bound for the new land of Canaan. Two weeks of tiresome travel were consumed in reaching the place selected for them on the public lands near the village of Decatur, Macon County, by Thomas Hanks. The entire "outfit," consisting of one wagon drawn by four yoke of oxen, driven by Abraham Lincoln, came to anchor, as it were, on a patch of bottom-land hitherto untouched by the hand of man. Young Lincoln had settled finally in the State that in years to come was to borrow new lustre from his name. Undreaming of future greatness, the stalwart young fellow lent a hand in the raising of the cabin that was to be the home of the family. And when this work was done, and the immigrants were securely under cover, he and Thomas Hanks ploughed fifteen acres of the virgin soil, cut down and split into rails sundry walnut logs of the adjacent forest, worked out rails, and fenced his father's first Illinois farm.
Now it was time for young Abraham to strike out for himself. He had thought of doing that before, but had been reminded that he was a servant to his