Abraham Lincoln was born Feb. 12, 1809, then in Hardin, now in
the more recently formed county of Larue, Kentucky. His father, Thomas,
& grand-father, Abraham, were born in Rockingham county Virginia, whither
their ancestors had come from Berks county Pennsylvania. His lineage has
been traced no farther back than this. The family were originally Quakers,
though in later times they have fallen away from the peculiar habits of
that people. The grand-father Abraham, had four brothers - Isaac, Jacob,
John & Thomas. So far as known, the descendants of Jacob and John are
still in Virginia. Isaac went to a place near where Virginia, North Carolina,
and Tennessee, join; and his descendants are in that region. Thomas came
to Kentucky, and after many years, died there, whence his descendants went
to Missouri. Abraham, grandfather of the subject of this sketch, came to
Kentucky, and was killed by Indians about the year 1784. He left a widow,
three sons and two daughters. The eldest son, Mordecai, remained in Kentucky
till late in life, when he removed to Hancock comity, Illinois, where soon
after he died, and where several of his descendants still reside. The second
son, Josiah, removed at an early day to a place on Blue River, now within
Harrison county, Indiana; but no recent information of him, or his family,
has been obtained. The eldest sister, Mary, married Ralph Crume and some
of her descendants are now known to be in Breckenridge county Kentucky.
The second sister, Nancy, married William Brumfield, and her family are
not known to have left Kentucky, but there is no recent information from
them. Thomas, the youngest son, and father of the present subject, by the
early death of his father, and very narrow circumstances of his mother,
even in childhood was a wandering laboring boy, and grew up literally without
education. He never did more in the way of writing than to bunglingly sign
his own name. Before he was grown, he passed one year as a hired hand with
his uncle Isaac on Wataga, a branch of the Holsteen River. Getting back
into Kentucky, and having reached his 28th year, he married Nancy Hanks
- mother of the present subject - in the year 1806. She also was born in
Virginia; and relatives of hers of the name of Hanks, and of other names,
now reside in Coles, in Macon, and in Adams counties, Illinois, and also
in Iowa. The present subject has no brother or sister of the whole or half
blood. He had a sister, older than himself, who was grown and married,
but died many years ago, leaving no child. Also a brother, younger than
himself, who died in infancy. Before leaving Kentucky he and his sister
were sent for short periods, to A.B.C. schools, the first kept by Zachariah
Riney, and the second by Caleb Hazel.
At this time his father resided on Knob-creek, on the road from Bardstown
Ky. to Nashville Tenn. at a point three, or three and a half miles South
or South-West of Atherton's ferry on the Rolling Fork. From this place
he removed to what is now Spencer county Indiana, in the autumn of 1816,
A. then being in his eighth year. This removal was partly on account of
slavery; but chiefly on account of the difficulty in land titles in Ky.
He settled in an unbroken forest; and the clearing away of surplus wood
was the great task a head. A. though very young, was large of his age,
and had an ax put into his hands at once; and from that till within his
twenty third year, he was almost constantly handling that most useful instrument
- less, of course, in plowing and harvesting seasons. At this place A.
took an early start as a hunter, which was never much improved afterwards.
(A few days before the completion of his eighth year, in the absence of
his father, a flock of wild turkeys approached the new log-cabin, and A.
with a rifle gun, standing inside, shot through a crack, and killed one
of them. He has never since pulled a trigger on any larger game.) In the
autumn of 1818 his mother died; and a year afterwards his father married
Mrs. Sally Johnston, at Elizabeth-Town, Ky. - a widow, with three children
of her first marriage. She proved a good and kind mother to A. and is still
living in Coles Co. Illinois. There were no children of this second marriage.
His father's residence continued at the same place in Indiana, till 1830.
While here A. went to A.B.C. schools by littles, kept successively by Andrew
Crawford, - Sweeney, and Azel W. Dorsey. He does not remember any other.
The family of Mr. Dorsey now reside in Schuyler Co. Illinois. A. now thinks
that the aggregate of all his schooling did not amount to one year. He
was never in a college or Academy as a student; and never inside of a college
or academy building till since he had a law-license. What he has in the
way of education, he has picked up. After he was twenty three, and had
separated from his father, he studied English grammar, imperfectly of course,
but so as to speak and write as well as he now does. He studied and nearly
mastered the Six-books of Euclid, since he was a member of Congress. He
regrets his want of education, and does what he can to supply the want.
In his tenth year he was kicked by a horse, and apparently killed for a
time. When he was nineteen, still residing in Indiana, he made his first
trip upon a flat-boat to New-Orleans. He was a hired hand merely; and he
and a son of the owner, without other assistance, made the trip. The nature
of part of the cargo-load, as it was called - made it necessary for them
to linger and trade along the Sugar coast - and one night they were attacked
by seven Negroes with intent to kill and rob them. They were hurt some
in the melee, but succeeded in driving the Negroes from the boat, and then
"cut cable" "weighed anchor" and left.
March 1st. 1830 - A. having just completed his 21st. year, his father
and family, with the families of the two daughters and sons-in-law, of
his step-mother, left the old homestead in Indiana, and came to Illinois.
Their mode of conveyance was wagons drawn by ox-teams, or A. drove one
of the teams. They reached the county of Macon, and stopped there some
time within the same month of March. His father and family settled a new
place on the North side of the Sangamon river, at the junction of the timber-land
and prairie, about ten miles Westerly from Decatur. Here they built a log-cabin,
into which they removed, and made sufficient of rails to fence ten acres
of ground, fenced and broke the ground, and raised a crop of sown corn
upon it the same year. These are, or are supposed to be, the rails about
which so much is being said just now, though they are far from being the
first, or only rails ever made by A.
The sons-in-law, were temporarily settled at other places in the county.
In the autumn all hands were greatly afflicted with augue and fever, to
which they had not been used, and by which they were greatly discouraged
- so much so that they determined on leaving the county. They remained
however, through the succeeding winter, which was the winter of the very
celebrated "deep snow" of Illinois. During that winter, A. together
with his step-mother's son, John D. Johnston, and John Hanks, yet residing
in Macon county, hired themselves to one Denton Offutt, to take a flat
boat from Beardstown Illinois to New-Orleans; and for that purpose, were
to join him - Offut - at Springfield, Ills so soon as the snow should go
off. When it did go off which was about the 1st of March 1831 - the county
was so flooded, as to make traveling by land impracticable; to obviate
which difficulty they purchased a large canoe and came down the Sangamon
river in it. This is the time and the manner of A's first entrance into
Sangamon County. They found Offutt at Springfield, but learned from him
that he had failed in getting a boat at Beardstown. This lead to their
hiring themselves to him at $12 per month, each; and getting the timber
out of the trees and building a boat at old Sangamon Town on the Sangamon
river, seven miles N.W. of Springfield, which boat they took to New-Orleans,
substantially upon the old contract. It was in connection with this boat
that occurred the ludicrous incident of sewing up the hogs eyes. Offutt
bought thirty odd large fat live hogs, but found difficulty in driving
them from where he purchased them to the boat, and thereupon conceived
the whim that he could sew up their eyes and drive them where he pleased.
No sooner thought of than decided, he put his hands, including A. at the
job, which they completed - all but the driving. In their blind condition
they could not be driven out of the lot or field they were in. This expedient
failing; they were tied and hauled on carts to the boat. It was near the
Sangamon River, within what is now Menard county.
During this boat enterprise acquaintance with Offutt, who was previously
an entire stranger, he conceived a liking for A. and believing he could
turn him to account, he contracted with him to act as clerk for him, on
his return from New Orleans in charge of a store and Mill at New-Salem,
then in Sangamon, now in Menard county. Hanks had not gone to New-Orleans,
but having a family, and being likely to be detained from home longer than
at first expected, had turned back from St. Louis. He is the same John
Hanks who now engineers the "rail enterprize" at Decatur; and
is a first cousin to A's mother. A's father, with his own family &
others mentioned, had, in pursuance of their intention, removed from Macon
to Coles county. John D. Johnston, the step-mother's son, went to them;
and A. stopped indefinitely, and, for the first time, as it were, by himself
at New-Salem, before mentioned. This was in July 1831. Here he rapidly
made acquaintances and friends. In less than a year Offutt's business was
failing - had almost failed, - when the Black-Hawk war of 1832 broke out.
A joined a volunteer company, and to his own surprise, was elected captain
of it. He says he has not since had any success in life which gave him
so much satisfaction. He went the campaign, served near three months, met
the ordinary hardships of such an expedition, but was in no battle. He
now owns in Iowa, the land upon which his own warrants for this service,
were located Returning from the campaign, and encouraged by his great popularity
among his immediate neighbors, he, the same year, ran for the Legislature
and was beaten - his own precinct, however, casting it's votes 277 for
and 7, against him. And this too while he was an avowed Clay man, and the
precinct the autumn afterwards, giving a majority of 115 to Genl. Jackson
over Mr. Clay. This was the only time A was ever beaten on a direct vote
of the people. He was now without means and out of business, but was anxious
to remain with his friends who had treated him with so much generosity,
especially as he had nothing elsewhere to go to. He studied what he should
do - thought of learning the black-smith trade - thought of trying to study
law - rather thought he could not succeed at that without a better education.
Before long, strangely enough, a man offered to sell and did sell, to A.
and another as poor as himself, an old stock of goods, upon credit. They
opened as merchants; and he says that was the store. Of course they
did nothing but get deeper and deeper in debt. He was appointed Postmaster
at New-Salem - the office being too insignificant, to make his politics
an objection. The store winked out. The Surveyor of Sangamon, offered to
depute to A that portion of his work which was within his part of the county.
He accepted, procured a compass and chain, studied Flint, and Gibson a
little, and went at it. This procured bread, and kept soul and body together.
The election Of 1834 came, and he was then elected to the Legislature by
the highest vote cast for any candidate. Major John T. Stuart, then in
full practice of the law, was also elected. During the canvass, in a private
conversation he encouraged A. to study law. After the election he borrowed
books of Stuart, took them home with him, and went at it in good earnest.
He studied with nobody. He still mixed in the surveying to pay board and
clothing bills. When the Legislature met, the law books were dropped, but
were taken up again at the end of the session. He was re-elected in 1836,
1838, and 1840. In the autumn of 1836 he obtained a law license, and on
April 15, 1837 removed to Springfield, and commenced the practice, his
old friend, Stuart taking him into partnership. March 3rd. 1837, by a protest
entered upon the Ills. House Journal of that date, at pages 817, 818, A.
with Dan Stone, another representative of Sangamon, briefly, defined his
position on the slavery question; and so far as it goes, it was then the
same that it is now. The protest is as follows - (Here insert it) In 1838,
& 1840 Mr. L's party in the Legislature voted for him as Speaker; but
being in the minority, he was not elected. After 1840 he declined a re-election
to the Legislature. He was on the Harrison electoral ticket in 1840, and
on that of Clay in 1844, and spent much time and labor in both those canvasses.
In Nov. 1842 he was married to Mary, daughter of Robert S. Todd, of Lexington,
Kentucky. They have three living children, all sons - one born in 1843,
one in 1850, and one in 1853. They lost one, who was born in 1846. In 1846,
he was elected to the lower House of Congress, and served one term only,
commencing in Dec. 1847 and ending with the inauguration of Gen. Taylor,
in March 1849. All the battles of the Mexican war had been fought before
Mr. L. took his seat in congress, but the American army was still in Mexico,
and the treaty of peace was not fully and formally ratified till the June
afterwards. Much has been said of his course in Congress in regard to this
war. A careful examination of the Journals and Congressional Globe shows,
that he voted for all the supply measures which came up, and for all the
measures in any way favorable to the officers, soldiers, and their families,
who conducted the war through; with this exception that some of these measures
passed without yeas and nays, leaving no record as to how particular men
voted. The Journals and Globe also show him voting that the war was unnecessarily
and unconstitutionally begun by the President of the United States. This
is the language of Mr. Ashmun's amendment, for which Mr. L. and nearly
or quite all, other Whigs of the H. R. voted.
Mr. L's reasons for the opinion expressed by this vote were briefly
that the President had sent Genl. Taylor into an inhabited part of the
country belonging to Mexico, and not to the U.S. and thereby had provoked
the first act of hostility - in fact the commencement of the war; that
the place, being the county bordering on the East bank of the Rio Grande,
was inhabited by native Mexicans, born there under the Mexican government;
and had never submitted to, nor been conquered by Texas, or the U.S. nor
transferred to either by treaty - that although Texas claimed the Rio Grande
as her boundary, Mexico had never recognized it, the people on the ground
had never recognized it, and neither Texas nor the U.S. had ever enforced
it - that there was a broad desert between that, and the country over which
Texas had actual control - that the country where hostilities commenced,
having once belonged to Mexico, must remain so, until it was somehow legally
transferred, which had never been done.
Mr. L. thought the act of sending an armed force among the Mexicans,
was unnecessary, inasmuch as Mexico was in no way molesting, or
menacing the U.S. or the people thereof; and that it was unconstitutional,
because the power of levying war is vested in Congress, and not in
the President. He thought the principal motive for the act, was to divert
public attention from the surrender of "Fifty-four, forty, or fight"
to Great Britain, on the Oregon boundary question.
Mr. L. was not a candidate for re-election. This was determined upon,
and declared before he went to Washington, in accordance with an understanding
among Whig friends, by which Col. Hardin, and Col. Baker had each previously
served a single term in the same District.
In 1848, during his term in congress, he advocated Gen. Taylor's nomination
for the Presidency, in opposition to all others, and also took an active
part for his election, after his nomination - speaking a few times in Maryland,
near Washington, several times in Massachusetts, and canvassing quite fully
his own district in Illinois, which was followed by a majority in the district
of over 1500 for Gen. Taylor.
Upon his return from Congress he went to the practice of the law with
greater earnestness than ever before. In 1852 he was upon the Scott electoral
ticket, and did something in the way of canvassing, but owing to the hopelessness
of the cause in Illinois, he did less than in previous presidential canvasses.
In 1854, his profession had almost superseded the thought of politics
in his mind, when the repeal of the Missouri compromise aroused him as
he had never been before.
In the autumn of that year he took the stump with no broader practical
aim or object to secure, if possible, the re-election of Hon Richard Yates
to congress. His speeches at once attracted a more marked attention than
they had ever before done. As the canvass proceeded, he was drawn to different
parts of the state, outside of Mr. Yates' district. He did not abandon
the law, but gave his attention, by turns, to that and politics. The State
agricultural fair was at Springfield that year, and Douglas was announced
to speak there.
In the canvass of 1856, Mr. L. made over fifty speeches, no one of which,
so far as he remembers, was put in print. One of them was made at Galena,
but Mr. L. has no recollection of any part of it being printed; nor does
he remember whether in that speech he said anything about a Supreme court
decision. He may have spoken upon that subject; and some of the newspapers
may have reported him as saying what is now ascribed to him; but he thinks
he could not have expressed himself as represented.