Burton, Annie L.
In a little clearing in the backwoods of Harding County, Kentucky, there stood years ago a rude cabin within whose walls Abraham Lincoln passed his childhood. An "unaccountable" man he has been called, and the adjective was well chosen, for who could account for a mind and nature like Lincoln's with the ancestry he owned? His father was a thriftless, idle carpenter, scarcely supporting his family, and with but the poorest living. His mother was an uneducated woman, but must have been of an entirely different nature, for she was able to impress upon her boy a love of learning. During her life, his chief, in fact his only book, was the Bible, and in this he learned to read. Just before he was nine years old, the father brought his family across the Ohio River into Illinois, and there in the unfloored log cabin, minus windows and doors. Abraham lived and grew. It was during this time that the mother died, and in a short time the shiftless father with his family drifted back to the old
As he grew older, his love for knowledge increased and he obtained whatever books he could, studying by the firelight, and once walking six miles for an English Grammar. After he read it, he walked the six miles to return it. He needed the book no longer, for with this as with his small collection of books, what he once read was his. He absorbed the books he read.
During these early years he did "odd jobs" for the neighbors. Even at this age, his gift of story telling was a notable one, as well as his sterling honesty. His first knowledge of slavery in all its horrors came to him when he was about twenty-one years old. He had made a trip to New Orleans, and there in the old slave market he saw an auction. His face paled, and his spirits rose in revolt at the coarse jest of the auctioneer, and there he registered a vow within himself, "If ever I have a chance to strike against slavery, I will strike and strike
His political life began with a defeat for the Illinois Legislature in 1830, but he was returned in 1834, 1836, 1838, and declined re-election in 1840, preferring to study law and prepare for his future. "Honest Abe" he has been called, and throughout Illinois that characteristic was the prominent one known of him. From this time his rise was rapid. Sent to the Congress of the nation, he seldom spoke, but when he did his terse though simple expression always won him a hearing. His simplicity and frankness was deceptive to the political leaders, and from its very fearlessness often defeated them.
His famous debates with Senator Douglas, the "Little Giant," spread his reputation from one end of the country to the other, and at their close there was no question as to Lincoln's position in the North, or on the vital question of the day.
The spirit of forbearance he carried with him to the White House, "with malice toward none, with charity for all." This was the spirit that carried him through the four awful years of the war. The martyr's crown hovered over him from the outset. The martyr's spirit was always his. The burden of the war always rested on his shoulders. The
He never forgot his home friends, and when occasionally one dropped in on him, the door was always open. They frequently had tea in the good old-fashioned way, and then Lincoln listened to the news of the village, old stories were retold, new ones told, and the old friendships cemented by new bonds.
Then came the end, swift and sudden, and gloom settled upon the country; for in spite of ancestry, self-education, ungainly figure, ill-fitting clothes, the soul of the man had conquered even the stubborn South, while the cold-blooded North was stricken to the heart. The noblest one of all had been taken.