the days of his life.

He was so much interested in what he had done that twenty years later he developed the idea and applied for a patent for a curious contrivance for lifting flat-boats over shoals.

The journey to New Orleans was a valuable experience.33 Lincoln’s first actual contact with the system of slavery made him an abolitionist for life, and the impressions he received were retained throughout his entire career. He returned to St. Louis by steamer, walked across the country to New Salem, and became a clerk in the store of Denton Offutt, measuring calico, weighing out sugar and nails, tending a grist-mill, and making himself useful to his employer and popular with the people.

The following year he engaged in a mercantile adventure on his own account at New Salem which failed disastrously, and found himself loaded with obligations which, in humorous satire upon his own folly, he called “the national debt.” His creditors accepted his notes in settlement, and during the next seventeen years he paid them in instalments unto the uttermost farthing, although the terrible responsibility darkened all

“That debt,” he once said to a friend, “was the greatest obstacle I have ever met in my life; I had no way of speculating, and could not earn money except by labor, and to earn by labor eleven hundred dollars besides my living seemed the work of a lifetime. There was, however, but one way. I went to the creditors, and told them that if they would let me alone I would give them all I could earn over my living, as fast as I could earn it.”

As late as 1849, when a member of Congress, so we are informed by Mr. Herndon, he sent home money saved from his salary to be applied on these obligations. Only a single creditor refused to accept his promises. A man named Van Bergen, who bought one of his notes on speculation, brought suit, obtained judgment against him, and levied upon the horse, saddle, and instruments used by him daily in surveying, and with which, to use his own words, he “kept body and soul together.”

James Short, a well-to-do farmer living a few miles34 north of New Salem, heard of the trouble which had befallen his young friend, and, without advising Lincoln, attended the sale, bought in the horse and surveying instruments for one hundred and twenty dollars, and turned them over to their former owner. After Lincoln left New Salem James Short removed to the far West, and one day thirty years later he received a letter from Washington, containing the surprising but gratifying announcement that he had been commissioned as Indian agent.

It was this honorable discharge of the obligations in which he became involved through the rascality of another man that gave Lincoln the sobriquet of “Honest Old Abe,” which one of his biographers has said “proved of greater service to himself and his country than if he had gained the wealth of Cr?sus.”

It was while he was struggling along, trying to do business with his partner Berry, that he was appointed postmaster at New Salem, which office he continued to hold until it was discontinued in May, 1836. His duties as postmaster, as well as his compensation, were very light, because there were only two or three hundred patrons of the office and their correspondence was limited. He carried their letters around in his hat and read all of their newspapers before he delivered them.

A widely circulated story that Lincoln was once a saloon-keeper was based upon the fact that the firm of Berry & Lincoln obtained a license to sell liquors, which was the practice of all country storekeepers in those days; but, as a matter of fact, the firm never had money or credit sufficient to obtain a stock of that class of goods, and committed the offence only by intention.

In the great debate in 1858, Douglas, in a patronizing manner and a spirit of badinage, spoke of having known Lincoln when he was a “flourishing grocery-keeper” at New Salem. Lincoln retorted that he had never been a “flourishing” grocery-keeper; but added that, if he35 had been, it was certain that his friend, Judge Douglas, would have been his best customer.

His employment as surveyor began in 1834 and continued for several years while he was serving in the Legislature. John Calhoun, the County Surveyor, from whom he received an appointment as deputy, was a man of education and talent, and an ambitious Democratic politician who afterwards played a prominent part in the Kansas conspiracy.

Judge Stephen T. Logan saw Lincoln for the first time in 1832. He thus speaks of his future partner: “He was a very tall, gawky, and rough-looking fellow then; his pantaloons didn’t meet his shoes by six inches. But after he began speaking I became very much interested in him. He made a very sensible speech. His manner was very much the same as in after-life; that is, the same peculiar characteristics were apparent then, though of course in after-years he evinced more knowledge and experience. But he had then the same novelty and the same peculiarity in presenting his ideas. He had the same individuality that he kept through all his life.”

Like other famous men of strong character and intellectual force, Lincoln was very sentimental, and had several love-affairs which caused him quite as much anxiety and anguish as happiness. The scene of his first romance was laid in Indiana when he was a barefooted boy, and was afterwards related by him in these words:

“When I was a little codger, one day a wagon with a lady and two girls and a man broke down near us, and while they were fixing up, they cooked in our kitchen. The woman had books and read us stories, and they were the first I had ever heard. I took a great fancy to one of the girls; and when they were gone I thought of her a great deal, and one day, when I was sitting out in the sun by the house, I wrote out a story in my mind. I36 thought I took my father’s horse and followed the wagon, and finally I found it, and they were surprised to see me. I talked with the girl and persuaded her to elope with me; and that night I put her on my horse, and we started off across the prairie. After several hours we came to a camp; and when we rode up we found it was the one we had left a few hours before, and we went in. The next night we tried again, and the same thing happened—the horse came back to the same place; and then we concluded that we ought not to elope. I stayed until I had persuaded her father to give her to me. I always meant to write that story out and publish it, and I began once, but I concluded that it was not much of a story. But I think that was the beginning of love with me.”

March 2, 2016.     Category: Uncategorized.   3 Comments.



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