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ORIGIN AND CHILDHOOD
WHEN Lowell calls Lincoln the first American, and when Emerson rejoices that a middle-class nation was wise enough to select a middle-class president, the importance of that rulers social origin is suggested. He sprang from the great base of the national life, with few traditions, no knowledge of other lands and times, confronting a wilderness and its pioneers, longing for light, but having to work for every ray. Thrown intellectually naked into the world, his education had to be directly from the nature of the men and women who passed before him, so that when he came to his great trial, he had to pilot a people whose peculiarities he intimately knew. The fathers of the Revolution were cultivated Englishmen confronting Englishmen. Lincoln's whole nature grew in our soil, and when he was asked to rule a distracted country, native strength, honesty, and shrewdness had as their foundation an inti
macy with the kinds of human nature which formed the conflicting masses.
His family emigrated from Norfolk, England, in 1637. His grandfather, Abraham, left Virginia, where he was a fairly prosperous farmer, to follow in the wake of the aspiring pioneer, Daniel Boone. In 1780, he sold 240 acres of land for “five thousand pounds current money of Virginia,” and moved to Kentucky, where, in the custom of the time, he “entered” a large amount of land, settling near one tract on Long Run, in Jefferson County, to clear a farm. As the Indians were dangerous, there were but eighteen houses in the territory, practically all of the population, which in 1784 was thirty thousand, living, the Linkhorns among them, in the fiftytwo stockades. In 1788, while he and his three sons were at work in the clearing, a stray shot from an Indian killed him. An inventory of his personal estate was made, according to Miss Tarbell, as follows:
“At a meeting of the Nelson County Court, October 10, 1788, present Benjamin Pope, James Rogers, Gabriel Cox, and James Baird, on the motion of John Coldwell, he was appointed administrator of the goods and chattels of Abraham Lincoln, and gave bond in one thousand pounds, with Richard Parker security.
“At the same time John Alvary, Peter Syburt, Christopher Boston, and William (John (?)) Stuck, or any three of them, were appointed appraisers.
"March 10, 1789, the appraisers made the following return :
9 4 4 5
5 6 6
i Sorrel horse
Bar Spear-plough and tackling 3 Weeding hoes
Pair smoothing irons . i Dozen pewter plates. 2 Pewter dishes
Dutch oven and cule, weighing 15 pounds
Of the sons, the eldest, Mordecai, who inherited most of the land, seems to have been prosperous and esteemed, besides being a good teller of stories, a fighter, and a fierce hater of Indians. According to his famous nephew, he had “run off with all the talents of the family.” Certainly few fell to Thomas, the youngest, who later became father to Abraham. He was taken by his widowed mother to Washington County, where he became a carpenter and cabinet maker, knowing his trade, but too lazy to make much use of it. He was entirely illiterate, but he also had social qualities, among them the ability to tell the stories picked up in a vagrant life, and to make himself respected in a fight when his pacific soul was stirred. He was a Jackson Democrat who couldn't write his name, until his first wife taught him to scrawl it, the farthest reach of education he ever acquired. His name was under the circumstances unstable, but in Indiana it showed a general drift toward Lickern, away from the fav