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HOME > Biographical > The Life of Abraham Lincoln > CHAPTER IV.
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One day a let-ter came to Thom-as Lin-coln. It bore the post-mark of De-ca-tur, Ill. It said that Il-li-nois was a grand state: “The soil is rich and there are trees of oak, gum, elm, and more sorts, while creeks and riv-ers are plen-ty.” It al-so told that “scores of men had come there from Ken-tuc-ky and oth-er states, and that they would all soon get rich there.”
To Thom-as Lin-coln this was good news. He was glad of a chance to make an-oth-er home. He knew, too, that the same sick-ness which took his first wife from him had come back, and that he must make a quick move if he would save those who were left. This was in March, 1830, when A-bra-ham was a score and one years old. He made up his mind to see his folks to their new home since go they would.
Then came an auc-tion, or, as they called it, a “van-doo.” The corn was sold; the farm, hogs, house goods, all went to those folks who would give the most for them.
 Four ox-en drew a big cart which held half a score and three per-sons, the Hanks, the Halls, and Lin-colns. They had to push on through mud, and cross streams high from fresh-ets. A-bra-ham held the “gad” and kept the beasts at their task. With him the young man took a small stock of thread, pins, and small wares which he sold on the way. When half a score and five days had gone by the trip came to an end. The spot for a home was found when all were safe in Il-li-nois and it was on the north fork of the San-ga-mon Riv-er, ten miles west of the town of De-ca-tur.
The young men went to work and made clear half a score and five a-cres of land and split the rails with which to fence it. There was no one who could swing an axe like A-bra-ham, not one in the whole West. He could now “have his own time” for his 21 years of work for his fa-ther were at an end. The law said he was free. Though he need not now give all that he won by toil to his folks, still he did not let them want. To the end of his life he gave help to his kin, though he was far from rich.
When Spring had gone by, and the warm days of 1830 had come, A-bra-ham Lin-coln left home and set
 off to get a job in that new land. He saw new farms with no fen-ces. He was sure that his axe could cut up logs and fell trees. He was in need of clothes. So he split 400 rails for each yard of “blue jeans” to make him a pair of trou-sers. The name of “rail-split-ter,” came to him. He knew that he could do this work well. All he met would at once like him. It was the same way in the new state as it had been in the last.
There was a man whose name was Of-futt. He saw what young Lin-coln was. He knew he could trust him to do all things. Mr. Of-futt said he must help sail a flat-boat down the Mis-sis-sip-pi riv-er to New Or-leans. He said he would give the new hand fif-ty cents a day. Poor A-bra-ham thought this a large sum. Of-futt said too, that he would give a third share in six-ty dol-lars to each of his three boat-men at the end of the trip. At a saw-mill near San-ga-mon-town the flat-boat was built. Young Lin-coln worked on the boat, and was cook too, for the men.
At last they were off with their load of pork, live hogs, and corn. When the flat-boat ran a-ground at New Sa-lem, and there was great risk that it would be a wreck, Lin-coln found a way to get it off. Folks
 stood on the banks and cheered at the wise plan of the bright boat-man.
When first in New Or-leans, though Lin-coln had seen slaves, he had not known what a slave sale was like. This time he saw one and it made him sick.
 Tears stood in his eyes. He turned from it and said to those with him, “Come a-way, boys! If I ev-er get a chance, some day, to hit that thing,” (here he flung his long arms to-ward that block), “I’ll hit it hard!”
The boat-men made their way home, while Of-futt staid in St. Lou-is to buy goods for a new store that he was to start in New Sa-lem. First A-bra-ham went to see his fa-ther and help him put up a house of hewn logs, the best he had ev-er had.
When Of-futt’s goods came A-bra-ham Lin-coln took his place as clerk. The folks who came to buy soon found out that there was one in that store who would not cheat. The coins at that time were Eng-lish or Span-ish. The clerk was ex-act in fig-ures, but if a chance frac-tion went wrong he would ride miles to make it right.
There were rough men and boys near that store. Lin-coln would not let them say or do things that were low and bad. The time came when he had to whip some of them. He taught them a les-son. His great strength was his own and his friends’ pride.
Days there were when small trade came to the store. Then the young clerk read. One thing he felt he
 must have. That was a gram-mar. He had made up his mind that since he could talk he would learn to use the right words. He took a walk of some miles to get a loan of “Kirk-ham’s Gram-mar.” He had no one to
 teach him, but he gave his mind to the work and did well. Each book of which he heard in New Sa-lem, he asked that he might have for a short time. He found out all that the books taught. Once, deep down in a box of trash, he found two old law books. He was glad then, and said he would not leave them till he got the “juice” from them. Folks in the store thought it strange that the young clerk could like those “dry lines.” They soon said that A-bra-ham Lin-coln had long legs, long arms, and a long head, too. They felt that he knew more than “an-y ten men in the set-tle-ment,” and that he had “ground it out a-lone.” He read the news-pa-pers a-loud to scores of folks who had a wish to know what went on in the land and could not read for them-selves. He read and spoke on the themes of the day, and at last, his friends said that he ought to help make the state laws, since he knew so much, and they felt that he would be sure to plan so that the poor as well as the rich should have a chance. So in March, 1832, it was known that A-bra-ham’s name was brought up as a “can-di-date” for a post in the Il-li-nois State Leg-is-la-ture. Ere the time for e-lec-tion came, that part of the land found men must be sent
 to fight the In-di-ans who were on the war-path. The great chief, Black Hawk, sought to keep the red men’s lands from the white folks, but at last he had to give up, though he did all he could to help his own blood. He was brave and true to his own.
Young men of San-ga-mon went out to fight, with A-bra-ham Lin-coln as cap-tain. They were not much more than an armed mob, poor at drill, and with not much will to mind or-ders or live up to camp rules. Their cap-tain had hard work to gov-ern them, for when he gave a com-mand they were as apt to jeer at it as to mind it. But in time they learned that he meant what he said, and that while it was not his way to be too strict a-bout small things, he would not let them do a grave wrong.
One day a poor old In-di-an strayed in-to the camp. He had a pass from Gen-er-al Cass which said that he was a friend of the whites, but the men had come out to kill red-skins, and not hav-ing yet had a chance to do so, thought they must seize this one. They said the pass was forged, and that the old man was a spy, and should be put to death.
But Cap-tain Lin-coln heard the noise, and came to
 the aid of the old man just in time. He put him-self be-tween his men and their vic-tim, and told them they must not do this thing. They were so full of wrath that Lin-coln’s own life was at risk for a while, but his brave look and firm words at length brought them to terms, and the old sav-age was let go with-out harm.
The time for which the men had en-list-ed was soon
 at an end, and all but two of them went home. Lin-coln was one of those who took a place as a pri-vate in an-oth-er com-pa-ny, and he did not leave till the end of the war.
A-bra-ham Lin-coln, when he had got home from the war, sent out word that he would speak where there was need of him as “Whig,” for he was a “Clay man through and through.” He made his first “po-lit-i-cal” speech at a small place a few miles west of Spring-field. It was a short one. While what he said was to the point and no fault could be found with it, still, his strange looks and queer clothes made those who were not on his side laugh and make fun of his long legs and arms, and say he would not be the choice of the most for an-y post. Still, he made more friends than foes, and though he did not, at that time, get a chance to go to the Leg-is-la-ture, he had but to wait a while when bet-ter luck came to him.
In the mean time Mr. Lin-coln knew that he must find work of some kind, for he had no funds on which he could live. He then kept a store with a man, but the gain was small and at last they had to give up. There was a large debt and the part-ner would not help
 pay it, so Lin-coln took it all on him-self, though long years went by ere it was all paid.
Law came to him as the next best move, and once more the young man gave his mind to it all his time, days as well as most of the nights. But coin could not come from that source for quite a while yet, and, in the mean-time, there must be food and clothes.
The new lands, just there, had not been sur-veyed. There was need of a man to do this. Lin-coln heard of a book which would tell him how to work with chain and rule. He spent six weeks with that book in his hand most of the time. Then he set off to start work, and as he was too poor to buy a chain, he found a strong grape vine to take its place. He was
 right glad of the sums which came to him then for do-ing this work.
The pres-i-dent of the U. S. at that time was An-drew Jack-son. He was a strong friend of A-bra-ham Lin-coln and made him Post-mas-ter of New Sa-lem in 1833.
As folks did not write much in those days, the post of-fice took but a small part of Mr. Lin-coln’s time. The news-pa-pers which came by post were read, and passed from one to an-oth-er, and the post-mas-ter oft-en told the news as he went to the hou-ses where let-ters were to be left. The hat took the place of a mail bag. The grape vine chain and the tools with which the length and breadth of the land were found went a-long, too, as the good man took up his job at sur-vey-ing. Law books must have their share of time and that had to come then, most-ly from sleep hours. There were scores of folks who asked the post-mas-ter to help them. This he did with great good will. He now knew some law and could set them right. All had trust in him. It was not long, then, ere he was at the Bar.

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