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"and must come off,” Mr. Lincoln had no excuse for denying the request of a friend.
“ Two neighbors, Harry Clark and Ben Wilcox,” says Mr. Rutledge, “ had had a lawsuit. The defeated declared, that, although he was beaten in the suit, he could whip his opponent. This was a formal challenge, and was at once carried to the ears of the victor (Wilcox), and as promptly accepted. The time, place, and seconds were chosen with due regularity; Mr. Lincoln being Clark's, and John Brewer, Wilcox's second. The parties met, stripped themselves all but their breeches, went in, and Mr. Lincoln's principal was beautifully whipped. These combats were conducted with as much ceremony and punctiliousness as ever graced the duelling-ground. After the conflict, the seconds conducted their respective principals to the river, washed off the blood, and assisted them to dress. During this performance, the second of the party opposed to Mr. Lincoln remarked, 'Well, Abe, my man has whipped yours, and I can whip you.' Now, this challenge came from a man who was very small in size. Mr. Lincoln agreed to fight, provided he would chalk out his size on Mr. Lincoln's person, and every blow struck outside of that mark should be counted foul. After this sally, there was the best possible humor, and all parties were as orderly as if they had been engaged in the most harmless amusement."
In 1834 Lincoln was again a candidate for the Legislature, and this time was elected by a larger majority than any other man on the ticket. By this time the party with which he acted in the future was “discriminated as Whig;” and he did not hesitate to call himself a Whig, although he sought and received the votes of a great many Democrats. Just before the time had arrived for candidates to announce themselves, he went to John T. Stuart, and told him “the Democrats wanted to run him.” He made the same statement to Ninian W. Edwards. Edwards and Stuart were both his personal and political friends, and they both advised him to let the Democrats have their way. Major Stuart's advice was certainly disinterested; for, in pursuance of it, two of the Whig candidates, Lincoln and Dawson, made a bargain with the Democrats which very nearly proved fatal to Stuart himself. He was at that time the favorite candidate of the Whigs for the Legislature; but the conduct of Lincoln and Dawson so demoralized the party, that his vote was seriously diminished. Up to this time Sangamon had been stanchly Democratic; but even in this election of 1834 we perceive slight evidences of that party's decay, and so early as 1836 the county became thoroughly Whig.
We shall give no details of this campaign, since we should only be repeating what is written of the campaign of 1832. But we cannot withhold one extract from the reminiscences of Mr. Row Herndon:
“ He (Lincoln) came to my house, near Island Grove, during harvest. There were some thirty men in the field. He got his dinner, and went out in the field where the men were at work. I gave him an introduction, and the boys said that they could not vote for a man unless he could make a hand. Well, boys,' said he, 'if that is all, I am sure of your votes.' He took hold of the cradle, and led the way all the round with perfect ease. The boys were satisfied, and I don't think he lost a vote in the crowd.
“ The next day was speaking at Berlin. He went from my
house with Dr. Barnett, the man that had asked me who this man Lincoln was. I told him that he was a candidate for the Legislature. He laughed and said, 'Can't the party raise no better material than that?' I said, 'Go to-morrow, and hear all before you pronounce judgment.' When ho came back, I said, “Doctor, what say you now ?? Why, sir,' said he, ' he is a perfect take-in: he knows more than all of them put together.''
Lincoln got 1,376 votes, Dawson 1,370, Carpenter 1,170, Stuart 1,164. Lincoln was at last duly elected a Representative by a very flattering majority, and began to look about for the pecuniary means necessary to maintain his new dignity. In this extremity he had recourse to an old friend named Coleman Smoot.
One day in 1832, while he was clerking for Offutt, a stranger came into the store, and soon disclosed the fact that his name was Smoot. Abe was behind the counter at the moment; but, hearing the name, he sprang over and introduced himself. Abe had often heard of Smoot, and Smoot had often heard of Abe. They had been as anxious to meet as ever two celebrities were; but hitherto they had never been able to
Smoot," said Lincoln, after a steady survey of his person, “I am very much disappointed in you: I expected to see an old Probst of a fellow.” (Probst, it appears, was the most hideous specimen of humanity in all that country.) “ Yes,” replied Smoot; "and I am equally disappointed, for I expected to see a good-looking man when I saw you.” A few neat compliments like the foregoing laid the foundation of a lasting intimacy between the two men, and in his present distress Lincoln knew no one who would be more likely than Smoot to respond favorably to an application for money.
“ After he was elected to the Legislature,” says Mr. Smoot, “ he came to my house one day in company with Hugh Armstrong. Says he, 'Smoot, did you vote for me?' I told him I did. “Well,' says he, you must loan me money to buy suitable clothing, for I want to make a decent appearance in the Legislature.' I then loaned him two hundred dollars, which he returned to me according to promise."
The interval between the election and his departure for the seat of government was employed by Mr. Lincoln partly in reading, partly in writing.
The community in which he lived was pre-eminently a community of free-thinkers in matters of religion; and it was then no secret, nor has it been a secret since, that Mr. Lincoln agreed with the majority of his associates in denying to the Bible the authority of divine revelation. It was his honest belief, - a belief which it was no reproach to hold at New Salem, Anno Domini 1834, and one which he never thought of concealing. It was no distinction, either good or bad, no honor, and no shame. But he had made himself thoroughly familiar with the writings of Paine and Volney,—the "Ruins”
by one, and “The Age of Reason" by the other. His mind was full of the subject, and he felt an itching to write. He did write, and the result was a "little book.” It was probably merely an extended essay; but it is ambitiously spoken of
book” by himself and by the persons who were made acquainted with its contents. In this work he intended to demonstrate, “ First, that the Bible was not God's revelation ; and,
Secondly, that Jesus was not the Son of God.” These were his leading propositions, and surely they were comprehensive enough; but the reader will be better able to guess at the arguments by which they were sustained, when he has examined some of the evidence recorded in Chapter XIX.
No leaf of this little volume has survived. Mr. Lincoln carried it in manuscript to the store of Mr. Samuel Hill, where it was read and discussed. Hill was himself an unbeliever, but his son considered this book “infamous.” It is more than probable that Hill, being a warm personal friend of Lincoln, feared that the publication of the essay would some day interfere with the political advancement of his favorite. At all events, he snatched it out of his hand, and thrust it into the fire, from which not a shred escaped. The sequel will show that even Mr. Hill's provident forethought was not altogether equal to the prevention of the injury he dreaded.
THE reader is already familiar with the name of James
Rutledge, the founder of New Salem, and the owner in part of the famous mill on the Sangamon. He was born in South Carolina, and was of the illustrious Rutledge family of that State. From South Carolina he emigrated to Kentucky, and thence to Illinois. In 1828 he settled at New Salem, built the mill and laid out the village in conjunction with Mr. Cameron, a retired minister of the Cumberland Presbyterians. Mr. Rutledge's character seems to have been pure and high; for wherever his name occurs in the voluminous records before us, - in the long talks and the numerous epistles of his neighbors, – it is almost invariably coupled with some expression of genuine esteem and respect.
At one time, and along with his other business, which appears to have been quite extensive and various, - Mr. Rutledge kept the tavern, the small house with four rooms on the main street of New Salem, just opposite Lincoln's grocery. There Mr. Lincoln came to board late in 1832, or early in 1833. The family consisted of the father, mother, and nine children, -- three of them born in Kentucky and six in Illinois; three grown up, and the rest quite young. Ann, the principal subject of this chapter, was the third child. She was born on the 7th of January, 1813, and was about nineteen years of age when Mr. Lincoln came to live in the house.
When Ann was a little maiden just turned of seventeen, and still attending the school of that redoubtable pedagogue Minter Graham, there came to New Salem a young gentleman