« PreviousContinue »
and in that new country was entirely different from the present. If a lawyer in Illinois had staid in his office and waited for clients, he might have waited there forever. But many of the lawyers then were half politicians. In the stores, in the streets, in the public halls, everywhere, they discussed politics, they knew what was going on, they found their clients. There were not the difficult questions of law to be decided in those days that we have now; there were no corporation lawyers, for there were no great corporations such as we have now; and many questions of interstate commerce and railroading and other matters, certainly in their present shape, were not known. Lawyers depended a great deal upon their influence with a jury, more than upon what they really knew of law. Major Stuart, Lincoln's first partner, was a candidate for Congress in 1838, and was elected over the head of Stephen A. Douglas. So that the Major could set Lincoln no example of industry in law.
Lincoln himself was still a politician; he was elected to the State Legislature in 1838, and again in 1840; so that from 1834 to 1842 he was a representative. Speed's store was a great gathering place for political and all other debates, and there Lincoln became well known for his brightness and his good stories.
No lawyer in the country ever had a greater influence over a jury than Lincoln had. He had a remarkable power of putting a case so clearly that nobody could misunderstand it. But this was not all his power; a part of this came from the fact that here as everywhere he was "honest Abe," he would not take a case that he did not believe in, and when he found that his client had deceived him and was really guilty of what he was accused of, Lincoln has been known to turn the case over to his partner, saying he himself was helpless to plead in the case. And when his partner undertook a case where the client was guilty, and brought him off, Lincoln would not touch a dollar of his share of the fee. Once when a sheep-grower had employed him, it came out in evidence that although he had delivered to the other man the number of animals agreed upon, yet some of them were so young that they were under the average value. When Mr. Lincoln understood this, he found out how many of these cheaper sheep had been delivered contrary to the agreement, and told the jury that they must give a verdict against his client and he only asked them to be careful to give just the right amount. He must always be on the side of justice, no matter whether himself or his clients suffered for it.
The lawyers in Springfield were not willing to
undertake the defence of any person who had been engaged in helping off fugitive slaves; and they were especially unwilling when they were running, or about to run for office. A man went to Edward D. Baker asking him to undertake his case. But Baker would not do it; he said as a political man he could not afford to do this. The man went to an anti-slavery friend for advice. This friend told him to go to Lincoln. "He's not afraid of an unpopular case," he said. "When I go for a lawyer to defend an arrested fugitive slave, other lawyers will refuse me, but if Mr. Lincoln is at home, he will always take my case."
This testimony concerning the young lawyer proves that to Abraham Lincoln the LincolnStone protest was no mere instrument of empty words, but the belief on which his life work was based. For no politicians, for no place, for no power would he move from his principles. He was not born a seeker of popularity; he was born a leader of the nation in its terrible struggle.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN MARRIES.
Dr. Holland says of Abraham Lincoln when he was in Mr. Offutt's store: "He was judge, arbitrator, referee, umpire, authority, in all disputes, games and matches of man-flesh and horse-flesh; a pacificator in all quarrels; everybody's friend; the best-natured, the most sensible, the best-informed, the most modest and unassuming, the kindliest, gentlest, roughest, strongest, best young fellow in all New Salem and the region round about.'
From the days when he was a big school-boy and he and little Kate Roby, like school-boy and school-girl, used to sit on the banks of the Sangamon and dangle their feet over the water while they talked and laughed together, Lincoln knew very few women except his noble step-mother. It was probably from her and from his own mother whom he always remembered with great affection that he gained the great reverence for women which he always had. It came in part,
too, from his own beautiful nature that believed in things good and true.
But while he was in New Salem he became acquainted with Anne Rutledge, the daughter of Mr. Rutledge who owned the mill and was one of the founders and principal men of New Salem. He liked young Lincoln and made him welcome. At one time he kept the tavern where Lincoln came to board in 1833. Anne was a beautiful girl. One description of her says that she had auburn hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion, and was slender and fragile. She had a bright mind and a gentle and sympathetic heart. Lincoln came to love her so much that when she died it seemed as if he, too, would die or lose his mind through grief. It is said of him that before this time he was thoroughly gay and light-hearted; but afterward, although he often seemed to his companions to be enjoying life much, yet he had moods of deep melancholy.
But the duties and demands of life pressed upon him; and he took them up again. He did his work in the Legislature, his studying and his practice, and always that unconscious preparation for his great work. For he came to understand better and better the public questions of that day, and especially that great question of slavery which was fast becoming so immense that everything else was small beside it.