Page images

take the stage from Terre Haute to Indianapolis. When it arrived it had only one passenger, a long, lank man who was sound asleep on the back seat, his head appearing at one side of the coach and his feet on the other. One of the travelers slapped him on the shoulder and asked him if he had chartered the stage for the day? "Certainly not," returned the man; and he at once got up and took the front seat giving up the place of honor and comfort to the strangers. "He was a queer-looking fellow," wrote one of the travelers, "dressed in a wellworn and ill-fitting suit of bombazine, without vest or cravat, and a twenty-five cent palm hat on the back of his head. His very prominent features in repose seemed dull and expressionless. Regarding him as a good subject for merriment, we perpetrated several jokes. He took them all with the utmost innocence and goodnature, and joined in the laugh although at his own expense. At noon we stopped at a wayside hostelry for dinner. We invited him to eat with us, and he approached the table as if he considered it a great honor."

So the story goes on, telling how, late in the evening, the stage reached Indianapolis. The travelers went to a hotel and lost sight of the stranger. Later, coming from their rooms they saw the "long, gloomy fellow-traveler in the

center of an admiring group of lawyers who seemed to be amused and interested in a story he was telling." The travelers asked the landlord who the tall man was? "Abraham Lincoln of Illinois, a member of Congress," returned the landlord. The travelers slunk out of the hotel by the back door and went to another place. Yet when Mr. Lincoln was President, he appointed one of these men minister to Chili.

With all his work Lincoln found time to advocate the temperance cause in which he was deeply interested. He never drank himself, as has been said before; but he had opportunity to see the misery that drink caused and to hate it. Neither did he smoke, or chew. What strength and life he had went to the service of others, not to self-indulgence of any kind.

His partner, Mr. Herndon, says that occasionally he himself used to get a little grandiloquent in his language; and one day Lincoln warned him. "Billy, don't shoot too high," he said, "aim lower and the common people will understand you. They are the ones you want to reach -at least they are the ones you ought to reach. The educated and refined people will understand you anyway. If you aim too high your ideas will go over the heads of the masses, and only hit those who need no hitting."

[merged small][ocr errors]


Mrs. Lincoln was very ambitious and had great faith in her husband's future. She was much delighted when a few years after their marriage he was elected to Congress. She went with him to Washington and was there during one session of Congress. Herndon says that if Lincoln seemed homely to other people, he was "the embodiment of noble manhood" to her. She was one day at the law office while her husband was absent and when she and Mr. Herndon were talking of Douglas, she said: "Mr. Lincoln may not be as handsome a figure, but people are perhaps not aware that his heart is as large as his arms are long."

It is a question, however, whether she ever heard one instance of her husband's large-heartedness toward the lower animals also. Dr. Holland tells how one day when Lincoln was riding the circuit he went by a deep slough where to his

great distress he saw a pig struggling, but so faintly that it was plain the poor creature was nearly exhausted and had no chance of getting out of the mire into which it was constantly sinking deeper. Mr. Lincoln looked at the pig and the mud in which it was wallowing and at his own new clothes which he did not want to ruin. The clothes won the day and he rode on leaving the poor pig to its sad fate. He did not ride far, however, he could not stand it. He went back, fastened his horse, took some old rails lying about and built a passage to the bottom of the hole. Then he walked down on these, seized the pig and dragged it to firm ground; but not without great injury to his new clothes. Washing his hands in the nearest brook, he went on his way, discussing with himself what had made him do this thing. At first he imagined it was "pure benevolence," but at last he decided that it was just selfishness, since he went to the pig's relief, as he put it to a friend, "to take a pain out of his own mind."

Lincoln's presentation of his first case has no parallel in law records. He rose and said to the bench: "This is the first case I have ever had in this court, and I have therefore examined it with great care. As the Court will perceive by looking at the abstract of the record, the only question in this case is one of authority. I have

not been able to find any authority sustaining my side of the case, but I have found several cases directly in point on the other side. I will now give these cases and then submit the case.”

A young, poor lawyer needing practice, and his first case! And he told the truth against himself as freely as if it had been in his favor. Was it any wonder that he had weight with juries when they were absolutely sure that he believed exactly what he said? For, clear, witty, interesting to fascination as he certainly was, the foundation of his influence was that they believed him. There were cases brought to him that he would have nothing to do with; no fee that could be offered would make him try to win an injustice because it was legal or technical. He was not deeply learned in rules of evidence or practice as in text-books, and did not care for them. His sense of justice was keen; he struggled for justice, throwing aside forms, methods and rules, until at last justice appeared "pure as a ray of light flashing through a fog bank.” He was not a wide reader, but when he had a matter to investigate he went to the root of it, he was thorough and unwearied in his search; and he found what he searched for, and put it before others in such a form that they could not help seeing it.

One story of him is that he went one day to a

« PreviousContinue »