| Builders of Our Country: Book II|
|by Gertrude van Duyn Southworth|
| A lively account of American history told through 31 biographies, beginning with Patrick Henry at the start of the Revolution and ending with Andrew Carnegie at the close of the 19th century. The biographies are so chosen as to acquaint the reader with the chief personages and events in our national life, by including many vivid pictures of each. Ages 10-12 |
ABRAHAM LINCOLN BEFORE 1861
 ON the roughly built bed over in the corner two little
children lie asleep. Before the open fireplace the mother
and father talk together in low tones.
It is winter, and outside a storm is raging. From
time to time the wind beats with added fury against the
lonely Kentucky log cabin. As its icy breath comes
through the cracks between the logs, the mother shivers;
and crossing to the bed she tucks the patchwork quilt
closer about her children and spreads an
extra deerskin over them.
A smaller skin,
which is the only cover for the window, is
flapping, letting in the
cold. This then must
be fastened better;
and while she is about
it, the mother looks
to see if the doorway
is covered as tightly as it can be. Sure that all is now
secure she comes back to the fire and sits down on one of
the wooden blocks that serve as chairs.
WHERE ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS BORN.
 To a stranger this might seem a poor little place, with
only the hard earth for a floor and only one room to hold
the bed, the board table, the wooden bench, the shelf for
dishes, and even the old Dutch oven. But to Thomas
and Nancy Lincoln it is house and they are happy in it.
Suppose it is cold on a winter's night—summer will soon
come again. bringing warmth, sunshine, and a free out-of-door
life. Suppose their bread is made from corn meal, and
potatoes are about the only vegetable they have—there is
always plenty of venison and other game, or fish, to be
boiled in the great iron pot, or broiled over the hot ashes.
Things might be much worse. The Lincolns' life is
the life of those about them, and they are content in their
little log cabin, the birthplace of their boy Abraham.
LINCOLN THE BOY
ABRAHAM was four years old on the 12th of February,
1813. Within a few months after that date, his father
sold the farm where the boy was born and moved to
another about fifteen miles away. This second home was
a log cabin much like the old one.
Naturally the neighbors were interested to learn something
about the new family. They found Thomas Lincoln
a cheerful, happy-go-lucky man. He was a carpenter
by trade, a farmer by circumstance, and a do-nothing by
Nancy Lincoln was a handsome young woman with
far more energy than her husband. She was considered
very well educated because she could read and write,
things which few of her neighbors could do. She was a
good housekeeper. She could spin and weave, could use
a hoe or an ax as well as Thomas, and was as good a shot.
Best of all she was a devoted wife and mother.
 Then there was their daughter Sarah and the boy
Abraham. Abraham was an awkward, homely child. He
wore a rough homespun shirt, deerskin trousers and
leggings, homemade shoes, and a coonskin cap.
There were no regular schools or churches near the
Lincolns' new home. All the schooling these out-of-the-way
settlers had was the few weeks' instruction they
bargained for when a wandering teacher came along.
Soon after the Lincolns moved to their second farm
such a teacher came to their neighborhood. One settler
offered to give him
board, another to
lodge him, a third to
mend and wash his
clothes, while a fourth
gave the use of an
old log cabin in which
to hold his school.
His scholars included, besides the
two little Lincolns,
some boys and girls
almost grown up,
many of whom did
not even know their
A TRAVELING SCHOOLMASTER TEACHING "MANNERS".
As it was with
schooling, so it was
with preaching. Except for the occasional visits of traveling
preachers, the settlers heard no sermons. One of the
traveling preachers was David Elkin. He was a good
friend to the Lincolns, and Abraham liked nothing better
than to hear him speak to the people. How much the
child understood it is hard to say.
 The Lincolns lived on their second Kentucky farm
until the fall of 1816. Then the spirit of unrest tempted
Thomas Lincoln to move again. This time he took his
family to the timber lands of Indiana. The journey
ended in a piece of lonely forest.
At once the father and son fell to with their axes,
chopping trees, cutting poles and boughs. With these
they built a "half-face" camp fourteen feet square. A
"half-face" camp is practically a shed with three walls,
the fourth side being open and entirely unprotected. In
front of this open side the Lincolns kept a fire burning to
shut out the cold. Here they spent their first winter—in
fact, their first year in Indiana.
By another fall they had cleared a patch of ground,
had planted it with corn, and had built a new log cabin.
A happy year in the new home went quickly by, and
then a great sorrow came. A sickness had broken out
in the neighborhood, and Nancy Lincoln took it and died.
When her husband had built her a board coffin, her family
and neighbors carried her a little distance from her home
and buried her. All was silence and grief. No minister
was there to read a service over the grave.
The two children followed their father back to the
desolate house, where the little girl made shift to do her
Mrs. Lincoln had taught her boy to read the Bible and
to believe in God. He knew what all this had meant to
his mother, and it was a dreadful thing to him that she
had been buried without prayer or service. If only some
preacher had been there! If only some preacher would
come even now!
There was his mother's old friend, David Elkin.
Would he come if he knew about it all? It was worth
trying. So Abraham wrote a letter to David Elkin in
 far-away Kentucky and begged him to visit Indiana and hold
a service for Nancy Lincoln.
A long hard journey lay between David Elkin's home
and the Lincoln farm. But the good preacher made it,
and one spring day several months after Mrs. Lincoln's
death he rode up to the cabin door. The funeral service
at last was held over his mother's grave, and Abraham
Lincoln was content.
His mother's influence lasted all his life. And when
he had come to be a man he still said, "all that I am or hope to be I
owe to my angel
Before long the
influence of another
good woman came
into Abraham's life.
Late in 1819 Thomas
Lincoln married a
Kentucky widow and
brought her to Indiana. With her very
arrival the dreariness
of the last lonely
and at once Abraham
and his stepmother
were good friends.
She was a sensible,
happy, thrifty Woman; and the boy loved
and respected her.
SARAH BUSH LINCOLN, LINCOLN'S STEP-MOTHER.
Years later she said of him. "Abe never gave me a cross
word or look and never refused in fact or appearance to
 do anything I requested of him. Abe was the best boy I
Had it not been for her, Abraham would have been far
less happy. He loved to study and read and went to
school whenever a teacher came along to make this
possible. His father, uneducated himself, did not approve
of the boy's reading so much, or going to school when he
might be working. But the stepmother insisted on letting
Abraham have his way, and even encouraged him in his
Most of his reading was done at night when the day's
work was finished. Then the boy would curl up near the
fireplace and read by the light of the flames. "Robinson
Crusoe," "Pilgrim's Progress," "AEsop's Fables," a history
of the United States. and the Bible, he read over and
over. These were his favorites.
Once he borrowed Weems's "Life of Washington" and
began to read it on his way home. It fascinated him,
and all that evening and far into the night he read. When
finally he closed the book, he tucked it into a crevice
between the logs where he could reach it and read again as
soon as daylight carne.
During the night there was a heavy storm; and when
Abraham reached for his treasure in the morning, his hand
found a very wet and badly soaked book. With a heavy
heart he carried it back to its owner. "If you work three
days for me, you will pay me for the book, and you may
keep it," the man declared. So for three days Abraham
worked, and then went off with his book a proud and
happy boy. He had paid for it with his labor, and it was
his own—the first that he had bought.
From the time Abraham was ten years old he was kept
busy. When not needed at home, he was hired out to the
neighbors at twenty-five cents a day, which was paid
 to his father. Young Lincoln was very obliging, very
capable, and, as he grew older, very powerful. He could
and would do any sort of work there was to be done. It
was not that he really liked to work. He didn't. But he
accepted it as part of life and did his duty the best he
And so with plenty of hard work, many jolly times
with his comrades, a little schooling, and all the reading
and studying he could find time for, the years passed by,
and the boy grew up and became a man.
LINCOLN STARTS OUT FOR HIMSELF
ONE summer Thomas Lincoln hired his son out as
ferryman to take passengers across the Ohio. It was
before the days of railroads, when the farmers of the new
western states shipped all their salable goods by water to
New Orleans, the great business city of the West. The
Ohio and Mississippi rivers were the highways to this
market and were filled with craft of every sort.
Abraham saw the busy river life and wanted to try
a hand at it himself, and before long his wish was gratified.
A Mr. Gentry sent his son and the nineteen-year-old
Abraham down the river on a flatboat to New Orleans
with a load of provisions. Abraham's pay was eight
dollars a month and his passage home on a steamer. What
a trip it must have been for a forest-bred boy! It was
his first glimpse of the outside world, and the wonders
he saw he never forgot.
TRAVELING BY FLATBOAT DOWN THE MISSISSIPPI.
In February, 1830, Abraham Lincoln became of age.
Now he was free to use his time as he liked and to keep
the money he earned. But that very month saw a great
stir in the Lincoln household. Once more the family
were packing up, saying good-by to friends and neighbors,
 and making ready for another move farther west. They
had resolved to leave Indiana, through fear of the dread
disease that had killed Nancy Lincoln. And because of
the glowing reports sent from Illinois, they had chosen
that state for their future home.
By the beginning of March the start was made. All
their possessions were piled into large wagons, which were
drawn by oxen. Two weeks they traveled before they
reached the place where they were to build their new cabin.
In a short time the cabin was done. And then such a
chopping as went on before the men had made rails enough
to fence in ten acres of ground! They must have worked
fast indeed, because they not only split the rails but put
up the fence, broke the ground, and raised a crop of corn
on it that same year.
At this time Lincoln had no respectable clothes. But
within a few miles of his father's cabin there lived a woman
who could weave a material called jeans. Lincoln went
 to her and made a bargain to split four hundred rails for
each yard of brown jeans necessary to make him a pair of
Now that he had helped his father move and settle,
Lincoln decided to start out for himself. When he left
home, he left empty-handed. He had nothing at all to
take with him. Even his looks were not prepossessing.
He was six feet four inches tall, his hands and feet were
large, his legs and arms long and loose-jointed. But his
muscles were like iron, his endurance remarkable, and his
courage beyond question.
In the spring of 1831 Lincoln made a second trip to
New Orleans. This time he went on a flatboat belonging
to a Mr. Offutt. For a month he stayed in New Orleans
seeing life as he had never seen it before.
One phase of life in the great city sickened Lincoln.
This was the horrors of slave trade. For the first time he
now saw men and women sold like animals in a public
market. He saw them in chains, saw them whipped; and
the cruelty of it all raised in him a hatred of slavery,
which lasted all his life.
When the New Orleans trip was over, Lincoln went to
New Salem, Illinois, to be a cleric in Mr. Offutt's store.
New Salem was a little town of about fifteen houses
and a hundred people. Its women came to the store for
supplies; its men came to lounge, tell stories, and talk
politics. With all of them Lincoln was soon in favor;
for was he not the kindest, the most amusing, the most
honest man that had ever come to New Salem?
He walked several miles one evening after the store
was closed to return six cents to a woman who had
over-paid him. Once a customer came in for half a pound of
tea just at closing time. In the dim light Lincoln weighed
out the tea. Next morning he found that he had taken a
 wrong weight and so had given this customer too little
by half. So shutting up shop he carried another quarter
of a pound to the belated buyer. For such things New
Salem named him "Honest Abe."
Although New Salem was a promising town, keeping
store there could hardly take all one's time. Lincoln
could now begin to study again. He was becoming
interested in politics and resolved to study grammar so that
the speeches he meant to make might be correct.
But where could he get a text-book? The village
schoolmaster knew of one which belonged to a man living
six miles away. Before night Lincoln had found time to
walk the twelve miles to bring back the book. For
weeks he studied it, learning the rules, reciting them to
his fellow-clerk, and practicing them in his talk.
In the spring of 1832 there was an Indian uprising,
known as the Black Hawk War. The frontier settlers
were in terror, and the Governor called for volunteers to
repel the savages. Lincoln was chosen captain of the
company from his neighborhood, and marched off to war.
In about three months the war was over, and Lincoln was
back in New Salem without having fought in a single
By this time Mr. Offutt's store had proved a failure
and was closed. Lincoln now used his time for political
work; for before he went away he had become a candidate
for the General Assembly of Illinois.
The election was at hand. All the country round was
Democratic, while Lincoln was a stanch Henry Clay man.
But just because it was Lincoln, the Democrats of New
Salem worked for him as hard as if he had belonged to
their own party. However, when the ballots from Springfield
and other towns of the district were counted, it was
found that he had been defeated.
The election over, Lincoln looked about for work.
Everything considered, keeping store suited him best.
As none of the three grocers of New Salem needed a clerk,
he and a young man named Berry decided to buy one of
the stores. Before they got through with it, they had
bought all three—or at least they had taken the stock of
all three and had promised to pay for it when they could.
The partnership was not a fortunate one. Lincoln
wanted so to read and study that he left the management
of the store largely to Berry and Berry was unreliable
and worthless. Business was slack, and Lincoln gladly
accepted the position of postmaster when it was offered
him the next spring.
The duties of postmaster at New Salem were not very
heavy. The mail usually consisted of a dozen or fifteen
letters and a few newspapers. The letters Lincoln carried
about in his hat until he saw the people to whom they
were addressed. The newspapers he opened and read
through before he handed them over.
One day soon after Lincoln and Berry opened their
store a man drove up. He had in his wagon a barrel,
which he asked Lincoln to buy. On dumping it to see
what it held, Lincoln discovered a book which proved to
be a standard authority on law. He had often wished
that he could study law; so he wasted no time in getting
to work on this book, which good fortune had tossed in
People were now beginning to flock into Illinois. This
meant that much land must be surveyed. The county
surveyor needed all the help he could get; and he offered
to make Lincoln a deputy surveyor if he would learn to
do the necessary work. In six weeks Lincoln reported
that he was ready to begin.
Although his surveying brought him in more money
 than any other work he had tried, he did not get ahead
very fast. His father was still poor, and his family needed
help. Then there was the store with its heavy debt.
Under Berry's management, conditions here grew worse
and worse, until the partners were so discouraged that it
was given up. A few months later Berry died, leaving on
Lincoln's shoulders the responsibility of paying off their
debt of eleven hundred dollars. "That debt," said
Lincoln, "was the greatest obstacle I ever met in my life.
There was however but one way. I went to the creditors
and told them that if they would let me alone, I would give
them all I could earn over my living as fast as I could earn
it." Fifteen years later he was still sending money to
Illinois to apply on this debt. But "Honest Abe" at
last paid every cent.
LINCOLN THE LAWYER
THE summer of 1834 was a busy one for Lincoln. His
surveying took him much about the country.
Everywhere he met new acquaintances and won many friends.
And the kindness shown him encouraged him to try once
more for a place in the Legislature. This time he won.
Hardly was the campaign over when he began to study
law again. He was urged to do this by John T. Stuart,
and many a trip did Lincoln make over the twenty miles
between New Salem and Springfield to borrow law books
from his friend. He threw himself into the work heart
and soul. Before long he was able to write deeds and other
legal papers for his neighbors.
That winter and the next he spent in the Legislature,
coming back to New Salem for the summer between—the
summer of 1835—to go on with his law study and surveying.
 In September, 1836, he was admitted to the bar.
Another winter was given to the Legislature. And then
in the spring of 1837 Lincoln.
moved to Springfield to accept
a partnership with John T. Stuart.
He rode into town "on a
borrowed horse, with no earthly property save a pair of
saddlebags containing a few
clothes." Being asked to room
with a friend, he climbed the
stairs, put his saddlebags on
the floor, and announced,
"Well, I'm moved."
Now came the years of
building up a practice, riding
the circuit and making a legal
BUILDING IN SPRINGFIELD,
ILLINOIS, USED BY THE UNITED STATES COURT, 1850-1860: LINCOLN'S LAW
OFFICE ON THE THIRD FLOOR.
What does riding the circuit mean? In Lincoln's time
it was the custom to divide
the counties into groups, assigning a judge to each group.
Twice a year this judge visited
the county seat of each county,
to hear whatever cases people
cared to bring before him. There were no railroads, so the
judge and the lawyers who followed him rode on horseback
from place to place. This was called "riding the circuit."
Although Lincoln worked hard and had many clients
during his first years in Springfield, he was not destined
to become rich through the law. This was probably
because he was too kind-hearted when it came to charging
 for his work. If his client was rather poor, he charged
very little; if the client was very poor, he charged nothing.
And all the while he was sending money home and slowly
paying off his big debt.
In a social way Lincoln went about among the best
people of Springfield. When he had been a while in the
town a certain Miss Mary Todd came there to live with
her married sister. She and Lincoln met. fell in love, and
in 1842 were married.
For a while they lived at the Globe Tavern, paying four
dollars a week for both. Then Lincoln bought a modest
frame house, and he and his wife set up housekeeping.
LINCOLN'S HOUSE AT SPRINGFIELD.
LINCOLN THE POLITICIAN
FOR four terms Abraham Lincoln served in the Illinois
Legislature. For one term he was a member of the National
Congress. The term ended in the spring of 1849. He came
home with the intention of dropping out of politics, and
devoting his time to his law practice and his children.
But these were the days of the great disputes over the
spread of slavery. And how could a man be indifferent
who had seen only the awful side of slavery, first in the
New Orleans slave market and then in the slave market at
For a time it seemed that Henry Clay's compromises
had settled the question of slavery in America's western
lands. According to the Missouri compromise, Missouri
had come into the Union as a slave state on the condition
that all the states which should be formed from the land
north and west of Missouri's southern boundary should be
Clay's second compromise admitted California as a
free state, leaving the people on the rest of the land
ob-  tained from Mexico to decide for themselves whether their
states should be free or slave.
This was all well and good and apparently gratified
North and South alike. However, four short years after
Clay's second compromise was adopted, both sides were all
In 1854 Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois brought up in
Congress a bill to make two territories of the lands beyond
Missouri and the Missouri River. The northern of these
territories was to be called Nebraska; the southern one,
Kansas. And Mr. Douglas wanted the people of Kansas
and Nebraska to be allowed to choose for themselves
whether or not they should have slaves.
The North protested loudly against Douglas's bill.
But in spite of the protest, Congress passed it, thus
repealing the Missouri compromise.
And now would the new territories be for or against
 slavery? The South was anxious that they should adopt.
The slave system. The North was determined that they
should be free.
"So the matter is to be decried by the settlers. Then
the settlers shall be from our side," said both North and
South. And a wild race for possession began. Slave
holders from Missouri rushed over into Kansas, staked
out farms, and commenced to build a town. About forty
miles to the southwest of this town a band of settlers from
the North built another town, which they called Lawrence.
All were well armed, and both sides made use of their
weapons. They burned each other's houses, shot each
 other without warning, and fought each other so furiously
that the new territory was soon called "Bleeding Kansas."
In the end the antislavery party won the victory; and
when Kansas finally came into the Union, she came in as a
One of the northern men who moved to Kansas was
John Brown. When a boy John Brown had seen a young
slave cruelly beaten, and from that time he had vowed to
fight slavery. In Kansas he certainly had a good chance
to fulfill his vow. At least he found ample opportunity
to fight the upholders of slavery, and several of them were
killed in attacks which he led.
Not content with fighting slavery in Kansas, John
Brown attempted to carry his raids into Virginia. At the
head of a band of not more than twenty men he went to
Harper's Ferry, seized the Government arsenal, and made
an effort to free the slaves of the neighborhood.
An alarm was given, soldiers turned out, several of
Brown's men were killed. And after a hard fight, John
Brown himself and six of his men were captured, and put
into prison. He was tried, found guilty of treason, and
finally hanged. He had paid the price of being unwisely
zealous in a great cause.
While the fighting was going on in Kansas, another
matter came up which increased the bad feeling between
North and South. Some years before, a certain slave
holder of Missouri had gone to the free state of Illinois
and had taken with him one of his slaves, named Dred
Scott. After several years he took Dred Scott back to
Missouri and there sold him. Scott said that his master
had no right to do this, and claimed that since he had lived
for a period of years on free soil he was now a free man
and no longer a slave.
His case was carried to the United States Supreme
 Court; and in 1857 that Court decided that a negro who
was descended from slaves was not an American citizen,
and therefore could not sue for justice in the United States
courts. And the court declared, moreover, that a slave-holder
could lawfully take his slaves wherever he wished,
just as he could take his horses and his cattle.
The North was dismayed. If a slaveholder could take
his slaves where he liked, what was to prevent a Southerner
from moving with his
negroes to Massachusetts or New York?
What was to prevent
slavery from being
carried into any or all
of the free states? Resentment in the North
But to return to
With the repeal of the
in 1854 his interest in
the slave question became so intense that
he once more entered
politics. And when in
the fall of that year
Stephen A. Douglas spoke in Springfield, justifying the
repeal, it was Lincoln who was called upon to answer
his arguments. This was only the first of many public
debates on slavery between Lincoln and the "Little Giant,"
as Douglas was called.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN 1858.
In his speeches Lincoln voiced his honest opinion of
the great question that was uppermost in all men's minds.
 He held that in the words "all men are created equal,"
the Declaration of Independence meant to say that black
as well as white men were entitled to "life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness." He said that he firmly believed
that slavery should not be allowed in new states; and he
stoutly asserted that the Government could not go on
half slave and half free; that the future would see the
whole country united on one policy in regard to the holding of
Most of the debates between
Lincoln and Douglas were during
the campaign of 1858, when the
two men were rival candidates for
the office of United States Senator.
When the campaign was over, Lincoln was recognized as the abler
talker, but Douglas had been elected to the Senate.
Lincoln was disappointed. "I
suppose that I feel very much like
the overgrown boy who stubbed
his toe....He was hurt too bad to laugh, and was too
big to cry."
But could Lincoln have looked even a little way into
the future, he would have understood that he had no
occasion to be disheartened over this defeat.
"Who is this man that is replying to Douglas in your
state? Do you realize that no greater speeches have been
made on public questions in the history of our country?"
wrote a prominent Eastern statesman. And this
statesman's letter voiced the reputation which Lincoln's sound
logic, his insight into the subject, and his simple direct
style were making for him all over the country.
 The year 1860 was the time for the election of a new
National President. Though this office is the highest
honor the country can give, Lincoln's enthusiastic friends
felt that he was fitted to receive it. But when the idea
was talked over with Lincoln himself, and he was urged
to write out a sketch of his life, he replied with characteristic
modesty: "I admit that I am ambitious and would
like to be President. I am not insensible to the compliinent
you pay me and the interest you manifest in the
matter; but there is no such good luck in store for me as
the Presidency of these United States. Besides, there is
nothing in my early history that would interest you or
anybody else; and, as Judge Davis says, 'It won't pay.'
Good night." And he hurried away.
However, in spite of his demur, Lincoln was nominated
the Republican candidate for the Presidency in the spring
Election day that year came on the 6th of November.
By daylight Springfield was astir. About eight o'clock
Mr. Lincoln went as usual to his room in the State House
and calmly began to look over his mail. But if Mr.
Lincoln was calm, his friends were not. They rushed in
and out of his room until some one suggested that it
might be well for him to shut them out and rest. No,
indeed. Never in his life had he closed his door on his
friends, and he did not intend to begin it now. So all
day they came and went, until it was time for Lincoln
to go home to supper.
A little after seven he was back, and now came the
excitement of waiting for news from the different parts
of the country. It was nearly morning before the reports
were all received, and Lincoln announced that he "Guessed
he'd go home now." He had been elected President of
the United States.
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