The early life of Abraham Lincoln_ containing many unpublished documents and unpublished reminiscences of Lincoln's early friends
The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.
THE EARLIEST PORTRAIT OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN.—HITHERTO UNPUBLISHED.
From a carbon enlargement, by Sherman and McHugh, New York, of a daguerreotype in the possession of the Hon. Robert T. Lincoln, and first published in the McClure’s Life of Lincoln. It is generally believed that Lincoln was not over thirty-five years old when this daguerreotype was taken, and it is certainly true that it shows the face of Lincoln as a young man. It is probably earlier by six or seven years, at least, than any other existing portrait of Lincoln.
THE EARLY LIFE
CONTAINING MANY UNPUBLISHED DOCUMENTS AND UNPUBLISHED REMINISCENCES OF LINCOLN’S EARLY FRIENDS
It has been only within the last ten years that the descent ofAbraham Lincoln from the Lincolns of Hingham, Massachusetts,has been established with any degree of certainty. The satisfactoryproof of his lineage is a matter of great importance. Ina way it explains Lincoln. It shows that he came of a familyendowed with the spirit of adventure, of daring, of patriotism, andof thrift; that his ancestors were men who for nearly two hundredyears before he was born were active and well-to-docitizens of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Virginia,men who everywhere played their parts well. Abraham Lincolnwas but the flowering of generations of upright, honorable men.
The first we learn of the Lincolns in this country is betweenthe years 1635 and 1645, when there came to the town of Hingham,Massachusetts, from the west of England, eight men of thatname. Three of these, Samuel, Daniel, and Thomas, were brothers.Their relationship, if any, to the other Lincolns who came overfrom the same part of the country at about the same time is notclear. Two of these men, Daniel and Thomas, died without heirs;but Samuel left a large family, including four sons. Amongthe descendants of Samuel Lincoln’s sons were many goodcitizens and prominent public officers. One was a member of theBoston Tea Party, and served as a captain of artillery in theWar of the Revolution. Others were privates in that war. Threeserved on the brig “Hazard” during the Revolution. LeviLincoln, a great-great-grandson of Samuel, born in Hingham in1749, and graduated from Harvard, was one of the minute-menat Cambridge immediately after the battle of Lexington, a delegateto the convention in Cambridge for framing a State Constitution,and in 1781 was elected to the Continental Congress,but declined to serve. He was a member of the House of Representativesand of the Senate of Massachusetts, and was appointedAttorney-General of the United States by Jefferson; for a fewmonths preceding the arrival of Madison he was Secretary ofState, and in 1807 he was elected Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts.2In 1811 he was appointed Associate Justice of theUnited States Supreme Court by President Madison, an officewhich he declined. From the close of the Revolutionary War hewas considered the head of the Massachusetts bar.
His eldest son, Levi Lincoln, born in 1782, had also an honorablepublic career. He was a Harvard graduate, became Governorof the State of Massachusetts, and held other important publicoffices. He received the degree of LL.D. in 1824 from WilliamsCollege, and from Harvard in 1826.
Another son of Levi Lincoln, Enoch Lincoln, served in Congressfrom 1818 to 1826. He became Governor of Maine in 1827,holding the position until his death in 1829. Enoch Lincoln wasa writer of more than ordinary ability.
The fourth son of Samuel Lincoln was called Mordecai (PresidentLincoln descended from him, being his great-great-great-grandson).Mordecai Lincoln was a rich “blacksmith,” as aniron-worker was called in those days, and the proprietor ofnumerous iron-works, saw-mills, and grist-mills, which with agoodly amount of money he distributed at his death among hischildren and grandchildren. Two of his children, Mordecai andAbraham, did not remain in Massachusetts, but removed to NewJersey, and thence to Pennsylvania, where both became rich, anddying, left fine estates to their children. Their descendants inPennsylvania have continued to this day to be well-to-do people,some of them having taken prominent positions in public affairs.Abraham Lincoln, of Berks County, who was born in 1736 anddied in 1806, filled many public offices, being a member of theGeneral Assembly of Pennsylvania, of the State Convention of1787, and of the State Constitutional Convention in 1790.
One of the sons of this second Mordecai, John (the great-grandfatherof President Lincoln), received from his father“three hundred acres of land, lying in the Jerseys.” But evidentlyhe did not care to cultivate his inheritance, for about1758 he removed to Virginia. “Virginia” John, as this memberof the family was called, had five sons, all of whom he establishedwell. One of these sons, Jacob, entered the RevolutionaryArmy and served as a lieutenant at Yorktown.
The settlers of western Virginia were all in those days moreor less under the fascination of the adventurous spirit which wasopening up the West, and three of “Virginia” John’s sons decidedto try their fortunes in the new country. One went to3Tennessee, two to Kentucky. The first to go to Kentucky wasAbraham (the grandfather of the President). He was already awell-to-do man when he decided to leave Virginia, for he soldhis estate for some seventeen thousand dollars. A portion ofthis money he invested in land-office treasury warrants.
On emigrating to Kentucky he bought one thousand sevenhundred acres of land. But almost at the beginning of his lifein the new country, while still a comparatively young man, hewas slain by the Indians. His estate seems to have been inheritedby his eldest son, Mordecai, who afterward becameprominent in the State; was a great Indian fighter, a famousstory-teller, and, according to the traditions of his descendants,a member of the Kentucky legislature. This last item we havenot, however, been able to verify. We have had the fullest collectionof journals of the Kentucky legislature which exists,that of Dr. R. T. Durrett of Louisville, Kentucky, carefullysearched, but no mention has been found in them of MordecaiLincoln.
It is with the brother of Mordecai, the youngest son of thepioneer Abraham, we have to do, a boy who was left an orphanat ten years of age, and who in that rude time had to dependupon his own exertions. We find from newly discovered documentsthat he was the owner of a farm at twenty-five years ofage, and from the contemporary evidence that he was a verygood carpenter; from a document we have discovered inKentucky we learn that he was even appointed a road surveyor,in 1816. We have found his Bible, a very expensive book atthat time; we have also found that he had credit, and was ableto purchase on credit a pair of suspenders costing one dollar andfifty cents, and we have learned from the recollections ofChristopher Columbus Graham that in marrying the niece of hisemployer he secured a very good wife. The second child ofThomas Lincoln was Abraham Lincoln, who became the sixteenthPresident of the United States and the foremost man of his age.
The career of Abraham Lincoln is more easily understood inview of his ancestry. The story of his life, which is here toldmore fully and consecutively, and in many points, both minorand important, we believe more exactly than ever before, bearsout our belief that Abraham Lincoln inherited from his ancestrytraits and qualities of mind which made him a remarkable childand a young man of unusual promise and power. So far from4his later career being unaccounted for in his origin and earlyhistory, it is as fully accounted for as in the case of any man.
So far as possible, the statements in this work are based onoriginal documents. This explains why in several cases thedates differ from those commonly accepted. Thus the year ofthe death of the grandfather of Abraham Lincoln is made1788, instead of 1784, because of the recently discovered inventoryof his estate. The impression given of Thomas Lincoln isdifferent from that of other biographies, because we believe thenew documents we have found and the new contemporaryevidence we have unearthed, justify us in it. We have notmade it a sign of shiftlessness that Thomas Lincoln dwelt in alog cabin at a date when there was scarcely anything else in theState.
An effort has been made, too, to give what we believe to be atruer color to the fourteen years the Lincolns spent in southernIndiana. The poverty and the wretchedness of their life hasbeen insisted upon until it is popularly supposed that AbrahamLincoln came from a home similar to those of the “poor whitetrash” of the South. There is no attempt made here to denythe poverty of the Lincoln household, but it is insisted that thispoverty was a temporary condition incident to pioneer life andthe unfortunate death of Thomas Lincoln’s father when he wasbut a boy. Thomas Lincoln’s restless efforts to better his conditionby leaving Kentucky for Indiana in 1816, and afterwards,when he had discovered that his farm in Spencer County wasbarren, by trying his fortunes in Illinois, are sufficient proofthat he had none of the indolent acceptance of fate which characterizesthe “poor whites.”
In telling the story of the six years of Lincoln’s life in NewSalem, we have attempted to give a consecutive narrative and toshow the exact sequence of events, which has never been donebefore. We have shown, what seems to us very suggestive, thepersistency and courage with which he seized every opportunityand carried on simultaneously his business as storekeeper andpostmaster and surveyor and at the same time studied law. Toestablish the order of events in this New Salem period, therecords of the county have been carefully examined, and manynew documents concerning Lincoln have been found in thissearch, including his first vote, his first official document (anelection return), and several new surveying plats. The latter5show Lincoln to have been much more active as a surveyor thanhas commonly been supposed. We have also brought to lightthe grammar Lincoln studied, with a sentence written on the titlepage in Lincoln’s own hand.
For the first time, too, we publish documents signed by Lincolnas a postmaster. These two letters are also earlier than anyother published letters of Lincoln. Many minor errors have beencorrected, such as the real number of votes which he received onhis first election to the legislature, and the times and places ofhis mustering out and into service in the Black Hawk War.
The number of illustrations in the work is many times greaterthan ever has before appeared in connection with the early lifeof Lincoln. The scenes of his life in Kentucky, Indiana, andIllinois have been photographed especially for us, and we havecollected from various sources numbers of pictures illustratingthe primitive surroundings of his boyhood and young manhood,together with portraits of many of his companions in those days.Our object in giving such a profusion of homely scenes andfaces has been to make a history of Lincoln’s early life in pictures.We believe that one examining these prints independentlyof the text would have a good idea of Lincoln’s conditionfrom 1809 to 1836.
By far the most important of the illustrations of the work isthe collection of portraits. This is the first systematic effort tomake a complete collection of portraits of the great President.Our