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Together with his sister, Abraham was first sent to school when he was seven years of age. But this first by-lane to the broad highway to learning was relinquished by the young aspirant almost as soon as begun, owing to his father's removal, shortly afterward, to another State. Thomas Lincoln seems to have been impelled to this removal by an inherent disgust for the institution of slavery, with which he had become early imbued, although himself a Southron by birth and residence. An early acquaintance with the evil wrought upon his own class by the influence of the “peculiar institution,” combined with an independence of spirit which revolted at the consequent degradation which, as a "poor white," he must undergo, if he remained in the midst of slavery, continually prompted him northward ; until, at length, in the autumn of 1816, finding a purchaser for his farm, he migrated from the then slave-teeming region of Kentucky to rude, but free, Indiana, accompanied by his wife and son—the latter then approaching his ninth year. The place whereon the home-seeking pioneer proposed to strive anew was in Spencer county, Indiana.
As soon as the sale was effected, the father determined to proceed alone to Indiana in quest of the new home to which he was finally to remove his family. Having had some experience as a carpenter, he set to work, with such slight assistance as could be afforded by little Abe, and built a flat-boat, wherewith to transport his household goods to the northern bank of the Ohio river. The boat was soon finished; and the pioneer bade adieu to Abraham, who stood watching him from the bank, and was soon on his way down the stream. He made his final landing at Thompson's Ferry, which was the nearest point on the river to the locality of his contemplated home. The district in which he proposed to locate was very sparsely settled, and the approach to it difficult in the extreme. For the last few miles, they were compelled to hew their way through the unbroken forest, to make a road by which to proceed. Several days were employed in accomplishing the distance of eighteen miles. Mr. Lincoln was heard to say, afterwards, that the hardest experience of his hard, rude life was his journey from Thompson's Ferry to Spencer county, Indiana.
Having determined the site of his new home, the pioneer returned to Kentucky on foot, leaving his goods under the care of one of his new neighbours in Indiana. Preparations to remove his family were soon completed, and the emigrants set forth with three horses, Mrs. Lincoln and her daughter mounted on one, Abraham or another, and the head of the family on the third.
After a weary journey of seven days, through a region almost uninhabited, making a couch' of the earth and a roof of the sky by night, they at length arrived at their future residence. An axe was placed in the hands of the boy, a neighbour also assisted, and, in a few days, a clearing for the site of the cabin was effected. Soon, under the experienced supervision of Mr. Lincoln, a comfortable abode, about eighteen feet square, was reared for the future homestead. It was composed of logs, which were fastened together in the usual way, by notches, and the crevices between them “chinked" with billets of wood and mud. A bed, table, and four stools, were then made of slabs, and the rude habitation was ready to receive its occupants. The cabin had only one room, though the slabs laid across the rough joists overhead formed a sort of loft between them and the roof. This loft, allotted to Abraham for a bed-room, was reached from below by means of a ladder. We question if a sweeter sleep or balmier repose than the future President of the United States enjoyed in this humble tenement, after his long days of wood-chopping, ever was attained by the most pampered pet of princely luxury.
Although diligently employed during the ensuing winter, besides giving attention to the prosecution of his simple studies, he also was constrained to practise with the rifle, and became quite a proficient in the use of that important implement of woodcraft. It was considered important that boys should early learn to shoot with accuracy; and a lad with a natural tact for the rifle was looked upon as a “rising genius” by the neighbouring settlers. Skill with the fire-arm was, further, to be valued and desired, inasmuch as, in addition to procuring game for the larder, furs were in great demand, and many animals were esteemed on this account. This early culture in the use of the rifle assisted much in the development of that physical vigour, manly strength, and great power of endurance which ever after distinguished him.
In the autumn of 1818, Abraham, now nearly ten years of age, had the misfortune to lose his excellent mother. That she was a truly noble woman, the son's after life attested. From her came his deep and abiding reverence for holy things—his profound trust in Providence, and faith in the triumph of truth. From her he learned the gentleness and amiability of temper which, in the lofty station of chief magistrate, he displayed so strikingly during years of most appalling responsibility. From her he received the spirit of playfulness and the
desire to see others happy which afterwards formed so prominent a trait in his character. Though uneducated in books, she was wise in the wisdom of experience and truth. He never ceased to mourn her loss, and never mentioned her name, in after years, but with the deepest reverence.
One year after the death of his mother, his father married Mrs. Sally Johnston, a widow, with three children.
Abraham achieved the art of reading before his own mother's death ; and it may well be presumed that he did not permit this key to knowledge to become rusty in his keeping. He was an inveterate book-worm, as far as materials could be procured, from the moment of his mastery of the rudiments, and soon became the subject of remark among the neighbouring settlers for his thoughtful ways and mental industry. Our young pioneer, in the pursuit of learning, was again sent to school when about twelve or thirteen years old. Previous to this he had learned to write, chiefly practising out of doors with a piece of chalk or a charred stick. In his new school he greatly improved himself, and soon was master of his teacher's store of arithmetic. Mr. Lincoln has remarked that the aggregate of his schooling did not amount to one year. He never attended a college or academy as a student, and never, indeed, even saw the inside of a college or academy till after he had won his law licence. What he possessed in the way of an education he obtained by dint of hard, unaided study. He took uncommon pride in his early studies, and his praiseworthy diligence soon won him the esteem of his masters. He was quicker to learn than most boys, and was gifted with a very retentive memory. Books were his great delight, and the procuring of a sufficient number of them to employ his mind one of his principal anxieties. His father did much to aid him in his difficult pursuit, and whenever be heard of any particular volume which he thought desirable, or for which Abraham asked, he always endeavoured to obtain it for the use of his son.
In this way he became acquainted with Bunyan's “Pilgrim's Progress,” “ Æsop's Fables,” a “Life of Henry Clay,” and Weems' “Life of Washington." The “hatchet” story of Washington, which has done more to make boys truthful than a hundred solemn exhortations, made a strong impression upon Abraham, and was one of those unseen, gentle influences which helped to form his character for integrity and honesty. Its effect may be traced in the following story, which bids fair to become as never-failing an accompaniment to a “Life of Lincoln” as the hatchet case to that of Washington :
“Mr. Crawford had lent him a copy of the Life of Washington. One night he laid it down carefully, as he thought, and the next morning he found it soaked through with water. The rain had beaten in through a crack in the logs, and the book was ruined. How could he face the owner under such circumstances ? He had no money to offer as a return, but he took the book, went directly to Mr. Crawford, showed him the irreparable injury, and frankly and honestly offered to work for him until he should be satisfied. Mr. Crawford accepted the offer, and gave Abraham the book for his own, in return for three days' steady labour. His manliness and straightforwardness won the esteem of the Crawfords, and, indeed, of all the neighbourhood.”
Another significant trait in his character is said to have manifested itself while he still was at school. Among his schoolfellows he was invariably a “peacemaker.” He adjusted their misunderstandings, medi