Development of Lincoln
Abraham was born in Kentucky in 1809 under the Jeffersonian ideal of self-sufficient agrarianism. He was born in a tiny log cabin with a dirt floor. Abe’s father, Thomas, was the paradigm for subsistence farming. Tom was also known as an anecdotist. Tom could sustain, but never get ahead and the family moved frequently each time clearing new land for a farm. Abe worked hard and learned an axe well. Yet he was anxious to learn and be literate. A position his mother Nancy supported, but Tom did not. Abe went to school when he could and read any book he could find including a dictionary. Nancy, a devout anti-slavery Baptist, would frequently tell Bible stories. (Keneally, 2003)
Nancy passed away and Tom remarried to Sarah Johnston. Sarah was more insistent that Abe be allowed to read and attend school. Subsistence farming and literacy in the early 1800’s were contrasting facts of life. Abe’s father did not see any reason for a farm boy to read. However, Abe loved learning and stretching his mind far more than any sort of labor. Abe considered Sarah his best friend ever. Another Sarah, Abe’s older sister died in giving birth to her first child. Abe would develop a hurt, a depression that would come and go in varying degree for the rest of his life. (Keneally, 2003)
Early Indications of Aspiration
Around 1828, Abe took a boat of supplies down the Ohio River to the Mississippi River and then to New Orleans. This trip exposed him to a huge city, slavery, money, and commerce. These exposures were significant in Abraham’s politics. Arriving home, Abe frequented local courts, read the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Revised Statutes of Indiana. Abe was fascinated by lawyers. Due to privations, Tom moved the family again this time to Illinois in 1830. While Abe helped clear the new land with an axe, his desire to read, especially the law and statutes continued to wedge between himself and Tom. This separation would continue until Tom and Abe were separated and Tom died without any visit by his son. Yet, like his father, Lincoln was ever the storyteller. (Keneally, 2003)
Once again, this time from Decatur, Illinois, Abe helped take a stock of supplies by boat to New Orleans. His cousin, John Hanks, later described that Abe was seared by the sight of slaves in bondage. “It ran its irons in him then and there, May 1831” (Keneally, 2003, p. 13). Back home, Abe moved to New Salem, Illinois to be a store clerk leaving his family forever. Throughout his stay in Illinois, Lincoln continually attended political meetings, debate clubs, and strove for self-education. While in New Salem, Abe cultivated a reputation for honesty and deeds to match his words. A wrestling match was organized between Abraham and the local bully and leader of a gang Jack Armstrong. Abe the strong farm boy defeated Jack and earned his respect and political support until Jack died. Later, the attorney Abe would successfully defend Jack’s son against a murder trial. The people of Salem, as many others who would learn of Abraham, understood that Abe was gifted in honesty and reliability. He would earn lifelong respect and following from many close friends, but even the vast majority (277 election votes out of 300 in one instance) considered Abe’s word and his integrity to be unshakable. (Gienapp, 2002)
© Neal Huffman 2014 all rights reserved
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