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The following incident, of which the narration is believed to be substantially accurate, is from the pen of one who professes to write from personal knowledge. It is given in this connection, as at once illustrating the earlier struggles of Mr. Lincoln in acquiring his profession, the character of his forensic efforts, and the generous gratitude and disinterestedness of his nature:
Having chosen the law as his future calling, he devoted himself assiduously to its mastery, contending at every step with adverse fortune. During this period of study, he for some time found a home under the hospitable roof of one Armstrong, a farmer, who lived in a log house some eight miles from the village of Petersburg, in Menard county. Here, young Lincoln would master his lessons by the firelight of the cabin, and then walk to town for the purpose of recitation. This man Armstrong was himself poor, but he saw the genius struggling in the young student, and opened to him his rude home, and bid him welcome to his course fare. How Lincoln graduated with promise-how he has more than fulfilled that promise-how honorably he acquitted himself, alike on the battle-field, in defending our border settlements against the ravages of savage foes, and in the halls of our national legislature, are matters of history, and need no repetition here. But one little incident, of a more private nature, standing as it does as a sort of sequel to some things already alluded to, I deem worthy of record. Some few years since, the oldest son of Mr. Lincoln's old friend Armstrong, the chief support of his widowed mother-the good old man having some time previously passed from earth-was arrested on the charge of murder. A young man had been killed during a riotous melee, in the night-time, at a camp-meeting, and one of hist associates stated that the death-wound was inflicted by young Armstrong. A preliminary examination was gone into, at which the accuser testified so positively, that there seemed no doubt of the guilt of the prisoner, and therefore he was held for trial. As is too often the case, the bloody act caused an undue degree of excitement in the public mind. Every improper incident in the life of the prisoner-each act which bore the least semblance of rowdyism-each school-boy quarrelwas suddenly remembered and magnified, until they pictured him as a fiend of the most horrid hue. As these rumors spread abroad, they were received as gospel truth, and a feverish desire for vengeance seized upon the infatuated populace, while only prison-bars prevented a horrible death at the
hands of a mob. The events were heralded in the newspapers, painted in highest colors, accompanied by rejoicing over the certainty of punishment being meted out to the guilty party. The prisoner, overwhelmed by the circumstances in which he found himself placed, fell into a melancholy condition, bordering upon despair; and the widowed mother, looking through her tears, saw no cause for hope from earthly aid. At this juncture, the widow received a letter from Mr. Lincoln, volunteering his services in an effort to save the youth from the impending stroke. Gladly was his aid accepted, although it seemed impossible for even his sagacity to prevail in such a desperate case; but the heart of the attorney was in his work, and he set about it with a will that knew no such word as fail. Feeling that the poisoned condition of the public mind was such as to preclude the possibility of impanneling an impartial jury in the court having jurisdiction, he procured a change of venue, and a postponement of the trial. He then went studiously to work unraveling the history of the case, and satisfied himself that his client was the victim of malice, and that the statements of the accuser were a tissue of falsehoods. When the trial was called on, the prisoner, pale and emaciated, with hopelessness written on every feature, and accompanied by his half-hoping, half-despairing motherwhose only hope was in a mother's belief of her son's innocence, in the justice of the God she worshipped, and in the noble counsel, who, without hope of fee or reward upon earth, had undertaken the cause-took his seat in the prisoner's box, and with a "stony firmness" listened to the reading of the indictment.
Lincoln sat quietly by, while the large auditory looked on him as though wondering what he could say in defense of one whose guilt they regarded as certain. The examination of the witnesses for the State was begun, and a well-arranged mass of evidence, circumstantial and positive, was introduced, which seemed to impale the prisoner beyond the possibility of extrication. The counsel for the defense propounded but few questions, and those of a character which excited no uneasiness on the part of the prosecutor-merely, in most cases, requiring the main witness to be definite as to time and place. When the evidence of the prosecution was ended, Lincoln introduced a few witnesses to remove some erroneous impressions in regard to the previous character of his client, who, though somewhat rowdyish, had never been known to commit a vicious act; and to show that a greater degree of illfeeling existed between the accuser and the accused, than the
accused and the deceased. The prosecutor felt that the case was a clear one, and his opening speech was brief and formal. Lincoln arose, while a deathly silence pervaded the vast audience, and in a clear but moderate tone began his argument. Slowly and carefully he reviewed the testimony, pointing out the hitherto unobserved discrepancies in the statements of the principal witness. That which had seemed plain and plausible, he made to appear crooked as a serpent's path. The witness had stated that the affair took place at a certain hour in the evening, and that, by the aid of the brightly-shining moon, he saw the prisoner inflict the death-blow with a slung-shot. Mr. Lincoln showed, that at the hour referred to, the moon had not yet appeared above the horizon, and consequently the whole tale was a fabrication. An almost instantaneous change seemed to have been wrought in the minds of his auditors, and the verdict of "not guilty" was at the end of every tongue. But the advocate was not content with this intellectual achievement. His whole being had for months been bound up in this work of gratitude and mercy, and as the lava of the overcharged crater bursts from its imprisonment, so great thoughts and burning words leaped forth from the soul of the eloquent Lincoln. He drew a picture of the perjurer, so horrid and ghastly that the accuser could sit under it no longer, but reeled and staggered from the court-room, while the audience fancied they could see the brand upon his brow. Then in words of thrilling pathos, Lincoln appealed to the jurors, as fathers of sons who might become fatherless, and as husbands of wives who might he widowed, to yield to no previous impressions, no ill-founded prejudice, but to do his client justice; and as he alluded to the debt of gratitude which he owed the boy's sire, tears were seen to fall from many eyes unused to weep. It was near night when he concluded by saying, that if justice was done as he believed it would be-before the sun should set it would shine upon his client, a freeman. The jury retired, and the court adjourned for the day. Half an hour had not elapsed, when, as the officers of the court and the volunteer attorney sat at the tea-table of their hotel, a messenger announced that the jury had returned to their seats. All repaired immediately to the court-house, and while the prisoner was being brought from the jail, the court-room was filled to overflowing with citizens of the town. When the prisoner and his mother entered, silence reigned as completely as though the house were empty. The foreman of the jury, in answer to the usual inquiry from the court, delivered the verdict of "Not Guilty!" The widow dropped into the arms of her son, who lifted her up, and told her to look upon him as before, free
and innocent. Then, with the words, "Where is Mr. Lincoln?" he rushed across the room and grasped the hand of his deliverer, while his heart was too full for utterance. Lincoln turned his eyes toward the West, where the sun still lingered in view, and then, turning to the youth, said, "It is not yet sundown, and you are free." I confess that my cheeks were not wholly unwet by tears, and I turned from the affecting scene. As I cast a glance behind, I saw Abraham Lincoln obeying the divine injunction, by comforting the widowed and the fatherless.
On becoming well established in his profession, Mr. Lincoln took up his permanent residence at Springfield, the countyseat of Sangamon county. This occurred in the spring immediately following the passage of the act removing the State capital to that place, but more than two years before it was to go into effect. The date at which he became settled in Springfield, which has ever since been the place of his residence, was April 15, 1837.
For several years after his removal, Mr. Lincoln remained a bachelor, and was an inmate of the family of the Hon. William Butler, in later years the Treasurer of the State. For three or four years he continued to represent his county in the Legislature, but after 1840, he refused further public service, with a view to the exclusive pursuit of his profession, the highest success in which he could not hope to obtain while giving so much of his time, as had been hitherto required of him, to political affairs.
On the 4th of November, 1842, Mr. Lincoln was married to Miss MARY TODD, daughter of the Hon. Robert S. Todd, of Lexington, Kentucky. This lady is one of four sisters, the eldest of whom had previously married the Hon. Ninian W. Edwards, and settled at Springfield. Her two other sisters, subsequently married, became residents of the same town. Mr. Lincoln's domestic relations were happy, and his devoted attachment to his home and family was always one of the marked traits of his personal character. Of the four sons born to him, Robert T., the oldest, was at school at Exeter Academy, in New Hampshire, when Mr. Lincoln was first nominated for the Presidency, and soon after entered Harvard
University, where he completed his course in 1864, when in his twenty-first year. The second son died when four years old. The third, Willie, died at the White House in 1863, at the age of twelve years. Thomas, familiarly called "Tad," was two years younger.
It is proper to mention that Mrs. Lincoln is a Presbyterian by education and profession (two of her sisters are Episcopalians), and that her husband, though not a member, was a liberal supporter of the church to which she belongs. It should further be stated that the Sunday-School, and other benevolent enterprises associated with these church relations, found in him a constant friend.
In this quiet domestic happiness, and in the active practice. of his profession, with its round of ordinary duties, and with its exceptional cases of a more general public interest, Mr. Lincoln disappears for the time from political life. Its peculiar excitements, indeed, were not foreign to the stirring and adventurous nature which, as we have seen, was his by inheritance. Nor could the people, and the party of which he was so commanding a leader, long consent to his retirement. Yet such was his prudent purpose-now especially, with a family to care for and to this he adhered, with only occasional exceptions, until, four years after his marriage, he was elected to Congress.