Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

II
FOUR CONTEMPORARIES

BRIEFLY, let us here note what during this time one of Johnson's friends and three of his enemies had been doing. Lincoln had had his hard childhood in Kentucky and his gaunt youth in Illinois. In 1831, when Johnson had been twice elected alderman and twice mayor of Greeneville, Lincoln had just returned from his flatboat voyage to New Orleans and was settling down as a clerk in Denton Offurt's New Salem store.1 During the young Greeneville mayor's tenure of office, Lincoln had announced his candidacy for the Illinois State Legislature, had been defeated, had been a captain in the bloodless Black Hawk war, had been surveyor and local postmaster, and having finally abandoned his fleeting ambition to become a blacksmith, was studying law. He was finally elected to the Legislature of Illinois during the last year of Johnson's term as mayor. He continued there until 1842.2

Lincoln from his twelfth to his twefth year, brooding in that melancholy which followed him throughout his life, seems to have been conscious of intellectual power that would render him capable of carrying heavier burdens. But there was no one at this period or perhaps at any other who thoroughly understood him.3 He did not, like Johnson at eighteen, have the stimulus, the comfort and the inspiration of an Eliza's comprehension.

While these two youths in their obscure surroundings were struggling with their hard fate, there was in Boston a young gentleman who would have considered them, if he had been willing to consider them at all, as quite unworthy of his notice. The name of this Bostonian was Charles Sumner. He was fitted out with everything to make life decorous, even to a proper ancestor who settled in Dorchester in 1635. He was three years Johnson's junior. Everything about his life was easy and serene.

-13-

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