Abraham Lincoln: From His Own Words and Contemporary Accounts

By Roy Edgar Appleman; Abraham Lincoln | Go to book overview
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was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education. Of course, when I came of age I did not know much. Still, somehow, I could read, write, and cipher to the rule of three, but that was all. I have not been to school since. The little advance I now have upon this store of education, I have picked up from time to time under the pressure of necessity.

I was raised to farm work, which I continued till I was twenty-two. At twenty- two I came to Illinois, Macon County. Then I got to New Salem, at that time in Sangamon, now in Menard County, where I remained a year as a sort of clerk in a store. Then came the Black Hawk war; and I was elected a captain of volunteers, a success which gave me more pleasure than any I have had since. I went the campaign, was elated, ran for the legislature the same year ( 1832), and was beaten--the only time I ever have been beaten by the people. The next and three succeeding biennial elections I was elected to the legislature. I was not a candidate afterward. During this legislative period I had studied law, and removed to Springfield to practise it. In 1846 I was once elected to the lower House of Congress. Was not a candidate for reelection. From 1849 to 1854, both inclusive, practised law more assiduously than ever before. Always a Whig in politics: and generally on the Whig electoral tickets, making active canvasses. I was losing interest in politics when the repeal of the Missouri compromise aroused me again. What I have done since then is pretty well known.

If any personal description of me is thought desirable, it may be said I am, in height, six feet four inches, nearly; lean in flesh, weighing on an average one hundred and eighty pounds; dark complexion, with coarse black hair and grey eyes. No other marks or brands recollected.

LINCOLN TO J. W. FELL, DECEMBER 20, 1859.


2. THE MOTHER OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Nancy Hanks Lincoln, the mother of Abraham, died in 1818. She was probably 35 years old. Neither the time nor place of her birth is definitely known. Hers were the short and simple annals of the poor. Only a few obscure people had ever known Nancy Hanks Lincoln. It was not until 30 years after her death that her son reached sufficient fame to cause anyone to inquire after his mother. By that time nearly all of the few people who had known or seen this woman in life had died or disappeared. Only one or two remained to give their scanty recollections of Abraham's mother. Among them was William Wood, an industrious and reliable man, who moved from Kentucky to Indiana in 1809. He settled in Perry County in a region that subsequently became part of Spencer County at a place that later proved to be one and a half miles north of the Indiana home of the Lincolns. For over 2 years Wood knew Nancy Hanks Lincoln and was her neighbor in that then sparsely settled region. He sat up all of one night with Mrs. Lincoln during the period of her final illness. The testimony given below is an excerpt from a statement Wood made to William Herndon in 1865 when he was 82 years of age.

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