Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

NEW LAW PARTNERS

319

manded attention when he spoke. He had been a circuit judge two years. That he should have picked Lincoln for a junior partner testified that Lincoln had unusual ability or character of some sort. And that Lincoln should tell Usher F. Linder that he had an ambition to become as good a lawyer as Stephen T. Logan testified that Logan was far out of the ordinary as lawyers go.

During the two years they met so often and worked together in the same law office on the same cases, Lincoln had chances to dig through and get at that magic or whatever it was that made some people believe Logan could take apart and put together again that colossal box of devices called government. Logan knew how to be a lawyer so that people had fear and respect for lawyers; Lincoln had his chance to watch Logan every day, close up, to see how Logan did it. He was sorry to break with Logan. But one day something happened between him and Logan, so that he went to young William H. Herndon, who had read the law books in the office of Logan & Lincoln on the invitation of Lincoln, and had been admitted to the bar.

He asked Herndon to be his partner; Herndon didn't believe his ears; he said, "Mr. Lincoln, don't laugh at me." "Billy, I can trust you if you can trust me." They shook hands, opened an office, and hung out the shingle "Lincoln & Herndon." Lincoln was nine years the older; for ten years he had been seeing Herndon, off and on, watching the boy grow up to a young man. He knew that when a mob killed Lovejoy at Alton, the president of Illinois College at Jacksonville was with Lovejoy, and the college, faculty and students were blazing with Abolitionist ideas. Archer Herndon, the father of William, heard about it and said he wasn't going to have his boy grow up "a damned Abolitionist pup," and ordered him home to Springfield where he had clerked in Josh Speed's store; he and Speed and Lincoln slept in the same big room over the store and some nights talked each other to sleep.

Once Lincoln had asked Herndon as to slavery, "What tells you the thing must be rooted out?" The answer, “I feel it in

my bones." And Lincoln sometimes mentioned issues, public questions, that had stood the test of "Bill Herndon's bone philosophy." They had an upstairs back-room office. There came the Abolitionist newspapers week by week stirring up Herndon, with the news of what the American Anti-slavery Society was doing, and the latest actions of the Liberty party. Though slight as a political organization, it had savagely swept Henry Clay out of the political reckoning in 1844, when Polk defeated Clay with the narrow popular majority of 38,801 and the Liberty party candidate got 62,270 votes which could have made Clay President.

For young Herndon there was far, passionate magic in words such as liberty, equality, brotherhood, justice, humanity. For him there was reality, driving and terrific, back of the phrase, "the cause of humanity." Sometimes the whole world of human struggle divided itself for him into two causes, the "high and noble cause," and the "low and degraded cause." Enthusiasms lighted torches in him and flung banners; a human cause must have bonfires of elation and faith. His father, Archer Herndon, was born in Virginia from Herndons who were in the Old Dominion as early as 1654, grew up in Kentucky, married, and moved to Illinois, arriving in 1821 in Sangamon County driving a one-mule cart, with the mother holding the two-year-old baby Billy. They stayed four years on a prairie farm five miles from Springfield and then moved to Springfield.

We

Herndon pictured the moving: "The whole way was clear bog; father made a small board cart, into which he threw the chickens, the little pigs, and the young children. He and I and mother walked beside the cart, which had two wheels. skipped from hill to hill; and when the wheels of the cart stuck or floundered, we lifted them out of the mud and balanced them somehow on one of the hummocks. We reached Springfield at last. We had to build our log cabin on the edge of a ridge, while we labored to subdue the muck. The marks of bears' claws were deep in the trees right round us. Ten years later I killed a hundred snakes in three-quarters of a mile, so you may guess what

[graphic]

Abraham Lincoln of Illinois (left) and Alexander Stephens of Georgia (right). They were
Whig congressmen together, and Lincoln once wrote Stephens, "This is the longest letter I
ever wrote in my life." One weighed 180 pounds, the other 90 pounds. Jefferson Davis called
Stephens "the little pale star from Georgia." See pages 377, 378.

[graphic][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

it was then. There they all were: rattlesnakes, vipers, adders, and copperheads." "And what sort of a snake is the copperhead?" was asked. His answer was: "A mean thing. A rattlesnake rattles, a viper hisses, an adder spits, a black snake whistles, a water snake blows, but a copperhead just sneaks.”

And he could go on with memories. "At nightfall we laid green logs in parallel rows, set them on fire, and drove the cattle between them. Then whichever way the wind blew, we could keep off the gallinippers, mosquitoes with stings three-quarters of an inch long. The dumb beasts knew what it meant and we never had to drive them again. They went in of themselves. Words cannot tell this life. The prairies of Illinois are watered with the tears, and enriched by the graves, of her women. The first generation lived on mush and pork. Fencing was too costly. No gardens could stand the herds of cattle, a thousand strong, which might come swooping over any minute. Just as our corn was ripe, the bears would strip the ears; just as the pumpkins grew golden, herds of deer would hollow out the gourds. As we got more land there was no transportation to carry away the crops."

A woman listening to Herndon remarked: "Standing in a log cabin in the edge of the prairie the other day, and looking over the half-drained surface, I said, almost unconsciously, 'I am sure this land was settled before the Lord was willing.''

"To understand the pioneers," said Herndon, "you must know, first, how civilization had wronged them as poor whites; next, how nature gradually restored what civilization took. To do the work an enormous vitality was required. Such a vitality could not exhaust itself on the soil. No social excitement, no lecture, theater, book, or friendly talk offered itself to the tired laborer when he came home at night. To drink, to indulge in his passions, was the only change life offered him. For the women-God forgive the men who brought them here-if they sought stimulants or anodynes, how could they be to blame? Wild, hardy, genial, these men were a mixture of the rowdy and the roisterer. It was impossible to outwit or outwhip them."

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »