Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lincoln's Early Career

Abraham Lincoln portrait.
Find photographs of Lincoln here.

       When Lincoln was twenty-one his father moved to Macon County, Illinois, settling on a claim on the Sangamon River. The young man helped his father build a house and break fifteen acres of land, and he also split rails for fences. A year later, in 1831, he was hired by John Hanks, a relative, to help take a boatload of goods down the Mississippi to New Orleans. This was Lincoln's first extended journey from home, and it was of some importance in that it gave him his first view of slavery. After his return, in 1832, he enlisted in the Black Hawk War, serving from April to June, made an unsuccessful attempt to enter the state legislature as a Whig, and for a period kept a dry-goods and grocery store at the settlement of New Salem. This venture burdened him with debts which hung over him for the next fifteen years, and it was quickly abandoned. In May, 1833, he was appointed postmaster at New Salem, an office with light duties and lighter pay. During his three years' tenure of this position he studied law and politics to good purpose, and served also as deputy surveyor.
       Lincoln was elected to the lower house of the state legislature in 1834 and retained his seat until 1842. In the campaign of 1836 he went on record as an advocate of woman suffrage, a movement which then was decidedly not popular. He was also forming his views on slavery, to which he was always opposed on principle. He then believed, however, that Congress could not under the Constitution interfere with slavery where it existed. Meantime he had steadily continued his law studies, and in 1837 was admitted to the bar. In 1839 he set up an office with John T. Stuart as his partner, in Springfield, the newly established capital of Illinois. Two years later Lincoln formed another partnership with ex-Judge Stephen T. Logan, but this was dissolved in 1843, when the partners became rival candidates for election to Congress. Lincoln, though defeated this time, won a Congressional seat in 1846, and served one term.
        He gained no particular distinction in Congress, but he consistently voted and talked against slavery Meanwhile, in 1842, he had married Mary Todd, daughter of the Hon. Robert S. Todd, of Lexington, Ky. At the close of his term Lincoln resumed his law practice in Springfield, becoming one of the best known lawyers of the state. An excellent account of his method as a cross-examiner will be found in Edward Eggleston's The Graysons, in which an episode based on fact is narrated.

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