UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
the Class of 1901
HARLAN HOYT HORNER
HENRIETTA CALHOUN HORNER
A Book for Young Americans
BY JAMES BALDWIN
AMERICAN BOOK COMPANY
NEW YORK CINCINNATI CHICAGO
COPYRIGHT, 1896, 1897, BY
WERNER SCHOOL BOOK COMPANY
FOUR GREAT AMERICANS
E. P. 26
THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
I. WHEN WASHINGTON WAS A BOY 9
II. His HOMES 12
III. His SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLMASTERS . . . .14
IV. GOING TO SEA .... 18
V. THE YOUNG SURVEYOR 22
VI. THE OHIO COUNTRY 29
VII. A CHANGE OF CIRCUMSTANCES 32
VIII. A PERILOUS JOURNEY 35
IX. His FIRST BATTLE 38
X. THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR 40
XI. THE MUTTER1NGS OF THE STORM . . ... 46
XII. THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR 51
XIII. INDEPENDENCE . . . .... . 54
XIV. THE FIRST PRESIDENT 58
XV. "FIRST IN WAR, FIRST IN PEACE" .... 62
THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
I. THE WHISTLE 69
II. SCHOOLDAYS 72
III. THE BOYS AND THE WHARF 75
IV. CHOOSING A TRADE 77
V. How FRANKLIN EDUCATED HIMSELF .... 79
VI. FAREWELL TO BOSTON 83
VII. THE FIRST DAY IN PHILADELPHIA 85
VIII. GOVERNOR WILLIAM KEITH 89
IX. THE RETURN TO PHILADELPHIA 93
X. THE FIRST VISIT TO ENGLAND 96
XI. A LEADING MAN IN PHILADELPHIA .... 99
XII. FRANKLIN'S RULES OF LIFE 101
XIII. FRANKLIN'S SERVICES TO THE COLONIES . . .104
XIV. FRANKLIN'S WONDERFUL KITE 108
XV. THE LAST YEARS . 114
THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
I. CAPTAIN WEBSTER 121
II. THE YOUNGEST , SON 124
III. EZEKIEL AND DANIEL 128
IV. PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
V. AT EXETER ACADEMY
VI. GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE . .
VII. AT DARTMOUTH COLLEGE
VIII. How DANIEL TAUGHT SCHOOL
IX. DANIEL GOES TO BOSTON ' . ...
X. LAWYER AND CONGRESSMAN . . .
XI. THE DARTMOUTH COLLEGE CASE . . .
XII. WEBSTER'S GREAT ORATIONS . . . . .
XIII. MR. WEBSTER IN THE SENATE
XIV. MR. WEBSTER IN PRIVATE LIFE
XV. THE LAST YEARS .
I. THE KENTUCKY HOME 179
II. WORK AND SORROW . . . . . . . 184
III. THE NEW MOTHER 191
IV. SCHOOL AND BOOKS 194
V. LIFE IN THE BACKWOODS 198
VI. THE BOATMAN . . 201
VII. THE FIRST YEARS IN ILLINOIS 204
VIII. THE BLACK HAWK WAR 207
IX. IN THE LEGISLATURE . . . . . . .210
X. POLITICS AND MARRIAGE 214
XI. CONGRESSMAN AND LAWYER . . . . . .218
XII. THE QUESTION OF SLAVERY 221
XIII. LINCOLN AND DOUGLAS 225
XIV. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES . . . 229
XV. THE END OF A GREAT LIFE 233
THE STORY OF
I. WHEN WASHINGTON WAS A BOY
When George Washington was a boy there
was no United States. The land was here, just
as it is now, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean
to the Pacific ; but nearly all of it was wild and
Between the Atlantic Ocean and the Allegheny
Mountains there were thirteen colonies, or great
settlements. The most of the people who lived
in these colonies were English people, or the chil-
dren of English people ; and so the King of Eng-
land made their laws and appointed their
The newest of the colonies was Georgia, which
was settled the year after George Washington
The oldest colony was Virginia, which had
been settled one hundred and twenty-five years.
10 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
It was also the richest colony, and more people
were living in it than in any other.
There were only two or three towns in Virginia
at that time, and they were quite small.
Most of the people lived on farms or on big
plantations, where they raised whatever they
needed to eat. They also raised tobacco, which
they sent to England to be sold.
The farms, or plantations, were often far apart,
with stretches of thick woods between them.
Nearly every one was close to a river, or some
other large body of water ; for there are many
rivers in Virginia.
There were no roads, such as we have now-
adays, but only paths through the woods. When
people wanted to travel from place to place, they
had to go on foot, or on horseback, or in small
A few of the rich men who lived on the big
plantations had coaches ; and now and then they
would drive out in grand style behind four or six
horses, with a fine array of servants and outriders
following them. But they could not drive far
where there were no roads, and we can hardly
WHEN WASHINGTON WAS A BOY 11
understand how they could get any pleasure
out of it.
Nearly all the work on the plantations was
done by slaves. Ships had been bringing negroes
from Africa for more than a hundred years, and
now nearly half the people in Virginia were blacks.
Very often, also, poor white men from Eng-
land were sold as slaves for a few years in order
to pay for their passage across the ocean. When
their freedom was given to them they continued
to work at whatever they could find to do ; or
they cleared small farms in the woods for them-
selves, or went farther to the west and became
woodsmen and hunters.
There was but very little money in Virginia at
that time, and, indeed, there was not much use
for it. For what could be done with money
where there were no shops worth speaking of,
and no stores, and nothing to buy ?
The common people raised flax and wool, and
wove their own cloth ; and they made their own
tools and furniture. The rich people did the
same ; but for their better or finer goods they
sent to England.
12 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
For you must know that in all this country
there were no great mills for spinning and weav-
ing as there are now ; there were no factories
of any kind ; there were no foundries where iron
could be melted and shaped into all kinds of
useful and beautiful things.
When George Washington was a boy the world
was not much like it is now.
II. His HOMES
George Washington's father owned a large plan-
tation on the western shore of the Potomac River.
George's great-grandfather, John Washington,
had settled upon it nearly eighty years before,
and there the family had dwelt ever since.
This plantation was in Westmoreland county,
not quite forty miles above the place where the
Potomac flows into Chesapeake Bay. By looking
at your map of Virginia, you will see that the
river is very broad there.
On one side of the plantation, and flowing
through it, there was a creek, called Bridge's
Creek ; and for this reason the place was known
as the Bridge's Creek Plantation.
HIS HOMES 13
It was here, on the 22d of February, 1732, that
George Washington was born.
Although his father was a rich man, the house
in which he lived was neither very large nor
very fine at least it would not be thought
It was a square, wooden building, with four
rooms on the ground floor and an attic above.
The eaves were low, and the roof was long and
sloping. At each end of the house there was a
huge chimney ; and inside were big fireplaces,
one foj the kitchen and one for the "great room"
where visitors were received.
But George did not live long in this house.
When he was about three years old his father re-
moved to another plantation which he owned,
near Hunting Creek, several miles farther up the
river. This new plantation was at first known as
the Washington Plantation, but it is now called
Four years after this the house of the Washing-
tons was burned down. But Mr. Washington
had still other lands on the Rappahannock River.
He had also an interest in some iron mines that
14 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
were being opened there. And so to this place
the family was now taken.
The house by the Rappahannock was very
much like the one at Bridge's Creek. It stood on
high ground, overlooking the river and some low
meadows ; and on the other side of the river was
the village of Fredericksburg, which at that time
was a very small village, indeed.
George was now about seven years old.
III. His SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLMASTERS
There were no good schools in Virginia at that
time. In fact, the people did not care much about
There were few educated men besides the par-
sons, and even some of the parsons were very
It was the custom of some of the richest fam-
ilies to send their eldest sons to England to the
great schools there. But it is doubtful if these
young men learned much about books.
They spent a winter or two in the gay society
of London, and were taught the manners of gen-
tlemen and that was about all.
HIS SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLMASTERS 15
George Washington's father, when a young
man, had spent some time at Appleby School in
England, and George's half-brothers, Lawrence
and Augustine, who were several years older than
he, had been sent to the same school.
But book-learning was not thought to be of
much use. To know how to manage the busi-
ness of a plantation, to be polite to one's equals,
to be a leader in the affairs of the colony this
was thought to be the best education.
And so, for most of the young men, it was
enough if they could read and write a little and
keep a few simple accounts. As for the girls, the
parson might give them a few lessons now and
then ; and if they learned good manners and
could write letters to their friends, what more
could they need ?
George Washington's first teacher was a poor
sexton, whose name was Mr. Hobby. There is a
story that he had been too poor to pay his passage
from England, and that he had, therefore, been
sold to Mr. Washington as a slave for a short
time ; but how true this is, I cannot say.
From Mr. Hobby, George learned to spell
1 6 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
easy words, and perhaps to write a little ; but,
although he afterward became a very careful
and good penman, he was a poor speller as long
as he lived.
When George was about eleven years old his
father died. We do not know what his father's
intentions had been regarding him. But pos-
sibly, if he had lived, he would have given
George the best education that his means would
But now everything was changed. The plan-
tation at Hunting Creek, and, indeed, almost all
the rest of Mr. Washington's great estate, became
the property of the eldest son, Lawrence.
George was sent to Bridge's Creek to live for a
while with his brother Augustine, who now
owned the old home plantation there. The
mother and the younger children remained on
the Rappahannock farm.
While at Bridge's Creek, George was sent to
school to a Mr. Williams, who had lately come
There are still to be seen some exercises which
the lad wrote at that time. There is also a little
HIS SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLMASTERS 17
book, called The Young Mans Companion, from
which he copied, with great care, a set of rules
for good behavior and right living.
Not many boys twelve years old would care
for such a book nowadays. But you must know
that in those days there were no books for chil-
dren, and, indeed, very few for older people.
The maxims and wise sayings which George
copied were, no doubt, very interesting to him
so interesting that many of them were never
There are many other things also in this Young
Mans Companion, and we have reason to be-
lieve that George studied them all.
There are short chapters on arithmetic and
surveying, rules for the measuring of land and
lumber, and a set of forms for notes, deeds, and
other legal documents. A knowledge of these
things was, doubtless, of greater importance to
him than the reading of many books would have
Just what else George may have studied in
Mr. Williams's school I cannot say. But all this
time he was growing to be a stout, manly boy,
1 8 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
tall and strong, and well-behaved. And both
his brothers and himself were beginning to think
of what he should do when he should become a
IV. GOING TO SEA
Once every summer a ship came up the river
to the plantation, and was moored near the shore.
It had come across the sea from far-away Eng-
land, and it brought many things for those who
were rich enough to pay for them.
It brought bonnets and pretty dresses for
George's mother and sisters ; it brought perhaps
a hat and a tailor-made suit for himself; it
brought tools and furniture, and once a yellow
coach that had been made in London, for his
When all these things had been taken ashore,
the ship would hoist her sails and go on, farther
up the river, to leave goods at other plantations.
In a few weeks it would come back and be
moored again at the same place.
Then there was a busy time on shore. The
tobacco that had been raised during the last year
GOING TO SEA 19
must be carried on shipboard to be taken to the
great tobacco markets in England.
The slaves on the plantation were running back
and forth, rolling barrels and carrying bales of
tobacco down to the landing.
Letters were written to friends in England,,
and orders were made out for the goods that
were to be brought back next year.
But in a day or two, all this stir was over. The
sails were again spread, and the ship glided away
on its long voyage across the sea.
George had seen this ship coming and going
every year since he could remember. He must
have thought how pleasant it would be to sail
away to foreign lands and see the many wonder-
ful things that are there.
And then, like many another active boy, he
began to grow tired of the quiet life on the farm,
and wish that he might be a sailor.
He was now about fourteen years old. Since
the death of his father, his mother had found it
hard work, with her five children, to manage her
farm on the Rappahannock and make everything
come out even at the end of each year. Was it
20 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
not time that George should be earning some-
thing for himself ? But what should he do ?
He wanted to go to sea. His brother Law-
rence, and even his mother, thought that this
might be the best thing.
A bright boy like George would not long be a
common sailor. He would soon make his way
to a high place in the king's navy. So, at least,
his friends believed.
And so the matter was at last settled. A sea-
captain who was known to the family, agreed to
take George with him. He was to sail in a short
The day came. His mother, his brothers, his
sisters, were all there to bid him good-bye. But
in the meanwhile a letter had come to his mother,
from his uncle who lived in England.
"If you care for the boy's future," said the
letter, "do not let him go to sea. Places in the
king's navy are not easy to obtain. If he begins
as a sailor, he will never be aught else."
The letter convinced George's mother it half
convinced his brothers that this going to sea
would be a sad mistake. But George, like other
GOING TO SEA 21
boys of his age, was headstrong. He would not
listen to reason. A sailor he would be.
The ship was in the river waiting for him. A
boat had come to the landing to take him on
The little chest which held his clothing had
been carried down to the bank. George was in
high glee at the thought of going.
" Good-bye, mother," he said.
He stood on the doorstep and looked back into
the house. He saw the kind faces of those whom
he loved. He began to feel very sad at the
thought of leaving them.
"Good-bye, George !"
He saw the tears welling up in his mother's
eyes. He saw them rolling down her cheeks.
He knew now that she did not want him to go.
He could not bear to see her grief.
"Mother, I have changed my mind," he. said.
"I will not be a sailor. I will not leave you."
Then he turned to the black boy who was
waiting by the door, and said, "Run down to the
landing and tell them not to put the chest on
board. Tell them that I have thought differently
22 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
of the matter and that I am going to stay at
If George had not changed his mind, but had
really gone to sea, how very different the history
of this country would have been !
He now went to his studies with a better will
than before ; and although he read but few books
he learned much that was useful to him in life.
He studied surveying with especial care, and
made himself as thorough in that branch of
knowledge as it was possible to do with so few
V. - - THE YOUNG SURVEYOR
Lawrence Washington was about fourteen
years older than his brother George.
As I have already said, he had been to Eng-
land and had spent some time at Appleby School.
He had served in the king's army for a little
while, and had been with Admiral Vernon's
squadron in the West Indies.
He had formed so great a liking for the ad-
miral that when he came home he changed the
name of his plantation at Hunting Creek, and
THE YOUNG SURVEYOR 23
called it Mount Vernon a name by which it is
Not far from Mount Vernon there was another
fine plantation called Belvoir, that was owned
by William Fairfax, an English gentleman of
much wealth and influence. Now this Mr. Fairfax
had a young daughter, as wise as she was beauti-
ful ; and so, what should Lawrence Washington
do but ask her to be his wife ? He built a large
house at Mount Vernon with a great porch front-
ing on the Potomac ; and when Miss Fairfax be-
came Mrs. Washington and went into this home as
its mistress, people said that there was not a hand-
somer or happier young couple in all Virginia.
After. young George Washington had changed
his mind about going to sea, he went up to
Mount Vernon to live with his elder brother.
For Lawrence had great love for the boy, and
treated him as his father would have done.
At Mount Vernon George kept on with his'
studies in surveying. He had a compass and
surveyor's chain, and hardly a day passed that
he was not out on the plantation, running lines
and measuring his brother's fields.
24 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
Sometimes when he was busy at this kind of
work, a tall, white-haired gentleman would come
over from Belvoir to see what he was doing and to
talk with him. This gentleman was Sir Thomas
Fairfax, a cousin of the owner of Belvoir. He
was sixty years old, and had lately come from
England to look after his lands in Virginia ; for
he was the owner of many thousands of acres
among the mountains and in the wild woods.
Sir Thomas was a courtly old gentleman, and he
had seen much of the world. He was a fine scholar ;
he had been a soldier, and then a man of letters ;
and he belonged to a rich and noble family.
It was not long until he and George were the
best of friends. Often they would spend the
morning together, talking or surveying ; and in
the afternoon they would ride out with servants
and hounds, hunting foxes and making fine sport
of it among the woods and hills.
And when Sir Thomas Fairfax saw how manly
and brave his young friend was, and how very
exact and careful in all that he did, he said :
" Here is a boy who gives promise of great things.
I can trust him."
THE YOUNG SURVEYOR 25
Before the winter was over he had made a
bargain with George to survey his lands that lay
beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I have already told you that at this time nearly
all the country west of the mountains was a wild
and unknown region. In fact, all the western
part of Virginia was an unbroken wilderness,
with only here and there a hunter's camp or the
solitary hut of some daring woodsman.
But Sir Thomas hoped that by having the land
surveyed, and some part of it laid out into farms,
people might be persuaded to go there and
settle. And who in all the colony could do
this work better than his young friend George
It was a bright day in March, 1748, when
George started out on his first trip across the
mountains. His only company was a young son
of William Fairfax of Belvoir.
The two friends were mounted on good horses ;
and both had guns, for there was fine hunting in
the woods. It was nearly a hundred miles to
the mountain-gap through which they passed into
the country beyond. As there were no roads,
26 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
but only paths through the forest, they could not
travel very fast.
After several days they reached the beautiful
valley of the Shenandoah. They now began
their surveying. They went up the river for
some distance ; then they crossed and went down
on the other side. At last they reached the Poto- '
mac River, near where Harpers Ferry now stands.
At night they slept sometimes by a camp fire
in the woods, and sometimes in the rude hut of
a settler or a hunter. They were often wet and
cold. They cooked their meat by broiling it on
sticks above the coals. They ate without dishes,
and drank water from the running streams.
One day they met a party of Indians, the first
red men they had seen. There were thirty of
them, with their bodies painted in true savage
style ; for they were just going home from a war
with some other tribe.
The Indians were very friendly to the young
surveyors. It was evening, and they built a huge
fire under the trees. Then they danced their
war dance around it, and sang and yelled and
made hideous sport until far in the night.
THE YOUNG SURVEYOR 27
To George and his friend it was a strange sight ;
but they were brave young men, and not likely
to be afraid even though the danger had been
They had many other adventures in the woods
of which I cannot tell you in this little book -
shooting wild game, swimming rivers, climbing
mountains. But about the middle of April they
returned in safety to Mount Vernon.
It would seem that the object of this first trip
was to get a general knowledge of the extent of
Sir Thomas Fairfax's great woodland estate to
learn where the richest bottom lands lay, and
where were the best hunting grounds.
The young men had not done much if any real
surveying ; they had been exploring.
George Washington had written an account of
everything in a little notebook which he carried
Sir Thomas was so highly pleased with the re-
port which the young men brought back that he
made up his mind to move across the Blue Ridge
and spend the rest of his life on his own lands.
And so, that very summer, he built in the
28 THE STOKY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
midst of the great woods a hunting lodge which
he called Greenway Court. It was a large, square
house, with broad gables and a long roof sloping
almost to the ground.
When he moved into this lodge he expected
soon to build a splendid mansion and make a
grand home there, like the homes he had known
in England. But time passed, and as the lodge
was roomy and comfortable, he still lived in it
and put off beginning another house.
Washington was now seventeen years old.
Through the influence of Sir Thomas Fairfax he
was appointed public surveyor ; and nothing would
do but that he must spend the most of his time
at Greenway Court and keep on with the work
that he had begun.
For the greater part of three years he worked
in the woods and among the mountains, survey-
ing Sir Thomas's lands. And Sir Thomas paid
him well a doubloon ($8.24) for each day, and
more than that if the work was very hard.
But there were times when the young surveyor
did not go out to work, but stayed at Greenway
Court with his good friend, Sir Thomas. The
THE OHIO COUNTRY 29
old gentleman had something of a library, and
on days when they could neither work nor hunt,
George spent the time in reading. He read the
Spectator and a history of England, and possibly
some other works.
And so it came about that the three years which
young Washington spent in surveying were of
much profit to him.
The work in the open air gave him health and
strength. He gained courage and self-reliance.
He became acquainted with the ways of the back-
woodsmen and of the savage Indians. And from
Sir Thomas Fairfax he learned a great deal about
the history, the laws, and the military affairs of
And in whatever he undertook to do or to learn,
he was careful and systematic and thorough.
He did nothing by guess ; he never left anything
half done. And therein, let me say to you, lie
the secrets of success in any calling.
VI. - - THE OHIO COUNTRY
You have already learned how the English
people had control of all that part of our country
30 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
which borders upon the Atlantic Ocean. You
have learned, also, that they had made thirteen
great settlements along the coast, while all the
vast region west of the mountains remained a
wild and unknown land.
Now, because Englishmen had been the first
white men to see the line of shore that stretches
from Maine to Georgia, they set up a claim to all
the land west of that line.
They had no idea how far the land extended.
They knew almost nothing about its great rivers,
its vast forests, its lofty mountains, its rich
prairies. They cared nothing for the claims of
the Indians whose homes were there.
"All the land from ocean to ocean," they said,
''belongs to the King of England."
But there were other people who also had
something to say about this matter.
The French had explored the Mississippi River.
They had sailed on the Great Lakes. Their
hunters and trappers were roaming through the
western forests. They had made treaties with
the Indians ; and they had built trading posts,
here and there, along the watercourses.
THE OHIO COUNTRY 31
They said, 'The English people may keep
their strip of land between the mountains and
the sea. But these great river valleys and this
country around the Lakes are ours, because we
have been the first to explore and make use of
Now, about the time that George Washington
was thinking of becoming a sailor, some of the
rich planters in Virginia began to hear wonder-
ful stories about a fertile region west of the Al-
leghenies, watered by a noble river, and rich in
game and fur-bearing animals.
This region was called the Ohio Country, from
the name of the river ; and those who took pains
to learn the most about it were satisfied that it
would, at some time, be of very great importance
to the people who should control it.
And so these Virginian planters and certain
Englishmen formed a company called the Ohio
Company, the object of which was to explore
the country, and make money by establishing
trading posts and settlements there. And of
this company, Lawrence Washington was one of
the chief managers.
32 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
Lawrence Washington and his brother George
had often talked about this enterprise.
"We shall have trouble with the French," said
Lawrence. "They have already sent men into
the Ohio Country ; and they are trying in every
way to prove that the land belongs to them."
"It looks as if we should have to drive them
out by force," said George.
"Yes, and there will probably be some hard
fighting," said Lawrence; "and you, as a young
man, must get yourself ready to have a hand
And Lawrence followed this up by persuading
the governor of the colony to appoint George as
one of the adjutants-general of Virginia.
George was only nineteen years old, but he
was now Major Washington, and one of the
most promising soldiers in America.
VII. A CHANGE OF CIRCUMSTANCES
Although George Washington spent so much
of his time at Greenway Court, he still called
Mount Vernon his home.
Going down home in the autumn, just before
A CHANGE OF CIRCUMSTANCES 33
he was twenty years old, he found matters in a
sad state, and greatly changed.
His brother Lawrence was very ill -- indeed, he
had been ill a long time. He had tried a trip to
' England ; he had spent a summer at the warm
springs ; but all to no purpose. He was losing
strength every day.
The sick man dreaded the coming of cold
weather. If he could only go to the warm West
Indies before winter set in, perhaps that would
prolong his life. Would George go with him ?
No loving brother could refuse a request like
The captain of a ship in the West India trade
agreed to take them ; and so, while it was still
pleasant September, the two Washingtons em-
barked for Barbadoes, which, then as now, be-
longed to the English.
It was the first time that George had ever been
outside of his native land, and it proved to be
also the last. He took careful notice of every-
thing that he saw ; and, in the little notebook
which he seems to have always had with him, he
wrote a brief account of the trip.
34 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
He had not been three weeks at Barbadoes
before he was taken down with the smallpox ;
and for a month he was very sick. And so his
winter in the West Indies could not have been
In February the two brothers returned home
to Mount Vernon. Lawrence's health had not
been bettered by the journey. He was now very
feeble ; but he lingered on until July, when he
By his will Lawrence Washington left his fine
estate of Mount Vernon, and all the rest of his
wealth, to his little daughter. But George was
to be the daughter's guardian ; and in case of
her death, all her vast property was to be his
And so, before he was quite twenty-one years
old, George Washington was settled at Mount Ver-
non as the manager of one of the richest estates
in Virginia. The death of his little niece not
long afterward made him the owner of this es-
tate, and, of course, a very wealthy man.
But within a brief time, events occurred which
called him away from his peaceful employments.
A PERILOUS JOURNEY 35
VIII. A PERILOUS JOURNEY
Early the very next year news was brought to
Virginia that the French were building forts
along the Ohio, and making friends with the In-
dians there. This of course meant that they in-
tended to keep the English out of that country.
The governor of Virginia thought that the time
had come to speak out about this matter. He
would send a messenger with a letter to these
Frenchmen, telling them that all the land be-
longed to the English, and that no trespassing
would be allowed.
The first messenger that he sent became
alarmed before he was within a hundred miles of
a Frenchman, and went back to say that every-
thing was as good as lost.
It was very plain that a man with some cour-
age must be chosen for such an undertaking.
"I will send Major George Washington," said
the governor. "He is very young, but he is the
bravest man in the colony."
Now, promptness was one of those traits of
character which made George Washington the
36 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
great man which he afterward became. And
so, on the very day that he received his appoint-
ment he set out for the Ohio Country.
He took with him three white hunters, two In-
dians, and a famous woodsman, whose name was
Christopher Gist. A small tent or two, and such
few things as they would need on the journey,
were strapped on the backs of horses.
They pushed through the woods in a north-
westwardly direction, and at last reached a place
called Venango, not very far from where Pitts-
burgh now stands. This was the first outpost of
the French ; and there Washington met some of
the French officers, and heard them talk about
what they proposed to do.
Then, after a long ride to the north, they came
to another fort. The French commandant was
here, and he welcomed Washington with a great
show of kindness.
Washington gave him the letter which he had
brought from the governor of Virginia.
The commandant read it, and two days after-
ward gave him an answer.
He said that he would forward the letter to the
A PERILOUS JOURNEY 37
French governor ; but as for the Ohio Country,
he had been ordered to hold it, and he meant to
Of course Washington could do nothing fur-
ther. But it was plain to him that the news ought
to be carried back to Virginia without delay.
It was now midwinter. As no horse could
travel through the trackless woods at this time
of year, he must make his way on foot.
So, with only the woodsman, Gist, he shouldered
his rifle and knapsack, and bravely started home.
It was a terrible journey. The ground was
covered with snow ; the rivers were frozen ; there
was not even a path through the forest. If Gist
had not been so fine a woodsman they would
hardly have seen Virginia again.
Once an Indian shot at Washington from be-
hind a tree. Once the brave young man fell into
a river, among floating ice, and would have been
drowned but for Gist.
At last they reached the house of a trader on
the Monongahela River. There they were kindly
welcomed, and urged to stay until the weather
should grow milder.
38 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
But Washington would not delay.
Sixteen days after that, he was back in Vir-
ginia, telling the governor all about his adven-
tures, and giving his opinion about the best way
to deal with the French.
IX. --His FIRST BATTLE
It was now very plain that if the English were
going to hold the Ohio Country and the vast
western region which they claimed as their own,
they must fight for it.
The people of Virginia were not very anxious
to go to war. But their governor was not willing
to be beaten by the French.
He made George Washington a lieutenant-
colonel of Virginia troops and set about raising
an army to send into the Ohio Country.
Early in the spring Colonel Washington, with
a hundred and fifty men, was marching across the
country toward the head waters of the Ohio. It
was a small army to advance against the thousands
of French and Indians who now held that region.
But other officers, with stronger forces, were
expected to follow close behind.
HIS FIRST BATTLE 39
Late in May the little army reached the valley
of the Monongahela, and began to build a fort
at a place called Great Meadows.
By this time the French and Indians were
aroused, and hundreds of them were hurrying
forward to defend the Ohio Country from the
English. One of their scouting parties, coming
up the river, was met by Washington with forty
The French were not expecting any foe at this
place. There were but thirty-two of them ; and
of these only one escaped. Ten were killed, and
the rest were taken prisoners.
This was Washington's first battle, and he was
more proud of it than you might suppose. He
sent his prisoners to Virginia, and was ready
now, with his handful of men, to meet all the
French and Indians that might come against him !
And they did come, and in greater numbers
than he had expected. He made haste to finish,
if possible, the fort that had been begun.
But they were upon him before he was ready.
They had four men to his one. They surrounded
the fort and shut his little Virginian army in.
40 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
What could Colonel Washington do ? His
soldiers were already half-starved. There was
but little food in the fort, and no way to get any
The French leader asked if he did not think it
would be a wise thing to surrender. Washington
hated the very thought of it ; but nothing else
could be done.
"If you will march your men straight home
and give me a pledge that they and all Virginians
will stay out of the Ohio Country for the next
twelve months, you may go," said the Frenchman.
It was done.
Washington, full of disappointment, went back
to Mount Vernon. But he felt more like fighting
than ever before.
He was now twenty-two years old.
X. --THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR
In the meanwhile the King of England had
heard how the French were building forts along
the Ohio and how they were sending their traders
to the Great Lakes and to the valley of the
THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR 41
"If we allow them to go on in this way, they
will soon take all that vast western country away
from us," he said.
And so, the very next winter, he sent over an
army under General Edward Braddock to drive
the French out of that part of America and
at the same time teach their Indian friends a
It was in February, 1755, when General Brad-
dock and his troops went into camp at Alexan-
dria in Virginia. As Alexandria was only a few
miles from Mount Vernon, Washington rode over
to see the fine array and become acquainted with
When General Braddock heard that this was
the young man who had ventured so boldly into
the Ohio Country, he offered him a place on his
staff. This was very pleasing to Washington, for
there was nothing more attractive to him than
It was several weeks before the army was ready
to start : and then it moved so slowly that it did
not reach the Monongahela until July.
The soldiers in their fine uniforms made a
42 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
splendid appearance as they marched in regular
order across the country.
Benjamin Franklin, one of the wisest men in
America, had told General Braddock that his
greatest danger would be from unseen foes hidden
among the underbrush and trees.
'They may be dangerous to your backwoods-
men," said Braddock; "but to the trained sol-
diers of the king they can give no trouble at all."
But scarcely had the army crossed the Mo-
nongahela when it was fired upon by unseen
enemies. The woods rang with the cries of
The soldiers knew not how to return the fire.
They were shot down in their tracks like animals
in a pen.
"Let the men take to the shelter of the trees !"
was Washington's advice.
But Braddock would not listen to it. They
must keep in order and fight as they had been
trained to fight.
Washington rode hither and thither trying his
best to save the day. Two horses were shot under
him ; four bullets passed through his coat ; and
THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR 43
still he was unhurt. The Indians thought that he
bore a charmed life, for none of them could hit him.
It was a dreadful affair more like a slaughter
than a battle. Seven hundred of Braddock's fine
soldiers, and more than half of his officers, were
killed or wounded. And all this havoc was
made by two hundred Frenchmen and about six
hundred Indians hidden among the trees.
At last Braddock gave the order to retreat. It
soon became a wild flight rather than a retreat ;
and yet, had it not been for Washington, it would
have been much worse.
The General himself had been fatally wounded.
There was no one but Washington who could
restore courage to the frightened men, and lead
them safely from the place of defeat.
Four days after the battle General Braddock
died, and the remnant of the army, being now
led by a Colonel Dunbar, hurried back to the
Of all the men who took part in that unfortu-
nate expedition against the French, there was
only one who gained any renown therefrom,
and that one was Colonel George Washington.
44 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
He went back to Mount Vernon, wishing never
to be sent to the Ohio Country again.
The people of Virginia were so fearful lest
the French and Indians should follow up their
victory and attack the settlements, that they
quickly raised a regiment of a thousand men to
defend their colony. . And so highly did they
esteem Colonel Washington that they made him
commander of all the forces of the colony, to do
with them as he might deem best.
The war with the French for the possession of
the Ohio Country and the valley of the Missis-
sippi, had now fairly begun. It would be more
than seven years before it came to an end.
But most of the fighting was done at the north
- in New York and Canada ; and so Washington
and his Virginian soldiers did not distinguish
themselves in any very great enterprise.
It was for them to keep watch of the western
frontier of the colony lest the Indians should cross
the mountains and attack the settlements.
Once, near the middle of the war, Washington
led a company into the very country where he
had once traveled on foot with Christopher Gist.
THE FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR 45
The French had built a fort at the place where
the Ohio River has its beginning, and they had
named it Fort Duquesne. When they heard
that Washington was coming they set fire to the
fort and fled down the river in boats.
The English built a new fort at the same place,
and called it Fort Pitt ; and there the city oi
Pittsburgh has since grown up.
And now Washington resigned his commis-
sion as commander of the little Virginian army.
Perhaps he was tired of the war. Perhaps his
great plantation of Mount Vernon needed his
care. We cannot tell.
But we know that, a few days later, he was
married to Mrs. Martha Custis, a handsome
young widow who owned a fine estate not a great
way from Williamsburg, the capital of the colony.
This was in January, 1759.
At about the same time he was elected a mem-
ber of the House of Burgesses of Virginia ; and
three months later, he went down to Williams-
burg to have a hand in making some of the laws
for the colony.
He was now twenty-seven years old. Young
46 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
as he was, he was one of the richest men in the
colony, and he was known throughout the country
as the bravest of American soldiers.
The war was still going on at the north. To
most of the Virginians it seemed to be a thing
At last, in 1763, a treaty of peace was made.
The French had been beaten, and they were
obliged to give up everything to the English.
They lost not only the Ohio Country and all the
great West, but Canada also.
XL --THE MUTTERINGS OF THE STORM
And now for several years Washington lived
the life of a country gentleman. He had enough
to do, taking care of his plantations, hunting
foxes with his sport-loving neighbors, and sitting
for a part of each year in the House of Burgesses
He was a tall man -- more than six feet in
height. He had a commanding presence and a
noble air, which plainly said : 'This is no
He was shrewd in business. He was the best
. ' ^
48 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
horseman and the best walker in Virginia. And
no man knew more about farming than he.
And so the years passed pleasantly enough at
Mount Vernon, and there were few who dreamed
of the great events and changes that were soon
to take place.
King George the Third of England, who was
the ruler of the thirteen colonies, had done many
He had made laws forbidding the colonists
from trading with other countries than his own.
He would not let them build factories to weave
their wool and flax into cloth.
x He wanted to force them to buy all their goods
in England, and to send their corn and tobacco
and cotton there to pay for them.
And now after the long war with France he
wanted to make the colonists pay heavy taxes in
order to meet the expenses of that war.
They must not drink a cup of tea without first
paying tax on it ; they must not sign a deed or a
note without first buying stamped paper on which
to write it.
In every colony there was great excitement on
THE MUTTERINGS OF THE STORM 49
account of the tea tax and the stamp act, as it
In the House of Burgesses at Williamsburg, a
young man, whose name was Patrick Henry, made
a famous speech in which he declared that the king
had no right to tax them without their consent.
George Washington heard that speech, and
gave it his approval.
Not long afterward, news came that in Boston
a shipload of tea had been thrown into the sea
by the colonists. Rather than pay the tax upon
it, they would drink no tea.
Then, a little later, still other news came. The
king had closed the port of Boston, and would
not allow any ships to come in or go out.
More than this, he had sent over a body of
soldiers, and had quartered them in Boston in
-order to keep the people in subjection.
The whole country was aroused now. What
did this mean ? Did the king intend to take
away from the colonists all the liberties that are
so dear to men ?
The colonies must unite and agree upon doing
something to protect themselves and preserve
50 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
their freedom. In order to do this each colony
was asked to send delegates to Philadelphia to
talk over the matter and see what would be the
best thing to do.
George Washington was one of the delegates
Before starting he made a great speech in the
House of Burgesses. "If necessary, I will raise a
thousand men," he said, "subsist them at my
own expense, and march them to the relief of
But the time for marching to Boston had not
The delegates from the different colonies met
in Carpenter's Hall, in Philadelphia, on the 5th
of September, 1774. Their meeting has since
been known as the First Continental Congress of
For fifty-one days those wise, thoughtful men
discussed the great question that had brought
them together. What could the colonists do to
escape the oppressive laws that the King of Eng-
land was trying to force upon them ?
Many powerful speeches were made, but
THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR 51
George Washington sat silent. He was a doer
rather than a talker.
At last the Congress decided to send an ad-
dress to the king to remind him of the rights of
the colonists, and humbly beg that he would not
enforce his unjust laws.
And then, when all had been done that could
be done, Washington went back to his home at
Mount Vernon, to his family and his friends, his
big plantations, his fox-hunting, and his pleasant
life as a country gentleman.
But he knew as well as any man that more
serious work was near at hand.
XII. - -THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR
All that winter the people of the colonies were
anxious and fearful. Would the king pay any
heed to their petition ? Or would he force them
to obey his unjust laws ?
Then, in the spring, news came from Boston
that matters were growing worse and worse.
The soldiers who were quartered in that city were
daily becoming more insolent and overbearing.
'These people ought to have their town knocked
52 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
about their ears and destroyed," said one of the
On the igth of April a company of the king's
soldiers started to Concord, a few miles from
Boston, to seize some powder which had been
stored there. Some of the colonists met them
at Lexington, and there was a battle.
This was the first battle in that long war com-
monly called the Revolution.
Washington was now on his way to the North
again. The Second Continental Congress was to
meet in Philadelphia in May, and he was again
a delegate from Virginia.
In the first days of the Congress no man was
busier than he. No man seemed to understand
the situation of things better than he. No man
was listened to with greater respect ; and yet he
said but little.
Every day, he came into the hall wearing the
blue and buff uniform which belonged to him as
a Virginia colonel. It was as much as to say :
'The time for fighting has come, and I am
The Congress thought it best to send another
THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR 53
humble petition to the king, asking him not to
deprive the people of their just rights.
In the meantime brave men were flocking
towards Boston to help the people defend them-
selves from the violence of the king's soldiers.
The war had begun, and no mistake.
The men of Congress saw now the necessity of
providing for this war. They asked, "Who shall
be the commander-in-chief of our colonial army ?"
It was hardly worth while to ask such a ques-
tion ; for there could be but one answer. Who,
but George Washington ?
No other person in America knew so much
about war as he. No other person was so well
fitted to command.
On the 1 5th of June, on motion of John Adams
of Massachusetts, he was appointed to that re-
sponsible place. On the next day he made a
modest but noble little speech before Congress.
He told the members of that body that he
would serve his country willingly and as well as
he could -- but not for money. They might pro-
vide for his necessary expenses, but he would
never take any pay for his services.
54 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
And so, leaving all his own interests out of
sight, he undertook at once the great work that
had been entrusted to him. He undertook it,
not for profit nor for honor, but because of a feel-
ing of duty to his fellow-men. For eight weary
years he forgot himself in the service of his
Two weeks after his appointment General
Washington rode into Cambridge, near Boston,
and took formal command of his army.
It was but a small force, poorly clothed, poorly
armed ; but every man had the love of country
in his heart. It was the first American army.
But so well did Washington manage matters
that soon his raw troops were in good shape for
service. And so hard did he press the king's sol-
diers in Boston that, before another summer, they
were glad to take ship and sail away from the
town which they had so long infested and an-
XIII. -- INDEPENDENCE
On the fourth day of the following July there
was a great stir in the town of Philadelphia.
Congress was sitting in the Hall of the State
House. The streets were full of people ; every-
body seemed anxious ; everybody was in sus-
Men were crowding around the State House
"Who is speaking now ?" asked one.
"John Adams," was the answer.
"And who is speaking now ?"
"Good ! Let them follow his advice, for he
knows what is best."
Then there was a lull outside, for everybody
wanted to hear what the great Dr. Franklin had
After a while the same question was asked
again: "Who is speaking now?"
And the answer was: 'Thomas Jefferson of
Virginia. It was he and Franklin who wrote it."
"Why, the Declaration of Independence, of
A little later some one said : "They will be
ready to sign it soon."
56 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
"But will they dare to sign it ?"
"Dare ? They dare not do otherwise."
Inside the hall grave men were discussing the
acts of the King of England.
"He has cut off our trade with all parts of the
world," said one.
"He has forced us to pay taxes without our
consent," said another.
"He has sent his soldiers among us to burn
our towns and kill our people," said a third.
"He has tried to make the Indians our ene-
mies," said a fourth.
"He is a tyrant and unfit to be the ruler of a
free people," agreed they all.
And then everybody was silent while one read :
"We, therefore, the representatives of the United
States of America, solemnly publish and declare
that the united colonies are, and of right ought
to be, free and independent states "
Soon afterward the bell in the high tower
above the hall began to ring.
"It is done!" cried the people. 'They have
signed the Declaration of Independence."
"Yes, every colony has voted for it," said those
nearest the door. ''The King of England shall
no longer rule over us."
And that was the way in which the United
States came into being. The thirteen colonies
were now thirteen states.
Up to this time Washington and his army had
been righting for the rights of the people as col-
onists. They had been fighting in order to oblige
the king to do away with the unjust laws which
he had made. But now they were to fight for
freedom and for the independence of the United
By and by you will read in your histories how
wisely and bravely Washington conducted the
war. You will learn how he held out against
the king's soldiers on Long Island and at White
Plains ; how he crossed the Delaware amid float-
ing ice and drove the English from Trenton ;
how he wintered at Morristown ; how he suffered
at Valley Forge ; how he fought at Germantown .
and Monmouth and Yorktown.
There were six years of fighting, of marching
here and there, of directing and planning, of
struggling in the face of every discouragement.
58 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
Eight years passed, and then peace came, for
independence had been won, and this our country
was made forever free.
On the 2d of November, 1783, Washington
bade farewell to his army. On the 23d of De-
cember he resigned his commission as commander-
There were some who suggested that Wash-
ington should make himself king of this country ;
and indeed this he might have done, so great
was the people's love and gratitude.
But the great man spurned such suggestions.
He said, "If you have any regard for your country
or respect for me, banish those thoughts and
never again speak of them."
XIV. - - THE FIRST PRESIDENT
Washington was now fifty-two years old.
The country was still in an unsettled con-
dition. True, it was free from English control.
But there was no strong government to hold
the states together.
Each state was a little country of itself, mak-
ing its own laws, and having its own selfish aims
THE FIRST PRESIDENT 59
without much regard for its sister states. People
did not think of the United States as one great
And so matters were in bad enough shape, and
they grew worse and worse as the months went by.
Wise men saw that unless something should
be done to bring about a closer union of the
states, they would soon be in no better condition
than when ruled by the English king.
And so a great convention was held in Phila-
delphia to determine what could be done to save
the country from ruin. George Washington was
chosen to preside over this convention ; and no
man's words had greater weight than his.
He said, "Let us raise a standard to which the
wise and honest can repair. The event is in the
hand of God."
That convention did a great and wonderful
work ; for it framed the Constitution by which
our country has ever since been governed.
And soon afterwards, in accordance with that
Constitution, the people of the country were
called upon to elect a President. Who should it
60 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
Who could it be but Washington ?
When the electoral votes were counted, every
vote was for George Washington of Virginia.
And so, on the i6th of April, 1789, the great
man again bade adieu to Mount Vernon and to
private life, and set out for New York. For the
city of Washington had not yet been built, and
New York was the first capital of our country.
There were no railroads at that time, and so
the journey was made in a coach. All along the
road the people gathered to see their hero-pres-
ident and show him their love.
On the 3Oth of April he was inaugurated at
the old Federal Hall in New York.
"Long live George Washington, President of
the United States !" shouted the people. Then
the cannon roared, the bells rang, and the new
government of the United States the govern-
ment which we have to-day began its exist-
Washington was fifty-seven years old at the
time of his inauguration.
Perhaps no man was ever 'called to the doing
of more difficult things. The entire government
THE FIRST PRESIDENT 6l
must be built up from the beginning, and all its
machinery put into order.
But so well did he meet the expectations of
the people, that when his first term was near its
close he was again elected President, receiving
every electoral vote.
In your histories you will learn of the many
difficult tasks which he performed during those
years of the nation's infancy. There were new
troubles with England, troubles with the In-
dians, jealousies and disagreements among the
law-makers of the country. But amidst all these
trials Washington stood steadfast, wise, cool -
conscious that he was right, and strong enough
Before the end of his second term, people began
to talk about electing him for the third time.
They could not think of any other man holding
the highest office in the country. They feared
that no other man could be safely entrusted with
the great responsibilities which he had borne so
But Washington declared that he would not
accept office again. The government was now
62 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
on a firm footing. There were others who could
manage its affairs wisely and well.
And so, in September, 1796, he published his
Farewell Address. It was full of wise and whole-
"Beware of attacks upon the Constitution.
Beware of those who think more of their party
than of their country. Promote education. Ob-
serve justice. Treat with good faith all nations.
Adhere to the right. Be united --be united.
Love your country." These were some of the
things that he said.
John Adams, who had been, vice-pres-
ident eight years, was chosen to be the new
President, and Washington again retired to
XV. --"FIRST IN WAR, FIRST IN PEACE"
In the enjoyment of his home life, Washington
did not forget his country. It would, indeed,
have been hard for him not to keep informed
about public affairs ; for men were all the time
coming to him to ask for help and advice regard-
ing this measure or that.
"FIRST IN WAR, FIRST IN PEACE" 63
The greatest men of the nation felt that he
must know what was wisest and best for the
Soon after his retirement an unexpected trouble
arose. There was another war between England
and France. The French were very anxious that
the United States should join in the quarrel.
When they could not bring this about by per-
suasion, they tried abuse. They insulted the
officers of our government ; they threatened war.
The whole country was aroused. Congress be-
gan to take steps for the raising of an army and
the building of a navy. But who should lead the
All eyes were again turned toward Washing-
ton. He had saved the country once ; he could
save it again. The President asked him if he
would again be the commander-in-chief.
He answered that he would do so, on condi-
tion that he might choose his assistants. But
unless the French should actually invade this
country, he must not be expected to go into the
And so, at the last, General Washington is
64 THE STORY OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
again the commander-in-chief of the American
army. But there is to be no fighting this time.
The French see that the people of the United
States cannot be frightened ; they see that the
government cannot be driven ; they leave off
their abuse, and are ready to make friends.
Washington's work is done now. On the I2th
of December, 1799, he mounts his horse and rides
out over his farms. The weather is cold ; the
snow is falling ; but he stays out for two or three
The next morning he has a sore throat ; he has
taken cold. The snow is still falling, but he will
go out again. At night he is very hoarse ; he is
advised to take medicine.
"Oh, no," he answers, "you know I never
take anything for a cold."
But in the night he grows much worse ; early
the next morning the doctor is brought. It is
too late. He grows rapidly worse. He knows
that the end is near.
" It is well," he says ; and these are his last words.
Washington died on the I4th of December,
1799. He had lived nearly sixty-eight years.
"FIRST IN WAR, FIRST IN PEACE" 65
His sudden death was a shock to the entire
country. Every one felt as though he had lost a
personal friend. The mourning for him was
general and sincere.
In the Congress of the United States his funeral
oration was pronounced by his friend, Henry
Lee, who said :
" First in war, first in peace, and first in the
hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none
in the humble and endearing scenes of private
life. Pious, just, humane, temperate, uniform,
dignified, and commanding, his example was
edifying to all around him, as were the effects of
that example lasting.
"Such was the man America has lost ! Such
was the man for whom our country mourns !"
THE STORY OF
I. - - THE WHISTLE
Nearly two hundred years ago, there lived in
Boston a little boy whose name was Benjamin
On the day that he was seven years old, his
mother gave him a few pennies.
He looked at the bright, yellow pieces and
said, "What shall I do with these coppers,
It was the first money that he had ever had.
: 'You may buy something with them, if you
would like," said his mother.
"And will you give me more when they are
gone ?" he asked.
His mother shook her head and said: "No,
Benjamin. I cannot give you any more. So you
must be careful not to spend them foolishly."
The little fellow ran out into the street. He
70 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
heard the pennies jingle in his pocket as he ran.
He felt as though he was very rich.
Boston was at that time only a small town,
and there were not many stores. As Benjamin
ran down toward the busy part of the street, he
wondered what he should buy.
Should he buy candy or toys ? It had been a
long time since he had tasted candy. As for
toys, he hardly knew what they were.
If he had been the only child in the family,
things might have been different. But there
were fourteen boys and girls older than he, and
two little sisters that were younger.
It was as much as his father could do to earn
food and clothing for so many. There was no
money to spend for toys.
Before Benjamin had gone very far he met a
boy blowing a whistle.
'That is just the thing that I want," he said.
Then he hurried on to the store where all kinds
of things were kept for sale.
"Have you any good whistles ?" he asked.
He was out of breath from running, but he
tried hard to speak like a man.
THE WHISTLE 71
"Yes, plenty of them," said the man.
"Well, I want one, and I'll give you all the
money I have for it," said the little fellow. He
forgot to ask the price.
"How much money have you ?" asked the man.
Benjamin took the coppers from his pocket.
The man counted them and said, "All right, my
boy. It's a bargain."
Then he put the pennies into his money drawer,
and gave one of the whistles to the boy.
Benjamin Franklin was a proud and happy
boy. He ran home as fast as he could, blowing
his whistle as he ran.
His mother met him at the door and said,
"Well, my child, what did you do with your
"I bought a whistle !" he cried. "Just hear
me blow it !"
"How much did you pay for it ?"
"All the money I had."
One of his brothers was standing by and asked
to see the whistle. "Well, well !" he said, "did
you spend all of your money for this thing ?"
"Every penny," said Benjamin.
72 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
"Did you ask the price ?"
"No. But I offered them to the man, and he
said it was all right. "
His brother laughed and said, "You are a very
foolish fellow. You paid four times as much as
it is worth."
'Yes," said his mother, "I think it is rather
a dear whistle. You had enough money to buy
a whistle and some candy, too."
The little boy saw what a mistake he had
made. The whistle did not please him any more.
He threw it upon the floor, and began to cry.
But his mother took him upon her lap and said :
"Never mind, my child. We must all live and
learn ; and I think that my little boy will be
careful, after this, not to pay too dear for his
When Benjamin Franklin was a boy there
were no great public schools in Boston as there
are now. But he learned to read almost as soon
as he could talk, and he was always fond of books.
His nine brothers were older than he, and
every one had learned a trade. They did not
I care so much for books.
"Benjamin shall be the scholar of our family,"
said his mother.
"Yes, we will educate him for a minister," said
his father. For at that time all the most learned
men were ministers.
And so, when he was eight years old, Benja-
min Franklin was sent to a grammar school,
where boys were prepared for college. He was
a very apt scholar, and in a few months was pro-
moted to a higher class.
But the lad was not allowed to stay long in
the grammar school. His father was a poor
man. It would cost a great deal of money to
give Benjamin a college education. The times
were very hard. The idea of educating the boy
for the ministry had to be given up.
In less than a year he was taken from the
grammar school, and sent to another school
where arithmetic and writing were taught.
He learned to write very well, indeed ; but he
did not care so much for arithmetic, and so failed
to do what was expected of him.
74 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
When he was ten years old he had to leave
school altogether. His father needed his help ;
and though Benjamin was but a small boy, there
were many things that he could do.
He never attended school again. But he kept
on studying and reading ; and we shall find
that he afterwards became the most learned man
Benjamin's father was a soap-boiler and candle-
maker. And so when the boy was taken from
school, what kind of work do you think he had
to do ?
He was kept busy cutting wicks for the candles,
pouring the melted tallow into the candle-moulds,
and selling soap to his father's customers.
Do you suppose that he liked this business ?
He did not like it at all. And when he saw
the ships sailing in and out of Boston harbor, he
longed to be a sailor and go to strange, far-away
lands, where candles and soap were unknown.
But his father would not listen to any of his
talk about going to sea.
THE BOYS AND THE WHARF 75
III. --THE BOYS AND THE WHARF
Busy as Benjamin was in his father's shop, he
still had time to play a good deal.
He was liked by all the boys of the neighbor-
hood, and they looked up to him as their leader.
In all their games he was their captain ; and noth-
ing was undertaken without asking his advice.
Not far from the home of the Franklins there
was a mill pond, where the boys often went to
swim. When the tide was high they liked to
stand at a certain spot on the shore of the pond
and fish for minnows.
But the ground was marshy and wet, and the
boys' feet sank deep in the mud.
"Let us build a wharf along the water's edge,"
said Benjamin. 'Then we can stand and fish
with some comfort."
"Agreed!" said the boys. "But what is the
wharf to be made of ?"
Benjamin pointed to a heap of stones that lay
not far away. They had been hauled there only
a few days before, and were to be used in build-
ing a new house near the mill pond.
76 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
The boys needed only a hint. Soon they were
as busy as ants, dragging the stones to the water's
Before it was fully dark that evening, they had
built a nice stone wharf on which they could
stand and fish without danger of sinking in the
The next morning the workmen came to begin
the building of the house. They were surprised
to find all the stones gone from the place where
they had been thrown. But the tracks of the
boys in the mud told the story.
It was easy enough to find out who had done the
When the boys' fathers were told of the trouble
which they had caused, you may imagine what
Young Benjamin Franklin tried hard to ex-
plain that a wharf on the edge of the mill pond
was a public necessity.
His father would not listen to him. He said,
"My son, nothing can ever be truly useful which
is not at the same time truly honest."
And Benjamin never forgot this lesson.
CHOOSING A TRADE 77
IV. CHOOSING A TRADE
As I have already said, young Benjamin did
not like the work which he had to do in his
His father was not very fond of the trade him-
self, and so he could not blame the boy. One
day he said :
"Benjamin, since you have made up your
mind not to be a candle-maker, what trade do
you think you would like to learn ?"
"You know I would like to be a sailor," said
"But you shall not be a sailor," said his father.
"I intend that you shall learn some useful busi-
ness on land ; and, of course, you will succeed
best in that kind of business which is most pleas-
ant to you."
The next day he took the boy to walk with
him among the shops of Boston. They saw
all kinds of workmen busy at their various
Benjamin was delighted. Long afterwards,
when he had become a very great man, he said,
78 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
"It has ever since been a pleasure to me to see
good workmen handle their tools."
He gave up the thought of going to sea, and
said that he would learn any trade that his father
would choose for him.
His father thought that the cutler's trade was
a good one. His cousin, Samuel Franklin, had
just set up a cutler's shop in Boston, and he
agreed to take Benjamin a few days on trial.
Benjamin was pleased with the idea of learn-
ing how to make knives and scissors and razors
and all other kinds of cutting tools. But his cousin
wanted so much money for teaching him the trade
that his father could not afford it ; and so the lad
was taken back to the candle-maker's shop.
Soon after this, Benjamin's brother, James
Franklin, set up a printing press in Boston. He
intended to print and publish books and a news-
"Benjamin loves books," said his father. "He
shall learn to be a printer."
And so, when he was twelve years old, he was
bound to his brother to learn the printer's trade.
He was to stay with him until he was twenty-
HOW FRANKLIN EDUCATED HIMSELF 79
one. He was to have his board and clothing and
no other wages, except during the last year. I
suppose that during the last year he was to be
paid the same as any other workman.
V. --How FRANKLIN EDUCATED HIMSELF
When Benjamin Franklin was a boy thr^e
were no books for children. Yet he spent most
of his spare time in reading.
His father's books were not easy to under-
stand. People nowadays would think them very
dull and heavy.
But before he was twelve years old, Benjamin
had read the most of them. He read everything
that he could get.
After he went to work for his brother he
found it easier to obtain good books. Often he
would borrow a book in the evening, and then
sit up nearly all night reading it so as to return
it in the morning.
When the owners of books found that he al-
ways returned them soon and clean, they were
very willing to lend him whatever he wished.
He was about fourteen years of age when he
HOW FRANKLIN EDUCATED HIMSELF Si
began to study how to write clearly and correctly.
He afterwards told how he did this. He said :
"About this time I met with an odd volume
of the Spectator. I had never before seen any
"I bought it, read it over and over, and was
much delighted with it.
"I thought the writing excellent, and wished
if possible to imitate it.
"With that view, I took some of the papers,
and making short hints of the sentiments in each
sentence, laid them by a few days, and then,
without looking at the book, tried to complete
the papers again, by expressing each hinted sen-
timent at length and as fully as it had been ex-
pressed before, in any suitable words that should
occur to me.
'Then I compared my Spectator with the orig-
inal, discovered some of my faults and corrected
" But I found that I wanted a stock of words,
or a readiness in recollecting and using them.
'Therefore I took some of the tales in the
Spectator and turned them into verse ; and, after
82 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the
prose, turned them back again."
About this time his brother began to publish a
It was the fourth newspaper published in
America, and was called the New England
People said that it was a foolish undertaking.
They said that one newspaper was enough for
this country, and that there would be but little
demand for more.
In those days editors did not dare to write
freely about public affairs. It was dangerous to
criticise men who were in power.
James Franklin published something in the
New England Courant about the lawmakers of
Massachusetts. It made the lawmakers very
angry. They caused James Franklin to be shut
up in prison for a month, and they ordered that
he should no longer print the newspaper called
the New England Courant.
But, in spite of this order, the newspaper was
printed every week as before. It was printed,
however, in the name of Benjamin Franklin.
FAREWELL TO BOSTON 83
For several years it bore his name as editor and
VI. FAREWELL TO BOSTON
Benjamin Franklin did not have a very happy
life with his brother James.
His brother was a hard master, and was al-
ways finding fault with his workmen. Some-
times he would beat young Benjamin and abuse
him without cause.
When Benjamin was nearly seventeen years
old he made up his mind that he would not en-
dure this treatment any longer.
He told his brother that he would leave him
and find work with some one else.
When his brother learned that he really meant
to do this, he went round to all the other printers
in Boston and persuaded them not to give Ben-
jamin any work.
The father took James's part, and scolded
Benjamin for being so saucy and so hard to please.
But Benjamin would not go back to James's
He made up his mind that since he could not
84 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
find work in Boston he would run away from his
home. He would go to New York and look for
He sold his books to raise a little money.
Then, without saying good-bye to his father or
mother or any of his brothers or sisters, he
went on board a ship that was just ready to sail
from the harbor.
It is not likely that he was very happy while
doing this. Long afterwards he said: "I reckon
this as one of the first errata of my life."
What did he mean by errata?
Errata are mistakes mistake? that cannot
easily be corrected.
Three days after leaving Boston, young Frank-
lin found himself in New York. It was then
October, in the year 1723.
The lad had but very little money in his pocket.
There was no one in New York that he knew. He
was three hundred miles from home and friends.
As soon as he landed he went about the streets
looking for work.
New York was only a little town then, and
there was not a newspaper in it. There were
THE FIRST DAY IN PHILADELPHIA 85
but a few printing houses there, and these had
not much work to do. The boy from Boston
called at every place, but he found that nobody
wanted to employ any more help.
At one of the little printing houses Franklin
was told that perhaps he could find work in Phil-
adelphia, which was at that time a much more
important place than New York.
Philadelphia was one hundred miles farther
from home. One hundred miles was a long dis-
tance in those days.
But Franklin made up his mind to go there
without delay. It would be easier to do this
than to give up and try to return to Boston.
VII. --THE FIRST DAY IN PHILADELPHIA
There are two ways of going from New York
One way is by the sea. The other is by land,
across the state of New Jersey.
As Franklin had but little money, he took the
shorter route by land ; but he sent his little chest,
containing his Sunday clothes, round by sea, in
86 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
He walked all the way from Perth Amboy, on
the eastern shore of New Jersey, to Burlington,
on the Delaware River.
Nowadays you may travel that distance in
an hour, for it is only about fifty miles.
But there were no railroads at that time ; and
Franklin was nearly three days trudging along
lonely wagon-tracks, in the midst of a pouring rain.
At Burlington he was lucky enough to be
taken on board a small boat that was going down
Burlington is only twenty miles above Phila-
delphia. But the boat moved very slowly, and
as there was no wind, the men took turns at
Night came on, and they were afraid that they
might pass by Philadelphia in the darkness. So
they landed, and camped on shore till morning.
Early the next day they reached Philadelphia,
and Benjamin Franklin stepped on shore at the
foot of Market Street, where the Camden ferry-
boats now land.
No one who saw him could have guessed that
he would one day be the greatest man in the city.
THE FIRST DAY IN PHILADELPHIA 87
He was a sorry-looking fellow.
He was dressed in his working clothes, and
was very dirty from being so long on the road
and in the little boat.
His pockets were stuffed out with shirts and
stockings, and all the money that he had was not
more than a dollar.
He was hungry and tired. He had not a single
friend. He did not know of any place where he
could look for lodging.
It was Sunday morning.
He went a little way up the street, and looked
A boy was coming down, carrying a basket of
"My young friend," said Franklin, "where did
you get that bread ?"
"At the baker's," said the boy.
"And where is the baker's ?"
The boy showed him the little baker shop just
around the corner.
Young Franklin was so hungry that he could
hardly wait. He hurried into the shop and asked
for three-penny worth of bread.
88 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
The baker gave him three great, puffy rolls.
Franklin had not expected to get so much, but
he took the rolls and walked out.
His pockets were already full, and so, while he
ate one roll, he held the others under his arms.
As he went up Market Street, eating his roll, a
young girl stood in a doorway laughing at him.
He was, indeed, a very funny-looking fellow.
The girl's name was Deborah Read. A few
years after that, she became the wife of Benjamin
Hungry as he was, Franklin found that he
could eat but one of the rolls, and so he gave the
other two to a poor woman who had come down
the river in the same boat with him.
As he was strolling along the street he came
to a Quaker meetinghouse.
The door was open, and many people were sit-
ting quietly inside. The seats looked inviting,
and so Franklin walked in and sat down.
The day was warm ; the people in the house
were very still ; Franklin was tired. In a few
minutes he was sound asleep.
And so it was in a Quaker meetinghouse that
GOVERNOR WILLIAM KEITH 89
Berijartlin Franklin found the first shelter and
rest in Philadelphia.
Later in the day, as Franklin was strolling
toward the river, he met a young man whose
honest face was very pleasing to him.
"My friend," he said, "can you tell me of any
house where they lodge strangers ?"
:< Yes," said the young man, "there is a house
on this very street ; but it is not a place I can
recommend. If thee will come with me I will
show thee a better one."
Franklin walked with him to a house on Water
Street, and there he found lodging for the night.
And so ended his first day in Philadelphia.
VIII. GOVERNOR WILLIAM KEITH
Franklin soon obtained work in a printing
house owned by a man named Keimer.
He found a boarding place in the house of Mr.
'Read, the father of the girl who had laughed at
him with his three rolls.
He was only seventeen years old, and he soon
became acquainted with several young people in
the town who loved books.
90 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
In a little while he began to lay up money,
and he tried to forget his old home in Boston as
much as he could.
One day a letter came to Philadelphia for Ben-
It was from Captain Robert Holmes, a brother-
in-law of Franklin's.
Captain Holmes was the master of a trading
sloop that sailed between Boston and Delaware
Bay. While he was loading his vessel at New-
castle, forty miles below Philadelphia, he had
happened to hear about the young man Franklin
who had lately come from Boston.
He sat down at once and wrote a letter to the
young man. He told him how his parents and
friends were grieving for him in Boston. He
begged him to go back home, and said that every-
thing would be made right if he would do so.
When Franklin read this letter he felt very
sad to think of the pain and distress which he
But he did not want to return to Boston. He
felt that he had been badly treated by his brother,
and, therefore, that he was not the only one to
GOVERNOR WILLIAM KEITH 91
be blamed. He believed that he could do much
better in Philadelphia than anywhere else.
So he sat down and wrote an answer to Cap-
tain Holmes. He wrote it with great care, and
sent it off to Newcastle by the first boat that was
going that way.
Now it so happened that Sir William Keith,
the governor of the province, was at Newcastle
at that very time. He was with Captain Holmes
when the letter came to hand.
When Captain Holmes had read the letter he was
so pleased with it that he showed it to the governor.
Governor Keith read it and was surprised when
he learned that its writer was a lad only seventeen
"He is a young man of great promise," he
said ; "and he must be encouraged. The printers
in Philadelphia know nothing about their busi-
ness. If young Franklin will stay there and set
up a press, I will do a great deal for him."
One day not long after that, when Franklin
was at work in Keimer's printing-office, the gov-
ernor came to see him. Franklin was very much
92 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
The governor offered to set him up in a busi-
ness of his own. He promised that he should
have all the public printing in the province.
"But you will have to go to England to buy
your types and whatever else you may need."
Franklin agreed to do this. But he must first
return to Boston and get his father's consent and
The governor gave him a letter to carry to his
father. In a few weeks he was on his way home.
You may believe that Benjamin's father and
mother were glad to see him. He had been gone
seven months, and in all that time they had not
heard a word from him.
His brothers and sisters were glad to see him,
too all but the printer, James, who treated
him very unkindly.
His father read the governor's letter, and then
shook his head.
"What kind of a man is this Governor Keith ?"
he asked. "He must have but little judgment
to think of setting up a mere boy in business of
After that he wrote a letter of thanks to the
THE RETURN TO PHILADELPHIA 93
governor. He said that he was grateful for the
kindness he had shown to his son, and for his
offer to help him. But he thought that Benjamin
was still too young to be trusted with so great a
business, and therefore he would not consent to
him undertaking it. As for helping him, that he
could not do ; for he had but little more money
than was needed to carry on his own affairs.
IX. - - THE RETURN TO PHILADELPHIA
Benjamin Franklin felt much disappointed
when his father refused to help send him to Eng-
land. But he was not discouraged.
In a few weeks he was ready to return to Phila-
delphia. This time he did not have to run away
His father blessed him, and his mother gave
him many small gifts as tokens of her love.
"Be diligent," said his father, "attend well to
your business, and save your money carefully,
and, perhaps, by the time you are twenty-one
years old, you will be able to set up for yourself
without the governor's help."
All the family, except James the printer, bade
94 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
him a kind good-bye, as he went on board the
little ship that was to take him as far as New
There was another surprise for him when he
reached New York.
The governor of New York had heard that
there was a young man from Boston on board
the ship, and that he had a great many books.
There were no large libraries in New York at
that time. There were no bookstores, and but
few people who cared for books.
So the governor sent for Franklin to come and
see him. He showed him his own library, and
they had a long talk about books and authors.
This was the second governor that had taken
notice of Benjamin. For a poor boy, like him,
it was a great honor, and very pleasing.
When he arrived in Philadelphia he gave to
Governor Keith the letter which his father had
The governor was not very well pleased. He
:< Your father is too careful. There is a great
difference in persons. Young men can some-
THE RETURN TO PHILADELPHIA 95
times be trusted with great undertakings as
well as if they were older."
He then said that he would set Franklin up in
business without his father's help.
"Give me a list of everything needed in a first-
class printing-office. I will see that you are prop-
erly fitted out."
Franklin was delighted. He thought that
Governor Keith was one of the best men in the
In a few days he laid before the governor a
list of the things needed in a little printing-office.
The cost of the outfit would be about five
The governor was pleased with the list. There
were no type-foundries in America at that time.
There was no place where printing-presses were
made. Everything had to be bought in England.
The governor said, "Don't you think it would
be better if you could go to England and choose
the types for yourself, and see that everything
is just as you would like to have it ?"
:< Yes, sir," said Franklin, "I think that would
be a great advantage."
96 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
"Well, then," said the governor, "get yourself
ready to go on the next regular ship to London.
It shall be at my expense."
At that time there was only one ship that
made regular trips from Philadelphia to Eng-
land, and it sailed but once each year.
The name of this ship was the Annis. It would
not be ready to sail again for several months.
And so young Franklin, while he was getting
ready for the voyage, kept on working in Mr.
Keimer's little printing-office.
He laid up money enough to pay for his pas-
sage. He did not want to be dependent upon
Governor Keith for everything ; and it was well
that he did not.
X. THE FIRST VISIT TO ENGLAND
At last the Annis was ready to sail.
Governor Keith had promised to give to young
Franklin letters of introduction to some of his
friends in England.
He had also promised to give him money to
buy his presses and type.
But when Franklin called at the governor's
THE FIRST VISIT TO ENGLAND 97
house to bid him good-bye, and to get the letters,
the governor was too busy to see him. He said
that he would send the letters and the money to
him on shipboard.
The ship sailed.
But no letters, nor any word from Governor
Keith, had been sent to Franklin.
When he at last arrived in London he found
himself without money and without friends.
Governor Keith had given him nothing but
promises. He would never give him anything
more. He was a man whose word was not to be
Franklin was then just eighteen years old.
He must now depend wholly upon himself. He
must make his own way in the world, without
aid from anyone.
He went out at once to look for work. He
found employment in a printing-office, and there
he stayed for nearly a year.
Franklin made many acquaintances with liter-
ary people while he was in London.
He proved himself to be a young man of talent
and ingenuity. He was never idle.
98 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
His companions in the printing-office were
beer-drinkers and sots. He often told them how
foolish they were to spend their money and ruin
themselves for drink.
He drank nothing but water. He was strong
and active. He could carry more, and do more
work, than any of them.
He persuaded many of them to leave off drink-
ing, and to lead better lives.
Franklin was also a fine swimmer. There was
no one in London who could swim as well. He
wrote two essays on swimming and made some
plans for opening a swimming school.
When he had been in London about a year, he
met a Mr. Denham, a merchant of Philadelphia,
and a strong friendship sprang up between them.
Mr. Denham at last persuaded Franklin to re-
turn to Philadelphia, and be a clerk in his dry-
And so, on the 23rd of the next July, he set
sail for home. The ship was nearly three months
in making the voyage, and it was not until Octo-
ber that he again set foot in Philadelphia.
A LEADING MAN IN PHILADELPHIA 99
XI. A LEADING MAN IN PHILADELPHIA
When Franklin was twenty-four years old he
was married to Miss Deborah Read, the young
lady who had laughed at him when he was walk-
ing the street with his three rolls.
They lived together very happily for a great
Some time before this marriage, Franklin's
friend and employer, Mr. Denham, had died.
The dry-goods store, of which he was the
owner, had been sold, and Franklin's occupation
as a salesman, or clerk, was gone. But the young
man had shown himself to be a person of great
industry and ability. He had the confidence of
everybody that knew him.
A friend of his, who had money, offered to
take him as a partner in the newspaper business.
And so he again became a printer, and the .editor
of a paper called the Pennsylvania Gazette.
It was not long until Franklin was recognized
as one of the leading men in Philadelphia. His
name was known, not only in Pennsylvania, but
in all the colonies.
100 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
He was all the time thinking of plans for mak-
ing the people about him wiser and better and
He established a subscription and circulating
library, the first in America. This library was
the beginning of the present Philadelphia Public
He wrote papers on education. He founded
the University of Pennsylvania. He organized
the American Philosophical Society..
He established the first fire company in Phila-
delphia, which was also the first in America.
He invented a copper-plate press, and printed
the first paper money of New Jersey.
He also invented the iron fireplace, which is
called the Franklin stove, and is still used where
wood is plentiful and cheap.
After an absence of ten years, he paid a visit
to his old home in Boston. Everybody was glad
to see him now, even his brother James, the
When he returned to Philadelphia, he was
elected clerk of the colonial assembly.
Not long after that, he was chosen to be post-
FRANKLIN'S RULES OF LIFE 101
master of the city. But his duties in this capac-
ity did not require very much labor in those
He did not handle as much mail in a whole
year as passes now through the Philadelphia
post-office in a single hour.
XII. -- FRANKLIN'S RULES OF LIFE
Here are some of the rules of life which
Franklin made for himself when he was a very
young man :
1. To live very frugally till he had paid all
that he owed.
2. To speak the truth at all times ; to be sin-
cere in word and action.
3. To apply himself earnestly to whatever
business he took in hand ; and to shun all foolish
projects for becoming suddenly rich. "For in-
dustry and patience," he said, "are the surest
means of plenty."
4. To speak ill of no man whatever, not even
in a matter of truth ; but to speak all the good
he knew of everybody.
When he was twenty-six years old, he pub-
102 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
lished the first number of an almanac called Poor
This almanac was full of wise and witty say-
ings, and everybody soon began to talk about it.
Every year, for twenty-five years, a new num-
ber of Poor Richard's Almanac was printed. It
was sold in all parts of the country. People
who had no other books would buy and read
Poor Richard's Almanac. The library of many a
farmer consisted of only the family Bible with
one or more numbers of this famous almanac.
Here are a few of Poor Richard's sayings :
"A word to the wise is enough."
"God helps them that help themselves."
" Early to bed and early to rise,
Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."
'There are no gains without pains."
"Plow deep while sluggards sleep,
And you shall have corn to sell and to keep."
"One to-day is worth two to-morrows."
"Little strokes fell great oaks."
" Keep thy shop and thy shop will keep thee."
'The sleeping fox catches no poultry."
"Diligence is the mother of good luck."
FRANKLIN'S RULES OF LIFE 103
"Constant dropping wears away stones."
"A small leak will sink a great ship."
"Who dainties love shall beggars prove."
"Creditors have better memories than debtors."
"Many a little makes a mickle."
"Fools make feasts and wise men eat them."
"Many have been ruined by buying good
"Rather go to bed supperless than rise in debt."
" For age and want save while you may ;
No morning sun lasts the whole day."
It is pleasant to know that Franklin observed
the rules of life which he made. And his wife,
Deborah, was as busy and as frugal as himself.
They kept no idle servants. Their furniture
was of the cheapest sort. Their food was plain
Franklin's breakfast, for many years, was only
bread and milk ; and he ate it out of a two-penny
earthen bowl with a pewter spoon.
But at last, when he was called one morning to
breakfast, he found his milk in a china bowl ; and
by the side of the bowl there was a silver spoon.
His wife had bought them for him as a sur-
104 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
prise. She said that she thought her husband
deserved a silver spoon and china bowl as well
as any of his neighbors.
XIII. -- FRANKLIN'S SERVICES TO THE COLONIES
And so, as you have seen, Benjamin Franklin
became in time one of the foremost men in our
In 1753, when he was forty-five years old, he
was made deputy postmaster-general for America.
He was to have a salary of about $3,000 a
year, and was to pay his own assistants.
People were astonished when he proposed to
have the mail carried regularly once every week
between New York and Boston.
Letters starting from Philadelphia on Monday
morning would reach Boston the next Saturday
night. This was thought to be a wonderful
and almost impossible feat. But nowadays,
letters leaving Philadelphia at midnight are read
at the breakfast tables in Boston the next morning.
At that time there were not seventy post-offices
in the whole country. There are now more than
FRANKLIN'S SERVICES TO THE COLONIES 105
Benjamin Franklin held the office of deputy
postmaster-general for the American colonies for
In 1754 there was a meeting of the leading
men of all the colonies at Albany. There were
fears of a war with the French and Indians of
Canada, and the colonies had sent these men to
plan some means of defence.
Benjamin Franklin was one of the men from
Pennsylvania at this meeting.
He presented a plan for the union of the col-
onies, and it was adopted. But our English
rulers said it was too democratic, and refused to
let it go into operation.
This scheme of Franklin's set the people of the
colonies to thinking. Why should the colonies
not unite ? Why should they not help one
another, and thus form one great country ?
And so, we may truthfully say that it was
Benjamin Franklin who first put into men's
minds the idea of the great Union which we now
call the United States of America.
The people of the colonies were not happy
under the rule of the English. One by one, laws
106 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
were made which they looked upon as oppressive
and burdensome. These laws were not intended
to benefit the American people, but were de-
signed to enrich the merchants and politicians of
In 1757 the people of Pennsylvania, Massachu-
setts, Maryland, and Georgia, decided to send
some one to England to petition against these
In all the colonies there was no man better
fitted for this business than Benjamin Franklin.
And so he was the man sent.
The fame of the great American had gone be-
fore him. Everybody seemed anxious to do him
He met many of the leading men of the day,
and he at last succeeded in gaining the object of
But such business moved slowly in those times.
I Five years passed before he was ready to return
He reached Philadelphia in November, 1762,
and the colonial assembly of Pennsylvania
thanked him publicly for his great services.
FRANKLIN'S SERVICES TO THE COLONIES 107
But new troubles soon came up between the
colonies and the government in England. Other
laws were passed, more oppressive than before.
It was proposed to tax the colonies, and to
force the colonists to buy stamped paper. This
last act was called the Stamp Tax, and the Ameri-
can people opposed it with all their might.
Scarcely had Franklin been at home two years
when he was again sent to England to plead the
cause of his countrymen.
This time he remained abroad for more than
ten years ; but he was not so successful as before.
In 1774 he appeared before the king's council to
present a petition from the people of Massachusetts.
He was now a venerable man nearly seventy
years of age. He was the most famous man of
His petition was rejected. He himself was
shamefully insulted and abused by one of the
members of the council. The next day he was
dismissed from the office of deputy postmaster-
general of America.
In May, 1775, he was again at home in Phila-
108 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
Two weeks before his arrival the battle of Lex-
ington had been fought, and the war of the Revo-
lution had been begun.
Franklin had done all that he could to persuade
the English king to deal justly with the Ameri-
can colonies. But the king and his counselors
had refused to listen to him.
During his ten years abroad he had not stayed
all the time in England. He had traveled in
many countries of Europe, and had visited Paris
Many changes had taken place while he was
His wife, Mrs. Deborah Franklin, had died.
His parents and fifteen of his brothers and sisters
had also been laid in the grave.
The rest of his days were to be spent in the
service of his country, to which he had already
given nearly twenty years of his life.
XIV. -- FRANKLIN'S WONDERFUL KITE
Benjamin Franklin was not only a printer,
politician, and statesman, he was the first sci-
entist of America. In the midst of perplexing
FRANKLIN'S WONDERFUL KITE 109
cares it was his delight to study the laws of na-
ture and try to understand some of the mys-
teries of creation.
In his time no very great discoveries had yet
been made. The steam engine was unknown.
The telegraph had not so much as been dreamed
about. Thousands of comforts which we now
enjoy through the discoveries of science were
then unthought of; or if thought of, they were
deemed to be impossible.
Franklin began to make experiments in elec-
tricity when he was about forty years old.
He was the first person to discover that light-
ning is caused by electricity. He had long
thought that this was true, but he had no means
of proving it.
He thought that if he could stand on some high
tower during a thunderstorm, he might be able
to draw some of the electricity from the clouds
through a pointed iron rod. But there was no
high tower in Philadelphia. There was not even
a tall church spire.
At last he thought of making a kite and send-
ing it up to the clouds. A paper kite, however,
no THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
would be ruined by the rain and would not fly to
any great height.
So instead of paper he used a light silk hand-
kerchief which he fastened to two slender but
strong cross pieces. At the top of the kite he
placed a pointed iron rod. The string was of
hemp, except a short piece at the lower end,
which was of silk. At the end of the hemp string
an iron key was tied.
"I think that is a queer kind of kite," said
Franklin's little boy. "What are you going to
do with it ?"
"Wait until the next thunderstorm, and you
will see," said Franklin. :< You may go with me
and we will send it up to the clouds."
He told no one else about it, for if the experi-
ment should fail, he did not care to have every-
body laugh at him.
At last, one day, a thunderstorm came up,
and Franklin, with his son, went out into a field
to fly his kite. There was a steady breeze, and
it was easy to send the kite far up towards the
Then, holding the silken end of the string,
FRANKLIN'S WONDERFUL KITE in
Franklin stood under a little shed in the field,
and watched to see what would happen.
The lightnings flashed, the thunder rolled, but
there was no sign of electricity in the kite. At
last, when he was about to give up the experi-
ment, Franklin saw the loose fibers of his hempen
string begin to move.
He put his knuckles close to the key, and
sparks of fire came flying to his hand. He was
wild with delight. The sparks of fire were elec-
tricity ; he had drawn them from the clouds.
That experiment, if Franklin had only known
it, was a very dangerous one. It was fortunate for
him, and for the world, that he suffered no harm.
More than one person who has since tried to draw
electricity from the clouds has been killed by the
lightning that has flashed down the hempen kite
When Franklin's discovery was made known
it caused great excitement among the learned
men of Europe. They could not believe it was
true until some of them had proved it by similar
They could hardly believe that a man in the
112 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
far-away city of Philadelphia could make a dis-
covery which they had never thought of as
possible. Indeed, how could an American do
anything that was worth doing ?
Franklin soon became famous in foreign coun-
tries as a philosopher and man of science. The
universities of Oxford and Edinburgh honored
him by conferring upon him their highest degrees.
He was now Doctor Benjamin Franklin. But
in America people still thought of him only as
a man of affairs, as a great printer, and as the
editor of Poor Richard's Almanac.
All this happened before the beginning of his
career as ambassador from the colonies to the
king and government of England.
I cannof. tell you of all of his discoveries in
science. He invented the lightning rod, and, by
trying many experiments, he learned more about
electricity than the world had ever known before.
He made many curious experiments to dis-
cover the laws of heat, light, and sound. By
laying strips of colored cloth on snow, he learned
which colors are the best conductors of heat.
He invented the harmonica, an ingenious musi-
FRANKLIN'S WONDERFUL KITE 113
cal instrument, in which the sounds were pro-
duced by musical glasses.
During his long stay abroad he did not neglect
his scientific studies. He visited many of the
greatest scholars of the time, and was every-
where received with much honor.
The great scientific societies of Europe, the
Royal Academies in Paris and in Madrid, had
already elected him as one of their members.
The King of France wrote him a letter, thank-
ing him for his useful discoveries in electricity,
and for his invention of the lightning rod.
All this would have made some men very
proud. But it was not so with Dr. Franklin. In
a letter which he wrote to a friend at the time
when these honors were beginning to be showered
upon him, he said :
'The pride of man is very differently gratified ;
and had his Majesty sent me a marshal's staff I
think I should scarce have been so proud of it as
I am of your esteem."
H4 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
XV. THE LAST YEARS
In 1776 delegates from all the colonies met in
Philadelphia. They formed what is known in
history as the Second Continental Congress of
It was now more than a year since the war
had begun, and the colonists had made up their
minds not to obey the oppressive laws of the
King of England and his council.
Many of them were strongly in favor of setting
up a new government of their own.
The Congress, therefore, appointed a committee
of three of its members to draft a declaration of
independence. Benjamin Franklin was one of
On the 4th of July, Congress declared the col-
onies to be free and independent states, no longer
subject to the laws of England. Among the men
who signed their names to this Declaration of
Independence was Benjamin Franklin of Penn-
Soon after this Dr. Franklin was sent to Paris
as minister from the United States. Early in the
THE LAST YEARS 115
following year, 1777, he induced the King of
France to acknowledge the independence of this
He thus secured aid for the Americans at a
time when they were in the greatest need of it.
Had it not been for his services at this time,
the war of the Revolution might have ended
very differently, indeed.
It was not until 1785 that he was again able to
return to his home.
He was then nearly eighty years old.
He had served his country faithfully for fifty-
three years. He would have been glad if he
might retire to private life, but the people who
knew and appreciated his great worth, would not
permit him to do so.
When he reached Philadelphia he was received
with joy by thousands of his countrymen.
General George Washington was among the
first to welcome him, and to thank him for his
That same year the grateful people of his state
elected him President of Pennsylvania.
Two years afterwards, he wrote :
Il6 THE STORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
" I am here in my niche in my own house, in the
bosom of my family, my daughter and grand-
children all about me, among my old friends, or
the sons of my friends, who equally respect me.
"In short, I enjoy here every opportunity of
doing good, and everything else I could wish
for, except repose ; and that I may soon expect,
either by the cessation of my office, which can-
not last more than three years, or by ceasing to
The next year he was a delegate to the con-
vention which formed the present Constitution
of the United States. By the adoption of this
Constitution, the thirteen United States became a
single nation worthy to be ranked with the other
great governments of the world.
In a letter written to his friend, General
Washington, not long afterwards, Benjamin
Franklin said : " For my personal ease I should
have died two years ago ; but though those
years have been spent in pain, I am glad to have
lived them, since I can look upon our present
In April, 1790, he died, and was buried by the
THE LAST YEARS 117
side of his wife, Deborah, in Arch Street grave-
yard in Philadelphia. His age was eighty-four
years and three months.
Many years before his death he had written
the following epitaph for himself:
Benjamin Franklin, Printer,
(Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents torn out,
And stripped of its lettering and gilding,)
Lies here food for worms.
Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
For it will (as he believed) appear once more
In a new
And more beautiful Edition,
Corrected and Amended
THE STORY OF
I. CAPTAIN WEBSTER
Many years ago there lived in New Hampshire
a poor farmer, whose name was Ebenezer Webster.
His little farm was among the hills, not far
from the Merrimac River. It was a beautiful
place to live in ; but the ground was poor, and
there were so many rocks that you would wonder
how anything could grow among them.
Ebenezer Webster was known far and wide as
a brave, wise man. When any of his neighbors
were in trouble or in doubt about anything, they
always said, "We will ask Captain Webster about
They called him Captain because he had fought
the French and Indians and had been a brave
soldier in the Revolutionary War. Indeed, he
was one of the first men in New Hampshire to
take up arms for his country.
122 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
When he heard that the British were sending
soldiers to America to force the people to obey
the unjust laws of the King of England, he said,
"We must never submit to this."
So he went among his neighbors and persuaded
them to sign a pledge to do all that they could
to defend the country against the British. Then
he raised a company of two hundred men and
led them to Boston to join the American army.
The Revolutionary War lasted several years ;
and during all that time, Captain Webster was
known as one of the bravest of the American
One day, at West Point, he met General Wash-
ington. The patriots were in great trouble at
that time, for one of their leaders had turned
traitor and had gone to help the British. The
officers and soldiers were much distressed, for
they did not know who might be the next to de-
As I have said, Captain Webster met General
Washington. The general took the captain's
hand, and said, "I believe that I can trust you,
CAPTAIN WEBSTER 123
You may believe that this made Captain Web-
ster feel very happy. When he went back to his
humble home among the New Hampshire hills,
he was never so proud as when telling his neigh-
bors about this meeting with General Washington.
If you could have seen Captain Ebenezer Web-
ster in those days, you would have looked at him
more than once. He was a remarkable man.
He was very tall and straight, with dark, glowing
eyes, and hair as black as night. His face was
kind, but it showed much firmness and decision.
He had never attended school ; but he had
tried, as well as he could, to educate himself. It
was on account of his honesty and good judg-
ment that he was looked up to as the leading
man in the neighborhood.
In some way, I do not know how, he had gotten
a little knowledge of the law. And at last, be-
cause of this as well as because of his sound com-
mon sense, he was appointed judge of the court
in his county.
This was several years after the war was over.
He was now no longer called Captain Webster, but
124 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
It had been very hard for him to make a living
for his large family on the stony farm among the
hills. But now his office as judge would bring
him three hundred or four hundred dollars a
year. He had never had so much money in
"Judge Webster," said one of his neighbors,
"what are you going to do with the money that
you get from your office ? Going to build a new
"Well, no," said the judge. 'The old house
is small, but we have lived in it a long time, and
it still does very well."
"Then I suppose you are planning to buy more
land ?" said the neighbor.
"No, indeed, I have as much land now as I can
cultivate. But I will tell you what I am going
to do with my money. I am going to try to edu-
cate my boys. I would rather do this than have
lands and houses."
II. --THE YOUNGEST SON
Ebenezer Webster had several sons. But at
the time that he was appointed judge there were
THE YOUNGEST SON 125
only two at home. The older ones were grown
up and were doing for themselves.
It was of the two at home that he was thinking
when he said, "I am going to try to educate my
Of the ten children in the family, the favorite'
was a black-haired, dark-skinned little fellow
called Daniel. He was the youngest of all the
boys ; but there was one girl who was younger
Daniel Webster was born on the i8th of Jan-
He was a puny child, very slender and weak ;
and the neighbors were fond of telling his mother
that he could not live long. Perhaps this was
one of the things that caused him to be favored
and petted by his parents.
But there were other reasons why every one
was attracted by him. There were other reasons
why his brothers and sisters were always ready
to do him a service.
He was an affectionate, loving child ; and he
was wonderfully bright and quick.
He was not strong enough to work on the farm
126 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
like other boys. He spent much of his time play-
ing in the woods or roaming among the hills.
And when he was not at play he was quite sure
to be found in some quiet corner with a book in
his hand. He afterwards said of himself: "In
those boyish days there were two things that I
dearly loved reading and playing."
He could never tell how or when he had learned
to read. Perhaps his mother had taught him
when he was but a mere babe.
He was very young when he was first sent to
school. The schoolhouse was two or three miles
away, but he did not mind the long walk through
the woods and over the hills.
It was not a great while until he had learned
all that his teacher was able to teach him ; for he
had a quick understanding, and he remembered
everything that he read.
The people of the neighborhood never tired of
talking about "Webster's boy," as they called him.
All agreed that he was a wonderful child.
Some said that so wonderful a child was sure
to die young. Others said that if he lived he
would certainly become a very great man.
THE YOUNGEST SON 127
When the farmers, on their way to market,
drove past Judge Webster's house, they were
always glad if they could see the delicate boy,
with his great dark eyes.
If it was near the hour of noon, they would
stop their teams under the shady elms and ask
him to come out and read to them. Then, while
their horses rested and ate, they would sit round
the boy and listen to his wonderful tones as he
read page after page from the Bible.
There were no children's books in those times.
Indeed, there were very few books to be had of
any kind. But young Daniel Webster found
nothing too hard to read.
"I read what I could get to read," he after-
wards said ; "I went to school when I could,
and when not at school, was a farmer's youngest
boy, not good for much for want of health and
strength, but expected to do something."
One day the man who kept the little store in
the village, showed him something that made
his heart leap.
It was a cotton handkerchief with the Constitu-
tion of the United States printed on one side of it.
128 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
In those days people were talking a great deal
about the Constitution, for it had just then come
Daniel had never read it. When he saw the
handkerchief he could not rest till he had made
it his own.
He counted all his pennies, he borrowed a
few from his brother Ezekiel. Then he hurried
back to the store and bought the wished-for
In a short time he knew everything in the Con-
stitution, and could repeat whole sections of it
from memory. We shall learn that, when he
afterwards became one of the great men of this
nation, he proved to be the Constitution's wisest
friend and ablest defender.
III. -- EZEKIEL AND DANIEL
Ezekiel Webster was two years older than
his brother Daniel. He was a strong, manly
fellow, and was ready at all times to do a kind-
ness to the lad who had not been gifted with so
much health and strength.
But he had not Daniel's quickness of mind,
EZEKIEL AND DANIEL 129
and he always looked to his younger brother
for advice and instruction.
And so there was much love between the two
brothers, each helping the other according to his
talents and his ability.
One day they went together to the county fair.
Each had a few cents in his pocket for spending-
money, and both expected to have a fine time.
When they came home in the evening Daniel
seemed very happy, but Ezekiel was silent.
"Well, Daniel," said their mother, "what did
you do with your money ?"
"I spent it at the fair," said Daniel.
"And what did you do with yours, Ezekiel ?"
"I lent it to Daniel," was the answer.
It was this way at all times, and with every-
body. Not only Ezekiel, but others were ever
ready to give up their own means of enjoyment
if only it would make Daniel happy.
At another time the brothers were standing
together by their father, who had just come home
after several days' absence.
"Ezekiel," said Mr. Webster, "what have you
been doing since I went away ?"
130 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
"Nothing, sir," said Ezekiel.
"You are very frank," said the judge. Then
turning to Daniel, he said :
"What have you been doing, Dan ?"
"Helping Zeke," said Daniel.
When Judge Webster said to his neighbor, " I am
going to try to educate my boys," he had no thought
of ever being able to send both of them to college.
Ezekiel, he said to himself, was strong and
hearty. He could make his own way in the
world without having a finished education.
But Daniel had little strength of body, although
he was gifted with great mental powers. It was
he that must be the scholar of the family.
The judge argued with himself that since he
would be able to educate only one of the boys,
he must educate that one who gave the greatest
promise of success. And yet, had it not been
for his poverty, he would gladly have given the
same opportunities to both.
IV. PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
One hot day in summer the judge and his young-
est son were at work together in the hayfield.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE 131
"Daniel," said the judge, "I am thinking that
this kind of work is hardly the right thing for
you. You must prepare yourself for greater
things than pitching hay."
"What do you mean, father?" asked Daniel.
" I mean that you must have that which I have
always felt the need of. You must have a good
education ; for without an education a man is
always at a disadvantage. If I had been able to
go to school when I was a boy, I might have done
more for my country than I have. But as it is,
I can do nothing but struggle here for the means
"Zeke and I will help you, father," said Dan-
iel ; " and now that you are growing old, you
need not work so hard."
"I am not complaining about the work," said
the judge. "I live only for my children. When
your older brothers were growing up I was too
poor to give them an education ; but I am able
now to do something for you, and I mean to send
you to a good school."
"Oh, father, how kind you are !" cried Daniel.
"If you will study hard," said his father
132 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
"if you will do your best, and learn all that you
can, you will not have to endure such hardships
as I have endured. And then you will be able
to do so much more good in the world."
The boy's heart was touched by the manner
in which his father spoke these words. He
dropped his rake ; he threw his arms around
his father's neck, and cried for joy.
It was not until the next spring that Judge
Webster felt himself able to carry out his plans
to send Daniel to school.
One evening he said, "Daniel, you must be up
early in the morning, I am going with you to
"To Exeter ?" said the boy.
"Yes, to Exeter. I am going to put you in
the academy there."
The academy at Exeter was then, as it still is, a
famous place for preparing boys for college. But
Daniel's father did not say anything about mak-
ing him ready for college. The judge knew that
the expenses would be heavy, and he was not
sure that he would ever be able to give him a
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE 133
It was nearly fifty miles to Exeter, and Daniel
and his father were to ride there on horseback.
That was almost the only way of traveling in
The next morning two horses were brought to
the door. One was Judge Webster's horse, the
other was a gentle nag, with a lady's sidesaddle
on his back.
" Who is going to ride on that nag ? " asked Daniel.
"Young Dan Webster," answered the judge.
"But I don't want a sidesaddle. I am not a
"Neighbor Johnson is sending the nag to Ex-
eter for the use of a lady who is to ride back with
me. I accommodate him by taking charge of
the animal, and he accommodates me by allow-
ing you to ride on it."
"But won't it look rather funny for me to ride
to Exeter on a lady's saddle ?"
"If a lady can ride on it, perhaps Dan Web-
ster can do as much."
And so they set out on their journey to Exeter.
The judge rode in advance, and Daniel, sitting
astride of the lady's saddle, followed behind.
134 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
It was, no doubt, a funny sight to see them rid-
ing thus along the muddy roads. None of the
country people who stopped to gaze at them
could have guessed that the dark-faced lad who
rode so awkwardly would some day become one
of the greatest men of the age.
It was thus that Daniel Webster made his first
appearance among strangers.
V. AT EXETER ACADEMY
It was the first time that Daniel Webster had
been so far from home. He was bashful and
awkward. His clothes were of home-made stuff,
and they were cut in the quaint style of the back-
He must have been a funny-looking fellow.
No wonder that the boys laughed when they saw
him going up to the principal to be examined for
The principal of the academy at that time was
Dr. Benjamin Abbott. He was a great scholar
and a very dignified gentleman.
He looked down at the slender, black-eyed boy
and asked :
AT EXETER ACADEMY 135
"What is your age, sir ?"
"Fourteen years," said Daniel.
" I will examine you first in reading. Take this
Bible, and let me hear you read some of these
He pointed to the twenty-second chapter of
Saint Luke's Gospel.
The boy took the book and began to read. He
had read this chapter a hundred times before.
Indeed, there was no part of the Bible that was
not familiar to him.
He read with a clearness and fervor which few
men could equal.
The dignified principal was astonished. He
stood as though spellbound, listening to the rich,
mellow tones of the bashful lad from among the
In the case of most boys it was enough if he
heard them read a verse or two. But he allowed
Daniel Webster to read on until he had finished
the chapter. Then he said :
'There is no need to examine you further.
You are fully qualified to enter this academy."
Most of the boys at Exeter were gentlemen's
136 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
sons. They dressed well, they had been taught
fine manners, they had the speech of cultivated
They laughed at the awkward, new boy. They
made fun of his homespun coat ; they twitted
him on account of his poverty ; they annoyed
him in a hundred ways.
Daniel felt hurt by this cruel treatment. He
grieved bitterly over it in secret, but he did not
He studied hard and read much. He was soon
at the head of all his classes. His schoolmates
ceased laughing at him ; for they saw that, with
all his uncouth ways, he had more ability than
any of them.
He had, as I have said, a wonderful memory.
He had also a quick insight and sound judgment.
But he had had so little experience with the
world, that he was not sure of his own powers.
He knew that he was awkward ; and this made
him timid and bashful.
When it came his turn to declaim before the
school, he had not the courage to do it. Long
afterwards, when he had become the greatest
AT EXETER ACADEMY 137
orator of modern times, he told how hard this
thing had been for him at Exeter :
"Many a piece did I commit to memory, and
rehearse in my room over and over again. But
when the day came, when the school collected,
when my name was called and I saw all eyes
turned upon my seat, I could not raise myself
"Sometimes the masters frowned, sometimes
they smiled. My tutor always pressed and en-
treated with the most winning kindness that I
would venture only once; but I could not com-
mand sufficient resolution, and when the occa-
sion was over I went home and wept tears of
bitter mortification. "
Daniel stayed nine months at Exeter. In those
nine months he did as much as the other boys of
his age could do in two years.
He mastered arithmetic, geography, grammar,
'and rhetoric. He also began the study of Latin.
Besides this, he was a great reader of all kinds of
books, and he added something every day to his
general stock of knowledge.
His teachers did not oblige him to follow a
138 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
graded course of study. They did not hold him
back with the duller pupils of his class. They
did not oblige him to wait until the end of the
year before he could be promoted or could begin
the study of a new subject.
But they encouraged him to do his best. As
soon as he had finished one subject, he advanced
to a more difficult one.
More than fifty years afterwards, Dr. Abbott
declared that in all his long experience he had
never known any one whose power of gaining
knowledge was at all equal to that of the bashful
country lad from the New Hampshire hills.
Judge Webster would have been glad to let
Daniel stay at Exeter until he had finished the
studies required at the academy. But he could
not afford the expense.
If he should spend all his money to keep the
boy at the academy, how could he afterwards
find the means to send him to college where the
expenses would be much greater ?
So he thought it best to find a private teacher
for the boy. This would be cheaper.
GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE 139
VI. GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE
One day in the early winter, Judge Webster
asked Daniel to ride with him to Boscawen. Bos-
cawen was a little town, six miles away, where
they sometimes went for business or for pleasure.
Snow was on the ground. Father and son rode
together in a little, old-fashioned sleigh ; and as
they rode, they talked about many things. Just
as they were going up the last hill, Judge Web-
ster said :
"Daniel, do you know the Rev. Samuel Wood,
here in Boscawen ?"
"I have heard of him," said Daniel. "He
takes boys into his family, and gets them ready
'Yes, and he does it cheap, too," said his
father. "He charges only a dollar a week for
board and tuition, fuel and lights and every-
" But they say he is a fine teacher," said Daniel.
"His boys never fail in the college examinations."
'That is what I have heard, too," answered
his father. "And now, Dannie, I may as well
140 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
tell you a secret. For the last six years I have
been planning to have you take a course in Dart-
mouth College. I want you to stay with Dr.
Wood this winter, and he will get you ready to
enter. We might as well go and see him now."
This was the first time that Daniel had ever
heard his father speak of sending him to college.
His heart was so full that he could not say a
word. But the tears came in his eyes as he
looked up into the judge's stern, kind face.
He knew that if his father carried out this plan,
it would cost a great deal of money ; and if this
money should be spent for him, then the rest of
the family would have to deny themselves of
many comforts which they might otherwise have.
"Oh, never mind that, Dan," said his brother
Ezekiel. "We are never so happy as when we
are doing something for you. And we know
that you will do something for us, some time."
And so the boy spent the winter in Boscawen
with Dr. Wood. He learned everything very
easily, but he was not as close a student as he
had been at Exeter.
He was very fond of sport. He liked to go
GETTING READY FOR COLLEGE 141
fishing. And sometimes, when the weather was
fine, his studies were sadly neglected.
There was a circulating library in Boscawen,
and Daniel read every book that was in it.
Sometimes he slighted his Latin for the sake of
giving more time to such reading.
One of the books in the library was Don Quixote.
Daniel thought it the most wonderful story in
existence. He afterwards said :
"I began to read it, and it is literally true that
I never closed my eyes until I had finished it, so
great was the power of this extraordinary book
on my imagination."
But it was so easy for the boy to learn, that he
made very rapid progress in all his studies. In
less than a year, Dr. Wood declared that he was
ready for college.
He was then fifteen years old. He had a
pretty thorough knowledge of arithmetic ; but
he had never studied algebra or geometry. In
Latin he had read four of Cicero's orations, and
six books of Virgil's JEneid. He knew some-
thing of the elements of Greek grammar, and
had read a portion of the Greek Testament.
142 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
Nowadays, a young man could hardly enter
even a third-rate college without a better prep-
aration than that. But colleges are much more
thorough than they were a hundred years ago.
VII. AT DARTMOUTH COLLEGE
Dartmouth College is at Hanover, New Hamp-
shire. It is one of the oldest colleges in America
and among its students have been many of the
foremost men of New England.
It was in the fall of 1797, that Daniel Webster
entered this college.
He was then a tall, slender youth, with high
cheek bones and a swarthy skin.
The professors soon saw that he was no com-
mon lad. They said to one another, "This young
Webster will one day be a greater man than any
And young Webster was well-behaved and
studious at college. He was as fond of sport as
any of the students, but he never gave himself
up to boyish pranks.
He was punctual and regular in all his classes.
He was as great a reader as ever.
AT DARTMOUTH COLLEGE 143
He could learn anything that he tried. No
other young man had a broader knowledge of
things than he.
And yet he did not make his mark as a student
in the prescribed branches of study. He could
not confine himself to the narrow routine of the
He did not, as at Exeter, push his way quickly
to the head of his class. He won no prizes.
"But he minded his own business," said one of
the professors. ' v As steady as the sun, he pur-
sued, with intense application, the great object
tor which he came to college."
Soon everybody began to appreciate his scholar-
ship. Everybody admired him for his manliness
and good common sense.
"He was looked upon as being so far in ad-
vance of any one else, that no other student of
his class was ever spoken of as second to him."
He very soon lost that bashfulness which had
troubled him so much at Exeter. It was no task
now for him to stand up and declaim before the
professors and students.
In a short time he became known as the best
144 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
writer and speaker in the college. Indeed, he
loved to speak ; and the other students were al-
ways pleased to listen to him.
One of his classmates tells us how he prepared
his speeches. He says: "It was Webster's cus-
tom to arrange his thoughts in his mind while
he was in his room, or while he was walking alone.
Then he would put them upon paper just before
the exercise was to be called for.
"If he was to speak at two o'clock, he would
often begin to write after dinner ; and when the
bell rang he would fold his paper, put it in his
pocket, go in, and speak with great ease.
"In his movements he was slow and deliberate,
except when his feelings were aroused. Then
his whole soul would kindle into a flame."
In the year 1800, he was chosen to deliver thd
Fourth of July address to the students of the
college and the citizens of the town. He was
then eighteen years old.
The speech was a long one. It was full of the
love of country. Its tone throughout was earn-
est and thoughtful.
But in its style it was overdone ; it was full of
HOW DANIEL TAUGHT SCHOOL 145
pretentious expressions ; it lacked the simplicity
and good common sense that should mark all
And yet, as the speech of so young a man, it
was a very able effort. People said that it was
the promise of much greater things. And they
In the summer of 1801, Daniel graduated.
But he took no honors. He was not even pres-
ent at the Commencement.
His friends were grieved that he had not been
chosen to deliver the valedictory address. Per-
haps he also was disappointed. But the profes-
sors had thought best to give that honor to another
VIII. --How DANIEL TAUGHT SCHOOL
While Daniel Webster was taking his course
in college, there was one thing that troubled him
very much. It was the thought of his brother
Ezekiel toiling at home on the farm.
He knew that Ezekiel had great abilities. He
knew that he was not fond of the farm, but that
he was anxious to become a lawyer.
146 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
This brother had given up all his dearest plans
in order that Daniel might be favored ; and
Daniel knew that this was so.
Once, when Daniel was at home on a vacation,
he said, "Zeke, this thing is all wrong. Father
has mortgaged the farm for money to pay my ex-
penses at school, and you are making a slave of
yourself to pay off the mortgage. It isn't right
for me to let you do this."
Ezekiel said, "Daniel, I am stronger than you
are, and if one of us has to stay on the farm, of
course I am the one."
"But I want you to go to college," said Daniel.
"An education will do you as much good as me."
"I doubt it," said Ezekiel; "and yet, if father
was only able to send us both, I think that we
might pay him back some time."
"I will see father about it this very day," said
He did see him.
"I told my father," said Daniel, afterwards,
"that I was unhappy at my brother's prospects.
For myself, I saw my way to knowledge, re-
spectability, and self-protection. But as to Eze-
HOW DANIEL TAUGHT SCHOOL 147
kiel, all looked the other way. I said that I
would keep school, and get along as well as I
could, be more than four years in getting through
college, if necessary, provided he also could be
sent to study."
The matter was referred to Daniel's mother,
and she and his father talked it over together.
They knew that it would take all the property
they had to educate both the boys. They knew
that they would have to do without many
comforts, and that they would have a hard
struggle to make a living while the boys were
But the mother said, "I will trust the boys." 1
And it was settled that Ezekiel, too, should have
a chance to make his mark in the world.
He was now a grown-up man. He was tall
and strong and ambitious. He entered college
the very year that Daniel graduated.
As for Daniel, he was now ready to choose a
profession. What should it be ?
His father wanted him to become a lawyer.
And so, to please his parents, he went home and
began to read law in the office of a Mr. Thomp-
148 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
son, in the little village of Salisbury, which ad-
joined his father's farm.
The summer passed by. It was very pleasant
to have nothing to do but to read. And when
the young man grew tired of reading, he could
go out fishing, or could spend a day in hunting
among the New Hampshire hills.
It is safe to say that he did not learn very much
law during that summer.
But there was not a day that he did not think
about his brother. Ezekiel had done much to
help him through college, and now ought he not
to help Ezekiel ?
But what could he do ?
He had a good education, and his first thought
was that he might teach school, and thus earn a
little money for Ezekiel.
The people of Fryeburg, in Maine, wanted him
to take charge of the academy in their little town.
And so, early in the fall, he decided to take up
with their offer.
He was to have three hundred and fifty dollars
for the year's work, and that would help Ezekiel
a great deal.
HOW DANIEL TAUGHT SCHOOL 149
He bade good-bye to Mr. Thompson and his
little law office, and made ready to go to his new
field of labor. There were no railroads at that
time, and a journey of even a few miles was a
Daniel had bought a horse for twenty-four
dollars. In one end of an old-fashioned pair of
saddlebags he put his Sunday clothes, and in the
other he packed his books.
He laid the saddlebags upon the horse, then
he mounted and rode off over the hills toward
Fryeburg, sixty miles away.
He was not yet quite twenty years old. He was
very slender, and nearly six feet in height. His
face was thin and dark. His eyes were black
and bright and penetrating no person who once
saw them could ever forget them.
Young as he was, he was very successful as a
teacher during that year which he spent at Frye-
burg. The trustees of the academy were so highly
pleased that they wanted him to stay a second
year. They promised to raise his salary to five
or six hundred dollars, and to give him a house
and a piece of land.
150 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
He was greatly tempted to give up all further
thoughts of becoming a lawyer.
"What shall I do ?" he said to himself. "Shall
I say, 'Yes, gentlemen,' and sit down here to
spend my days in a kind of comfortable privacy ?"
But his father was anxious that he should re-
turn to the study of the law. And so he was
not long in making up his mind.
In a letter to one of his friends he said: "I
shall make one more trial of the law in the ensuing
"If I prosecute the profession, I pray God to
fortify me against its temptations. To be honest,
to be capable, to be faithful to my client and my
Early the next September, he was again in Mr.
Thompson's little law office. All the money that
he had saved, while at Fryeburg, was spent to
help Ezekiel through college.
IX. --DANIEL GOES TO BOSTON
For a year and a half, young Daniel Webster
stayed in the office of Mr. Thompson. He had
now fully made up his mind as to what profes-
DANIEL GOES TO BOSTON 151
sion he would follow ; and so he was a much
better student than he had been before.
He read many law books with care. He read
Hume's History of England, and spent a good
deal of time with the Latin classics.
"At this period of my life," he afterwards said.
"I passed a great deal of time alone.
"My amusements were fishing and shooting
and riding, and all these were without a compan-
ion. I loved this solitude then, and have loved
it ever since, and love it still."
The Webster family were still very poor.
Judge Webster was now too old to do much work
of any kind. The farm had been mortgaged for
all that it was worth. It was hard to find money
enough to keep Daniel at his law studies and
Ezekiel in college.
At last it became necessary for one of the
young men to do something that would help
matters along. Ezekiel decided that he would
leave college for a time and try to earn enough
money to meet the present needs of the family.
Through some of his friends he obtained a small
private school in Boston.
152 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
There were very few pupils in Ezekiel Web-
ster's school. But there were so many branches
to be taught that he could not find time to hear
all the recitations. So, at last, he sent word to
Daniel to come down and help him. If Daniel
would teach an hour and a half each day, he
should have enough money to pay his board.
Daniel was pleased with the offer. He had
long wanted to study law in Boston, and here
was his opportunity. And so, early in March,
1804, he joined his brother in that city, and was
soon doing what he could to help him in his little
There was in Boston, at that time, a famous law-
yer whose name was Christopher Gore. While
Daniel Webster was wondering how he could
best carry on his studies in the city, he heard
that Mr. Gore had no clerk in his office.
"How I should like to read law with Mr
Gore !" he said to Ezekiel.
"Yes," said Ezekiel. "You could not want a
"I mean to see him to-day and apply for a
place in his office," said Daniel.
DANIEL GOES TO BOSTON 153
It was with many misgivings that the young
man went into the presence of the great lawyer.
We will let him tell the story in his own words :
"I was from the country, I said ; had studied
law for two years ; had come to Boston to study
a year more ; had heard that he had no clerk ;
thought it possible he would receive one.
"I told him that I came to Boston to work,
not to play ; was most desirous, on all accounts,
to be his pupil ; and all I ventured to ask at pres-
ent was, that he would keep a place for me in
his office, till I could write to New Hampshire for
proper letters showing me worthy of it."
Mr. Gore listened to this speech very kindly,
and then bade Daniel be seated while he should
have a short talk with him.
When at last the young man rose to go, Mr.
Gore said: "My young friend, you look as if
you might be trusted. You say you came to
study and not to waste time. I will take you at
your word. You may as well hang up your hat
And this was the beginning of Daniel Web-
ster's career in Boston.
154 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
He must have done well in Mr. Gore's office ;
for, in a few months, he was admitted to the prac-
tice of law in the Court of Common Pleas in
It was at some time during this same winter that
Daniel was offered the position of clerk in the
County Court at home. His father, as you will
remember, was one of the judges in this court,
and he was very much delighted at the thought
that his son would be with him.
The salary would be about fifteen hundred
dollars a year and that was a great sum to
Daniel as well as to his father. The mortgage
on the farm could be paid off ; Ezekiel could
finish his course in college ; and life would be
made easier for them all.
At first Daniel was as highly pleased as his
father. But after he had talked with Mr. Gore,
he decided not to accept the offered position.
'Your prospects as a lawyer," said Mr. Gore,
''are good enough to encourage you to go on.
Go on, and finish your studies. You are poor
enough, but there are greater evils than poverty.
Live on no man's favor. Pursue your profession ;
DANIEL GOES TO BOSTON 155
make yourself useful to your friends and a little
formidable to your enemies, and you have noth-
ing to fear."
A few days after that, Daniel paid a visit to
his father. The judge received him very kindly,
but he was greatly disappointed when the young
man told him that he had made up his mind not
to take the place.
With his deep-set, flashing eyes, he looked at
his son for a moment as though in anger. Then
he said, very slowly :
" Well, my son, your mother has always said
that you would come to something or nothing -
she was not sure which. I think you are now
about settling that doubt for her."
A few weeks after this, Daniel, as I have al-
ready told you, was admitted to the bar in Boston.
But he did not think it best to begin his practice
He knew how anxious his father was that he
should be near him. He wanted to do all that he
could to cheer and comfort the declining years
of the noble man who had sacrificed everything
for him. And so, in the spring of 1805, he set-
156 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
tied in the town of Boscawen, six miles from
home, and put up at his office door this sign :
D. WEBSTER, Attorney
X. LAWYER AND CONGRESSMAN
When Daniel Webster had been in Boscawen
nearly two years, his father died. It was then
decided that Ezekiel should come and take charge
of the home farm, and care for their mother.
Ezekiel had not yet graduated from college,
but he had read law and was hoping to be ad-
mitted to the bar. He was a man of much nat-
ural ability, and many people believed that he
would some day become a very famous lawyer.
And so, in the autumn of 1807, Daniel gave up
to his brother the law business which he had in
Boscawen, and removed to the city of Portsmouth.
He was now twenty-five years old. In Ports-
mouth he would find plenty of work to do ; it
would be the very kind of work that he liked.
He was now well started on the road toward
The very next year, he was married to Miss
LAWYER AND CONGRESSMAN 157
Grace Fletcher, the daughter of a minister in
Hopkinton. The happy couple began house-
keeping in a small, modest, wooden house, in
Portsmouth ; and there they lived, very plainly
and without pretension, for several years.
Mr. Webster's office was "a common, ordinary-
looking room, with less furniture and more books
'than common. He had a small inner room,
opening from the larger, rather an unusual thing."
It was not long until the name of Daniel Web-
ster was known all over New Hampshire. Those
who were acquainted with him said that he was
the smartest young lawyer in Portsmouth. They
said that if he kept on in the way that he had
started, there were great things in store for him.
The country people told wonderful stories
about him. They said he was as black as a
coal --but of course they had never seen him.
They believed that he could gain any case in
, court that he chose to manage and in this they
were about right.
There was another great lawyer in Portsmouth.
His name was Jeremiah Mason, and he was much
older than Mr. Webster. Indeed, he was already
158 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
a famous man when Daniel first began the prac-
tice of law.
The young lawyer and the older one soon be-
came warm friends ; and yet they were often op-
posed to each other in the courts. Daniel was
always obliged to do his best when Mr. Mason
was against him. This caused him to be very
careful. It no doubt made him become a better
lawyer than he otherwise would have been.
While Webster was thus quietly practicing
law in New Hampshire, trouble was brewing be-
tween the United States and England. The
English were doing much to hinder American
merchants from trading with foreign countries.
They claimed the right to search American
vessels for seamen who had deserted from the
British service. And it is said that American
sailors were often dragged from their own vessels
and forced to serve on board the English ships.
Matters kept getting worse and worse for sev-
eral years. At last, in June, 1812, the United
States declared war against England.
Daniel Webster was opposed to this war, and
he made several speeches against it. He said
LAWYER AND CONGRESSMAN 159
that, although we had doubtless suffered many
wrongs, there was more cause for war with France
than with England. And then, the United States
had no navy, and hence was not ready to go to
war with any nation.
Webster's influence in New Hampshire was so
great that he persuaded many of the people of
that state to think just as he thought on this
subject. They nominated him as their represent-
ative in Congress ; and when the time came,
they elected him.
It was on the 24th of May, 1813, that he first
took his seat in, Congress. He was then thirty-
one years old.
In that same Congress there were two other
young men who afterwards made their names
famous in the history of their country. One was
Henry Clay, of Kentucky. The other was John
C. Calhoun, of South Carolina. Both were a
little older than Webster ; both had already
made some mark in public life ; and both were in
favor of the war.
During his first year in Congress, Mr. Web-
ster made some stirring speeches in support of
160 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
his own opinions. In this way, as well by his
skill in debate, he made himself known as a
young man of more than common ability and
Chief Justice Marshall, who was then at the
head of the Supreme Court of the United States,
said of him : " I have never seen a man of whose
intellect I had a higher opinion."
In 1814, the war that had been going on so
long came to an end. But now there were other
subjects which claimed Mr. Webster's attention
Then, as now, there were important questions
regarding the money of the nation ; and upon
these questions there was great difference of
opinion. Daniel Webster's speeches, in favor of a
sound currency, did much to maintain the national
credit and to save the country from bankruptcy.
The people of New Hampshire were so well
pleased with the record which he made in Con-
gress that, when his first term expired, they re-
elected him for a second.
THE DARTMOUTH COLLEGE CASE 161
XI. --THE DARTMOUTH COLLEGE CASE
In 1816, before his second term in Congress
had expired, Daniel Webster removed with his
family to Boston. He had lived in Portsmouth
nine years, and he now felt that he needed a
wider field for the exercise of his talents.
He was now no longer the slender, delicate
person that he had been in his boyhood and
youth. He was a man of noble mien a sturdy,
dignified personage, who bore the marks of great-
ness upon him. People said, "When Daniel
Webster walked the streets of Boston, he made
the buildings look small."
As soon as his term in Congress had expired,
he began the practice of law in Boston.
For nearly seven years he devoted himself
strictly to his profession. Of course, he at once
took his place as the leading lawyer of New Eng-
land. Indeed, he soon became known as the
ablest counselor and advocate in America.
The best business of the country now came to
him. His income was very large, amounting to
more than $20,000 a year.
1 62 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
And during this time there was no harder
worker than he. In fact, his natural genius could
have done but little for him, had it not been for
his untiring industry.
One of his first great victories in law was that
which is known as the Dartmouth College case.
The lawmakers of New Hampshire had attempted
to pass a law to alter the charter of the college.
By doing this they would endanger the useful-
ness and prosperity of that great school, in order
to favor the selfish projects of its enemies.
Daniel Webster undertook to defend the college.
The speech which he made before the Supreme
Court of the United States was a masterly effort.
"Sir," he said, "you may destroy this little in-
stitution --it is weak, it is in your hands. I know
it is one of the lesser lights in the literary horizon
of our country. You may put it out.
" But if you do so, you must carry through
your work ! You must extinguish, one after an-
other, all those greater lights of science which,
for more than a century, have thrown their light
over our land !"
He won the case ; and this, more than any-
WEBSTER'S GREAT ORATIONS 163
thing else, helped to gain for him the reputation
of being the ablest lawyer in the United States.
XII. -- WEBSTER'S GREAT ORATIONS
In 1820, when he was thirty-eight years old,
Daniel Webster was chosen to deliver an oration
at a great meeting of New Englanders at Plym-
Plymouth is the place where the Pilgrims
landed in 1620. Just two hundred years had
passed since that time, and this meeting was to
celebrate the memory of the brave men and
women who had risked so much to found new
homes in what was then a bleak wilderness.
The speech which Mr. Webster delivered was one
of the greatest ever heard in America. It placed
him at once at the head of American orators.
John Adams, the second President of the
United States, was then living, a very old man.
He said, "This oration will be read five hundred
years hence with as much rapture as it was heard.
It ought to be read at the end of every century,
and, indeed, at the end of every year, forever
164 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
But this was only the first of many great ad-
dresses by Mr. Webster. In 1825, he delivered
an oration at the laying of the corner stone of
the Bunker Hill monument. Eighteen years
later, when that monument was finished, he
delivered another. Many of Mr. Webster's
admirers think that these two orations are his
On July 4th, 1826, the United States had been
independent just fifty years. On that day there
passed away two of the greatest men of the
country - - John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
Both were ex-Presidents, and both had been
leaders in the councils of the nation. It was in
memory of these two patriots that Daniel Web-
ster was called to deliver an oration in Faneuil
No other funeral oration has ever been deliv-
ered in any age or country that was equal to
this in eloquence. Like all his other discourses,
it was full of patriotic feeling.
'This lovely land," he said, "this glorious lib-
erty, these benign institutions, the dear purchase
of our fathers, are ours ; ours to enjoy, ours to
MR. WEBSTER IN THE SENATE 165
preserve, ours to transmit. Generations past and
generations to come hold us responsible for this
"Our fathers, from behind, admonish us with
their anxious, paternal voices ; posterity calls out
to us from the bosom of the future ; the world
turns hither its solicitous eyes ; all, all conjure us
to act wisely and faithfully in the relation which
Most of his other great speeches were deliv-
ered in Congress, and are, therefore, political in
tone and subject.
Great as Daniel Webster was in politics and
in law, it is as an orator and patriot that his
name will be longest remembered.
XIII.-- MR. WEBSTER IN THE SENATE
When Daniel Webster was forty years old, the
people of Boston elected him to represent them
in Congress. They were so well pleased with all
that he did while there, that they reflected him
In June, 1827, the legislature of Massachusetts
chose him to be United States senator for a term
1 66 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
of six years. He was at that time the most
famous man in Massachusetts, and his name
was known and honored in every state of the
After that he was reflected to the same place
again and again ; and for more than twenty years
he continued to be the distinguished senator from
I cannot now tell you of all his public services
during the long period that he sat in Congress.
Indeed, there are some things that you would
find hard to understand until you have learned
more about the history of our country. But you
will by-and-by read of them in the larger books
which you will study at school ; and, no doubt,
you will also read some of his great addresses
It was in 1830 that he delivered the most fa-
mous of all his speeches in the senate chamber of
the United States. This speech is commonly
called, "The Reply to Hayne."
I shall not here try to explain the purport of
Mr. Hayne's speeches for there were two of
them. I shall not try to describe the circum-
MR. WEBSTER IN THE SENATE 167
stances which led Mr. Webster to make his fa-
mous reply to them.
But I will quote Mr. Webster's closing sen-
tences. Forty years ago the schoolboys all over
the country were accustomed to memorize and
declaim these patriotic utterances.
"When my eyes shall be turned to behold, for
the last time, the sun in heaven, may I not see
him shining on the broken and dishonored frag-
ments of a once glorious Union ; on states dis-
severed, discordant, belligerent, on a land rent
with civil feuds, or drenched, it may be, in fra-
ternal blood !
"Let their last feeble and lingering glance
rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the repub-
lic, now known and honored throughout the
earth, still high advanced, its arms and trophies
streaming in their original luster, not a stripe
erased or polluted, not a single star obscured,
bearing for its motto no such miserable interrog-
atory, 'What is all this worth ?' nor those other
words of delusion and folly, 'Liberty first and
Union afterwards;' but everywhere, spread all
over in characters of living light, blazing on all
1 68 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
its folds, as they float over the land, and in every
wind under the whole heavens, that other senti-
ment, dear to every American heart Liberty
and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable !"
In 1841, Daniel Webster resigned his seat in
the senate. He did this in order to become sec-
retary of state in the cabinet of the newly elected
President, William Henry Harrison.
But President Harrison died on the 5th of
April, after having held his office just one month ;
and his place was taken by the vice-president,
John Tyler. Mr. Webster now felt that his po-
sition in the cabinet would not be a pleasant one ;
but he continued to hold it for nearly two years.
His most important act as secretary of state
was to conclude a treaty with England which
fixed the northeastern boundary of the United
States. This treaty is known in history as the
In 1843, Mr. Webster resigned his place in
President Tyler's cabinet. But he was not al-
lowed to remain long in private life. Two years
later he was again elected to the United States
MR. WEBSTER IN PRIVATE LIFE 169
About this time, Texas was annexed to the
United States. But Mr. Webster did not favor
this, for he believed that such an act was con-
trary to the Constitution of our country.
He did all that he could to keep our government
from making war upon Mexico. But after this
war had been begun, he was a firm friend of the
soldiers who took part in it, and he did much to
provide for their safety and comfort.
Among these soldiers was Edward, the second
son of Daniel Webster. He became a major in
the main division of the army, and died in the
City of Mexico.
XIV. --MR. WEBSTER IN PRIVATE LIFE
Let us now go back a little way in our story,
and learn something about Mr. Webster's home
and private life.
In 1831, Mr. Webster bought a large farm at
Marshfield, in the southeastern part of Massachu-
setts, not far from the sea.
He spent a great deal of money in improving this
farm ; and in the end it was as fine a country seat
as one might see anywhere in New England.
MR. WEBSTER IN PRIVATE LIFE 171
When he became tired with the many cares of
his busy life, Mr. Webster could always find rest
and quiet days at Marshfield. He liked to dress
himself as a farmer, and stroll about the fields
looking at the cattle and at the growing crops.
"I had rather be here than in the senate," he
But his life was clouded with many sorrows.
Long before going to Marshfield, his two eldest
children were laid in the grave. Their mother
followed them . just one year before Mr. Web-
ster's first entry into the United States senate.
In 1829, his brother Ezekiel died suddenly
while speaking in court at Concord. Ezekiel had
never cared much for politics, but as a lawyer in
his native state, he had won many honors. His
death came as a great shock to everybody that
knew him. To his brother it brought overwhelm-
When Daniel Webster was nearly forty-eight
years old, he married a second wife. She was the
daughter of a New York merchant, and her name
was Caroline Bayard Le Roy. She did much to
lighten the disappointments of his later life, and
172 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
they lived together happily for more than twenty
In 1839, Mr. and Mrs. Webster made a short
visit to England. The fame of the great orator
had gone before him, and he was everywhere re-
ceived with honor. The greatest men of the time
were proud to meet him.
Henry Hallam, the historian, wrote of him :
"Mr. Webster approaches as nearly to the beau
ideal of a republican senator as any man that I
have ever seen in the course of my life."
Even the Queen invited him to dine with her ;
and she was much pleased with his dignified
ways and noble bearing.
And, indeed, his appearance was such as to
win the respect of all who saw him. When he
walked the streets of London, people would stop
and wonder who the noble stranger was ; and
workingmen whispered to one another: 'There
goes a king !"
XV. - - THE LAST YEARS
Many people believed that Daniel Webster
would finally be elected President of the United
THE LAST YEARS 173
States. And, indeed, there was no man in all
this country who was better fitted for that high
position than he.
But it so happened that inferior men, who were
willing to stoop to the tricks of politics, always
stepped in before him.
In the meanwhile the question of slavery was
becoming, every day, more and more important.
It was the one subject which claimed everybody's
Should slavery be allowed in the territories ?
There was great excitement all over the country.
There were many hot debates in Congress. It
seemed as though the Union would be destroyed.
At last, the wiser and cooler-headed leaders in
Congress said, "Let each side give up a little to
the other. Let us have a compromise."
On the yth of March, 1850, Mr. Webster de-
livered a speech before the senate. It was a
speech in favor of compromise, in favor of con-
He thought that this was the only way to pre-
serve the Union. And he was willing to sacrifice
everything for the Constitution and the Union.
174 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
He declared that all the ends he aimed at were
for his country's good.
"I speak to-day for the preservation of the
Union," he said. "Hear me for my cause! I
speak to-day out of a solicitous and anxious
heart, for the restoration to the country of that
quiet and harmony, which make the blessings
of this Union so rich and so dear to us all."
He then went on to defend the law known as
the Fugitive Slave Law. He declared that this
law was in accordance with the Constitution,
and hence it should be enforced according to its
The speech was a great disappointment to his
friends. They said that he had deserted them ; that
he had gone over to their enemies ; that he was
no longer a champion of freedom, but of slavery.
Those who had been his warmest supporters,
now turned against him.
A few months after this, President Taylor died.
The vice-president, Millard Fillmore, then be-
came President. Mr. Fillmore was in sympathy
with Daniel Webster, and soon gave him a seat
in his cabinet as secretary of state.
THE LAST YEARS 175
This was the second time that Mr. Webster
had been called to fill this high and honorable
position. But, under President Fillmore, he did
no very great or important thing.
He was still the leading man in the Whig
party; and he hoped, in 1852, to be nominated
for the presidency. But in this he was again
He was now an old man. He had had great
successes in life ; but he felt that he had failed
at the end of the race. His health was giving
way. He went home to Marshfield for the quiet
and rest which he so much needed.
In May, that same year, he was thrown from
his carriage and severely hurt. From this hurt
he never recovered. He offered to resign his
seat in the cabinet, but Mr. Fillmore would not
listen to this.
In September he became very feeble, and his
friends knew that the end was near. On the
24th of October, 1852, he died. He was nearly
seventy-one years old.
In every part of the land his death was sin-
cerely mourned. Both friends and enemies felt
176 THE STORY OF DANIEL WEBSTER
that a great man had fallen. They felt that this
country had lost its leading statesman, its noblest
patriot, its worthiest citizen.
Rufus Choate, who had succeeded him as the
foremost lawyer in New England, delivered a
great oration upon his life and character. He
"Look in how manly a sort, in how high a
moral tone, Mr. Webster uniformly dealt with
the mind of his country.
"Where do you find him flattering his coun-
trymen, indirectly or directly, for a vote ? On
what did he ever place himself but good counsels
and useful service ?
"Who ever heard that voice, cheering the
people on to rapacity, to injustice, to a vain and
guilty glory ?
"How anxiously, rather, did he prefer to teach,
that by all possible acquired sobriety of mind,
by asking reverently of the past, by obedience
to the law, by habits of patient labor, by the cul-
tivation of the mind, by the fear and worship of
God, we educate ourselves for the future that is
THE STORY OF
I. THE KENTUCKY HOME
Not far from Hodgensville, in Kentucky, there
once lived a man whose name was Thomas Lin-
coln. This man had built for himself a little log
cabin by the side of a brook, where there was an
ever-flowing spring of water.
There was but one room in this cabin. On the
side next to the brook there was a low doorway ;
and at one end there was a large fireplace, built
of rough stones and clay.
The chimney was very broad at the bottom
and narrow at the top. It was made of clay,
with flat stones and slender sticks laid around
the outside to keep it from falling apart.
In the wall, on one side of the fireplace, there
was a square hole for a window. But there was
no glass in this window. In the summer it was
i8o THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
left open all the time. In cold weather a deer-
skin, or a piece of coarse cloth, was hung over
it to keep out the wind and the snow.
At night, or on stormy days, the skin of a
bear was hung across the doorway ; for there was
no door on hinges to be opened and shut.
There was no ceiling to the room. But the
inmates of the cabin, by looking up, could see the
bare rafters and the rough roof-boards, which
Mr. Lincoln himself had split and hewn.
There was no floor, but only the bare ground
that had been smoothed and beaten until it was
as level and hard as pavement.
For chairs there were only blocks of wood and
a rude bench on one side of the fireplace. The
bed was a little platform of poles, on which were
spread the furry skins of wild animals, and a
patchwork quilt of homespun goods.
In this poor cabin, on the I2th of February,
1809, a baby boy was born. There was already
one child in the family a girl, two years old,
whose name was Sarah.
The little boy grew and became strong like
other babies, and his parents named him Abra-
THE KENTUCKY HOME 181
ham, after his grandfather, who had been killed
by the Indians many years before.
When he was old enough to run about, he liked
to play under the trees by the cabin door. Some-
times he would go with his little sister into the
woods and watch the birds and the squirrels.
He had no playmates. He did not know the
meaning of toys or playthings. But he was a
happy child and had many pleasant ways.
Thomas Lincoln, the father, was a kind-hearted
man, very strong and brave. Sometimes he
would take the child on his knee and tell him
strange, true stories of the great forest, and of
the Indians and the fierce beasts that roamed
among the woods and hills.
For Thomas Lincoln had always lived on the
wild frontier ; and he would rather hunt deer
and other game in the forest than do anything
else. Perhaps this is why he was so poor.
Perhaps this is why he was content to live in
the little log cabin with so few of the comforts
But Nancy Lincoln, the young mother, did not
complain. She, too, had grown up among the
1 82 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
rude scenes of the backwoods. She had never
known better things.
And yet she was by nature refined and gentle ;
and people who knew her said that she was very
handsome. She was a model housekeeper, too ;
and her poor log cabin was the neatest and best-
kept house in all that neighborhood.
No woman could be busier than she. She
knew how to spin and weave, and she made all
the clothing for her family.
She knew how to wield the ax and the hoe ;
and she could work on the farm or in the garden
when her help was needed.
She had also learned how to shoot with a rifle ;
and she could bring down a deer or other wild
game with as much ease as could her husband.
And when the game was brought home, she
could dress it, she could cook the flesh for food,
and of the skins she could make clothing for her
husband and children.
There was still another thing that she could
do she could read ; and she read all the books
that she could get hold of. She taught her hus-
band the letters of the alphabet ; and she showed
THE KENTUCKY HOME 183
him how to write his name. For Thomas Lin-
coln had never gone to school, and he had never
learned how to read.
As soon as little Abraham Lincoln was old
enough to understand, his mother read stories to
him from the Bible. Then, while he was still
very young, she taught him to read the stories
The neighbors thought it a wonderful thing
that so small a boy could read. There were very
few of them who could do as much. Few of them
thought it of any great use to learn how to read.
There were no schoolhouses in that part of
Kentucky in those days, and of course there
were no public schools.
One winter a traveling schoolmaster came
that way. He got leave to use a cabin not far
from Mr. Lincoln's, and gave notice that he
would teach school for two or three weeks. The
people were too poor to pay him for teaching
The name of this schoolmaster was Zachariah
The young people for miles around flocked to
1 84 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
the school. Most of them were big boys and
girls, and a few were grown up young men. The
only little child was Abraham Lincoln, and he
was not yet five years old.
There was only one book studied at that school,
and it was a spelling book. It had some easy
reading lessons at the end, but these were not
to be read until after every word in the book had
You can imagine how the big boys and girls
felt when Abraham Lincoln proved that he could
spell and read better than any of them.
II.-- WORK AND SORROW
In the autumn, just after Abraham Lincoln
was eight years old, his parents left their Ken-
tucky home and moved to Spencer county, in
It was not yet a year since Indiana had become
a state. Land could be bought very cheap, and
Mr. Lincoln thought that he could make a good
living there for his family. He had heard also
that game was plentiful in the Indiana woods.
It was not more than seventy or eighty miles
WORK AND SORROW 185
from the old home to the new. But it seemed
very far, indeed, and it was a good many days
before the travelers reached their journey's end.
Over a part of the way there was no road, and
the movers had to cut a path for themselves
through the thick woods.
The boy, Abraham, was tall and very strong
for his age. He already knew how to handle an
ax, and few men could shoot with a rifle better
than he. He was his father's helper in all kinds
It was in November when the family came to
the place which was to be their future home.
Winter was near at hand. There was no house,
nor shelter of any kind. What would become of
the patient, tired mother, and the gentle little
sister, who had borne themselves so bravely dur-
ing the long, hard journey ?
No sooner had the horses been loosed from
the wagon than Abraham and his father were at
work with their axes. In a short time they had
built what they called a "camp."
This camp was but a rude shed, made of poles
and thatched with leaves and branches. It was
1 86 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
enclosed on three sides, so that the chill wind*
or the driving rains from the north and west could
not enter. The fourth side was left open, and in
front of it a fire was built.
This fire was kept burning all the time. It
warmed the interior of the camp. A big iron
kettle was hung over it by means of a chain and
pole, and in this kettle the fat bacon, the venison,
the beans, and the corn were boiled for the
family's dinner and supper. In the hot ashes
the good mother baked luscious "corn dodgers,"
and sometimes, perhaps, a few potatoes.
In one end of the camp were the few cooking
utensils and little articles of furniture which even
the poorest house cannot do without. The rest
of the space was the family sitting room and
bedroom. The floor was covered with leaves,
and on these were spread the furry skins of deer
and bears, and other animals.
It was in this camp that the family spent their
first winter in Indiana. How very cold and
dreary that winter must have been ! Think of
the stormy nights, of the shrieking wind, of the
snow and the sleet and the bitter frost ! It is
WORK AND SORROW 187
not much wonder if, before the spring months
came, the mother's strength began to fail.
But it was a busy winter for Thomas Lincoln.
Every day his ax was heard in the woods. He
was clearing the ground, so that in the spring it
might be planted with corn and vegetables.
He was hewing logs for his new house ; for he
had made up his mind, now, to have something
better than a cabin.
The woods were full of wild animals. It was
easy for Abraham and his father to kill plenty
of game, and thus keep the family supplied with
And Abraham, with chopping and hewing
and hunting and trapping, was very busy for a
little boy. He had but little time to play ; and,
since he had no playmates, we cannot know
whether he even wanted to play.
With his mother, he read over and over the
Bible stories which both of them loved so well.
And, during the cold, stormy days, when he
could not leave the camp, his mother taught him
how to write.
In the spring the new house was raised. It
1 88 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
was only a hewed log house, with one room be-
low and a loft above. But it was so much better
than the old cabin in Kentucky that it seemed
like a palace.
The family had become so tired of living in
the "camp," that they moved into the new house
before the floor was laid, or any door hung at
Then came the plowing and the planting and
the hoeing. Everybody was busy from day-
light to dark. There were so many trees and
stumps that there was but little room for the
corn to grow.
The summer passed, and autumn came. Then
the poor mother's strength gave out. She could
no longer go about her household duties. She
had to depend more and more upon the help
that her children could give her.
At length she became too feeble to leave her
bed. She called her boy to her side. She put
her arms about him and said: "Abraham, I am
going away from you, and you will never see me
again. I know that you will always be good
and kind to your sister and father. Try to live
WORK AND SORROW 189
as I have taught you, and to love your heavenly
On the 5th of October she fell asleep, never to
Under a big sycamore tree, half a mile from
the house, the neighbors dug the grave for the
mother of Abraham Lincoln. And there they
buried her in silence and great sorrow.
There was no minister there to conduct reli-
gious services. In all that new country there was
no church ; and no holy man could be found to
speak words of comfort and hope to the grieving
ones around the grave.
But the boy, Abraham, remembered a travel-
ing preacher, whom they had known in Ken-
tucky. The name of this preacher was David
Elkin. If he would only come !
And so, after all was over, the lad sat down
and wrote a letter to David Elkin. He was only
a child nine years old, but he believed that the
good man would remember his poor mother, and
It was no easy task to write a letter. Paper
and ink were not things of common use, as they
190 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
are with us. A pen had to be made from the
quill of a goose.
But at last the letter was finished and sent
away. How it was carried I do not know; for
the mails were few and far between in those
days, and the postage was very high. It is more
than likely that some friend, who was going into
Kentucky, undertook to have it finally handed
to the good preacher.
Months passed. The leaves were again on the
trees. The wild flowers were blossoming in the
woods. At last the preacher came.
He had ridden a hundred miles on horseback ;
he had forded rivers, and traveled through path-
less woods ; he had dared the dangers of the wild
forest : all in answer to the lad's beseeching letter.
He had no hope of reward, save that which
is given to every man who does his duty. He
did not know that there would come a time when
the greatest preachers in the world would envy
him his sad task.
And now the friends and neighbors gathered
again under the great sycamore tree. The fu-
neral sermon was preached. Hymns were sung.
THE NEW MOTHER 191
A prayer was offered. Words of comfort and
sympathy were spoken.
From that time forward the mind of Abraham
Lincoln was rilled with a high and noble pur- v
pose. In his earliest childhood his mother had
taught him to love truth and justice, to be honest
and upright among men, and to reverence God.
These lessons he never forgot.
Long afterward, when he was known as a very
great man, he said: "All that I am, or hope
to be, I owe to my angel mother."
III. --THE NEW MOTHER
The log house, which Abraham Lincoln called
his home, was now more lonely and cheerless
than before. The sunlight of his mother's pres-
ence had gone out of it forever.
His sister Sarah, twelve years old, was the
housekeeper and cook. His father had not yet
found time to lay a floor in the house, or to hang
a door. There were great crevices between the
logs, through which the wind and the rain drifted
on every stormy day. There was not much com-
fort in such a house.
192 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
But the lad was never idle. In the long win-
ter days, when there was no work to be done, he
spent the time in reading or in trying to improve
There were very few books in the cabins of
that backwoods settlement. But if Abraham
Lincoln heard of one, he could not rest till he
had borrowed it and read it.
Another summer passed, and then another
winter. Then, one day, Mr. Lincoln went on a
visit to Kentucky, leaving his two children and
their cousin, Dennis Hanks, at home to care for
the house and the farm.
I do not know how long he stayed away, but
it could not have been many weeks. One eve-
ning, the children were surprised to see a four-
horse wagon draw up before the door.
Their father was in the wagon ; and by his
side was a kind-faced woman ; and, sitting on
the straw at the bottom of the wagon-bed, there
were three well-dressed children two girls and
And there were some grand things in the
wagon, too. There were six split-bottomed
THE NEW MOTHER 193
chairs, a bureau with drawers, a wooden chest,
and a feather bed. All these things were very
wonderful to the lad and lassie who had never
known the use of such luxuries.
"Abraham and Sarah," said Mr. Lincoln, as he
leaped from the wagon, "I have brought you a
new mother and a new brother and two new
The new mother greeted them very kindly,
and, no doubt, looked with gentle pity upon
them. They were barefooted ; their scant cloth-
ing was little more than rags and tatters ; they
did not look much like her own happy children,
whom she had cared for so well.
And now it was not long until a great change
was made in the Lincoln home. A floor was
laid, a door was hung, a window was made, the
crevices between the logs were daubed with clay.
The house was furnished in fine style, with the
chairs and the bureau and the feather bed. The
kind, new mother brought sunshine and hope
into the place that had once been so cheerless.
With the young lad, Dennis Hanks, there were
now six children in the family. But all were
194 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
treated with the same motherly care. And so, in
the midst of much hard work, there were many
pleasant days for them all.
IV. SCHOOL AND BOOKS
Not very long after this, the people of the
neighborhood made up their minds that they
must have a schoolhouse. And so, one day
after harvest, the men met together and chopped
down trees, and built a little low-roofed log cabin
to serve for that purpose.
If you could see that cabin you would think it
a queer kind of schoolhouse. There was no
floor. There was only one window, and in it
were strips of greased paper pasted across, in-
stead of glass. There were no desks, but only
rough benches made of logs split in halves. In
one end of the room was a huge fireplace ; at the
other end was the low doorway.
The first teacher was a man whose name was
Azel Dorsey. The term of school was very
short ; for the settlers could not afford to pay
him much. It was in midwinter, for then there
was no work for the big boys to do at home.
SCHOOL AND BOOKS 195
And the big boys, as well as the girls and the
smaller boys, for miles around, came in to learn
what they could from Azel Dorsey. The most
of the children studied only spelling ; but some
of the larger ones learned reading and writing
There were not very many scholars, for the
houses in that new settlement were few and far
apart. School began at an early hour in the
morning, and did not close until the sun was
Just how Abraham Lincoln stood in his classes
I do not know ; but I must believe that he stud-
ied hard and did everything as well as he could.
In the arithmetic which he used, he wrote these
His hand and pen,
He will be good,
But God knows when."
In a few weeks, Azel Dorsey's school came to
a close ; and Abraham Lincoln was again as
busy as ever about his father's farm. After that
he attended school only two or three short terms.
196 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
If all his school days were put together they
would not make a twelve-month.
But he kept on reading and studying at home.
His stepmother said of him: "He read every-
thing he could lay his hands on. When he came
across a passage that struck him, he would write
it down on boards, if he had no paper, and keep
it until he had got paper. Then he would copy
it, look at it, commit it to memory, and repeat it."
Among the books that he read were the Bible,
the Pilgrim's Progress, and the poems of Robert
Burns. One day he walked a long distance to
borrow a book of a farmer. This book was
Weems's Life of Washington. He read as much
as he could while walking home.
By that time it was dark, and so he sat down
by the chimney and read by fire light until bed-
time. Then he took the book to bed with him
in the loft, and read by the light of a tallow
In an hour the candle burned out. He laid
the book in a crevice between two of the logs of
the cabin, so that he might begin reading again
as soon as it was daylight.
SCHOOL AND BOOKS 197
But in the night a storm came up. The rain
was blown in, and the book was wet through
In the morning, when Abraham awoke, he saw
what had happened. He dried the leaves as well
as he could, and then finished reading the book.
As soon as he had eaten his breakfast, he hur-
ried to carry the book to its owner. He ex-
plained how the accident had happened.
"Mr. Crawford," he said, "I am willing to pay
you for the book. I have no money ; but, if you
will let me, I will work for you until I have made
Mr. Crawford thought that the book was
worth seventy-five cents, and that Abraham's
work would be worth about twenty-five cents a
day. And so the lad helped the farmer gather
corn for three days, and thus became the owner
of the delightful book.
He read the story of Washington many times
over. He carried the book with him to the field,
and read it while he was following the plow.
From that time, Washington was the one great
hero whom he admired. Why could not he
198 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
model his own life after that of Washington ?
Why could not he also be a doer of great things
for his country ?
V. --LiFE IN THE BACKWOODS
Abraham Lincoln now set to work with a will
to educate himself. His father thought that he
did not need to learn anything more. He did
not see that there was any good in book-learning.
If a man could read and write and cipher, what
more was needed ?
But the good stepmother thought differently ;
and when another short term of school began in
the little log schoolhouse, all six of the children
from the Lincoln cabin were among the scholars.
In a few weeks, however, the school had closed ;
and the three boys were again hard at work,
chopping and grubbing in Mr. Lincoln's clear-
ings. They were good-natured, jolly young fel-
lows, and they lightened their labor with many
a joke and playful prank.
Many were the droll stories with which Abra-
ham amused his two companions. Many were
the puzzling questions that he asked. Some-
LIFE IN THE BACKWOODS 199
times in the evening, with the other five children
around him, he would declaim some piece that
he had learned ; or he would deliver a speech
of his own on some subject of common interest.
If you could see him as he then appeared, you
would hardly think that such a boy would ever
become one of the most famous men of history.
On his head he wore a cap made from the skin
of a squirrel or a raccoon. Instead of trousers
of cloth-, he wore buckskin breeches, the legs of
which were many inches too short. His shirt
was of deerskin in the winter, and of homespun
tow in the summer. Stockings he had none.
His shoes were of heavy cowhide, and were worn
only on Sundays or in very cold weather.
The family lived in such a way as to need very
little money. Their bread was made of corn
meal. Their meat was chiefly the flesh of wild
game found in the forest.
Pewter plates and wooden trenchers were used
on the table. The tea and coffee cups were of
painted tin. There was no stove, and all the
cooking was done on the hearth of the big
200 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
But poverty was no hindrance to Abraham
Lincoln. He kept on with his reading and his
studies as best he could. Sometimes he would
go to the little village of Gentryville, near by, to
spend an evening. He would tell so many jokes
and so many funny stories, that all the people
would gather round him to listen.
When he was sixteen years old he went one
day to Booneville, fifteen miles away, to attend
a trial in court. He had never been in court be-
fore. He listened with great attention to all that
was said. When the lawyer for the defense
made his speech, the youth was so full of delight
that he could not contain himself.
He arose from his seat, walked across the court
room, and shook hands with the lawyer. "That
was the best speech I ever heard," he said.
He was tall and very slim ; he was dressed in
a jeans coat and buckskin trousers ; his feet
were bare. It must have been a strange sight to
see him thus complimenting an old and practiced
From that time, one ambition seemed to fill
his mind. He wanted to be a lawyer and make
THE BOATMAN 2OI
great speeches in court. He walked twelve miles
barefooted, to borrow a copy of the laws of In-
diana. Day and night he read and studied.
"Some day I shall be President of the United
States," he said to some of his young friends.
And this he said not as a joke, but in the firm
belief that it would prove to be true.
VI. - - THE BOATMAN
One of Thomas Lincoln's friends owned a
ferryboat on the Ohio River. It was nothing
but a small rowboat, and would carry only three
or four people at a time. This man wanted to
employ some one to take care of his boat and
to ferry people across the river.
Thomas Lincoln was in need of money ; and
so he arranged with his friend for Abraham to do
this work. The wages of the young man were
to be $2.50 a week. But all the money was to be
One day two strangers came to the landing.
They wanted to take passage on a steamboat
that was coming down the river. The ferry-boy
signaled to the steamboat and it stopped in mid-
202 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
stream. Then the boy rowed out with the two
passengers, and they were taken on board.
Just as he was turning towards the shore again,
each of the strangers tossed a half-dollar into his
boat. He picked the silver up and looked at it.
Ah, how rich he felt ! He had never had so much
money at one time. And he had gotten all for
a few minutes' labor !
When winter came on, there were fewer people
who wanted to cross the river. So, at last, the
ferryboat was tied up, and Abraham Lincoln
went back to his father's home.
He was now nineteen years old. He was very
tall nearly six feet four inches in height. He
was as strong as a young giant. He could jump
higher and farther, and he could run faster, than
any of his fellows ; and there was no one, far or
near, who could lay him on his back.
Although he had always lived in a community
of rude, rough people, he had no bad habits. He
used no tobacco ; he did not drink strong liquor ;
no profane word ever passed his lips.
He was good-natured at all times, and kind to
THE BOATMAN 203
During that winter, Mr. Gentry, the store-
keeper in the village, had bought a good deal of
Corn and pork. He intended, in the spring, to
load this on a flatboat and send it down the river
to New Orleans.
In looking about for a captain to take charge
of the boat, he happened to think of Abraham
Lincoln. He knew that he could trust the young
man. And so a bargain was soon made. Abra-
ham agreed to pilot the boat to New Orleans
and to market the produce there ; and Mr. Gen-
try was to pay his father eight dollars and a half
a month for his services.
As soon as the ice had well melted from the
river, the voyage was begun. Besides Captain
Lincoln there was only one man in the crew, and
that was a son of Mr. Gentry's.
The voyage was a long and weary one, but at
last the two boatmen reached the great southern
city. Here they saw many strange things of
which they had never heard before. But they
soon sold their cargo and boat, and then returned
home on a steamboat.
To Abraham Lincoln the world was now very
204 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
different from what it had seemed before. He
longed to be away from the narrow life in the
woods of Spencer county. He longed to be doing
something for himself - - to be making for him-
self a fortune and a name.
But then he remembered his mother's teach-
ings when he sat on her knee in the old
Kentucky home, "Always do right." He
remembered her last words, "I know you will
be kind to your father."
And so he resolved to stay with his father, to
work for him, and to give him all his earnings
until he was twenty-one years old.
VII. --THE FIRST YEARS IN ILLINOIS
Early in the spring of 1830, Thomas Lincoln
sold his farm in Indiana, and the whole family
moved to Illinois. The household goods were
put in a wagon drawn by four yoke of oxen.
The kind stepmother and her daughters rode
also in the wagon.
Abraham Lincoln, with a long whip in his hand,
trudged through the mud by the side of the road
and guided the oxen. Who that saw him thus
THE FIRST YEARS IN ILLINOIS 205
going into Illinois would have dreamed that he
would in time become that state's greatest citizen ?
The journey was a long and hard one ; but in
two weeks they reached Decatur, where they
had decided to make their new home.
Abraham Lincoln was now over twenty-one
years old. He was his own man. But he stayed
with his father that spring. He helped him
fence his land ; he helped him plant his corn.
But his father had no money to give him.
The young man's clothing was all worn out, and
he had nothing with which to buy any more.
What should he do ?
Three miles from his father's cabin there lived
a thrifty woman, whose name was Nancy Miller.
Mrs. Miller owned a flock of sheep, and in her
house there were a spinning-wheel and a loom
that were always busy. And so you must know
that she wove a great deal of jeans and home-
Abraham Lincoln bargained with this woman
to make him a pair of trousers. He agreed that
for each yard of cloth required, he would split for
her four hundred rails.
206 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
He had to split fourteen hundred rails in all ;
but he worked so fast that he had finished them
before the trousers were ready.
The next April saw young Lincoln piloting an-
other flatboat down the Mississippi to New Or-
leans. His companion this time was his mother's
relative, John Hanks. This time he stayed longer
in New Orleans, and he saw some things which
he had barely noticed on his first trip.
He saw gangs of slaves being driven through
the streets. He visited the slave-market, and
saw women and girls sold to the highest bidder
like so many cattle.
The young man, who would not be unkind to
any living being, was shocked by these sights.
"His heart bled; he was mad, thoughtful, sad,
He said to John Hanks, "If I ever get a
chance to hit that institution, I'll hit it hard,
He came back from New Orleans in July. Mr.
Offut, the owner of the flatboat which he had
taken down, then employed him to act as clerk
in a country store which he had at New Salem.
THE BLACK HAWK WAR 207
New Salem was a little town not far from
Young Lincoln was a good salesman, and all
the customers liked him. Mr. Offut declared
that the young man knew more than any one else
in the United States, and that he could outrun
and outwrestle any man in the county.
But in the spring of the next year Mr. Offut
failed. The store was closed, and Abraham Lin-
coln was out of employment again.
VIII. THE BLACK HAWK WAR
There were still a good many Indians in the
West. The Sac Indians had lately sold their
lands in northern Illinois to the United States.
They had then moved across the Mississippi
River, to other lands that had been set apart for
But they did not like their new home. At last
they made up their minds to go back to their
former hunting-grounds. They were led by a
chief whose name was Black Hawk ; and they
began by killing the white settlers and burning
their houses and crops.
208 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
This was in the spring of 1832.
The whole state of Illinois was in alarm. The
governor called for volunteers to help the United
States soldiers drive the Indians back.
Abraham Lincoln enlisted. His company elected
He did not know anything about military tac-
tics. He did not know how to give orders to his
men. But he did the best that he could, and
learned a great deal by experience.
His company marched northward and west-
ward until they came to the Mississippi River.
But they did not meet any Indians, and so there
was no fighting.
The young men under Captain Lincoln were
rude fellows from the prairies and backwoods.
They were rough in their manners, and hard
to control. But they had very high respect for
Perhaps this was because of his great strength,
and his skill in wrestling ; for he could put the
roughest and strongest of them on their backs.
Perhaps it was because he was good-natured and
kind, and, at the same time, very firm and decisive.
THE BLACK HAWK WAR 209
In a few weeks the time for which the com-
pany had enlisted came to an end. The young
men were tired of being soldiers ; and so all, ex-
cept Captain Lincoln and one man, were glad to
But Captain Lincoln never gave up anything
half done. He enlisted again. This time he
was a private in a company of mounted
The main camp of the volunteers and soldiers
was on the banks of the Rock River, in northern
Here, one day, Abraham Lincoln saw a young
lieutenant of the United States army, whose
name was Jefferson Davis. It is not likely
that the fine young officer noticed the rough-clad
ranger ; but they were to know more of each
other at a future time.
Three weeks after that the war was at an end.
The Indians had been beaten in a battle, and
Black Hawk had been taken prisoner.
But Abraham Lincoln had not been in any
fight. He had not seen any Indians, except
210 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
In June his company was mustered out, and
he returned home to New Salem.
He was then twenty-three years old.
IX. IN THE LEGISLATURE
When Abraham Lincoln came back to New
Salem it was nearly time for the state election.
The people of the town and neighborhood wanted
to send him to the legislature, and he agreed to
be a candidate.
It was at Pappsville, twelve miles from Spring-
field, that he made his first campaign speech.
He said: "Gentlemen and fellow-citizens
"I presume you all know who I am.
"I am humble Abraham Lincoln. I have been
solicited by my friends to become a candidate
for the legislature.
"My politics are short and sweet.
" I am in favor of a national bank ; am in favor
of the internal improvement system, and a high
'These are my sentiments and political prin-
ciples. If elected, I shall be thankful ; if not, it
will be all the same."
IN THE LEGISLATURE 21 1
He was a tall, gawky, rough-looking fellow.
He was dressed in a coarse suit of homespun,
much the worse for wear.
A few days after that, he made a longer and
better speech at Springfield.
But he was not elected.
About this time a worthless fellow, whose
name was Berry, persuaded Mr. Lincoln to help
him buy a store in New Salem. Mr. Lincoln
had no money, but he gave his notes for the
value of half the goods.
The venture was not a profitable one. In a
few months the store was sold ; but Abraham
did not receive a dollar for it. It was six years
before he was able to pay off the notes which he
During all this time Mr. Lincoln did not give
up the idea of being a lawyer. He bought a
second-hand copy of Blackstone's Commentaries
at auction. He studied it so diligently that in
a few weeks he had mastered the whole of it.
He bought an old form-book, and began to
draw up contracts, deeds, and all kinds of legal
212 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
He would often walk to Springfield, fourteen
miles away, to borrow a book ; and he would
master thirty or forty pages of it while returning
Soon he began to practice in a small way be-
fore justices of the peace and country juries.
He was appointed postmaster at New Salem, but
so little mail came to the place that the office
was soon discontinued.
He was nearly twenty-five years old. But,
with all his industry, he could hardly earn money
enough to pay for his board and clothing.
He had learned a little about surveying while
living in Indiana. He now took up the study
again, and was soon appointed deputy surveyor
of Sangamon county.
He was very skillful as a surveyor. Although
his chain was only a grapevine, he was very ac-
curate and never made mistakes.
The next year he was again a candidate for
the legislature. This time the people were ready
to vote for him, and he was elected. It was no
small thing for so young a man to be chosen to
help make the laws of his state.
IN THE LEGISLATURE 213
No man ever had fewer advantages than
Abraham Lincoln. As a boy, he was the poorest
of the poor. No rich friend held out a helping
hand. But see what he had already accom-
plished by pluck, perseverance, and honesty !
He had not had access to many books, but he
knew books better than most men of his age.
He knew the Bible by heart ; he was familiar
with Shakespeare ; he could repeat nearly all the
poems of Burns ; he knew much about physics
and mechanics ; he had mastered the elements
He was very awkward and far from handsome,
but he was so modest, so unselfish and kind, that
every one who knew him liked him. He was a
true gentleman a gentleman at heart, if not in
And so, as I have already said, Abraham Lin-
coln, at the age of twenty-five, was elected to the
state legislature. He served the people so well
that when his term closed, two years later, they
sent him back for another term.
The capital of Illinois had, up to this time,
been at Vandalia. Mr. Lincoln and his friends
214 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
now succeeded in having a law passed to re-
move it to Springfield. Springfield was nearer
to the center of the state ; it was more conven-
ient to everybody, and had other advantages
which Vandalia did not have.
The people of Springfield were so delighted
that they urged Mr. Lincoln to come there and
practice law. An older lawyer, whose name was
John T. Stuart, and who had a good practice,
offered to take him in partnership with him.
And so, in 1837, Abraham Lincoln left New
Salem and removed to Springfield. He did not
have much to move. All the goods that he had
in the world were a few clothes, which he car-
ried in a pair of saddlebags, and two or three
law books. He had no money, and he rode into
Springfield on a borrowed horse.
He was then twenty-eight years old.
From that time on, Springfield was his home.
X. --POLITICS AND MARRIAGE
The next year after his removal to Springfield,
Mr. Lincoln was elected to the legislature for the
POLITICS AND MARRIAGE 215
There were then, in this country, two great
political parties, the Democrats and the Whigs.
Mr. Lincoln was a Whig, and he soon became
the leader of his party in the state. But the
Whigs were not so strong as the Democrats.
The legislature was in session only a few weeks
each year ; and so Mr. Lincoln could devote ah 1
the rest of the time to the practice of law. There
were many able lawyers in Illinois ; but Abe
Lincoln of Springfield soon made himself known
among the best of them.
In 1840, he was again elected to the legislature.
This was the year in which General William
H. Harrison was elected President of the United
States. General Harrison was a Whig ; and
Mr. Lincoln's name was on the Whig ticket as
a candidate for presidential elector in his state.
The presidential campaign was one of the
most exciting that had ever been known. It
was called the "log cabin" campaign, because
General Harrison had lived in a log cabin, and
his opponents had sneered at his poverty.
In the East as well as in the West, the excite-
ment was very great. In every city and town
2l6 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
and village, wherever there was a political meet-
ing, a log cabin was seen. On one side of the
low door hung a long-handled gourd ; on the
other side, a coon-skin was nailed to the logs ;
the blue smoke curled up from the top of the
You may believe that Abraham Lincoln went
into this campaign with all his heart. He trav-
eled over a part of the state, making stump-
speeches for his party.
One of his ablest opponents was a young law-
yer, not quite his' own age, whose name was
Stephen A. Douglas. In many places, during
this campaign, Lincoln and Douglas met in pub-
lic debate upon the questions of the day. And
both of them were so shrewd, so well informed,
and so eloquent, that those who heard them were
unable to decide which was the greater of the
General Harrison was elected, but not through
the help of Mr. Lincoln ; for the vote of Illinois
that year was for the Democratic candidate.
In 1842, when he was thirty-three years old,
Mr. Lincoln was married to Miss Mary Todd, a
218 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
young lady from Kentucky, who had lately come
to Springfield on a visit.
For some time after their marriage, Mr. and
Mrs. Lincoln lived in a hotel called the "Globe
Tavern," paying four dollars a week for rooms
and board. But, in 1844, Mr. Lincoln bought a
small, but comfortable frame house, and in this
they lived until they went to the White House,
seventeen years later.
Although he had been successful as a young
lawyer, Mr. Lincoln was still a poor man. But
Mrs. Lincoln said: "I would rather have a good
man, a man of mind, with bright prospects for suc-
cess and power and fame, than marry one with all
the horses and houses and gold in the world."
XI. CONGRESSMAN AND LAWYER
In 1846, Mr. Lincoln was again elected to the
In the following year the people of his district
chose him to be their representative in Congress.
He took his seat in December. He was then
thirty-nine years old. He was the only Whig
CONGRESSMAN AND LAWYER 219
There were many famous men in Congress at
that time. Mr. Lincoln's lifelong rival, Stephen
A. Douglas, was one of the senators from Illinois.
He had already served a term or two in the house
of representatives. J
Daniel Webster was also in the senate ; and so
was John C. Calhoun ; and so was Jefferson Davis.
Mr. Lincoln took an active interest in all the
subjects that came before Congress. He made
many speeches. But, perhaps, the most impor-
tant thing that he did at this time was to propose
a bill for the abolition of the slave-trade in the
city of Washington.
He believed that slavery was unjust to the
slave and harmful to the nation. He wanted to
do what he could to keep it from becoming a
still greater evil. But the bill was opposed so
strongly that it was not even voted upon.
After the close of Mr. Lincoln's term in Con-
gress, he hoped that President Taylor, who was
a Whig, might appoint him to a good office.
But in this he was disappointed.
And so, in 1849, he returned to his home in Spring-
field, and again settled down to the practice of law.
220 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
He was then forty years old. Considering the
poverty of his youth, he had done great things
for himself. But he had not done much for his
country. Outside of his own state his name was
His life for the next few years was like that of
any other successful lawyer in the newly-settled
West. He had a large practice, but his fees
were very small. His income from his profession
was seldom more than $2,000 a year.
His habits were very simple. He lived com-
fortably and respectably. In his modest little
home there was an air of order and refinement,
but no show of luxury.
No matter where he might go, Mr. Lincoln
would have been known as a Western man. He
was. six feet four inches in height. His face was
very homely, but very kind.
He was cordial and friendly in his manners.
There was something about him which made
everybody feel that he was a sincere, truthful,
upright man. He was known among his neigh-
bors as "Honest Abe Lincoln.' 1
THE QUESTION OF SLAVERY 221
XII. --THE QUESTION OF SLAVERY
The great subject before the country at this
time was slavery. It had been the cause of trouble
for many years.
In the early settlement of the American colo-
nies, slavery had been introduced through the in-
fluence of the English government. The first
slaves had been brought to Virginia nearly 240
years before the time of which I am telling you.
Many people saw from the beginning that it
was an evil which would at some distant day
bring disaster upon the country. In 1772, the
people of Virginia petitioned the King of Eng-
land to put a stop to the bringing of slaves from
Africa into that colony. But the petition was
rejected ; and the King forbade them to speak of
the matter any more.
Washington, Jefferson, and other founders of
our nation looked upon slavery as an evil. They
hoped that the time might come when it would
be done away with ; for they knew that the
country would prosper better without it.
At the time of the Revolution, slavery was per-
222 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
mitted in all the states. But it was gradually
abolished, first in Pennsylvania and then in the
New England states, and afterwards in New
In 1787, a law was passed by Congress declar-
ing that there should be no slavery in the terri-
tory northwest of the river Ohio. This was the
territory from which the states of Ohio, Indiana,
Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin were formed ;
and so, of course, these states were free states
from the beginning.
The great industry of the South was cotton-
raising. The people of the Southern states
claimed that slavery was necessary, because only
negro slaves could do the work required on the
big cotton plantations. Kentucky, Tennessee,
Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana were admit-
ted, one by one, into the Union ; and all were
In 1821, Missouri applied for admission into the
Union. The South wanted slavery in this state
also, but the North objected. There were many
hot debates in Congress over this question. At
last, through the influence of Henry Clay, the
THE QUESTION OF SLAVERY 223
dispute was settled by what has since been known
as the Missouri Compromise.
The Missouri Compromise provided that Mis-
souri should be a slave state ; this was to satisfy
the South. On the other hand, it declared that
all the western territory north of the line which
formed the southern boundary of Missouri, should
forever be free ; this was to appease the North.
But the cotton planters of the South grew more
wealthy by the labor of their slaves. More territory
was needed for the extension of slavery. Texas
joined the United States and became a slave state.
Then followed a war with Mexico ; and Cali-
fornia, New Mexico, and Utah were taken from
that country. Should slavery be allowed in these
new territories also ?
At this time a new political party was formed.
It was called the "Free Soil Party," and the
principle for which it contended was this: "No
more slave states and no slave territory."
This party was not very strong at first, but
soon large numbers of Whigs and many northern
Democrats, who did not believe in the extension
of slavery, began to join it.
224 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Although the Whig party refused to take any
position against the extension of slavery, there
were many anti-slavery Whigs who still remained
with it and voted the Whig ticket and one of
these men was Abraham Lincoln.
The contest between freedom and slavery be-
came more fierce every day. At last another
compromise was proposed by Henry Clay.
This compromise provided that California
should be admitted as a free state ; that slavery
should not be prohibited in New Mexico and
Utah ; that there should be no more markets for
slaves in the District of Columbia ; and that a
new and very strict fugitive-slave law should be
This compromise is called the "Compromise
of 1850." It was in support of these measures
that Daniel Webster made his last great speech.
It was hoped by Webster and Clay that the
Compromise of 1850 would put an end to the
agitation about slavery. "Now we shall have
peace," they said. But the agitation became
stronger and stronger, and peace seemed farther
away than ever before.
LINCOLN AND DOUGLAS 225
In 1854, a bill was passed by Congress to or-
ganize the territories of Kansas and Nebraska.
This bill provided that the Missouri Compromise
should be repealed, and that the question of
slavery in these territories should be decided by
the people living in them.
The bill was passed through the influence of
Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. There was now
no bar to the extension of slavery into any of
the territories save that of public opinion.
The excitement all over the North was very
great. In Kansas there was actual war between
those who favored slavery and those who op-
posed it. Thinking men in all parts of the coun-
try saw that a great crisis was at hand.
XIII. -- LINCOLN AND DOUGLAS
It was then that Abraham Lincoln came for-
ward as the champion of freedom.
Stephen A. Douglas was a candidate for re-
election to the senate, and he found it necessary
to defend himself before the people of his state
for the part he had taken in repealing the Mis-
souri Compromise. He went from one city to
226 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
another, making speeches ; and at each place
Abraham Lincoln met him in joint debate.
"I do not care whether slavery is voted into
or out of the territories," said Mr. Douglas.
"The question of slavery is one of climate.
Wherever it is to the interest of the inhabitants
of a territory to have slave property, there a
slave law will be enacted."
But Mr. Lincoln replied, "The men who signed
the Declaration of Independence said that all
men are created equal, and are endowed by their
Creator with certain inalienable rights life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. ... I
beseech you, do not destroy that immortal em-
blem of humanity, the Declaration of Independ-
At last, Mr. Douglas felt that he was beaten.
He proposed that both should go home, and that
there should be no more joint discussions. Mr.
Lincoln agreed to this ; but the words which
he had spoken sank deep into the hearts of those
who heard them.
The speeches of Lincoln and Douglas were
printed in a book. People in all parts of the
LINCOLN AND DOUGLAS 227
country read them. They had heard much about
Stephen A. Douglas. He was called "The Little
Giant." He had long been famous among the
politicians of the country. It was believed that
he would be the next President of the United
But who was this man Lincoln, who had so
bravely vanquished the Little Giant ? He was
called "Honest Abe." There were few people
outside of his state who had ever heard of him
Mr. Douglas returned to his seat in the United
States senate. Mr. Lincoln became the acknowl-
edged leader of the forces opposed to the exten-
sion of slavery.
In May, 1856, a convention of the people of
Illinois was held in Bloomington, Illinois. It
met for the purpose of forming a new political
party, the chief object and aim of which should
be to oppose the extension of slavery into the
Mr. Lincoln made a speech to the members of
this convention. It was one of the greatest
speeches ever heard in this country. "Again
228 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
and again, during the delivery, the audience
sprang to their feet, and, by long-continued
cheers, expressed how deeply the speaker had
And so the new party was organized. It was
composed of the men who had formed the old
Free Soil Party, together with such Whigs and
Democrats as were opposed to the further growth
of the slave power. But the greater number of
its members were Whigs. This new party was
called the Republican Party.
In June, the Republican Party held a national
convention at Philadelphia, and nominated John
C. Fremont for President. But the party was
not strong enough to carry the election that year.
In that same month the Democrats held a con-
vention at Cincinnati. Every effort was made
to nominate Stephen A. Douglas for President.
But he was beaten in his own party, on account
of the action which he had taken in the repeal of
the Missouri Compromise.
James Buchanan was nominated in his stead,
and, in November, was elected.
And so the conflict went on.
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES 229
In the year 1858 there was another series of
joint debates between Lincoln and Douglas.
Both were candidates for the United States sen-
ate. Their speeches were among the most re-
markable ever delivered in any country.
Lincoln spoke for liberty and justice. Doug-
las's speeches were full of fire and patriotism.
He hoped to be elected President in 1860. In the
end, it was generally acknowledged that Lincoln
had made the best arguments. But Douglas was
reelected to the senate.
XIV. -- PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
In 1860 there were four candidates for the
The great Democratic Party was divided into
two branches. One branch nominated Stephen
A. Douglas. The other branch, which included
the larger number of the slave-owners of the
South, nominated John C. Breckinridge, of
The remnant of the old Whig Party, now
called the "Union Party," nominated John Bell,
230 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
The Republican Party nominated Abraham
In November came the election, and a majority
of all the electors chosen were for Lincoln.
The people of the cotton-growing states be-
lieved that, by this election, the Northern people
intended to deprive them of their rights. They
believed that the anti-slavery people intended to
do much more than prevent the extension of
slavery. They believed that the abolitionists
were bent upon passing laws to deprive them of
Wild rumors were circulated concerning the
designs which the "Black Republicans," as they
were called, had formed for their coercion and
oppression. They declared that they would never
And so, in December, the people of South Car-
olina met in convention, and declared that that
state had seceded from the Union --that they,
would no longer be citizens of the United States.
One by one, six other states followed ; and they
united to form a new government, called the
Confederate States of America.
PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES 231
It had long been held by the men of the South
that a state had the right to withdraw from the
Union at any time. This was called the doctrine
of States' Rights.
The Confederate States at once chose Jeffer-
son Davis for their President, and declared them-
selves free and independent.
In February, Mr. Lincoln went to Washington
to be inaugurated. His enemies openly boasted
that he should never reach that city alive ; and
a plot was formed to kill him on his passage
through Baltimore. But he took an earlier train
than the one appointed, and arrived at the capital
On the 4th of March he was inaugurated. In
his address at that time he said : "In your hands,
my dissatisfied countrymen, and not in mine,
is the momentous issue of civil war. Your gov-
ernment will not assail you. You can have no
conflict without being yourselves the aggressors.
You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy
the government ; while I shall have the most
solemn one to protect and defend it."
The Confederate States demanded that the
232 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
government should give up all the forts, arsenals,
and public property within their limits. This,
President Lincoln refused to do. He said that
he could not admit that these states had with-
drawn from the Union, or that they could with-
draw without the consent of the people of the
United States, given in a national convention.
And so, in April, the Confederate guns were
turned upon Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor,
and the war was begun. President Lincoln
issued a call for 75,000 men to serve in the army
for three months ; and both parties prepared for
the great contest.
It is not my purpose to give a history of that ter-
rible war of four years. The question of slavery
was now a secondary one. The men of one party
were determined, at whatever hazard, to preserve
the Union. The men of the other party fought to
defend their doctrine of States' Rights, and to
set up an independent government of their own.
President Lincoln was urged to use his power
and declare all the slaves free. He answered :
"My paramount object is to save the Union,
and not either to save or destroy slavery.
THE END OF A GREAT LIFE 233
"If I could save the Union without freeing
any slave, I would do it. If I could save it by
freeing all the slaves, I would do it. If I could
save it by freeing some and leaving others alone,
I would also do that."
At last, however, when he saw that the success
of the Union arms depended upon his freeing
the slaves, he decided to do so. On the ist of
January, 1863, he issued a proclamation declaring
that the slaves, in all the states or parts of states
then in rebellion, should be free. More than three
millions of colored people were given their freedom.
But the war still went on. It reached a turn-
ing point, however, at the battle of Gettysburg,
in July, that same year. From that time the
cause of the Confederate States was on the wane.
Little by little the patriots, who were struggling
for the preservation of the Union, prevailed.
XV. - - THE END OF A GREAT LIFE
At the close of Mr. Lincoln's first term, he was
again elected President of the United States.
The war was still going on, but the Union arms
were now everywhere victorious.
234 THE STORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
His second inaugural address was very short.
He did not boast of any of his achievements ;
he did not rejoice over the defeat of his enemies.
But he said :
"With malice toward none; with charity for
all ; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to
see the right, let us strive on to finish the work
we are in ; to bind up the nation's wounds ; to
care for him who shall have borne the battle,
and for his widow and his orphan to do all
which may achieve and cherish a just and last-
ing peace among ourselves and with all nations."
Five weeks after that, on the 9th of April,
1865, the Confederate army surrendered, and the
war was at an end.
Abraham Lincoln's work was done.
The I4th of April was Good Friday. On the
evening of that day, Mr. Lincoln, with Mrs. Lin-
coln and two or three friends, visited Ford's
Theater in Washington.
At a few minutes past 10 o'clock, an actor
whose name was John Wilkes Booth, came into
the box where Mr. Lincoln sat. No one saw
him enter. He pointed a pistol at the President's
THE END OF A GREAT LIFE 235
head, and fired. He leaped down upon the stage,
shouting " Sic semper tyrannis ! The South is
avenged !" Then he ran behind the scenes and
out by the stage door.
The President fell forward. His eyes closed.
He neither saw, nor heard, nor felt anything that
was taking place. Kind arms carried him to a'
private house not far away.
At twenty minutes past seven o'clock the next
morning, those who watched beside him gave
out the mournful news that Abraham Lincoln
He was fifty-six years old.
The whole nation wept for him. In the South
as well as in the North, the people bowed them-
selves in grief. Heartfelt tributes of sorrow came
from other lands in all parts of the world. Never,
before nor since, has there been such universal
Such is the story of Abraham Lincoln. In the
history of the world, there is no story more full of
lessons of perseverance, of patience, of honor, of true
nobility of purpose. Among the great men of all
time, there has been no one more truly great than he.