The Making of a Man: Lincoln finds a profession

After walking back home from New Orleans, Lincoln made a living in manual labor.  He was six foot four inches tall, kind of lanky, but very muscular and strong.  He lived in New Salem and over the next few years he did build

Abraham Lincoln, Congressman-elect from Illinois
This daguerreotype is the earliest-known photograph of Abraham Lincoln, taken at age 37 when he was a frontier lawyer in Springfield and Congressman-elect from Illinois. Nicholas H. Shepherd, photographer, Springfield, Illinois, circa 1846. From the Library of Congress.

fences and was also a shopkeeper, postmaster and owned a general store.  It was there, working with the public, that Lincoln gained his social skills and learned to tell a great story.  He was very popular with the locals and when the Black Hawk War broke out in 1832, the volunteers in the area elected Lincoln to be their captain.  He saw no combat during that time, but said he had “a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes.”  During that time he he also made several important political contacts and connections.

After the Black Hawk War, Lincoln started his political career by being elected to the Illinois legislature in 1834 as a member of the Whig party.  It was during that time that he formulated his views on slavery.  He’d seen it first hand, but believed it was not so much a moral issue as hindrance to economic development.  He decided to become a lawyer, teaching himself the law by reading Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England.  He was admitted to the bar in 1837 and moved to Springfield and began to practice in the John T. Stuart law firm.

In the legal section of the Lincoln exhibit,  you’ll see photographs of local attorneys who served in the court system with Lincoln:  men such as Hiram Ferris and Bryant Scofield, and see him as his peers did in the courtroom.  The exhibit also features the desk of Judge Charles Scofield, nephew and protege of Bryant Scofield and son of Carthage attorney Charles Scofield, Sr., and a painting of the Hancock County Courthouse as it was during Lincoln’s time.

Lincoln:  The Making of a Man opens 14 April, 2012.

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