attempting to become more popularly known, Abraham Lincoln
described himself for the ages in one of many short autobiographies.
This autobiography was in a letter to Mr. Jesse Fell on
December 20, 1859 wherein Abraham Lincoln quipped, "There
is not much of it, for the reason, I suppose, that there
is not much of me."
Fell was an Illinois Republican originally from Pennsylvania.
Mr. Fell got the autobigraphy incorporated into a newspaper
article appearing on February 11, 1860.
I was born Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky.
My parents were both born in Virginia, of undistinguished
families-- second families, perhaps I should say. My mother,
who died in my tenth year, was of a family of the name
of Hanks, some of whom now reside in Adams, and others
in Macon Counties, Illinois. My paternal grandfather,
Abraham Lincoln, emigrated from Rockingham County, Virginia,
to Kentucky, about 1781 or 2, where, a year or two later,
he was killed by indians, not in battle, but by stealth,
when he was laboring to open a farm in the forest. His
ancestors, who were Quakers, went to Virginia from Berks
County, Pennsylvania. An effort to identify them with
the New-England family of the same name ended in nothing
more definite, than a similarity of Christian names in
both families, such as Enoch, Levi, Mordecai, Solomon,
Abraham, and the like.
father, at the death of his father, was but six years
of age; and he grew up, litterally [sic] without education.
He removed from Kentucky to what is now Spencer County,
Indiana, in my eighth year. We reached our new home about
the time the State came into the Union. It was a wild
region, with many bears and other wild animals, still
in the woods. There I grew up. There were some schools,
so called; but no qualification was ever required of a
teacher beyond "readin, writin, and cipherin"
to the Rule of Three. If a straggler supposed to understand
latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was
looked upon as a wizzard [sic]. There was absolutely nothing
to excite ambition for education. Of course when I came
of age I did not know much. Still somehow, I could read,
write, and cipher to the Rule of Three; but that was all.
I have not been to school since. The little advance I
now have upon this store of education, I have picked up
from time to time under the pressure of necessity.
was raised to farm work, which I continued till I was
twenty-two. At twenty one I came to Illinois, and passed
the first year in Macon County. Then I got to New-Salem
(at that time in Sangamon, now in Menard County), where
I remained a year as a sort of Clerk in a store. Then
came the Black-Hawk war; and I was elected a Captain of
Volunteers--a success which gave me more pleasure than
any I have had since. I went the campaign, was elated,
ran for the Legislature the same year (1832) and was beaten--the
only time I ever have been beaten by the people. The next,
and three succeeding biennial elections, I was elected
to the Legislature. I was not a candidate afterwards.
During this Legislative period I had studied law, and
removed to Springfield to practise it. In 1846 I was once
elected to the lower House of Congress. Was not a candidate
for re-election. From 1849 to 1854, both inclusive, practiced
law more assiduously than ever before. Always a whig in
politics, and generally on the whig electoral tickets,
making active canvasses--I was losing interest in politics,
when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused me
again. What I have done since then is pretty well known.
any personal description of me is thought desirable, it
may be said, I am, in height, six feet, four inches, nearly;
lean in flesh, weighing on an average one hundred and
eighty pounds; dark complexion, with coarse black hair,
and grey eyes--no other marks or brands recollected."
Lincoln December, 1865