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was depressed by some unpleasant vicissitudes, such as the seizure of his horse, saddle and surveying implements to satisfy a judgment against him on the notes which were so long a reminder of his “mercantile " experience. The obligations now changed hands, his friends, James Short and W. G. Greene, generously assuming the debts as more gracious creditors, releasing the property levied on. He was also “ in politics,” canvassing the county in 1834, getting elected to the Legislature, and attending its sessions during the next two winters at Vandalia. All the while he found little leisure for listless brooding. He had the same ambitious purposes, and used like methods to gain advancement, before and after the event which he lamented so deeply.
There are other facts to be considered in this connection. In 1833, Lincoln met and was pleased with Miss Mary Owens, of Kentucky, then on a visit to her sister, his friend and neighbor, Mrs. Bennett Abell. The lady was somewhat older than himself, and there proved to be no special affinity between them, as is evident from the slight correspondence which followed a renewal of the acquaintance in 1836. This renewal occurred through the instrumentality of Mrs. Abell, who seems to have been trying her hand at match-making. Finally Lincoln brought the affair to a crisis — rather awkwardly, it must be added — by writing a letter, in which he formally offered his hand in such terms as he honestly could, though hardly suited to persuade a romantic mind. Her negative response ended what seemed to be a sense of obligation or of virtual commitment on his part. The publication of these letters was hardly needed on any account; yet they show him to have been at this time neither a very graceful wooer, nor one who had taken a vow of celibacy at the grave of another a few months before. Miss Owens was sensible and good-natured; and between them there was no misunderstanding. *
As if all the other trials and toils of the time were not enough, it has been added that he wrote an “infidel book.” A very few words will suffice for whatever there is of real basis for such a tale. According to all that is known of the matter, the “book” was nothing more than a number of manuscript pages, discussing in a rationalistic way some of the commonly received theological opinions or dogmas — as “incarnation," "atonement,” or the like — very probably going no farther than is now tolerated in many pulpits not reckoned as “orthodox." It is needless to intimate that he can have had no ambition to be known as an assailant of the Bible or the church. How wide was the range of his arguments can not be told with any certainty, for he permitted a friend to put the writing in the fire without ceremony. Nor is it very material. If we had it, we should be little wiser as to his maturer convictions.
In 1836, Lincoln was again a candidate for Representative. Responding to a demand that the Whig candidates should “show their hand,” he said through the Springfield Journal, under date of June 13th:
I go for all sharing the privileges of the Government who assist in bearing its burdens. Consequently, I go for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms (by no means excluding females). If elected, I shall consider the whole people of Sangamon County my constituents, as well those that oppose as those that support me. While acting as their Representative, I shall be governed by their will upon all subjects upon which I have the means of knowing what their will is; and upon all others I shall do what my own judgment teaches me will advance their interests. Whether elected or not, I go for distributing the proceeds of the sales of the public lands to the several States, to enable our State, in common with others, to dig canals and construct railroads without borrowing money and paying the interest on it. If alive on the first Monday in November, I shall vote for Hugh L. White for President.
*She married a well-to-do farmer, named Vineyard, not long after, settling at Weston, Mo., where she died in 1877.
Martin Van Buren, the Democratic candidate, was opposed by a faction of the party, who supported Senator White, of Tennessee, - a former personal friend of Jackson, but now alienated, and with such success that the latter had the chagrin of seeing his own State lost to his favorite and carried by his recusant enemy. The Whigs had no regular nominee — in Massachusetts voting for Daniel Webster, and in other Whig States mostly for General W. H. Harrison. Their only chance for defeating Van Buren was in so dividing the electoral votes as to throw the election into the House of Representatives.
It was in the spring of this year that Lincoln first became personally known to Mr. Joshua F. Speed, henceforward his warm and faithful friend. Mr. Speed, born near Louisville, Kentucky, in 1814, was a graduate of St. Joseph's College, at Bardstown. After an experience of some years in the largest wholesale house in Louisville, he opened a store at Springfield, in 1835, on his own account. During the five or six years follow
ing 1836 no one had a closer intimacy with Lincoln, who, before they met, already had a certain local fame at the county seat. “I heard him spoken of by those who knew him,” said Mr. Speed, in 1882, “as a wonderful character. They boasted that he could outwrestle any man in the county, and that he could beat any lawyer in Springfield speaking.” Of what he thought was Lincoln's first speech at that place, Mr. Speed said:
At that time there were but two parties, Whig and Democrat. Lincoln was a Whig and the leading man upon the ticket. I was then fresh from Kentucky, and had heard many of her great orators. It seemed to me then, as it seems to me now, that I never heard a more effective speaker. He carried the crowd with him, and swayed them as he pleased. So deep an impression did he make that George Forquer, a man of much celebrity as a sarcastic speaker and great State reputation as an orator, rose and asked the people to hear him. He commenced his speech by saying that this young man would have to be taken down, and he was sorry that the task devolved upon him. He made what was called one of his slasher-gaff speeches, dealing much in ridicule and sarcasm. Lincoln stood near him with his arms folded, never interrupting him. When Forquer was done, Lincoln walked to the stand, and replied so fully and completely that his friends bore him from the court-house on their shoulders. So deep an impression did this first speech make upon me that I remember its conclusion now. Said he.“ The gentleman commenced his speech by saying that this young man will have to be taken down, and he was sorry that the task devolved upon him. I am not so young in years as I am in the tricks and trades of a politician; but, live long or die young, I would rather die now than, like the gentleman, change my politics, and simultaneously with the change receive an office worth $3,000 a year, and then have to erect a lightning-rod over my house to protect a guilty conscience from an offended God.”
Forquer had been a Whig, but changed his politics, and had been appointed Register of the Land Office. Over his house was “the only lightning-rod in the town or county. Lincoln had seen it for the first time on the day before. Not understanding its properties, he made it a study that night by aid of a book, bought for the purpose, till he knew all about it.”
The Whigs elected their Legislative candidates in Sangamon County, with one exception, Lincoln receiving more than an average vote. Each of the seven Representatives and two Senators thus chosen (the number being larger than at the last election) was over six feet in height, and hence they were called the “Long Nine.” This was the most numerous representation from any county, and attracted much notice from the influence it wielded. Stephen A. Douglas was a Representative from Morgan County, having recently taken up his residence at Jacksonville. He was never again chosen to the Legislature, and, in fact, vacated his seat soon after the first session, to become Register of the Land Office at Springfield.
As in the preceding House of Representatives, the Democrats had a majority; and Mr. Semple was again the Speaker. Lincoln was assigned a place on the Financial Committee. Besides the members already named, there were many who were afterward prominent in State or national politics, including James Shields, Augustus C. French, Robert Smith, John Dougherty, William A. Richardson, and John A. McClernand. At both sessions Lincoln came forward more actively, gradually becoming recognized as the Whig leader.
Internal improvements were again a prominent sub