Page images

life occurred-one, certainly, which was quite in discord with his principles and feelings. A sharp, sarcastic poem appeared in the Sangamon Journal, edited at that time by Simeon Francis. The poem had an evident allusion to James Shields, a young lawyer of Springfield, and since a United States Senator from Illinois. General Shields was at that time hotblooded and impulsive, and, instead of laughing off the matter, regarded it seriously, and demanded of Mr. Francis the author's name.

Mr. Francis knew at once what the demand meant, and sought to delay his answer. He asked the young man for a day to consider whether he should reveal the name of his contributor or not. The request was granted, when Mr. Francis went to work to ascertain how he could lift the responsibility of the publication from his own shoulders, as the writer of the poem was a lady. On inquiry among the lady's friends, he ascertained that Mr. Lincoln was, at least, one of her admirers, and that he possibly bore a tenderer relation to her. Accordingly he went to Mr. Lincoln, and told him that he was in trouble, and explained to him the cause of his difficulty. It seemed certain that somebody would be obliged to fight a duel with Mr. Shields, or be branded by him as a coward; and Mr. Francis, though entirely responsible for the publication of a lady's poem shrank, in a very unworthy way, from the alternative.

As soon as Mr. Lincoln comprehended the case, and saw what Mr. Francis expected of him, he told the editor that if Mr. Shields should call again, anıl demand the author's name, to inform him that he, Lincoln, held himself responsible for

The result was just what was expected, at least by Mr. Francis. Mr. Lincoln at once received a challenge and accepted it. There must have existed in that part of the country, at that time, a state of feeling on this subject which cannot now be comprehended ainong the people of the North. With a natural aversion to all violence and bloodshed, with a moral sense that shrank from the barbaric arbitrament of the duel, with his whole soul at war with the policy which seeks to heal a wound of honor by the commission of a crime, he walked with his eyes wide open into this duel. It is possible that he imagined Mr. Shields did not mean a duel by his question, or that he would not fight a duel with him; but he certainly knew that he made himself liable to a challenge, and interled to accept it if it came. Gallantry was, of course, the moving power. The lady's name was to be protected, and the editor who had been imprudent enough to publish her poem relieved from all responsibility on her account.

the poem.

Mr. Lincoln selected broad-swords as the weapons for the encounter, and immediately took instruction in the exercise of that arm, of Dr. E. H. Merriman, a physician of Springfield. The place of meeting was Bloody Island, a disputed or neutral territory on the Mississippi River, lying between Illinois and Missouri. The meeting took place according to appointment, but friends interfered, determined that on such foolish grounds no duel should be fought, and no blood shed. The parties were brought together, and a reconciliation easily effected. Mr. Lincoln felt afterwards that he could have done, under the circumstances, no less than he did. He stated to a friend, however, that he selected broad-swords because his arms were long. He had not the slightest intention of injuring Mr. Shields, and thought that the length of his arms would aid him in defending his own person.

This incident does not seem to have been remembered against Mr. Lincoln, by any class of the community in which he lived. It was certainly a boyish affair, and was probably regarded and forgotten as such. Even the excitements of a great political campaign, like that which resulted in his election to the presidency, did not call it from its slumbers, and the American people were spared a representation of Mr. Lincoln's atrocities as a duelist.

Mr. Lincoln's law partnership with Mr. Stuart was dissolved in 1840, when he immediately formed a business association with Judge S. T. Logan of Springfield, one of the ablest and most learned lawyers in the state. He entered upon this new partnership with a determination to devote his time more exclusively to business than he had done, but the


people would not permit him to do so. He was called upon from all quarters to engage in the exciting political canvass of 1810, and made many speeches.

In 1812, having arrived at his thirty-third year, Mr. Lincoln married Miss Mary Todd, a daughter of Hon. Robert S. Todd of Lexington, Kentucky. The marriage took place in Springfield, where the lady had for several years resided, on the fourth of November of the year mentioned. It is probable that he married as early as the circumstances of his life permitted, for he had always loved the society of women, and possessed a nature that took profound delight in intimate female companionship. A letter written on the eighteenth of May following his marriage, to J. F. Speed, Esq., of Louisville, Kentucky, an early and a life-long personal friend, gives a pleasant glimpse of his domestic arrangements at this time. “We are not keeping house,” Mr. Lincoln says in this letter, “but boarding at the Globe Tavern, which is very well kept now by a widow laily of the name of Beck.

Our rooms are the same Dr. Wallace occupied there, and boarding only costs four dollars a week. * * * I most heartily wish you and your Fanny will not fail to come. Just let us know the time, a week in advance, and we will have a room prepared for you, and we 'll all be merry together for a while." He seems to have been in excellent spirits, and to have been very hearty in the enjoyment of his new relation.

The private letters of Mr. Lincoln were charmingly natural and sincere, and there can be no harm in giving a passage from one written during these early years, as an illustration. Mr. Lincoln has been charged with having no strong personal attachments; but no one can read his private lotters, written at any time during his life, without perceiving that his personal friendships were the sweetest sources of his happiness. To a particular friend, he wrote February 25th, 1812: “Yours of the sixteenth, announcing that Miss — and you are no longer twain but one flesh,' reached me this morning: I have no way of telling you how much happiness I wish you

both, though I believe you both can conceive it. I feel somewhat jealous of both of you now, for you will be so exclusively concerned for one another that I shall be forgotten entirely. My acquaintance with Miss

(I call her thus lest you should think I am speaking of your mother,) was too short for me to reasonably hope to long be remembered by her; and still I am sure I shall not forget her soon. Try if you cannot remind her of that debt she owes me, and be sure you do not interfere to prevent her paying it.

“I regret to learn that you have resolved not to return to Illinois. I shall be very lonesome without you. How miserably things seem to be arranged in this world! If we have no friends we have no pleasure; and if we have them, we are sure to lose them, and be doubly pained by the loss. I did hope she and you would make your home here, yet I own I have no right to insist. You owe obligations to her ten thousand times more sacred than any you can owe to others, and in that light let them be respected and observed. It is natural that she should desire to remain with her relations and friends. As to friends, she could not need them anywhere; she would have them in abundance here. Give my kind regards to Mr. -—and his family, particularly to Miss E. Also to your mother, brothers and sisters. Ask little E. D if she will ride to town with me if I come there again. And, finally, give -- a double reciprocation of all the love she sent me. Write me often, and believe me, yours forever, LINCOLN.”

The kind feeling, the delicate playfulness, the considerate remembrance of all who were associated with the recipient of the missive, and the hearty, outspoken affection which this letter breathes, reveal a sound and true heart in the writer. It is true, indeed, that Mr. Lincoln had a friendly feeling toward everybody, and it is just as true that his personal friendships were as devoted and unselfish as those of a man of more exclusive feelings and more abounding prejudices.

Mr. Lincoln seems to have been thinking about a seat in Congress at this time. On the 24th of March, 1813, he wrote to his friend Speed: “We had a meeting of the whigs of the county here on last Monday, to appoint delegates to a district convention, and Baker* beat me, and got the delegation instructed to go for him. The meeting, in spite of my

attempt to decline it, appointed me one of the delegates, so that, in getting Baker the nomination, I shall be fixed' a good deal like a fellow who is made groomsman to the man who has cut him out,' and is marrying his own dear gal.” In a subsequent letter, he writes: “In regard to the Con

a gress matter here, you were right in supposing I would support the nominee. Neither Baker nor myself, however, will be the man, but Hardin." +

It was Mr. Lincoln's rule and habit to “support the nominee.” He was always a loyal party man. In the ordinary use of the word, Mr. Lincoln was not, and never became, a reformer. He believed that a man, in order to effect anything, should work through organizations of men.

In a eulogy upon Henry Clay which he delivered in 1852, occurs the following passage:

“A free people, in times of peace and

A quiet, when pressed by no common danger, naturally divide into parties. At such times, the man who is not of either party, is not, cannot be, of any consequence.

Mr. Clay, therefore, was of a party." Whether his position was sound or otherwise, he believed it was, and always acted upon it. With as true a love of freedom and progress as any manwith a regard for popular rights never surpassed by professional reformers—he was careful to go no faster, and no farther, than he could take his party with him, and no faster and no farther than was consistent with that party's permanent suc

He would endanger nothing by precipitancy. His policy was to advance surely, even if he was obliged to proceed slowly. The policy which distinguished his presidential career was the policy of his life. It was adopted early, and he always followed it.

With Mr. Lincoln's modest estimate of his own services,


* Colonel Edward D. Baker, (afterwards United States Senator from Oregon,) who fell at Ball's Bluff.

Colonel John J. Hardin, who fell at Buena Vista.

« PreviousContinue »