« PreviousContinue »
NOTES ON THE TEXT
5 First public address. In this contest Lincoln was not elected, but considering his youth (he was but twenty-three) and his brief residence at New Salem he made a good showing. This was the only occasion on which Lincoln was beaten by a direct vote of the people. Biographers comment on the simple, direct and rhythmic wording of this address which shows the chief characteristics of his later style.
5 Letter to Sangamo Journal. In this election Lincoln stood second among the four successful candidates. He was now postmaster of New Salem and deputy surveyor of Sangamon county, had travelled more than most of his neighbors and was far better read. Two toasts of the year's political dinners were: "Abraham Lincoln: He has fulfilled the expectations of his friends and disappointed the hopes of his enemies" and "A. Lincoln: One of nature's noblemen."
7 Address before young men's lyceum. Lincoln had been one of the organizers of this lyceum for mutual improvement.
18 Protest against slavery resolutions. The resolutions against which Lincoln and Stone protested avoided condemnation of slavery as a system and were framed to placate pro-slavery sentiment. Abolitionist societies were "highly disapproved" and the right of congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia against the consent of the citizens was denied. It is worthy of note that in a time of intense excitement when changes of opinion were constant among the ablest men Lincoln never altered his views on slavery as here expressed, always opposing the system but regarding slave holders as its victims and respecting their rights. W. E.
Curtis, in The True Abraham Lincoln, writes: “This, I am confident, is the first formal declaration against the system of slavery that was made in any legislative body in the United States, at least west of the Hudson River.”
Letter to Mrs. Browning. Miss Owens said to W. H. Herndon that she refused Lincoln because he was deficient in those little links which go to make up the chain of a woman's happiness." Mrs. Browning had no idea that the letter was anything but one of Lincoln's grotesque inventions until many years after when she was about to give it for publication and Lincoln warned her that there was too much truth for print” in his confession.
27 Party politics in 1840. The seat of government in Illinois was removed in 1839 from Vandalia to Springfield largely through the efforts of Lincoln, and in the new capital there gathered a group of unusual men, Lincoln, Douglas, Baker, Calhoun, Stuart, Shields, Logan, Trumbull, McClernand, Browning, Treat, McDougall, Hardin and others destined to play prominent parts in the struggle that was drawing near. The Stuart to whom this letter is addressed was Lincoln's law partner. The two men ran together for the legislature in 1834, fought together in the Black Hawk war and formed a friendship that lasted through life. Stuart advised Lincoln to study law, helped him with books and made him his partner, an agreement which continued until 1841.
28 Letter to W. G. Anderson. Lincoln always avoided quarrels and in later years he sent the following advice to a young officer condemned to be court-martialed for quarreling: "No man resolved to make most of himself can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper and the loss of self-control. Yield larger things to which you can show no more than equal right and yield lesser
though clearly your own. Better give your path to a dog than be bitten by him in contesting for the right. Even killing the dog would not cure the bite."
28 Difficulty with Miss Todd. The letter to Stuart and the following correspondence with Joshua Speed are interesting in connection with the facts of Lincoln's life at that time. In Springfield he met Miss Mary Todd of Kentucky who was visiting her sister, Mrs. Edwards, the wife of a member of the legislature. They became engaged but there were many disagreements and Lincoln grew depressed almost to insanity. The marriage was set for the first of January 1841 but it did not take place. After the breaking of the engagement Lincoln's melancholy grew profound and his correspondence during this period gives an idea of that black depression which at periods throughout his life took possession of him.
29 Sold slaves. Although the slaves noticed on Lincoln's return from his visit to his friend Speed's Kentucky home were cheerful, Lincoln had seen at the age of nineteen the reverse side of the picture. On returning from a trip to New Orleans he very generally expressed his indignation at the scenes in the slave market of that city and is quoted by his cousin, John Hanks, as declaring that there and then he conceived an undying horror of the system.
30 Letter to Joshua Speed. Speed was for four years Lincoln's room-mate at Springfield and was always his considerate and consistent friend, the most intimate he ever knew. Speed surrendered this correspondence to Lincoln's biographer, W. H. Herndon, with a good deal of hesitancy and erased several names. The Speeds were a Kentucky family and Joshua's brother John was appointed by Lincoln attorney general of the United States in 1864.
33 Lincoln's views on temperance. The feeling against intemperance which led Lincoln to join the Washingtonian
temperance society of Springfield lasted throughout his life. Mr. Nicolay says that in the five years spent with the presiIdent at the White House he never saw him take a glass of whiskey and never heard of his taking one." Colonel John Hay adds to this that he never saw him use tobacco. On the other hand his moderation towards drunkards sometimes annoyed zealous reformers. The speech here quoted was not popular with some temperance people because of his observation that hard drinkers may be in heart and head the equals of their more sober brothers. When a committee called during the war to ask the president to abolish the use of liquor in the army adding that the recent defeats were undoubtedly the judgment of God for the drunkenness of the soldiers, Lincoln replied that this was a little unreasonable on the part of the Lord, since the southerners drank a great deal worse whiskey and a great deal more of it. With this remark he dismissed the committee.
45 Duel with Shields. This duel with Shields, which never came off, has interest both sentimental and humorous. James Shields was an Irishman, small of stature but belligerent of spirit. He was one of Miss Todd's many admirers but this did not prevent the young lady, with one of her friends, from ridiculing him in a local paper. Shields in great anger demanded the name of the writer and Lincoln claimed the authorship of the objectionable lines. He may indeed have urged on the young women to the prank. Shields promptly challenged him. Lincoln had choice of weapons and chose broadswords as described. Considering the extreme disparity in their height and reach of arm the absurdity of this is evident. The little Irishman, nothing daunted, accepted the terms and the pair met. It is related that while they waited for the seconds to measure the ground Lincoln, with assumed absent mindedness, rose from the log on which he sat, drew his sword, felt its edge with his thumb,
and pulling himself up to his full height of six feet four inches chopped off a twig at an almost incredible distance above his head, watching Shields the while with a humorous twinkle in his eye. But his undersized antagonist did not withdraw until friends interfered and refused to let the farce go farther. James Shields afterwards served his country as senator from two states and rose to be a general in the Mexican war and the civil war. As for Lincoln the duel drew him and Miss Todd together again and their marriage followed 4 November 1842. The duel story was used against him politically and Lincoln grew sensitive about the subject.
47 Letter to Martin Morris. At this time Lincoln was contesting the nomination for congress with E. D. Baker, "the Prince Rupert of battle and debate," whose eloquence had already won him fame in Illinois and was destined to give him national reputation. Neither Lincoln nor Baker received the nomination in 1848 for it went to a "dark horse," J. J. Hardin, but Baker served in congress from 1848 to 1849, became Republican senator from Oregon in 1861 and introduced Lincoln at his first inauguration. He was killed at Ball's Bluff 21 October 1861.
47 Literary aspirations. Lincoln, in his log cabin home, read what books he had-"Esop's Fables," "Robinson Crusoe," "Pilgrim's Progress," a History of the United States and Weems' "Life of Washington." Later he laid his hands on Shakespeare and Burns and eagerly read them. Emerson has likened his quaint way of illustrating his points with little stories to the manner of Esop; possibly his early reading had left this impress on his style. He had a taste for poetry of a rather morbid sort such as his favorite "Oh why should the spirit of mortal be proud." He greatly enjoyed portions of Byron's works while on the other hand he delighted in Tom Hood and revelled in the work of