« PreviousContinue »
“ Petroleum V. Nasby" (D. R. Locke). In the backwoods he had scribbled verse but it is not recorded that he wrote poetry after the attempts here given. Critics have laid stress on the musical quality of his style and R. W. Gilder gives as example of his “ unconscious verse " the lines from the second inaugural which run:
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray
49 Wife and children. The second son referred to was christened Edward Baker; he died in 1850. Lincoln's other children were: Robert Todd born in 1843; William Wallace born in 1850, died at the White House in 1862; and Thomas born in 1853, died in 1871. Robert Lincoln was secretary of war under Presidents Garfield and Arthur and minister to England under Harrison; he has been a candidate for the nomination to the presidency. He is now (1903) living in Chicago where he is president of the Pullman company. Lincoln's wife survived him many years.
She died in Springfield 16 July 1882. She seemed never fully to recover the shock of her husband's assassination and during the later years of her life, though her memory remained excellent and her powers of conversation unimpaired, she developed curious eccentricities. She never went into the sunlight but would sit in broad day in a darkened room lighted dimly by candles. She accumulated too a vast number of gowns which she never wore or intended to wear and in other ways showed a mind deranged.
50 Business letter to Herndon. W. H. Herndon became Lincoln's law partner in 1845 and so continued through Lincoln's life. In later years he became the biographer of his famous associate. In reference to the latter's directions regarding the money it is interesting to note that at this time Lincoln was still paying off what he called his "national debt" contracted fourteen years before during the partnership of Lincoln and Berry in store-keeping. Berry drank himself to death shortly after their failure and the men to whom the store had been sold never paid the money, but Lincoln shouldered the debt, overwhelming to a penniless young frontiersman, and eventually paid it off in spite of the fact that financial ethics were at that time and place rather loose. In this fashion he earned his sobriquet of
honest Abe" and various little anecdotes are told to show his scrupulous uprightness and almost exaggerated honesty. Lincoln was never a good business man. His life-long friend Judge Davis says of him that he apparently had no idea how to make money outside of his profession and never attempted to do so.
52 Speech on Mexican war. The Mexican war, in which Lincoln found himself opposed to the president, arose out of the question whether the southern boundary of the newly annexed country of Texas was at the Nueces or the Rio Grande. In January 1846 President Polk had sent an expedition under General Taylor to the Rio Grande and had there caused the erection of Fort Brown. The Mexicans affirmed this not to be Texan territory and an expedition was sent against the fort. Polk's message to congress set forth that Mexico “had shed American blood upon the American soil." Lincoln, then in his first congressional session, presented resolutions demanding to be told the " ticular spot on which the blood of American citizens had been shed and claimed that the boundary question was so unsettled that the president's act in sending the Fort Brown expedition amounted to aggression. These “spot resolutions were widely discussed. He held steadily to his positih in spite of its unpopularity.
57 A. H. Stephens. Alexander Hamilton Stephens of Georgia, whose oratory so moved Lincoln, played an im
portant part in later events. A brilliant orator, he was a Whig member of congress from 1848 to 1859. When the dissatisfied southern states held their convention he opposed secession, but he threw in his lot with the Confederacy and became its vice president. The “ Logan” referred to was Stephen T. Logan, Lincoln's law partner from 1841 to 1845, and his warm friend and admirer as well as his able teacher.
57 Letter to A. Williams. This letter to his henchman Williams is a good example of Lincoln's political shrewd
The Browning referred to was Orville H. Browning, Lincoln's life-long friend. He was eager for the emancipation of the slaves during his congressional career, which perhaps gives point to Lincoln's fear that his sympathies might run away with him in the case of Clay. Browning was secretary of the interior 1866-69.
59 Second letter to Williams. Barnburners name given by the Conservative Democrats to the newly formed anti-slavery party calling themselves Free-soilers. The Locofocos were the Reform Democrats"; the “Native Americans were the precursors of the Know-nothings who later would have restricted the suffrage to native born Americans.
60 Advice to Herndon. Lincoln's exhortation to Herndon apart from its political and moral value throws a light on the position of middle-aged men in the early days of the Republic. Lincoln, writing in this character of “old man," was but thirty-eight years of age. Men were supposed to retire early and make way for the younger element. Ninian Edwards, Mrs. Lincoln's brother-in-law, when a candidate for the governorship of Illinois in 1826 found it necessary to apologise profusely for his advanced age although he was but fifty-one, and other instances are not wanting. 64 Lewis Cass. Lewis Cass, Democratic candidate for the presidency against Taylor and here the victim of Lincoln's raillery, was born in 1782, served as brigadier general in the war of 1812, was governor of Michigan 1818-81, during which period he made valuable explorations of the Indian country, was secretary of war 1881-6, minister to France 1886-42 and senator from Michigan 1845-8. He was twice an unsuccessful candidate for the nomination to the presidency; after being once nominated and defeated for that office he served as senator from Michigan 1849-57 and as secretary of state 1857-60. It will be noted that this is practically a "stump speech," although delivered in congress, and presaged the enthusiasm with which Lincoln threw himself into the campaign for Taylor.
68 Lincoln as a laroyer. Lincoln began to read law in an odd way. While he was " keeping store" during the ill-fated partnership with Berry, a man passing with a wagon offered for sale a barrel which he found much in his way. To oblige the man Lincoln bought the barrel for half a dollar. Some weeks after he turned it over to shake out some rubbish in the bottom and out fell a copy of Blackstone. Business was not flourishing then and there was plenty of time to read. After the failure of the store he still read and the story is told of an old man who saw, mounted on a . wood pile, an ungainly figure coarsely dressed, almost grotesque, immersed in a book. “What are you reading?" asked the man. “I'm studying," replied Lincoln.
. “Studying what?” queried the passer-by. “ Law, sir.” God Almighty!" was all the old man could find to say.
With the help of Stuart and more especially of Stephen Logan, Lincoln became a good lawyer. Logan's office has been called a nursery of statesmen for his pupils numbered four senators and three governors of states besides Lincoln. Lincoln's first appearance at court was made in October 1836; his fee for this case was three dollars. Lincoln and
Stuart made seldom more than ten dollars over each case. Judge Davis says:
In all the elements that constitute the great lawyer he had few equals.
He seized the strong points of a cause and presented them with clearness and compactness.
Generalities and platitudes had no charm for him. An unfailing vein of humor never deserted him and he was able to claim the attention of court and jury, when the cause was most uninteresting, by the appropriateness of his anecdotes. His power of comparison was large and he rarely failed in a legal discussion to use that mode of reasoning. The framework of his mental and moral being was honesty, and a wrong cause was poorly defended by him.
He never willingly defended anyone whom he did not consider innocent—which at least shows the quality of the man although it may somewhat detract from his professional ability.
70 Letter to John Johnston. John Johnston was the son, by a former marriage, of Lincoln's stepmother. Nancy Hanks, Lincoln's own mother, died when the boy was nine years old. Sally Bush Johnston, whom Thomas Lincoln took as his second wife, was a woman of intelligence and sympathy who recognized the talents of the young Abraham and urged him forward as best she could. Lincoln had slight recollection of Nancy Hanks but the child had so grieved to see her put in her wilderness grave in a rough coffin of his father's making, without religious ceremony of any kind, that months afterward he managed to secure the services of a travelling preacher to deliver a funeral address over the grave.
His nature was satisfied with the love and care of his stepmother, between whom and himself there was warm esteem. Mrs. Lincoln shortly before her death said: “I can truly say what scarcely one mother in one thousand can say, that Abraham Lincoln never gave me a cross word or