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TAE “Sangamon Chief,” as Mr. Lincoln had been popularly named, was placed upon the legislative ticket again in 1810, and re-elected. At a special session of the previous legislature, held during 1839, Vandalia, as the capital of the state had been forsaken, and Springfield received the legislature and the archives and offices of the state government.
Mr. Lincoln was in the legislature, and, at the same time, at home. The fact reconciled him to holding an office which he felt to be a disadvantage to his business, for he could attend upon his duties at the State House, and, at the same time, have a care that his professional interests were not entirely sacrificed. In the only session held by the legislature of 1840, no important business of general interest was transacted. The democratic preponderance in the state had been partially restored and was still maintained, and although Mr. Lincoln was again the first man on the whig side and the candidate for speaker, for which office he was supported by more than the strength of his party, he was defeated as he had been in 1838. This session finished up Mr. Lincoln's connection with the legislature of the state, for, although urged by the people to represent them again, considerations of a private nature made him peremptory in his refusal to be again a candidate. It is recorded, however, that he was re-elected in 1854, and that he resigned before taking his seat. The election was made against his will, for a larger political life was already dawning upon him.
It was about this time that a strange incident in his private
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, and demand the author's name, to inform him that he, Lincoln, held himself responsible for the
poem. 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 among 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 intended 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.
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 lady 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 letters, 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, 1842: “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 not 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 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