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mitting an assault and battery upon me, I instantly decided that you should be the devoted one.
I assume that you have not heard from Joshua and myself since we left, because I think it doubtful whether he has written. You remember there was some uneasiness about Joshua's health when we left. That little indisposition of his turned out to be nothing serious, and it was pretty nearly forgotten when we reached Springfield. We got on board the steamboat Lebanon in the locks of the canal about 12 o'clock M. of the day we left, and reached St. Louis the next Monday at 8 P. M.
Nothing of interest happened during the passage, except the vexatious delays occasioned by the sandbars be thought interesting. By the way, a fine example was presented on board the boat for contemplating the effect of condition upon human happiness. A gentleman had purchased twelve negroes in different parts of Kentucky, and was taking them to a farm in the South. They were chained six and six together. A small iron clevis was around the left wrist of each, and this fastened to the main chain by a shorter one, at a convenient distance from the others, so that the negroes were strung together precisely like so many fish upon a trotline. In this condition they were being separated forever from the scenes of their childhood, their friends, their fathers and mothers, and brothers and sisters, and many of them from their wives and children, and going into perpetual slavery, where the lash of the master is proverbially more ruthless and unrelenting than any otherwhere; and yet, amid all these distressing circumstances as we would think them, they were the most cheerful and apparently happy creatures on board. One whose offense, for which he had been sold, was an over-fondness for his wife, played the fiddle almost continually, and the others danced, sung, cracked jokes, and played various games with cards from day to day. How true is it that “God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb,” or, in other words, that he renders the worst of human conditions tolerable, while he permits the best to be nothing better than tolerable.
To return to the narrative. When we reached Springfield, I stayed but one day, when I started on this tedious circuit, where I now am. Do you remember my going to the
city, while I was in Kentucky, to have a tooth extracted, and making a failure of it? Well, that same old tooth got to paining me so much that about a week since I had it torn out, bringing with it a bit of the jawbone, the consequence of which is that my mouth is now so sore that I can neither talk nor eat. I am literally “subsisting on savory remembrances”—that is, being unable to eat, I am living upon the remembrances of the delicious dishes of peaches and cream we used to have at your house.
When we left, Miss Fanny Henning was owing you a visit as I understand. Has she paid it yet? If she has, are you not convinced that she is one of the sweetest girls in the world? There is but one thing about her, so far as I could perceive, that I would have otherwise than it is that is, something of a tendency to melancholy. This, let it be observed, is a misfortune, not a fault. Give her an assurance of my very highest regard when you see her. Is little Siss Eliza Davis at your house yet? If she is, kiss her “o'er and o'er again" for me.
Tell your mother that I have not got her“ present” with me, but I intend to read it regularly when I return home. I doubt not that it is really, as she says, the best cure for the blues, could one but take it according to the truth.
Give my, respects to all your sisters (including Aunt Emma) and brothers. Tell Mrs. Peay, of whose happy face I shall long retain a pleasant remembrance, that I have been trying to think of a name for her homestead, but as yet can not satisfy myself with one. I shall be very happy to receive a line from you soon after you receive this; and in case you choose to favor me with one, address it to Charleston, Coles County, Ill., as I shall be there about the time to receive it.
Your sincere friend,
A. LINCOLN. The incident of the chained groups of slaves, gently mentioned to one of a family in which slavery in its mildest form still had place, made a lasting impression on his mind. The young lady, with no recognized defect but a tendency to melancholy, was the intended wife of Mr. Speed. The “present" from the latter's mother was an Oxford Bible, of which he made a fresh acknowledgment from the White House.
Lincoln's partnership with Major Stuart had been dissolved, and a new one with Judge Stephen T. Logan had begun on the 14th of April, 1841. About this date they were employed in a criminal case quite famous in its day-one which, with various traditional increments and distortions, has served to emphasize the uncertainties of circumstantial evidence. This is the legend as ultimately shaped in the newspaper press:
“In 1840, when the State House at Springfield, Illinois, was being built, one of the stone-cutters engaged was a man named Martin, from New York City. He was not a man of sound mind; at least, he was a maniac on one subject, which was that there was no good money except that of the old Metropolitan Bank of New York. Every Saturday night, when the men were paid off, he used to go around among them and buy up this money, often paying as high as ten per cent. premium for it. He was known to have a considerable sum of this money hid away or about him. In May of the year named he and one Smith hired a wagon to go to the Sangamon River, four miles distant. At night Smith returned, but not with Martin. When asked where Martin was, he said he did not know. Martin was soon missed; the ground where they went was searched, and the plainest evidence was presented that they had quarreled. The ground was trampled on the river bank, and some of Martin's clothes were found. It was discovered that some drops of blood were dried on the sand, and that the buggy had been drawn into the water. The supposition was that Martin had been murdered and his body carried into the river. Search was made for days, but no body could be found. Meantime Smith, the assumed murderer, was arrested and put in the old log jail. In a few weeks the prisoner was regularly arraigned in the Circuit Court on the charge of murder. Abraham Lincoln, then rising into fame as a lawyer, was engaged for the defense. The production of the corpus mortuum was not insisted upon; the evidence seemed as clear and conclusive as though a dozen persons had seen the act of murder. The witnesses were few, yet what evidence there was pointed to the crime and the means by which it was done. The marks of the struggle, the clothes found there, the drops of blood on the sand, the driving of the buggy to the river, as if to throw the lifeless body into the swift current, were all circumstances that could only be accounted for in connection with the 'deep damnation of the taking off' of poor Martin. The defense could hardly make a show of evidence, and a verdict of guilty seemed a foregone conclusion. Meanwhile the sheriff of Tazewell County had read in the Sangamon Journal a description of Martin's person, and had heard that a man had appeared in a distant part of the county, without coat or hat, and who could give no intelligent account of himself. An inspiration prompted the sheriff to go and see him, and he became satisfied that he was the missing man. His having in his possession still a considerable amount of Metropolitan Bank money made the sheriff morally sure on the point; so he took the man in charge and started with him for Springfield. Arriving on the last day of the judicial investigation, he lodged the man in jail and went into the court room and saw Mr. Lincoln. Then Mr. Lincoln asked a suspension of proceedings, as he had an important witness to introduce. With the sheriff he went to the old jail, saw the prisoner, and was satisfied that the dead was alive. Returning to court, Mr. Lincoln said that he could not look for anything but a verdict against his client as the case stood, but he asked permission to introduce a new and very material witness. Martin himself was placed on the stand, and in a moment the case fell to the ground.”
Changing the date to the year 1841, and the fictitious names of Smith and Martin to the real ones three brothers Trailor as the accused, and Archibald Fisher as their alleged victim — the story is true in its main effect. This professional incident has a value besides its intrinsic interest, as helping us to form a just estimate of certain statements concerning Lincoln's whereabouts and the state of his mind during the first half of this year.
He wrote a clear account of this case in a letter to his friend Speed, (dated June 19, 1841,) having evidently given the affair close attention from beginning to end. * He had not yet gone to Kentucky, but mentions in this letter his intention of doing so, as he did apparently in the latter part of June. Hence he was not "there during most of the summer and fall,” as has been stated, for he was back again on the court circuit, as his letter to Mary Speed shows, before the close of September. Again, an examination of the
* Complete Works" (N. & H.), I., 48-51.