Page images
PDF
EPUB

at each other, and they were to be confined to a limited space. The laws of Illinois prohibited duelling, and he demanded that the meeting should be outside the State. Shields undoubtedly knew Lincoln was opposed to fighting a duel—that his moral sense would revolt at the thought, and that he would not be likely to break the law by fighting in the State. Possibly he thought Lincoln would make a humble apology. Shields was brave but foolish, and would not listen to overtures for explanation. It was arranged that the meeting should be in Missouri, opposite Alton. They proceeded to the place selected, but friends interfered and there was no duel. There is little doubt that the man who had swung a beetle and driven iron wedges into gnarled hickory logs could have cleft the skull of his antagonist, but he had no such intention. He repeatedly said to the friends of Shields that in writing the first article he had no thought of anything personal. The Auditor's vanity had been sorely wounded by the second letter, in regard to which Lincoln could not make any explanation except that he had had no hand in writing it. The affair set all Springfield to laughing at Shields, but it detracted from the happiness of Lincoln. By accepting the challenge he had violated his sense of right and outraged his better nature. He would gladly have blotted it from memory. It was ever a regret. (*)

Martin Van Buren, freed from the cares of the nation by the election of General Harrison, journeyed westward to Illinois. The roads were deep with mud, and instead of reaching Springfield on the day he intended, found night overtaking him when six miles from the capital. Word came to his friends that he would spend the night in the village of Rochester. They knew the accommodations at the little tavern would be scanty. The food would be bacon and eggs, or other homely fare; and so, providing themselves with delicacies, they hastened to Rochester.

Abraham Lincoln had made speeches supporting Harrison; he had commented severely upon the shortcomings of Van Buren's administration; but a man who had been chief executive of the nation should be honored by all, irrespective of party. He accepted the invitation of his Democratic fellow-citizens to accompany them to Rochester. Courteous the welcome extended to Van Buren, and equally kind the reception on the part of the ex-President, who talked of events in New York and Washington, and narrated anecdotes to the company, who were charmed by his genial ways. But it was the young Whig lawyer from Springfield who convulsed the ex-President with laughter by his anecdotes and

stories. It was an evening often referred to with many expressions of pleasure by Mr. Van Buren in after-life.

“My sides ached from laughing," he was wont to say. (')

Although the marriage engagement between Mr. Lincoln and Mary Todd had been suddenly suspended, the friendship had not been irrevocably sundered. Again he was a welcome guest at the hospitable home of Governor Edwards. A renewal of friendship led to a re-engagement, resulting in their marriage, November 4, 1842. The officiating clergyman, Rev. Mr. Dresser, used the marriage service of the Episcopal Church, which was new to one of the guests, Judge Thos. C. Browne, an early settler of that section of the country. Mr. Lincoln placed the ring upon the bride's finger, and solemnly repeated the words : 1 “With this ring I thee wed, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow.” Suddenly there came an exclamation from the judge not found in the service: “Good gracious, Lincoln, the statute fixes all that!" To an old-time, straightforward country lawyer the formula was needless superfluity. A ripple of laughter went round the room ; but the clergyman, recovering his self-possession, proceeded with the service.

The newly-married couple found accommodations at the Globe Tavern. Soon after his marriage Mr. Lincoln associated himself in his profession with William H. Herndon. It was a congenial partnership. Mr. Herndon was an Abolitionist, and was holding correspondence with William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, and other leading agitators for the immediate abolition of slavery. Antislavery publications found their way to the office of Lincoln & Herndon. Mr. Lincoln thought an immediate abolition of slavery was not possible. He hated the institution, but saw that it was intrenched in State and Church alike. nized by the Constitution of the United States; it existed in half the States composing the Union. Public opinion regarding slavery must change before laws could be changed. The Abolitionists denounced the Constitution and the Union because the Constitution recognized slavery. Mr. Lincoln believed the government of the people under that agree

[graphic]

MARTIN VAN BUREN.

It was recog:

ment was the best the world had ever seen, not withstanding the existence of slavery. He read the speeches of the Abolitionists, but did not accept their premises or conclusions. He believed emancipation must be gradual. He did not comprehend the aggressiveness of the

slave power.

1844.

When Henry Clay was nominated for President, Abraham Lincoln became his ardent supporter. He made speeches in Illinois and Indiana.

He went to Pigeon Creek, and addressed the people of that sec

tion of the country. Those who had stood with him in the old log school-house, and remembered how he surpassed them all in “speaking pieces" and in everything else, were not surprised to find him one of the foremost speakers in the political campaign. Ile confidently expected that Mr. Clay would be elected, and was much disappointed by the election of the Democratic candidate, Mr. Polk, of Tennessee. A greater disappointment awaited him. He had never seen Mr. Clay, but learning that he was to give an address at Lexington, Ky., on the gradual emancipation of the slaves, he determined to make a trip to that town to hear one whom he regarded with such veneration and honor. Not many of us like to have our idols shattered. It is not pleasant to have illusions which we have fondly cherished rudely blown away. Mr. Lincoln entered the hall in Lexington a stranger to all about him. He beheld a brilliant assembly of men and women who

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

had gathered to listen to the man who, for nearly half a century, had electrified audiences by his eloquence. But time had turned many furrows on his brow. The fire of early years was dying out. He had held many places of honor and trust, but had not reached the goal to the attainment of which he had directed all his energies — the Presidency. Never again could there be a flaming up of the old-time enthusiasm upon any theme. The address which he had prepared was not upon a subject calculated to win the applause of his hearers. No thrilling words fell from his lips. In that evening hour the illusions of many years were fading away from the eyes of the man who had taken the journey from Illinois to Lexington.

But a keener disappointment was to come. Henry Clay had been born in poverty, had made his way against anverse circumstances to an exalted position. From his first entrance into public life he had been accustomed to receive adulation and homage. Men approached him as if he were a superior being; sycophants had fawned around him. Through many years he had maintained a dignified public life. He gave a courteous reception to the man from Illinois, who had been making speeches in his behalf -- courteous, nothing more. Mr. Clay was polite, affable, agreeable in conversation, but cold, distant, patronizing in manner. His was not a hearty grasp of the hand. He manifested no great pleasure in meeting the Illinois lawyer who, without hope or expectation of reward, had labored to make him President. Hundreds had also been making speeches, and it is possible that Mr. Clay may not have heard that a man by the name of Lincoln was stumping Illinois in his behalf, and so received him politely, but without marked cordiality. Beneath the oaks, elms, and ashes casting their shade over the home of the great statesman at Ashland, Abraham Lincoln became disenchanted. (*) Whether he himself was acquainted with men or not, whether they had labored for or against him, whether men were rich or poor, whether occupying humble or exalted positions, it made no difference to him; to all there was the hearty grasp of his hand. It was Abraham Lincoln's way, but not Mr. Clay's.

The Congressional districts in Illinois were Democratic, except that in which Abraham Lincoln resided. The Democratic party nominated

Rev. Peter Cartwright, a Methodist minister, who had preached

in nearly every school district, and who was known to every body. The Whig party believed Mr. Lincoln would prove to be more popular than the minister. Ile was nominated and elected. Some of his friends, knowing that he had but little money, contributed $200 tow

1846.

[graphic][merged small]

ards meeting his expenses while travelling through the district and making speeches, and were much surprised to receive the following letter from him, returning $199.25 :

“I have ridden my own horse. My friends have entertained me at

« PreviousContinue »