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his failings, his qualities of mind and heart, and the two men loved each other like brothers of unequal age.
Lincoln was doubtless looking ahead when he induced his young friend to take up the study of law. His money arrangement with Judge Logan was unsatisfactory, especially after his marriage, and he wished to set up for himself or as the head of a firm. Both men were ambitious to go to Congress, and there had been friction. Finally an understanding, more tacit than formal, was reached to the effect that Hardin, Baker, Lincoln, and Logan should each have a turn at the coveted honor. So, at least, we may infer from the letters of Lincoln; but such an agreement, if there was one, did not preclude a friendly rivalry. Lincoln tried to get the nomination in 1842, but was beaten- because of his temperance address, because his wife, as an Episcopalian, a Todd, and akin to the Edwardses, was an "aristocrat," because he had once" talked of fighting a duel," and because he was held to be a deist, if not a sceptic, in religion. There were, besides, "political complications." He was sent as a delegate in behalf of Baker, which was, as he wrote to Speed, "a good deal like a fellow who is made groomsman to a man that has cut him out and is marrying his own dear gal." But Hardin won the nomination, and Lincoln once more stood aside, reluctantly, in 1844, in favor of Baker. At any rate, the reasons for the break between Logan and Lincoln were more financial than political. Two such strong natures could not work together, and in 1843 their partnership was dissolved.
On the same day, September 20th, the firm of "Lincoln & Herndon" was founded, Lincoln generously dividing the earnings equally with his junior partner. Looking back through the years at a partnership which was as much a personal friendship as a business arrangement, Mr. Herndon wrote:
I confess I was surprised when he invited me to become his partner. I was young in the practice and was painfully aware of my want of ability and experience; but when he remarked in his earnest, honest way, "Billy, I can trust you, if you can trust me," I felt relieved and
accepted his generous proposal. It has always been a matter of pride with me that during our long partnership, continuing on until it was dissolved by the bullet of the assassin Booth, we never had any personal controversy or disagreement. I never stood in his way for political honors or office, and I believe we understood each other perfectly. In after years, when he became more prominent, and our practice grew to respectable proportions, other ambitious practitioners undertook to supplant me in the partnership. One of the latter, more zealous than wise, charged that I was in a certain way weakening the influence of the firm. I am flattered to know that Lincoln turned on this last named individual with the retort, "I know my own business, I reckon. I know Billy Herndon better than anybody, and even if what you say of him is true I intend to stick by him.”’1
1 Abraham Lincoln, by Herndon and Weik, Vol. I, p. 252.
Lincoln & Herndon
No two men were ever more unlike in temper of mind and habits of thought which was, no doubt, a secret of their long friendship. Lincoln was a conservative, Herndon a radical, but each respected the views of the other, and time taught them that wisdom lay in the middle path. They had, indeed, much in common besides a fraternity of sentiment, a droll humor, and a disregard of details; even resembling each other in ruggedness of frame and angularity of features -both faces wearing the same half-tender melancholy, the result, perhaps, of a lonely pioneer life, a habit of thoughtful abstraction, and a disposition to share the sorrows of mankind.
Some men feel the mystery of the public infirmity like a heavy weight of personal care, and both Lincoln and Herndon were of that quality. Of such stuff reformers are made, but the young man of fiery soul and fluent speech needed the calm and wise restraint of the older and greater man, else he had been a fanatic. And it must be said that Lincoln, though he had within him a slumbering fire, almost volcanic when deeply stirred, had need of such a flaming spirit to keep his faith aglow. He sat, as Herndon said, looking through a brief to the iniquity of slavery, and the moral order of God; but his attitude, if not hopeless, was unhopeful. Already the junior partner was consorting with Abolitionists, reading all the agitators, and advocating the most radical ideas; his senior gravely listening, but unconvinced. To Lincoln the national abomination seemed impregnable, and he had no hope of living to see its entrenchments crumble. Thus, out of their mutual indignations, hopes, and fears they educated themselves, each in his own way one to a grand abhorrence, the other to a grand agency.
As lawyers they were advocates rather than jurists "case lawyers," in the phrase of the craft - Herndon being little more than an office-clerk, as he tells us frankly, during the first years of their partnership. Lincoln once said that he selected Herndon as his partner thinking him to be a good business man who would keep his office affairs in order, but soon found that he had no more system than he himself, and was in reality a very good lawyer, "thus proving a double disappointment." No one, least of all Herndon, could reduce Lincoln to any sort of order. But he never forgot to divide his fees with his young partner, paying him his share at once, or leaving it in an envelope marked, "Herndon's half." They kept no books. The firm had a busy though not a lucrative practice from the start, appealing thirty-three cases to the Supreme Court the first year- a good record for even those litigious days. But what was better, the two men worked together as comrades, lightening the drudgery of the office, which both despised, with conversation grave and gay.
Just what position Lincoln held at the bar in these early years is not easy to know. After forming his partnership with Herndon - whose family was large and influential - he extended his practice somewhat, but he did not travel the large circuit, which embraced fifteen counties, until later. Whether on the circuit or at Springfield, where the federal courts were held, he was pitted against men of unusual ability and power, among whom were Stephen A. Douglas, O. H. Browning, Ninian Edwards, E. H. Baker, Judge Logan, and others. Some of these men were abler lawyers than he, especially in cases where the issues hung upon technical refinements and pure points of law-Judge Logan, in this particular, being the ablest man at the bar. This is not to say that Lincoln practiced by his wits, though with all his simplicity and honesty a shrewder mortal has seldom lived. Indeed, he would have been a dangerous man, but for his deep-seated integrity which was ever his ruling trait. He was at his best before a jury,
where his knowledge of human nature, his keen logic, and his gifts of humor and mimicry came into full play, and where his occasional bursts of appeal swept all before him. But the law is a jealous mistress and coy of her favors, nor does she crown those who serve her with divided allegiance.
So far Lincoln was more absorbed in politics than in law. What led him forward, said Herndon, was ambition, "a little engine that knew no rest," which strove not for riches but for political honors. If the fire burned low, his wife, who saw greater things for him than he dared dream, added fuel. In 1844 he was on the Whig electoral ticket, and not only stumped Illinois for Henry Clay, but was invited to Indiana and had the satisfaction of speaking at Gentryville, where he had lived as a boy. Amid such scenes, touched by the changes wrought by time and death, he fell into a mood of melancholy, and expressed his emotions in verse, which, if not poetical in form, was, as he said, poetical in feeling. The defeat of Clay, his political idol, was a hard blow, all the more so after so many portents of victory; but his grief was cooled somewhat by a visit to his hero, who received him with a stately aristocratic courtesy, gracious indeed, but not unmixed, so Lincoln felt, with a certain condescension of manner.
At last, in 1846, he was nominated for Congress, and there followed a contest as remarkable for religious bigotry as for partisan rancor. His opponent on the Democratic ticket was Peter Cartwright, a famous evangelist who rode the Methodist circuit in the pioneer era- a picturesque personality and a native orator of many popular gifts. Not content to assail Lincoln for his temperance address, the fervid exhorter charged him with infidelity-an accusation more serious then than now-going back for proof to the New Salem days, when Lincoln was said to have written a pamphlet attacking the Christian religion after the manner of Thomas Paine.1
1 Such an essay was written by Lincoln in his early days, while under the spell of Volney, Paine, and other thinkers of that school, in which he argued that the Bible was not inspired and that Jesus was not the son of God. He carried it to the village store, where it was read and freely discussed; but his employer, Samuel Hill, snatched the manuscript out of