Abraham Lincoln and Springfield

Abraham Lincoln and Springfield

springfield
 
For nearly 23 years, Springfield was the center of Abraham Lincoln’s life – his social, legal and political world. Historian Michael Nelson wrote: Lincoln thrived in Springfield: he lived there…longer by far than in any other place. In Springfield Lincoln became a successful lawyer, married Mary Todd, fathered four sons, and pursued a flourishing political career that culminated in his election to the presidency in 1860.”1 Springfield nurtured Abraham Lincoln and the local lawyer nurtured his home town.

Lincoln biographer William E. Barton wrote “that in this period covering nearly a quarter of a century Lincoln was developing in many ways. He emerged from grinding poverty into a condition in which he owned a home and had a modest sum of money in the bank. From an ill-trained fledgling lawyer, compelled by his poverty to share a bed in a friend’s room above the store, he had come to be a leader at the Illinois bar. From an obscure figure in State politics he had come to be the recognized leader of a political party that was destined to achieve national success and to determine the policies of the nation with little interruption for more than half a century. Out of a condition of great mental uncertainty in all matters relating to domestic relations he had come into a settled condition as the husband of a brilliant and ambitious woman and the father of a family of sons to whom he was devotedly attached.”2 Springfield reciprocated Mr. Lincoln’s gratitude for Springfield’s hospitality. John Carmody recalled: “Mr. Lincoln was a real type of an American gentleman. Like him the leading citizens of Springfield showed toward each other respect and kindness and friendship to such a degree in their daily intercourse that this ‘stranger in a strange land’ remembers to the present day the honor he felt it to be to have the acquaintance of such men.”3

There were three stages to Mr. Lincoln’s life in the Illinois state capital. The first began with Mr. Lincoln’s move in 1837 from New Salem, Illinois, to Springfield and lasted until his marriage in 1842. Mr. Lincoln was still something of a country bumpkin in the city even though Springfield was still a village, not a state capital, and quite rural in its own appearances. For six years, Mr. Lincoln lived the life of a bachelor-lawyer-politician. He roomed with general store owner Joshua F. Speed, a fellow Kentucky transplant, and often took his meals with the family of fellow attorney William Butler. William H. Herndon, who served later as Mr. Lincoln’s law partner, wrote that Mr. Lincoln ‘had little, if any money, but hoped to find in Springfield, as he had in New Salem, good and influential friends, who, recognizing alike his honesty and his nobility of character, would aid him whenever a crisis came and their help was needed. In this hope he was by no means in error, for his subsequent history shows that he indeed united his friends to himself with hooks of steel.”4 Another friend, Dr. William Jayne, recalled: “Mr. Lincoln, after his arrival in our city, boarded at the home of Mr. Butler, the second house west of my father’s home. I often observed him as he passed to and fro from his meals to his office. He usually walked alone, his head inclined as if he was absorbed in deep thought, unmindful of surrounding objects and persons. Though he had his wonderful gift of humor, I venture to assert that in the long run of years life was to him serious and earnest.”5

Both Mr. Lincoln and his adopted home town were beginning major transitions. Historian Harry E. Pratt wrote: “When Lincoln came to Springfield in the spring of 1837 the town was anything but prepossessing. Small store buildings lined the square, in the center of which stood a two-story brick court house. Most of the twelve or thirteen hundred inhabitants lived in small fame houses, with here and there an imposing resident, and just as often the simple cabin of an early pioneer. Remnants of the groves in which the town was founded furnished shade, but otherwise the streets were bare of trees. In summer every passing team raised clouds of dust while in winter the mud seemed to have no bottom, for there was not a foot of pavement. Hogs, cows and chickens wandered at will, and disputed the few board walks and footpaths with pedestrians.”6

Nevertheless, noted Lincoln biographer William E. Barton, “The first city in which Lincoln lived very nearly paralyzed him by its magnificence. Springfield, with its four hundred inhabitants, its muddy streets, and its live stock running at large, was to him a lonesome place. He did not attend church in the early months of his residence there, because as he wrote, he did not know how to act. He saw what he described as a great deal of ‘flourishing about in carriages,’ and he felt the isolation of his position as a man too poor to hope that he might ever participate in such luxury…”7 A few weeks after arriving in Springfield from New Salem, Mr. Lincoln wrote fiancee Mary Owens, effectively breaking off their engagement: “This thing of living in Springfield is rather a dull business after all, at least it is so to me. I am quite as lonesome here as [I] was anywhere in my life. I have been spoken to by but one woman since I’ve been here, and should not have been by her, if she could have avoided it. I’ve never been to church yet, nor probably shall not be soon. I stay away because I am conscious I should not know how to behave myself- ”

“I am often thinking about what we said of your coming to live at Springfield. I am afraid you would not be satisfied. There is a great deal of flourishing about in carriages here; which it would be your doom to see without sharing in it. You would have to be poor without the means of hiding your poverty. Do you believe you could bear that patiently? Whatever woman may cast her lot with mine, should any ever do so, it is my intention to do all in my power to make her happy and contented; and there, is nothing I can imagine, that would make me more unhappy than to fail in the effort. I know I should be much happier with you than the way I am, provided I saw no signs of discontent in you. What you have said to me may have been in jest, or I may have misunderstood it. If so, then let it be forgotten; if otherwise, I much wish you would think seriously before you decide. For my part I have already decided. What I have said I will most positively abide by, provided you wish it. My opinion is, that you had better not do it. You have not been accustomed to hardship, and it may be more severe than you now imagine.”8

Lincoln biographers John G. Nicolay and John Hay wrote that Springfield “would have seemed a dreary village to any one accustomed to the world, but in a letter written about this Lincoln speaks of it as a place where there was a ‘good deal of flourishing about in carriages’ — a town of some pretentions to elegance.” They described Springfield thus: “The town was built on the edge of the woods, the north side touching the timber, the south encroaching on the prairie. The richness of the soil was seen in the mud of the streets, black as ink, and of an unfathomable depth in time of thaw. There were, of course, no pavements, or sidewalks; an attempt at crossings was made by laying down large chunks of wood. The houses were almost all wooden, and were disposed in rectangular blocks. A large square had been left in the middle of the town, in anticipation of future greatness, and there, when Lincoln began his residence, the work of clearing the ground for the new State-house was already going forward. In one of the largest houses looking on the square, at the north-west corner, the county court had its offices, and other rooms in the building were let to lawyers. One of these was occupied by Stuart and Lincoln…”9

Upon arrival in Springfield, Mr. Lincoln had immediately gone into partnership with John Todd Stuart, whom he had met while serving in the Black Hawk War. Like Mr. Lincoln, Stuart had been born in Kentucky and become an Illinois Whig. Stuart was not necessarily the best mentor for a young lawyer because he devoted more attention to politics than to the law, but he had had encouraged Mr. Lincoln to pursue this profession. Historian Brian Dirck wrote that “By 1836 he was a regular visitor to John Stuart’s law office, located on the second floor of Hoffman’s Row, a line of two-story brick buildings located a block away from the main square. It wasn’t much of an office: mismatched chairs, a table, and a bookshelf, likely permeated with the smell of tobacco and piles of musty papers. But it was well located – right over the county courthouse on the first floor, and in the middle of what was becoming a bustling business and government district in Springfield.”10

During the 1837 legislative session, Mr. Lincoln and his fellow Sangamon legislators, including Stuart, arranged to have the state capital transferred from Vandalia to the more centrally located Springfield. Mr. Lincoln was the leader of this difficult effort, according to fellow state legislator Robert L. Wilson: “In these dark hours, when our Bill to all appearance was beyond recussitation [sic], and all our opponents were jubilant over our defeat, and when friends could see no hope, Mr. Lincoln never for one moment despaired, but collect[ed] his Colleagues to his room for consultation, his practical common Sense, his thorough knowledge of human nature then, made him an overmatch for his compeers and for any many that I have ever known. We surmounted all obstacles, passed the bill, and by a joint vote of both houses, located the Seat of Government of the State of Illinois, at Springfield, just before the adjournment of the Legislature which took place on the 4th day of March 1837.”11

Collectively, the nine tall members from Sangamon County were known as the “Long Nine” of the State Legislature. Lincoln scholar Paul M. Angle noted that “Although Lincoln, more than any other individual, was responsible for Springfield’s new-found glory, the first weeks in his new home were depressing ones. The ‘flourishing about in carriages’ which he noticed deepened his dejection at his own poverty and made him painfully sensitive of his social shortcomings.”12 Although Mr. Lincoln was without money, he was not without friends. Lincoln scholar Joseph E. Suppiger wrote that on July 25, 1837, “a ‘sumptuous’ banquet was given in honor of the Long Nine… at Colonel Spotswood’s Rural Hotel in Springfield. Sixty or seventy well-to-do- individuals paid dearly in order to hear paeans of praise showered upon Lincoln, O. H. Browning and others for the role they played in bringing the seat of state government to their city. Lincoln, not wanting anyone to be left out, proposed a toast to ‘all our friends – they are too numerous to be now named individually, while there is no one of them who is not too dear to be forgotten or neglected.”13

Attorney William H. Herndon recalled: “Now that the State capital was to be located at Springfield, that place began, by way of asserting its social superiority, to put on a good many airs. Wealth made its gaudy display, and thus sought to attain a preëminence from which learning and refinement are frequently cut off. Already, people had settled there who could trace their descent down a long line of distinguished ancestry. The established families were mainly from Kentucky. The reëchoed the sentiments and reflected the arrogance and elegance of a slave-holding aristocracy. ‘The Todds, Stuarts, and Edwardses were there, with priests, dogs, and servants;’ there also were the Mathers, Lambs, Opdykes, Forquers, and Fords. Amid all ‘the flourishing about in carriages’ and the pretentious elegance of that early day was Lincoln. Of origin, doubtful if not unknown; ‘poor, without the means of hiding his poverty,’ he represented yet another importation from Kentucky which is significantly comprehended by the term, ‘the poor whites.’ Springfield, containing between one and two thousand people, was near the northern line of settlement in Illinois. Still it was the centre of a limited area of wealth and refinement. Its citizens were imbued with the spirt of push and enterprise. Lincoln therefore could not have been thrown into a better or more appreciative community.”14

In many ways, Springfield was an appreciative and friendly place for Mr. Lincoln. He took up residence above the general store co-owned by another Kentucky native, Joshua F. Speed, who became his best friend. Historian Kenneth J. Winkle wrote: “Beyond the state bar and the emerging Whig Party, Lincoln hardly needed to join a formal association. His infectious good spirits, his renowned independence, and of course his prodigious absorption in politics all set him apart from – and eventually above – the crowds of aimless young men that inundated Springfield.” 15 Mr. Lincoln’s clique of bachelor friends met at Speed’s store, where Lincoln scholar Joseph E. Suppiger noted: “Huddled about the fireplace… (particularly when the legislature was in session) a visitor might have found Lincoln in close cameraderie [sic] with Speed, Stuart, Bill Butler, Edward Baker, James Matheny, Dan Stone, Anson Henry, or Orville H. Browning. These intimates might then be joined by others of either party, such as Judge Stephen T. Logan, Stephen A. Douglas, Noah Richard, John Calhoun, Jesse B. Thomas, Jr., Josiah Lamborn, Phillip C. Latham, Garrett Elikin, Cyrus Walker, Samuel Trent, John J. Hardin, Schuyler Strong, and A. T. Bledsoe.”16

Springfield’s status as the state capital meant that it had dual legal-political significance for Mr. Lincoln. His law practice easily extended to the State Supreme Court located in Springfield and later to the U.S. District Court when it held sessions there. “The leading politicians of their respective communities were frequently the members of the legislature and the lawyers who practised in the courts at Springfield. Naturally, the one city where they met face to face became a center of their activities,” wrote Lincoln scholar Paul M. Angle. “Since residence in the capital made possible ready contact with men from all parts of the state, the central committees were composed almost entirely of Springfield men. Thus in a double sense the city became a political focal point.”17 John Todd Stuart, Lincoln’s law partner, set his political sights higher and in 1838 was elected to Congress over Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. That left Mr. Lincoln virtually alone to conduct the firm’s legal business and transmit political intelligence to Stuart in Washington. Historian Brian Dirck wrote: “Ensconced in their little office, slouched on a buffalo robe chair and sometimes sleeping in a bed stuck over in one corner, Lincoln found himself puzzling over unfamiliar areas of the law, often as alone as when he puzzled his way through Blackstone on a New Salem woodpile.”18

Sometimes Mr. Lincoln and his friends visited more rarified company at the home of attorney Ninian Edward. Albert Stevenson Edwards was the son of Ninian Edwards and Mary Todd’s sister Elizabeth. Albert recalled: “My father entertained a great deal. He kept open house, you might say, in those days, when the capital was being moved and established in Springfield. The governor received a very small salary, $1500 or $1800 a year. My father was looked upon as a man of considerable means. As a matter of public spirit, he undertook to supply the social courtesies deemed necessary at the new capital. He gave out that he would have four receptions during the session, inviting the members of the Legislature, the state officers and judges of the Supreme Court and leading lawyers, dividing them into four lists. He carried out the programme to the letter, entertaining that first winter the entire state government. There were many relatives of our family, young ladies. Father was a great hand to have the house full of company. In the Legislature of 1840 and 1842 were young men who afterward became the most distinguished in the state. Lincoln was about 30, bright and jolly, and a great favorite with all of the young ladies at my father’s. From 1837 to 1839 he was one of the most frequent visitors. There was nothing bashful about him. The ladies would urge him to call again.”19

Historian Kathryn Kish Sklar wrote if Mary Todd: “Socially her circle of Springfield friends and kin called ‘the coterie,’ was dominated by her sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and Ninian Edwards, and since it was Elizabeth and Ninian who had initially obstructed her marriage, Mary’s participation in Springfield social life was accompanied by the need to prove the wisdom of her marriage and the brilliance of her husband. Ninian Edwards was the son of the territorial governor and first U.S. senator of Illinois. The exclusive aristocratic circle he and Elizabeth Todd Edwards constructed in Springfield continued the integration of politics and family life that Elizabeth and Mary Todd had known as children in Lexington, Kentucky.”20 Marrying into the Todd family helped secure Mr. Lincoln’s place in Springfield, noted historian William C. Harris., “The marriage improved his social contacts and standing in Springfield, though this benefit probably was not a prime consideration for him in the relationship.”21

“Abraham Lincoln was a classic middle-class professional. Unlike the men of Springfield’s small upper class, middle-class men were self-educated and self-made,” wrote historian Kenneth J. Winkle. “The Whig Party, and later the Republicans, championed the values that gave rise to industry, cities, commerce, and the middle class itself. As a result, Whigs were heavily Victorian. One-third of Whigs were middle-class, as compared to only one-fourth of Democrats. In fact, two-thirds of the middle class were Whigs.”22 Mr. Lincoln’s popularity in Springfield waxed and waned with the political seasons. The height of Mr Lincoln’s popularity in Sangamon County may have come after he successfully maneuvered to move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield. At a dinner in Springfield in July 25, 1837, Lincoln toasted: “All our friends – They are too numerous to be now named individually, while there is no one of them who is not too dear to be forgotten or neglected.”

“Two years after arriving in Springfield, Lincoln himself served briefly as a town trustee,” wrote historian Kenneth J. Winkle. “When a member of the board resigned to become a judge, the trustees appointed Lincoln to take his place. He took the oath of office from William Butler, who was now clerk of the circuit court. The town board met in the afternoon of the last Monday of each month, and the trustees received a dollar per meeting. When Lincoln joined the board, the president was Charles Matheny, Sangamon County’s erstwhile ‘one-man government.’ Most of Lincoln’s work during his eight months of service was decidedly routine. The trustees levied a tax of twenty-five cents on every one hundred dollars of real estate and ordered Joe Johnson’s unnamed ‘nuisance’ to be removed. They appointed Lincoln to a committee to determine ‘the proper width of side walks on 4th Street’ and awarded liquor licenses.”23

In the December 1839, a unique series of debates was held in a Springfield church between leading Democrats and leading Whigs. “In Springfield in the winter following, when the legislature was in session, a new form of campaigning sprang up. It was called the ‘Three day debate.’ This debate was informal and yet they observed a few simple rules,” wrote Lincoln scholar George W. Smith. “The Whig cause was supported by Walker, Lincoln, Baker, Browning and Logan. The Democratic cause was upheld by Douglas, Lamborn, Wiley and Peck. The debate was so good natured, informal, and helpful that a request was presented that the debate be repeated and the request was compiled with; not only so but similar debates were held in nearby towns in the spring of 1840. This form of campaigning brought Lincoln and Douglas together in several smaller towns which gave rise to the story that the great debates of 1858 were held in these towns.”24 Even Mary Todd was drawn into the campaign in which Whig William Henry Harrison defeated incumbent Democrat Martin Van Buren. She wrote a friend: “This fall I became quite a politician, rather an unladylike profession, yet at such a crisis, whose heart could remain untouched while the energies of all were called in question?”25

One of the most celebrated incidents of State Representative Lincoln’s early career occurred after the 1840 presidential campaign concluded. On December 10, the lower house of the State Legislature was meeting in temporary quarters in the Methodist Episcopal Church at Fifth and Monroe in Springfield. At the time, Mr. Lincoln was the Whig leader in the lower house. “During the last session the Legislature had legalized the suspension of specie payment by the state banks until the end of the next session,” wrote William H. Herndon. “If the special session were to end on December 5, payment would have to be resumed at once. Knowing that the banks, particularly the one at Springfield, wanted a longer period of suspension, Lincoln and the Whigs determined to prevent adjournment, so that the special and regular sessions would merge into one, and the banks be relieved of the necessity of specie payment until the close of the regular session in the spring of 1841.”

“Outnumbered as they were in the House, the Whigs determined to prevent a quorum on the afternoon of the 5th, so that the House could not concur in the resolution of adjournment which the Senate had already passed. Accordingly, only Lincoln and a few trusted friends appeared. The Democrats discovered the ruse, and sent the sergeant at arms to bring in the missing members. He returned without the necessary number, whereupon the doors were locked to prevent the escape of the Whigs already present. However, while Lincoln and his friends were enjoying the discomfiture of their angry opponents, several sick Democrats appeared and a quorum was unexpectedly announced. Caught unawares, the Whigs lost their heads and recorded their votes, and then attempted to escape. Finding the doors locked, Lincoln, Joseph Gillespie and one or two others raised a window and jumped out – too late, of course, to have any effect other than to provide the Democrats with capital material for ridicule. Since Lincoln’s legs ‘reached nearly from the window to the ground,’ asked the State Register, might it not be a good idea to raise the State House one story higher, in order to have the House sit in the third story! So as to prevent members from jumping out of the windows? Then “Mr. Lincoln will in the future have to climb down the spout.”

Historian Gabor S. Boritt wrote that Mr. Lincoln “acted in such an unorthodox fashion in a desperate attempt to defend the banking system of Illinois against what he believed be politically prejudiced and economically ignorant attacks.” 26 Within a month, Mr. Lincoln faced another, more personal crisis. At the beginning of 1841, Mr. Lincoln and Miss Todd broke off their engagement. Lincoln scholar Paul M. Angle wrote: “To her friends Mary Todd seemed as gay and flirtatious as ever,, but Lincoln was crushed. For a week or so he was too ill to attend the legislature regularly, and when he did recover he was dejected, morose, and inclined to shun his former friends.”27 One friend, Abner Y. Ellis recalled “that strong Brandy was administered to him freely for about one Week.”28 Attorney James Conkling reported that Mr. Lincoln was a “poor hapless simple swain who loved most true but was not loved again – I suppose he will now endeavor to drown his cares among the intricacies and perplexities of the law. Nor more will the merry peal of laughter ascend high in the air, to greet his listening and delighted ears. He used to remind me sometimes of the pictures I formerly saw of old Father Jupiter, bending down from the clouds, to see what was going on below.”29

After the breakup, Mary Todd apparently missed her erstwhile fiancé. In June 1841, she wrote a friend: “Mr. Speed, our former most constant guest has been in Kentucky for some weeks past, will be here next month, on a visit perhaps, as he has some idea of deserting Illinois, his mother is anxious he should superintend her affairs, he takes a friend’s privilege, of occasionally favouring me with a letter, in his last he spoke of his great desire of once more inhabiting this region and of his possibility of soon returning – His worthy friend [Lincoln] deems me unworthy of notice, as I have not met him in the gay world for months, with the usual comfort of misery, imagine that others were seldom gladdened by his presence as my humble self, yet I would that the case were different, that he would once more resume his Station in Society, that ‘Richard should be himself again,’ much, much happiness would it afford me…”30

“There were two things Mr. Lincoln always seemed willing to forget,” recalled William H. Herndon. “One was his unparliamentary escape with Joseph Gillespie from the Legislature by jumping through the church window, in 1839, and the other was the difficulty with James Shields, or as he expressed it in a letter to Speed, the ‘duel with Shields.’ Other incidents in his career he frequently called up in conversation with friends, but in after years he seldom if ever referred to the affair with Shields. People in Illinois did gradually forget…” As Herndon related the story:

James Shields, a ‘gallant, hot-headed bachelor from Tyrone County, Ireland,’ and a man of inordinate vanity, had been elected Auditor of State. Encouraged somewhat by the prominence the office gave him, he at once assumed a conspicuous position in the society of Springfield. He was extremely sensitive by nature, but exposed himself to merciless ridicule by attempting to establish his supremacy as a beau among the ladies. Blind to his own defects, and very pronounced in support of every act of the Democratic party, he made himself the target for all the bitterness and ridicule of the day. It happened that the financial resources of the State, owing to the collapse of the great internal improvement system, were exceedingly limited, and people were growing restless under what they deemed excessive taxation. The State officers were all Democrats, and during the summer they issued an order declining to receive any more State bank notes or bills in payment of taxes.
This made the tax-payer’s burdens greater than ever, as much of this paper remained outstanding in the hands of the people. The order met with opposition from every quarter – the Whigs of course losing no opportunity to make it as odious as possible. It was perfectly natural, therefore, that such an ardent Whig as Lincoln should join in the popular denunciation. Through the columns of the Springfield Journal, of which he had the undisputed use, he determined to encourage the opposition by the use of his pen. No object seemed to merit more ridicule and caricature than the conspicuous figure of the Auditor of state. At this time Lincoln was enjoying stolen conferences under the hospitable roof of Mrs. [Simeon[ Francis with Mary Todd and her friend Julia M. Jayne. These two young ladies, to whom he confided his purpose, encouraged it and offered to lend their aid. Here he caught the idea of puncturing Shields. The thing took shape in an article published in the Journal, purporting to have come from a poor widow, who with her pockets full of State bank paper was still unable to obtain the coveted receipt for her taxes.31

As Mary Todd Lincoln related the Shields incident after her husband’s death: “This last event, occurred, about six months, before our marriage, when, Mr. Lincoln, thought, he had some right, to assume to be my champion, even on frivolous occasions. The poor Genl, in our little gay circle, was oftentimes, the subject of mirth and even song–and we were then surrounded, by several of those, who have since, been appreciated, by the world. The Genl was very impulsive and on the occasion referred to, had placed himself before us, in so ridiculous a light, that the love of the ludicrous, had been excited, within me and I presume, I gave vent to it, in some very silly lines. After the reconciliation, between the contending parties, Mr L and myself mutually agreed, never to refer to it and except in an occasional light manner, between us, it was never mentioned.”32

In another letter, Mrs. Lincoln wrote: “In our little coterie in Springfield in the days of my girlhood, we had a society of gentlemen, who have since, been distinguished, in a greater or less degree, in the political world. My great and glorious husband comes first, ‘a world above them all.’ Douglas, Trumbull, Baker, Hardin, Shields, such choice spirits, were the habitués, of our drawing room. Gen Shields, a kind-hearted, impulsive Irishman, was always creating a sensation & mirth, by his drolleries, On one occasion, he amused me exceedingly, so much so, that I committed his follies, to rhyme, and very silly verses they were, only, they were said to abound in sarcasm causing them to be very offensive to the Genl. A gentleman friend, carried them off and persevered in not returning to them [sic], when one day, I saw them, strangely enough, in the daily paper. Genl Shields, called upon the Editor [Simeon B. Francis], and demanded the author. The Editor, requested a day, to reflect upon it–The latter called upon Mr Lincoln, to whom he knew I was engaged and explained to him, that he was certain, that I was the Author–Mr. L. then replied, say to Shields, that ‘I am responsible.’ Mr. L- thought no more of it, when about two weeks afterwards, whilst he was 150 miles away from S[pringfield] attending court, Shields, followed him up and demanded satisfaction. The party, with their seconds, repaid to ‘Bloody Island,’ opposite St Louis armed with swords, but doubtless, to the delight of each one, were reconciled. The occasion was so silly, that my husband, was always so ashamed of it, that months before our marriage, we mutually agreed – never to speak of it, ourselves – and it gradually passed out of the memories of all – this occurred, six months, before we were married and so far as our mutual relations, to each, other were – it would have been the same, eighteen months previous – We were engaged & greatly attached to each other – two years before we were married. It was always, music in my ears, both before and after our marriage, when my husband, told me, that I was the only one, he had ever thought of, or cared for. It will solace me to the grave and when I again rest by his side, I will be comforted.”33

Mr. Lincoln tried to protect Mary’s honor and ended up in a near-duel with Shields. Herndon recalled: “The satire running through these various compositions, and the publicity their appearance in the Journal gave them, had a most wonderful effect on the vain and irascible Auditor of State. He could no longer endure the merriment and ridicule that met him from every side. A man of cooler head might have managed it differently, but in the case of a high-tempered man like Shields he felt that his integrity had been assailed and that nothing but an ‘affair of honor would satisfy him.”34 Mr. Lincoln tried to avoid a confrontation but Shields pressed the affair; Mr. Lincoln chose broadswords as the weapon of conflict. Usher Linder recalled: “Sometime after this affair Lincoln was asked by a friend why he had chosen broadswords; Lincoln replied, ‘To tell you the truth…I did not want to kill Shields, and felt sure I could disarm him, have had about a month to learn the broadsword exercise; and furthermore, I didn’t want…[him] to kill me, which I rather think he would have done if we had selected pistols.”35

The second stage of Mr. Lincoln’s Springfield life began with his marriage to Mary Todd in November 1842. Eugenia Jones Hunt recalled: “Miss Salome Butler, daughter of State Treasurer and Mrs. William Butler, told me that Mr. Lincoln boarded with them in their home on South Sixth Street.”

“We all loved Mr. Lincoln – he played with us and would toss me over his shoulder when we would run to meet him. The night Mr. Lincoln and Mary Todd were married, I thought my mother was very handsome in her yellow satin evening gown, as she walked down the hall to Mr. Lincoln’s room to see if he was dressed properly for his marriage. As usual, my brothers and I trooped in behind her. As my mother tied Mr. Lincoln’s necktie on him, little Speed called out: ‘Where are you going, Mr. Lincoln?’ Mr. Lincoln jokingly replied: ‘to the devil!’”

Eugenia recalled, “Mr. Lincoln’s reply has been misconstrued, to the disparagement of Mrs. Lincoln. Also, they have prefixed ‘I am going,’ to Mr. Lincoln’s reply.36 The newlyweds lived in the Globe Tavern until after their first born son, Robert Todd Lincoln, was born. In 1844, they paid $1500 for the the home of the Rev. Charles Dresser, who had married them. With wife, a second son, a house and a growing legal practice with partner William H. Herndon, Mr. Lincoln became during this period a more settled man and a good neighbor. Neighbor John B. Weber remembered Mr. Lincoln coming home from an out-of-town trip late one night. “I heard an axe: it rang out at Lincoln’s – got up – Saw Mr Lincoln in his Shirt Sleeves Cutting wood – I suppose to cook his supper with: it was a cold night – the moon was up – and I looked at my clock – it was between 12 and 1 o’cl[ock].”37

Another neighbor, James Gourley recalled that Mr. Lincoln “used to Come to our house with Slippers on – one Suspender and an old pair of pants – Come for milk – our room was low and he said, ‘Jim – you have to lift your loft a little higher. I Can’t stand in it well.’”38

Meanwhile, Mr. Lincoln had left the Illinois State Legislature and set his sights on a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Unfortunately, he faced two other candidates – fellow attorneys and friends Edward D. Baker and John J. Hardin. Historian Donald W. Riddle wrote: “As a practical substitute for the convention, or as a supplement to it, it was customary for small groups of Whig leaders to meet informally to determine party measures and choose the candidates. The most powerful of these groups was that in Springfield. It was given the epithet ‘the Junto’ by the local Democrats, and much was said of it in the Illinois State Register, the Democratic newspaper. E.D. Baker, Stephen T. Logan, Ninian W. Edwards, and Lincoln were the most prominent of the dozen or more members. The group functioned effectively; but, as its influence grew, malcontents voiced vociferous objections to its assumption of leadership, and an ‘anti-Junto’ movement developed.”39

There was a close relationship between Mr. Lincoln’s legal and political associates. Mr. Lincoln began a partnership with Stephen Logan in 1841 after breaking up the Stuart-Lincoln partnership. They set up offices across the street. “In 1843 Logan and Lincoln moved to the Tinsley building, a choice spot on Springfield’s town square and within walking distance of the state capitol. Lincoln and [Wiliam H.] Herndon put their shingle in the Tinsley building [from 1844] until 1852, when they moved to a place across the square on its northwest side, near Fifth Street. There they remained until Lincoln’s departure for Washington, D.C., in 1861,” wrote historian Brian Dirck. “Lincoln’s offices were utilitarian to a fault, with nothing resembling a décor.”40

Out of office, Mr. Lincoln continued as a local and state leader of the Whig party. John G. Nicolay wrote: “A mass meeting of the Whigs of the district was held at Springfield on the 1st of March, 1843, for the purpose of organizing the party for the elections of the year. On this occasion Lincoln was the most prominent figure. He called the meeting to order, stated its object, and drew up the platform of principles, which embraced the orthodox Whig tents of a protective tariff, national bank, the distribution of th proceeds of the public lands, and finally, the tardy conversion of the party to the convention system, which had been forced upon them by the example of the Democrats, who had show them that victory could not be organized without it.”41

Mr. Lincoln’s popularity with fellow Whigs may have undergone a reverse with his defeat in 1842 for the congressional nomination, but Mr. Lincoln was popular with the children of Springfield. Ward Hill Lamon recalled: “Before leaving the old town of Springfield, Mr. Lincoln was often seen, on sunny afternoons, striking out, on foot to a neighboring wood, attended by his little sons. There he would romp with them as a companion, and enter with great delight into all their childish sports.”42 As a boy William B. Thompson lived near the Lincolns in Springfield. Thompson later recalled that Mr. Lincoln “walked along with his hands behind him, gazing upward and noticing nobody. But it was usual for all of the boys in the neighborhood to speak to him as we met him. He had endeared himself to all of us by reason of the interest he took in us. When one of us spoke to him as he was walking along in his absorbed manner he would stop and acknowledge the greeting pleasantly. If the boy was small Mr. Lincoln would often take him up in his arms and talk to him. If the boy was larger Mr. Lincoln would shake hands and talk with him. If he didn’t recall the face, he would ask the name, and if recognized it he would say, ‘Oh, yes; I remember you.’ If the boy was a comparative stranger Mr. Lincoln would treat him so pleasantly that the boy always wanted to speak to Mr. Lincoln after that whenever he met him.”43

Philip Wheelock Ayres’ grandparents lived across the street from the Lincolns in Springfield. “My mother recalls the frequent picture of Mr. Lincoln going down the street, wearing his customary tall hat and gray shawl, leading by the hands both Willie and Tad, who were usually dancing and pulling him along. Always his thoughtful face was bent forward, as if thinking out some deep problem, yet he was responsive to he questions of the children. He often brought Tad home on his shoulders.”44 Another young neighbor, Eugenia Jones, recalled: “It was an eight room house on a fifty foot lot of great depth. In the rear, there was a woodshed, a stable and the usual outbuildings. Mr. Lincoln, in his cowhide boots and blue jean trousers, a bit too short for him, chopped his wood; and after he milked the cow, he would carry a quart of milk in a tin bucket to a neighbor’s door, knock and wait for the milk to be emptied in a crock. This housewife said that Mr. Lincoln always passed a pleasantry along with his cheery good morning.”45

The Lincolns often employed neighborhood children for errands. The Rev. James F. Jaquess recalled: “I was standing at the parsonage door one Sunday morning, a beautiful morning in May, when a little boy came up to me and said: ‘Mr. Lincoln sent me around to see if you was going to preach today.’ Now, I had met Mr. Lincoln, but I never thought any more of Abe Lincoln than I did of any one else. I said to the boy: ‘You go back and tell Mr. Lincoln that if he will come to church he will see whether I am going to preach or not.’ The little fellow stood working his fingers and finally said: ‘Mr. Lincoln told me he would give me a quarter if I would find out whether you are going to preach.’ I did not want to rob the little fellow of his income, so I told him to tell Mr. Lincoln that I was going to try to preach.”46

State Superintendent of Instruction Norman Bateman recalled: “His surviving friends in Springfield will never forget the long-familiar spectacle of his towering form in the street with Rob or Will or Tad, or all three, perhaps, at his side- nor his exhaustless imperturbability and good-humored patience at the pranks and antics of his boys. They would sometimes be sent to hasten his steps homeward to dinner or tea. Promptly sallying forth from his office, he was sure to be stopped by some friend or neighbor at nearly every street corner, for a little chat – for somehow, the very streets seemed brighter when Abraham Lincoln appeared in them, and the moodiest face lightened up as his gaunt figure and pleasant face were seem approaching. But these detentions were not appreciated by the boys, whose keen appetites stirred them on to get Paterfamilias home as soon as possible. In the course of these efforts by the youngsters, the future President of the United States was very often placed in very amusing positions and attitudes. The spectacle of two little chaps tugging and pulling at his coat-tails, while the third pushed in front, was often beheld – while Mr. Lincoln, talking and laughing, and pretending to scold, but all the while backing under the steady pressure of the above-mentioned forces, raised his voice louder and louder as he receded, till it died away in the distance and further conversation became impossible. He then faced about, and the little fellows hurried him off in triumph towards home.”47

State Auditor Jesse K. Dubois lived down the street from the Lincolns; his son was named “Lincoln” for the family’s distinguished neighbor. A young neighbor in Springfield recalled an incident with Dubois’s son on a “hot summer afternoon in ’58 or ’59. Link Dubois and I were standing on the sidewalk in front of my father’s house trying to devise some way to obtain money with which to buy watermelons or ice cream. Link (who was always resourceful) suddenly exclaimed: ‘Did Mrs. Lincoln ever pay you that money?’ (Link knew that Mrs. Lincoln had promised to pay me fifty cents some time before and that I could never muster the courage to ask her for it.) I replied in the negative. Said he: ‘There comes Old Abe now, you dun him; he’ll pay you.’ On looking up, I discovered Mr. Lincoln coming east on Market Street, going home. I remember that it required an extra prod from Link. Then I started forward and met Mr. Lincoln at eighth and capitol Avenue. I at once proceeded to lay my case before him. He immediately shoved his hand into his trousers pocket and produced a handful of silver coin. Handing me a twenty-five cent piece saying, ‘Here is a quarter for the Myers errand.’ then another quarter saying, “This is for the horse you took to Dr. Wallace,’ and then another quarter, saying, ‘This is for the interest on your money, seventy-five cents in all.’ Becoming suddenly rich again we were likewise happy.”48

The grandson of a Lincoln neighbor wrote: “In the new and growing city it was sometimes difficult to get and keep a maid. At such times Mr. Lincoln would help freely in the kitchen. On coming from his office he would take off his coat, put on a large blue apron, and do whatever was needed. At such times the family used to eat in the kitchen. Happening in, my mother was once invited to share a kitchen luncheon, and vividly remembers Mr. Lincoln’s large figure against the kitchen wall. To him the matter of food was always one of comparative indifference. When called to meals he came when he was ready, and seemed never just ready to come.”49

Neighbor Fred T. Dubois recalled: “Old Bob was the family horse of the Lincolns, which used to draw the family carriage, which had two seats, an open one in front and the rest of the carriage closed. Some of the family always did the driving, as Mr. Lincoln never had a coachman. He had only one man around his house, who did the chores, took care of the horse, etc. Salaries were very meager at that time, and this man of all jobs wore plain clothes all the time and, as was quite customary in those days, was treated as an equal by every one.”50

The son of an immigrant family told another story. “My father,’ said Mr. Mendonza [Mendonsa], ‘used to work for Mr. Lincoln, tending his garden and sawing wood. This was from the year 1858 up to his election to the presidency. At the time Mr. Lincoln had his office on the northwest corner of the square over the Stebbins’ hardware store. I often went to the office with father to get the pay for the work done. Father could not talk English I went to interpret for him. I hardly ever went there that Mr. Lincoln did not make me a present of a piece of money and pat me on the face and say: ‘Now, you must be a good boy. Come again.’”

“‘Mr. Lincoln was a great friend to the poor man and a great lover of little children,’ said Mr. Mendonza, with a world of feeling in his tone and manner. ‘The last time we saw him, father and I, was after his election. It was that sad morning at the old Great Western Depot, when he bid all farewell from the rear platform of the last car. He saw father standing by, and reached his hand down and shook father by the hand and bade him goodby. It was the last time we saw him alive.’”
“And then Mr. Mendonza told, in his own way, a story of Lincoln, homely, trivial in incident, but full of the nature which made him great.”
“‘One day, the latter part of July, 1859,’ he said, ‘my father and brother-in-law and I went after blackberries five miles out of the city. We started at 4 o’clock in the morning. The day was very hot. We hunted for blackberries all morning, for at that time they were getting scarce. We were gone until 11:30 in the forenoon, and all father got was 3 pints. He took them to Mrs. Lincoln, but when she saw them she complained because they were so small. Father told me to tell Mrs. Lincoln these were the last picking; they were smaller than the last, but no more were to be found. He had been all morning since 4 o’clock finding these. Mrs. Lincoln wanted to know what father asked for these. I told her 15 cents. She refused to pay more than 10 cents. Father said he could not afford to sell for that. So just as we were about to start away, Mr. Lincoln came around the house from the front. He greeted father and asked me why we did not sell the berries to Mrs. Lincoln. I told him that we had only 3 pints that father had been out ever since 4 o’clock gathering the 3 pints, and that Mrs. Lincoln wanted to give father only 10 cents for them. Mr. Lincoln put 15 cents in my hand and told Mrs. Lincoln to take them and put them away. Mrs. Lincoln did not like that. Mr. Lincoln spoke up and told me to tell father it was cheap enough; that he had earned every cent and more, too. Mr. Lincoln was a very kindhearted man.’”51

Historian Jean H. Baker wrote that Mr. Lincoln’s “absence for so long as a third of a year meant that Mary often raised the boys and ran the couple’s Springfield home by herself…. the Lincolns, with the help of her father, enlarged their home in Springfield on Jackson and Eighth Streets from a one-story cottage with a loft to an attractive two-story middle class house with a kitchen, two parlors, a dining room, and four new second story bedrooms. Intermittently assisted by untrained servants and mother’s helpers, Mary worked here, cooking the meals, darning the boys’ clothes, beating the rugs in their twice-a-year cleanings, and, in the most dreaded of domestic chores, doing the laundry.”52 This pattern was changed from 1847 to 1849 when Mr. Lincoln served in U.S. House of Representatives and the family was often separated.

After his single congressional term, Mr. Lincoln failed in an attempt to land a patronage appointment as federal land commissioner. He rejected an appointment as a territorial official in Oregon and returned to the practice of law, upon which he concentrated for the next five years. He practiced on the Eighth Judicial Circuit as well as before the State Supreme Court in Springfield. But in 1854, passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act sponsored by Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas once again drew him into politics.” Mr. Lincoln reluctantly agreed to become a candidate for the Illinois State Legislature – as part of his efforts to help insure the reelection of Congressman Whig Richard Yates. Yates later recalled that “when on my return home at the close of the long session of 1854, having published a card that I would not be a candidate for re-election, I was met at the depot in Springfield by Mr. Lincoln. He said I had taken the right course on this question, and though he could not promise me success in a district so largely against us, yet he hoped for the sake of the principle, I would run,…and if I would, he would take the stump in my behalf. I remember his earnestness, and so deeply did he impress me that the question was one worthy of our noblest efforts whether in victory or defeat, that I consented. From the circumstances I believe that the only consideration with Mr. Lincoln was a disinterested and patriotic desire for the success of correct principle.”53 On October 3, Senator Stephen A. Douglas spoke at the State Capitol in defense of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Mr. Lincoln replied on behalf of Kansas-Nebraska opponents the next day. That speech and the better reported version delivered at Peoria on October 16 catapulted Mr. Lincoln in new political prominence.

Meanwhile, with the Whig Party falling part, a major political realignment was underway in Illinois and the nation. Historian Richard J. Carwardine wrote: “A group of radicals from northern Illinois had come to the state capital to organize ‘a party which shall put the Government upon a Republican track’. They were led by Owen Lovejoy and Ichabod Codding, both New Englanders, both Congregation ministers, both with an abolitionist political pedigree.” 54 Lincoln scholar Paul M. Angle wrote: “Few took serious the ‘Republican’ convention which was held in the State House on the afternoon after Lincoln’s speech…Lincoln himself had climbed into his old buggy and started for court in Tazewell County. This was not the time, he well knew, for a rising politician to have his record indelibly stained with abolitionism.”55

In November 1854, Mr. Lincoln was elected to the State House of Representatives, a position he promptly resigned in order to be eligible for the forthcoming election for the U.S. Senate. Concentrating on the Senate race, Mr. Lincoln failed to focus on the special election of a successor and the election was won by Democrats. Lincoln scholar William Lee Miller wrote: “Lincoln seems to have taken no steps to ensure that the seat he had won and resigned be retained for the anti-Nebraska side. Overconfidence may have been one reason; a month earlier, in the congressional election, Richard Yates, though he would lose in the U.S. congressional district as a whole, carried Sangamon County with 2,166 votes. But ‘on the rain day’ of the special election, ‘our man’ got only 984 votes.”56

Immediately after the November election, Mr. Lincoln began work to win election to the U.S. Senate in early 1855. He was “scrupulous and tactful, but he is also persistent and energetic, calling in all his chips,” wrote Lincoln scholar William Lee Miller of Lincoln’s 1855 Senate efforts. Mr. Lincoln sent out a series of letter attempting to rally support for his candidacy against incumbent James Shields, who had supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act “He himself explained, perhaps rather lamely, when he resigned that he had let his name be offered in the state legislative race only because he was told that it would help the Whig anti-Nebraska candidate for the U.S. House seat, Richard Yates. [Historian Matthew] Pinsker offers the further defense that the state constitutional provision was new and untested, and later to be found unconstitutional because no state may alter requirements for federal office.”57

Although he led on the first ballot in February, his election was stymied by the unwillingness of anti-Nebraska Democrats to vote for a Whig for the seat. In an effort to forestall the election of Democratic Governor Joel Matteson, Mr. Lincoln threw his support to anti-Nebraska Democrat Lyman Trumbull. Lincoln scholars Sunderine Wilson Temple and Wayne C. Temple wrote: “Abraham Lincoln put on a cheerful face, and when the Nineteenth General Assembly adjourned on the morning of February 15, 1855, he invited all of the Anti-Nebraska members to partake of a special dinner which he paid for himself! In some undisclosed restaurant or hotel that day, ‘a large number’ of the Anti-Nebraska men gathered to enjoy ‘good eating, good speeches’ and ‘excellent sentiments offered.” Said the Illinois Daily Journal, ‘The affair passed of very pleasantly.’ Lincoln at least gave the appearance of a good looser and rejoiced publicly with Lyman Trumbull’s friends,” wrote Sunderine and Wayne C. Temple.”58

A year later, Mr. Lincoln became involved in the establishment of the Republican Party as a statewide organization in Illinois – a chore he had deftly avoided in October 1854 rather than be identified with the abolitionist group that was meeting. Mary had her sights set on a different kind of structure – enlarging their house to two stories. James Gourley recalled that while Mr. Lincoln was away on legal business in 1856, “Mrs Lincoln and myself formed a conspiracy to take off the roff [sic] and raise the house. Lincoln Came home – Saw his house – and Said – ‘Stranger do you Know where Lincoln lives; he used to live here’.”59

The Lincoln-Herndon law office was less impressive. Indeed, it was a model of disorder. Fellow attorney Shelby M. Cullom recalled: “I saw Mr. Lincoln constantly and he was my friend. I have been in his law office when he returned from riding the circuit. Mr. Lincoln kept no account books to speak of. He practiced at the courts of all the counties around Springfield. After trying a case he would take the fee that he received from his client, wrap it up in a piece of paper, write on the back of the paper the name of the case and the amount – ten, fifteen or twenty-five dollars, whatever it might be – and put the paper in his pocket. When Mr. Lincoln came home he would take these papers out of his pockets, one at a time, and divide the amounts with his partner, Herndon. Theoretically, Mr. Lincoln was strong on financial questions. On political economy he was great. Practically, he knew little about money and took no care of it. As a lawyer in practice, he was very strong before both court and jury. He had a great deal of personal magnetism and his honest, plain way captured the jurors. Mr. Lincoln would lean over the jury, gesturing with his long arms and holding the jurors fascinated with his homely eloquence.” 60 “The stubborn and prosaic fact,” wrote attorney Henry C. Whitney, “is that no lawyer’s office could have been more unkempt, untidy, and uninviting than that of Lincoln and Herndon, even when the senior partner was in the zenith of his political career.” Whitney wrote:

“It was located in the second story of a building on the west side of the public square, one building south of the street that bounds the square on the north, in a back room, dimly lighted by windows, apparently innocent of water and the scrub-man since creation’s dawn, or the settlement of Springfield.”
“But the lack of translucent qualities in the windows, was compensated somewhat by the transparency of the upper half of the door leading into the hall – for there was nothing there to obstruct the perfect vision – not even a gossamer’s wing, for it was perfectly diaphanous; in other words, both of the upper panels and the center piece were gone; and an agile man could readily have vaulted through the opening.”
“I think there was no carpet on the floor; if so, it must have been if in harmony with its surroundings, a marvelous fabric. And the sum total of the furnishing of the office, as I recollect it, was a rocking-chair ( a favorite seat of Lincoln) and several other ordinary chairs, an old table numerously indented with a jack-knife, a wood stove, and some common book-cases, occupied for the most part with session laws and public documents. It did not seem as if the inspiration of genius could haunt such a place, and yet, in this uncouth office, the later creed of the Republican party was formulated in the mutual councils of the law-partners, and more than friends. Here was fabricated, rehearsed, pruned and perfected that famous speech of June 17, 1858, which contained the key-note of the coming struggle, and rendered effete the tardy echo of the ‘irrepressible conflict,’ and its great author. I recently visited the room, which had been their office, with Herndon, and found that it had undergone a radical change; and was now a tailor shop. Alas! To what base uses we may come at last.”61

Lincoln partner Herndon himself was popular in Springfield. Historian Charles B. Strozier wrote that Herndon “had a huge reservoir of civic pride and was something of a one-man chamber of commerce or, perhaps more generously, Springfield’s Benjamin Franklin. No one pushed harder or sang the praises of Springfield’s Benjamin Franklin. No one pushed harder or sang the praises of Springfield louder as the new Athens on the prairie.”62 Herndon was not so fond of Mary Lincoln or the LIncoln children, whom he considered undisciplined. Mr. Lincoln himself had his peculiar ways. Lincoln scholar Joseph E. Suppiger wrote: “When he came home from the office it was his custom to take off his coat and shoes, take up a pillow, turn a chair upside down, place the pillow on the (now) inclined back of the chair, lie down upon the floor with his head and shoulder on the pillow, and read. Lincoln not only enjoyed reading this way for hours at a time, but he did his reading aloud. Often he would drone on late into the night, reciting verbatum [ sic] the contents of local newspaper. Harriet Chapman once remarked: ‘I fancy I see him now lying full length in the hall of old home reading.” 63 Chapman also said: “Mr. Lincoln Seldom ever wore his Coat when in the house at home, and often went to the table in his Shirt Sleeves, which practice anoyed [sic] his wife vary [sic] much, who by the way loved to put on Style.”64

Joseph E. Suppiger wrote: “Lincoln enjoyed watching his younger sons, Willie and Tad, romp through the back yard with [their dog] Fido while Robert studied in his room and Mrs. Lincoln sewed and tatted. Not being a nature-lover, Lincoln had never bothered to plant any trees, shrubs or flowers around the house, and the only shade tree on the property was ordered cut down by Mrs. Lincoln when she had some repairs done to the house. A nature-loving workman asked her husband to confirm the unnecessary order, and he replied: ‘in God’s name cut it down clean to the roots.’” 65 Neither of the Lincolns were notable for their horticultural pursuits. Neighbor James Gourley remembered: “Lincoln never planted any… trees – he did plant Som[e] rose bushes once in front of his house. He planted no apple trees, cherry trees – pear trees, grape vines Shade trees and Such like things – he did not seems Care for Such things.” 66 Mary’s sister, Frances Todd Wallace, recalled that neither “Mr. nor Mrs. Lincoln loved the beautiful – I have planted flowers in their front yard myself to hide nakedness – ugliness – and have done it often… Mrs. L never planted trees – Roses – never made a garden, at least not more than once or twice…”67 Relative Harriet A Chapman maintained that although “I never knew him to make a garden, yet no one loved flowers better than he did.”68

The Lincolns hired occasional household help, both white and black. Lincoln scholar Richard E. Hart wrote: “African Americans were a significant part of Lincoln’s Springfield community. At the time of Lincoln’s arrival in 1837, Springfield had an African American population of approximately twenty-six – 1.78 percent of the total population of 1,5000. Six of those twenty-six were slaves. By the time of Lincoln’s departure in 1861, the African American population had grown to 234 – approximately 2.5 percent of the total population of approximately 9,320. These Springfield African Americans had an impact on Lincoln that was far greater than their numbers imply.” 69 Hart noted that “as an adjunct to slavery, a system of voluntary or indentured servitude flourished in Springfield both prior to and after Lincoln’s arrival. The system was legally permitted by the ‘Black Laws’ that were adopted by Illinois’ first legislature in 1819 and existed until February 7, 1865.”70 According to historian Gossie Harold Hudson, “although the majority of people in Sangamon County expressed opposition to the evils of slavery, Blacks in Springfield were systematically treated as inferiors, and in many cases were held in virtual slavery. Also…the Sangamon Journal published advertisements of alleged runaway slaves, including detailed descriptions, rewards, warnings against employing the Negroes so identified, and threats of penalties for aiding them. In that environment, ti is quite apparent that the Lincoln connection must have been as valuable to the black barber as it was unique.”71 Lincoln barber William de Fleurville was one of Mr. Lincoln’s closest black acquaintances in Springfield.

Historian Allen C. Guelzo wrote: “As a lawyer in Springfield, Lincoln had no involvement with Springfield’s small free African-American community, apart from his role in a handful of cases – thirty-four out of the more than five thousand cases that he participated in during his professional life – and even there, no pattern of particular interest in immediate abolition emerges.”72 However. Lincoln contemporary John Bunn alleged the “reason Lincoln appeared in so few suits in behalf of negroes was because he didn’t want to be a party to a violation of the Fugitive Slave law.” Mr. Lincoln argued “the way was to repeal the law. In more than one case he suggested and advised that a few dollars be paid to buy off those who were holding the Negro.”73

Springfield was at the center of the state’s political activity in 1858. Historian Christopher N. Breiseth wrote that “Springfield was something of a prairie Philadelphia in 1858. In and around the statehouse and the courthouse political activity was at a fever pitch. Throughout the year, statewide and county conventions and party caucuses for the Douglas Democrats, the Buchanan Democrats, the Fillmore Americans, and the Republicans met in Springfield to fashion the platforms and strategies each carried into the campaign of summer and fall. Representatives from all parts of Illinois, from Chicago to Cairo, from Galena and Quincy to Danville and Charleston, converged repeated on this capital city, estimated by contemporaries to include thirteen thousand, to debate issues threatening to tear the country apart.”74 With an office near the State Capitol, Mr. Lincoln was a frequent visitor there – for research, political information and companionship.

Lincoln’s location in Springfield was important to his preparation for the 1858 Senate campaign. John G. Nicolay recalled: “From the spring of 1857 to 1860 I was Clerk in the office of Hon. O.M. Hatch, Secretary of State of Illinois, who in that capacity occupied a large and well-appointed room in the old Statehouse in Springfield. The State Library, of which the Secretary had charge, was in an adjoining room, also large and commodious, which by common usage was used by all the political parties when assembled at State conventions or during sessions of the legislature, as a political caucus room, the entry through the Secretary’s main office.

This office… was therefore in effect the state political headquarters and a common rendezvous for prominent Illinois politicians… Mr. Lincoln was of course a frequent visitor, and when he came was always the center of an animated and interested group. It was there, during the years mentioned, that I made his acquaintance. All the election records were kept by the Secretary of State, and I, as Mr. Hatch’s principal clerk, had frequent occasion to show Mr. Lincoln, who was an assiduous student of election tables, the latest returns, or the completed record books.75

Mr. Lincoln opened the campaign against Senator Stephen A. Douglas when he received the Senate nomination from the Republican State Convention in Springfield on June 16, 1858. His “House Divided” speech set the tone for the rest of the campaign. Mr. Lincoln carefully prepared in advance a speech to give on that occasion and shared it with friends; many often thought the speech ill-advised. According to one report, Mr. Lincoln told his friends: “I have thought about this matter a great deal – have weighed the question well from all corners; and am thoroughly Convinced the time has come when it should be uttered and if it must be that I must go down because of this speech then let me go down linked to truth – die in the advocacy of what is right and just. This nation cannot live on injustice – a house divided against itself cannot stand. I say again and again.”76 Journalist Horace White recalled that Mr. Lincoln said “that some of his friends had scold him a good deal about the opening paragraph and the ‘house divided against itself’ and wanted him to change it or leave it out altogether, but that he believed he had studied this subject more deeply than they had and that he was going to stick to that text whatever happened.”77 Lincoln scholar David Zarefsky wrote that “Although one of Douglas’s biographers found it unlikely that Lincoln himself believed the conspiracy charge, the preponderance of evidence indicates that he sincerely did. Lincoln cited the fear of the slave power conspiracy, not the desire for personal preferment, as his reason for undertaking the Senate campaign.”78

After both parties held their conventions, the Senate speeches and rallies began in earnest. Senator Douglas started in Chicago on July 9 and moved south for a speech in Springfield on July 17. Lincoln scholar Paul M. Angle wrote that “the ovations along the route were so continuous that six hours elapsed before the sixty-odd miles were covered. Finally, at three in the afternoon, the booming of minute guns announced the Senator’s arrival. As the train stopped at the Edwards’ Grove, a cannon mounted on a platform car answered the salute, and the thousands who had gathered in the driving rain did their best to drown out the sound of both guns.” Douglas, who by then had moved to Chicago, told his listeners: “I do feel at home whenever I return to old Sangamon and receive those kind and friendly greetings which have never failed to meet met when I have come among you; but never before have I had such occasion to be grateful and to be proud of the manner of the reception as on the present.”79

Historian Angle said at least 5,000 people stayed to the end of Douglas’s speech – despite rain. Lincoln law partner William P. Herndon took a more jaundiced view of Douglas’ speech on July 17 in Springfield: “Douglas’ reception here was not good – well planned or enthusiastic; it did not go off – did not blaze up, as it should have done or rather as intended and supposed by the democrats. I was on the ground and suppose there were really about 2 or 3 thousand people – no more and there was no deep hearty cheering; it was really cold. The grand preparations and the manifestations did not correspond; things fell flat. Douglas spoke out in Edwards’ grove, and from thence he was escorted into town. Mr. Lincoln spoke in the city on the same evening to a crowded house; he spoke in the House of Representatives; it was as full as it could be and all was enthusiasm It was a most enthusiastic gather of the intellect, and heart, and soul of our town. Lincoln made a most excellent speech indeed; the speech of Lincoln was as we say here a ‘whaler.’ It gave great satisfaction to his friends. Lincoln made no special converts, nor did Douglas.”80

Mr. Lincoln was carefully preparing for what he knew would be an arduous campaign. Law clerk Henry Rankin recalled “the laborious care Lincoln took in preparation for his debate with Douglas by studious application from June until the debates began. It was a summer in which that mood, spoke of before, of intense application to the work before him shut out everything else. He was in the State Library nearly every day, searching old volumes of the Congressional Globe, and other original sources of information. He went through the clippings he and Mr. Herndon had made since 1848 from the Charleston Mercury, Richmond Enquirer, Louisville Journal, and other Southern papers; and with especial care he again went through the back numbers of the Southern Literary Messenger, re-reading articles by the best Southern writers on the policies that divided public opinion on the question of slavery and States’ rights.

“His campaign note-books, when finished, could not have been more complete to meet the expected and unexpected questions liable to be sprung on him during the debate. He was no longer the Abraham Lincoln with leisure for the interests of all callers. He lived through laborious days and often late into studious nights; and when he went forth into that debate it was with a firm foundation of well-settled principles, and fully equipped with all historical and collateral data possible to be acquired by him on the live political issues of the day. Best of all was the complete confidence he had acquired in himself of his ability to meet Senator Douglas, or any other publicist North or South, in the discussion of the interests and problems then before the country. This was no self-asserting egotism. He was the freest from that of all men who have ever engaged the attention of the nation.”81

In this campaign Mr. Lincoln benefitted from a legion of friends around Springfield. As he toured the Eighth Judicial Circuit during the 1850s and appeared before the Illinois State Supreme Court in Springfield, Mr. Lincoln gained many friends an admirers. As banker Jacob Bunn observed: “Between 1850 and 1861, I saw Mr. Lincoln very often. I am proud to say that I was one of his junior political agents. Like very many others, I was always glad to do for him anything that I could.”82 Unfortunately, these friends were not enough to overcome the Democrats’ advantage in the State Legislature. Although Mr. Lincoln’s legislative candidates attracted more votes than did Douglas, he lost the legislative election for the U. S. Senate.

Mr. Lincoln continued his strong interest in public affairs in 1859, campaigning frequently that fall outside of Illinois. In early May 1860, the Republican State Convention was held in Decatur. He helped choose the delegates to the Republican National Convention in Chicago later in the month. There was some pressure on Mr. Lincoln to come to Chicago, but he remained in Springfield during the three-day convention, heading the advice of Leonard Swett, who telegraphed him: “Don’t let any one persuade you to come here.”83 He kept apprised of developments through telegrams from his friends about their efforts to block the nomination of New York Senator William H. Seward and nominate Mr. Lincoln instead.

The actual votes took place on Thursday, May 18. at the “Wigwam” where the Convention was held. Back in Springfield Mr. Lincoln found it difficult to concentrate. Lincoln scholar Frank Farrington wrote: “In the tenseness of uncertainty and doubt, he dropped into the office of his friend, James C. Conkling, and, throwing himself on a couch, rested and visited a short time, then arose with the comment, ‘Well, I guess I’ll be going back to the practice of law.”84 He was very wrong. After news of Mr. Lincoln’s nomination reached Springfield, residents organized a massive celebration at the State Capitol. Lincoln biographer Josiah G. Holland wrote that “the citizens who had a personal affection for Mr. Lincoln which amounted almost to idolatry, responded with a hundred guns, and during the afternoon thronged his house to tender their congratulations and express their joy. In the evening, the State House was thrown open, and a most enthusiastic meeting held by the republicans. At its close, they marched in a body to the Lincoln mansion, and called for the nominee. Mr. Lincoln appeared, and after a brief, modest and hearty speech, invited as many as could get into the house to enter, the crowd responding that after the fourth of March they would give him a larger house. The people did not retire until a late hour, and then moved off reluctantly, leaving the excited household to their rest.”85

Future Congressman James C. Conkling and newspaper publisher George R. Weber addressed Springfield’s citizens, who afterwards marched down the Lincoln residence. The new candidate told them “that he did not suppose the honor of such a visit was intended particularly for himself, as a private citizen, but rather to the representative of a great party; and in reference to his position on the political questions of the day, hr referred his numerous and enthusiastic hearers to his previous public letters and speeches. His speech was a perfect model in its way, and the loud applause with which it was greeted shows that it struck the right place in the minds of his hearers. Just previous to the conclusion of his speech, Mr. Lincoln said he would invite the whole crowd into house if it was large enough to hold them, (A voice, ‘We will give you a larger house on the fourth of next March’) but as it could not contain more than a fraction of those who were in front of it, he would merely invite as many as could find room.” According to the Illinois State Journal, deafening cheers greeted the invitation, and in less than a minute Mr. Lincoln’s house was invaded by as many as could “squeeze in!” “… When the crowd had partially dispersed, a number of ladies called upon Mr. Lincoln and wished him success in the coming campaign.” 86 Not everyone in Springfield was impressed with the Republican nominee. Artist Francis B. Carpenter recalled: “An old resident of Springfield told me that there lived within a block or two of his house, in that city, an Englishman, who of course still cherished to some extent the ideas and prejudices of his native land. Upon hearing of the choice at Chicago he could not contain his astonishment.

“What!” said he, “Abe Lincoln nominated for President of the United States? Can it be possible! A man that buys a ten-cent beefsteak for his breakfast, and carried it home himself.”

The Republican delegation officially notifying Mr. Lincoln of his nomination arrived in Springfield on Saturday, May 22. It included Maryland’s Francis P. Blair, Sr.; Ohio Republican Chairman David K. Cartter; Judge William D. Kelley of Pennsylvania; New York Governor Edwin D. Morgan; New Hampshire Republican leader Edward H. Rollins; future Interior Secretary Caleb Smith, future Michigan Governor Austin Blair; New York Times Editor Henry J. Raymond, and future General Carl Schurz of Wisconsin. John Hay, a Brown University graduate who was studying law in Springfield, wrote: “On Saturday morning an immense concourse of the people met at the great Western railroad depot to receive the committee appointed by the late convention to make to Mr. Lincoln the formal announcement of his nomination. As the train came rushing in, the delegation was welcomed with round after round of rousing, electrifying western cheers. A procession was speedily formed to escort the committee to their hotel. Conspicuous in the line of march was a squad of enthusiastic Republicans, with venerable fence rails, borne a la militaire, which Lincoln might have rived in his stalwart youth, in the days when a pen would have been an awkward toy in his hand, and the coon-skin cap shaded his black locks so comfortably as to leave no wan for the civic crown.”87

Historian William E. Baringer wrote: “Republicans of Abraham Lincoln’s home town, not at all exhausted by their exertions of Friday afternoon and evening, touched an even higher pitch of excitement Saturday evening. Springfield had become the current political center of the nation. The town’s entire population was astir. Even the Democrats came out for a rally in the courthouse, not to ratify any nomination but to show Republicans that Douglas was a greater man than the new hero, Lincoln. According to the Springfield Journal, the purpose of the Democratic meeting was to explain ‘how it happened that Mr. Douglas did not get the Charleston nomination’ of the Democratic Party.”88

New Hampshire Republican National Committeeman Amos Tuck recalled: “When we reached Springfield, we found the city full of people and full of excitement. The whole country round about seemed to have gathered to greet the honest and noble man whose name has become the rallying cry of Freedom, Country and Victory. Preceded by a band of music and several stalwart ‘railsplitters’ bearing a number of ‘Old Abe’s rails, with huge brooms on the topics, our company was escorted to the Chenery House, an excellent hotel; from whence, after a little delay to enable us to wash and shake the dust from our garments, the whole company walked in procession to the house of Mr. Lincoln.”89

John Hay wrote: “From the hotel the crowd adjourned to the State House, and listened with eager interest to a series of brief and effective speeches, by [Friederich] Hassaurek, a keen and logical German from Ohio, whose sharp hits and clear deductions elicited frequent applause; two noble representatives of Yankee Republicanism, Amos Tuck of New Hampshire, and the genial Gov. [George] Boutwell of Massachusetts, who lives kindly in the commencement dinner memories of Bruonians, Car[t]er of Ohio, and [William D.] Kell[e]y of Pennsylvania; and that wonderful German of the northwest, whose knowledge of our institutions is no less prefect than his mastery of our language, Carl Schurz, whose name has become a watchword of freedom on two continents.”90 Cannon and fireworks punctuated the celebration.

The visiting delegation ate dinner at the city’s top hotel, Chenery House, and then marched to the Lincoln home, where Tad and Willie Lincoln waited outside and gave them their first introduction to Lincoln hospital. Tuck recalled the meeting with the presidential nominee: “Entering a double parlor, at the farther end of which stood the Presidential nominee, Mr. Ashmun made a few brief and appropriate remarks, and closed by placing in Mr. Lincoln’s hands a letter signed by all the members of the Committee notifying him of his nomination and requesting an acceptance at his convenience.”91 Convention president George Ashmun, addressing Mr. Lincoln, said:

“I have, sir, the honor, in behalf of the gentlemen who are present – a Committee appointed by the Republican Convention recently assembled at Chicago – to discharge a most pleasant duty. We have come, sir, under a vote of instructions to that Committee, to notify you that you have been selected by the Convention of the Republicans at Chicago for President of the United States. They instruct us, sir, to notify you of that selection; and that committee deem it not only respectful to yourself, but appropriate to the important matter which they have in hand, that they should come in person, and present to you the authentic evidence of the action of that convention; and, sir, without any phrase which shall either be personally plauditory to yourself, or which shall have any reference to the principles involved in the questions which are connected with your nomination, I desire to present to you the letter which has been prepared, and which informs you of your nomination, and with it the platform resolutions and sentiments which the Convention adopted. Sir at your convenience we shall be glad to receive from you such a response as it may be your pleasure to us.”92

Lincoln biographer William E. Baringer wrote of Mr. Lincoln: “Embarrassed, beset with that towering feeling which tall people feel in formal company, he leaned awkwardly on a chair.”93 Amos Tuck wrote: “Mr. Lincoln responded as followed Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen of the Committee, – I tender you, and through you to the Republican National Convention, and all the people represented in it, my profoundest thanks for the high honor done me, which you formally announce. Deeply, and even painfully sensible of the great responsibility which is inseparable from that honor, a responsibility which I could almost wish could have fallen upon some one of the more eminent and experienced statesmen whose distinguished names were before the Convention, I shall beg your leave to consider more fully the resolutions of the Convention, denominated the platform, and without unreasonable delay…”94

Congressman William D. Kelley of Pennsylvania recalled: “It was a beautiful evening in May. The train bearing the Committee, and a number of distinguished gentlemen who accompanied them, arrived at Springfield shortly before sunset, and after a couple of hours devoted to refreshment and such rest as might be found in the midst of so excited a people, the delegates repaired to Mr. Lincoln’s home for the purpose of discharging the duty with which they had been intrusted. Having entered the room designated, the members of the Committee, and the distinguished men by whom they were accompanied, ranged themselves around three sides of the room [Ashmun, Morgan, Blair, Welles, Cartter, Andrew, William M. Evarts]…”

“Mr. Lincoln assumed his position in the back part of the room, and Mr. Ashman [sic], advancing a few paces, briefly announced the purpose of our visit and delivered the letter containing the platform, etc. While Mr. Ashman spoke, Mr. Lincoln’s form and features seemed to be immovable; his frame was slightly bent, and his face downcast and absolutely void of expression. It was evident that the voice which addressed him was receiving his exclusive attention. He had no eye nor ear for any other object, and as I contemplated his tall, spare figure, I remembered that of Henry Clay, to whom I noticed a more than passing resemblance; and that of General Jackson, as I had seen him in 1832, forced itself upon my memory. It was not, however, until the conclusion of Mr. Ashman’s [sic] few sentences, that I beheld the being, upon whose rough casket I had been gazing. The bowed head rose as by an electric movement, the broad mouth, which had been so firmly drawn together, opened with a genial smile, and the eyes, that had been shaded, beamed with intelligence and the exhilaration of the occasion. The few words, in which fitting response to Mr. Ashman’s address was made, flowed in a pleasant voice, and, though without marked emphasis, each syllable was uttered with perfect clearness.”

Kelley remembered: “As in conclusion he said, ‘Now I will not longer defer the pleasure of taking you, and each of you, by the hand,’ Mr. Lincoln joined Mr. Ashman, and approached the Hon. E. D. Morgan, who was Governor of the Empire State, chairman of the Republican Executive Committee, and the most commanding figure of the visiting party. Accident had placed me at the left hand of the Governor, who was not only gifted as a conversationalist but was eminently taciturn, and made no audible response to the cordial welcome with which he had been greeted. Mr. Lincoln, as if determined to elicit a colloquy, said, ‘Pray, Governor, how tall may you be?’ ‘Nearly six feet three,’ said the brawny and distinguished man, who relapsed into silence, and was thus likely to embarrass his eager interlocutor. But, interposing, I somewhat boisterously exclaimed: ‘And pray, Mr. Lincoln, how tall may you be?’ ‘Six feet four’ said he.”
“At hearing which I bowed profoundly, saying: ‘Pennsylvania bows humbly before New York, but still more humbly before Illinois. Mr. Lincoln, is it not curious that I, who for the last twelve years have yearned for a president to whom I might look up, should have found one here in a State where so many people believe they grow nothing but ‘Little Giants?’ (The popular sobriquet of Stephen A. Douglas.) A peal of laughter greeted this interjection. The ice was broken. A free flow of chat and chaff pervaded the room, and before the company dispersed, every guest had an opportunity for a pleasant exchange of words with the whilom rail-splitter, Abraham Lincoln.”95

The New York Tribune reported on this occasion that Mrs. Lincoln “looked to be about thirty-five, handsome, and vivacious. Mr. Lincoln bore himself with dignity and ease. His lively, sincere manner, frank and honest expression, and unaffected pleasant conversation soon made everyone feel at ease and rendered the hour and a half which they spent with him one of great pleasure to the delegates. He was dressed with perfect neatness – almost elegance – though, as all Illinoisans know, he usually is plain in his attire as he is modest an unassuming in his deportment. He stood erect, displaying to excellent advantage his tall, manly figure.”96

Not everyone in Springfield was impressed. Lincoln writer Wayne C. Williams wrote: “Let no one imagine that the universal homage now given Lincoln in his home city of Springfield was present in 1860. By no means. Lincoln had his critics, his foes, his detractors, and the Democrats did their best to belittle him as the Republican nominee for the presidency. To these Democrats the great American hero was Douglas, looming so large on the national horizon that Lincoln seemed a mere second-rate candidate by comparison. True, they liked Lincoln personally, would join in the laughs at his jokes, call him ‘Old Abe,’ and exchange friendly greetings with him whenever they met him, but to match him against their idol, the ‘Little Giant,’ that was unthinkable for any Douglas worshipper.”97 The Democratic newspaper in the city, the State Register, reported:

The Republicans of Illinois now find that they were perpetrating a joke on their party. Here at Mr. Lincoln’s own home in Springfield the exhibition of feeling on his behalf, though attended with a considerable degree of noise and confusion, was evidently deficient in that heart-felt enthusiasm that springs from positive regard for one who is considered par excellence the representative man of his party.”98

For the last seven months of 1860, Mr. Lincoln was effectively Springfield’s top tourist attraction as people came from all over the north, and sometimes the South, to visit with and see him. Mr. Lincoln’s nomination effectively ended his practice of law. He became a full-time candidate – although he didn’t campaign, issue public statements or make speeches. He did receive visitors and used the Governor’s office in the State Capitol to do so. Lincoln scholars Sunderine Wilson Temple and Wayne C. Temple wrote: “Since Governor Wood was merely marking time until his successor took over in January, he rarely ventured over to Springfield from Quincy. Thus, he needed his offices but occasionally. Both he and [Ozias] Hatch probably suggested that Lincoln make use of the Governor’s State-House quarters. As Secretary of State, Hatch and Wood may have insisted that Lincoln accept the offered rooms. Their party’s dignity and prestige lay open before the entire country.”99

After Mr. Lincoln’s presidential nomination, a New Yorker came to Springfield to meet him: “I called at his office, but he was not in. Then I went to his residence, and learned that he had a room in the Capitol building, and that I would find him there. Arrived at the room, I rapped at the door. It was opened by a tall, spare man, plain of face. I told him that I had come to see Mr. Lincoln. Inquiring my name, he took me by the arm and introduced me to some half-dozen persons who were in the room, and then remarked, ‘My name is Lincoln.’ In ten minutes I felt as if I had known him all my life. He had the most wonderful faculty I have ever seen in a man to make one feel at ease.”100

Springfield became a focal point of national political attention. Republicans took advantage of campaign interest in both principled and less principled ways. Paul Angle wrote: “when John Hanks had stampeded the Republican state convention by appearing on the floor with two fence rails said to have been split by Lincoln thirty years earlier, the Candidate instantly became the ‘Rail-Splitter.’ After the nomination the Republican county committee was deluged with requests for rails. The demand presented possibilities too obvious to be ignored, and various citizens of Springfield began importing fence rails in wholesale quantities and selling them, authenticated with imposing affidavits, to all comers. Others made souvenirs – canes, cigar-holders, pen holders and gavels – from ‘authentic’ Lincoln rails. The sale of rails and rail products became a regular profession.”101

The Republicans erected a “wigwam” outside Springfield for their political rallies. The Democrats built a “Barn” for the rallies on behalf of Democratic candidate Stephen A. Douglas. Both venues attracted state and national speakers. The campaign peaked earlier. Historian Reinhard H. Luthin wrote: “On July 25, the Democrats of Springfield staged a parade. They claimed that Lincoln watched the procession from the State House dome. The Republicans denied this and for weeks a meaningless press controversy ensued between the Lincolnites and Douglasites as to the exact ‘spot’ from which he viewed the Democratic procession.”102

The Republican highlight of the 1860 presidential campaign in Springfield was a major campaign rally on August 8. “Although every preparation had been made for an immense crowd, and all the appointments of the affair were on the most liberal and extensive scale, the vast influx of the enthusiastic yeomanry of the State so far exceeded the most sanguine expectations of the managers, that it was only by the most strenuous exertions that the immense procession could be arranged in order, and the programme of the day carried out,” wrote John Hay. “Although there was a telegraphic apparatus set up in the cupola of the State House, to telegraph to the twenty-five marshals on the ground the positions of arriving delegations, so as to obviate the necessity of any superfluous labor, the arrangement of the stupendous concourse occupied the severest exertions of the entire force of the Marshals, from early morning to high noon. When the crowd had been passing out of the city in one continuous stream for hours to the fair grounds, until the large enclosure was filled almost to its utmost capacity by the throng, there still seemed to be no perceptible diminution of the vast crowds that swayed to and fro on the streets and sidewalks. The fact is, we cannot tell the truth about a crowd like this, without seeming to romance. But all Illinois was here, and will testify to the day’s glory to after times.”103

“It was a meeting for the whole State, and more in the nature of a personal ovation to Mr. Lincoln than merely a political gathering. It was one of the most enormous and impressive gatherings I had ever witnessed,” wrote Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne. “It took hours for all the delegations to file before [his house], and there was no token of enthusiasm wanting. He was deeply touched by the manifestations of personal and political friendship, and returned all his salutations in that off-hand and kindly manner which belonged to him.” 104 Historian Reinhard H. Luthin wrote: “when Lincoln made a brief appearance at a Republican rally in his home town of Springfield, a local woolen mill took part in the procession, with an immense wagon containing a power loom driven by a steam engine. Several yards of jeans cloth, from which a garment was fashioned for Lincoln, were publicly made. The wagon bore the significant motto ‘Protection to Home Industry.’”105

“Uniformed companies came from towns a hundred miles away, and from the country came mounted men in gay attire and looking in their tin headgear like the crusading knights,” recalled a young Springfield resident who drummed in a Republican campaign band. “Although nothing was heard in that day of big campaign expenditures, the cost must have been enormous…The thousands of people who filled the large grove and ran over into the surrounding fields were all fed, and there was no mean variety on the tables. I dare not estimate the number of beeves roasted whole in the barbecue style. Deep pits, looking like fresh-made graves, were half filled with wood fires, and over each was suspended the carcass of a beef which was kept turning slowly. There seemed to be miles of tables, made of rough boards. The mere cutting of the loaves of bread for the hungry multitude was a prodigious task for scores of men. At intervals about the grounds were hogsheads of ice-water and wash-tubs of lemonade. At greater intervals were speakers’ stands at which orators spouted patriotism, with grateful interruptions from brass bands and glee-clubs. There no street railways then, and most of the vast crowd of heated and tired people, including faint women and fretful children, walked the long dusty road back to town, with no apparent loss of enthusiasm. Far into the night could be heard the mounted men singing the glee choruses and shouting campaign cries, as college boys disturb the quiet with their yells after a football game.”106

John W. Vinson was one of the hundreds of Republican “Wide-awakes” who had gathered in Springfield. Upon arrival by train, he recalled “I first satisfied my hunger which was readily done, as lunch stands were to be found at every street corner. I learned that speaking was going on at the Fair Grounds, near the outskirts of the city, and headed that way to investigate. Arriving at the Fair Grounds, I found there were thousands of people, covering acres of ground. Speaking from half a dozen or more stands, located at different places on the grounds, was in progress. Prominent speakers were there from various States. At some stands there were two speakers speaking at the same time, one to the crowds on the east, and another to those on the west. My first halt was to listen to Senator Trumbull, then moved on to where Owen Lovejoy was speaking. The next stand I went to, the speaker sat down just as I arrived. Several speakers were seated on this stand. The surrounding crowd then began to call first one name and then another. Finally the name of Doolittle (Senator Doolittle of Wisconsin) was most frequently called. Occasionally some fellow would call out ‘Do Much’. Finally Senator Doolittle arose and began to talk. After listening to him for a while, I went to another stand where John M. Palmer was speaking. I had heard him before and soon became much interested, especially as he was comparing the arguments of Lincoln and Douglas, as made by them in the 1858 campaign. And whose speeches I had heard delivered.”107

Future White House aide John Hay reported for a newspaper: “It is useless to attempt a full description of a demonstration such as this has been….There was great taste and ingenuity in some cases displayed. A power-loom, for instance, was worked by steam as the procession moved on, and wove several yards of Kentucky jeans, which was passed on and cut by a tailor, and made up with a sewing machine into a pair of pantaloons, to encase the limbs of the future President, who merits as well as King Edward, the English Justinian, did, the title of Long-shanks. Then there were log cabins and monster flatboats, and big Indians, and allegorical representations of all the trades, and beautiful young women clothed in innocence and tarleton, personating the Union-loving States, and every conceivable variety of mottoes, inscriptions, and devices on banners, globes, and transparencies, that swayed and floated and revolved along a seemingly interminable line of eight miles of procession, where ingenuity and taste seemed to have exhausted themselves in making the details of this colossal parade worthy of the occasion, worthy of the cause, and worthy of the man whom they delighted to honor.”108

Historian Mark A. Plummer wrote: “The Springfield political rally continued into the night, with fireworks and an eight-mile long torch-light procession. Cong. William Kellogg, Trumbull, [Wisconsin Senator James R.] Doolittle, and Francis P. Blair from Missouri made speeches at the capitol and at the newly constructed Republican wigwam. The desk at the speaker’s stand in the wigwam was described as ‘a novelty.’ It was made from a large log, smoothed on top, and into it nine wedges had been driven. The rumor was that it was a log that even ‘Old Abe couldn’t split.’ The desk was supported by mauls. Sometime during the festivities, [Richard J.] Oglesby visited Lincoln’s home, where Koerner, Browning, and Judd were among the guests.” 109 Chicago’s John Wilson and former Lieutenant Governor Gustave Koerner also spoke. Historian Maurice G. Baxter observed: “The speech which [Orville H.] Browning gave lasted more than two hours. His central thesis was that a direct connection existed between the Whigs of Clay’s time and the Republicans of 1860 concerning the question of Negro slaver been passing out of the city in one continuous stream for hours to the fair grounds, y. Slavery, although morally wrong, must be considered a domestic institution in the states where it existed. But the Constitution did not guarantee its propagation in the territories. When new territories were acquired by the United States, the laws which were in effect at that time must be considered valid.”110

John W. Vinson recalled: “While at Springfield, I met several of my Democratic friends from surrounding towns, who witnessed the great enthusiasm which there prevailed, though they took no part. One of them remarked to me that it all surely meant something; said that he was personally acquainted with Mr. Lincoln, and as a man, he had great respect for him, but before leaving home, did not believe it possible that he could be elected president of the United States; but after observing the intense enthusiasm and earnestness of the great crowds there present, he was almost ready to change his opinion.”111

Although an intense presidential campaign was going on, Mr. Lincoln was essentially an observer rather than a participant. Helen Nicolay wrote: “Today, it is hard to realize the informality that reigned in Springfield during the summer of 1860. The Republicans maintained no literary or publicity offices there. Telephones and loud-speakers did not exist. Flash bulbs did not flare, and the radio was still undreamed of. The telegraph was such a novelty that not one Morse instrument was to be found in the State House. Indeed, there was only one place in town from which telegraphic messages could be sent, and that was in an inconvenient upstairs office on a side street, off the public square.”

“Until after the November election my father constituted Mr. Lincoln’s entire office force. Throughout the campaign the candidate, having turned over his private practice to his law partner, received visitors daily in the Governor’s Room at the State House, which, being used only during sessions of the legislature, was placed at his disposal. It was a room after fifteen by twenty-five feet in size, adequately furnished. My father sent the girl in Pittsfield a woodcut of it that was published in Frank Leslie’s Weekly, telling her it was ‘quite accurate’ except that it made the room look much too big. A large-patterned and presumably highly-colored Brussels carpet covered the floor. The three huge high windows had inside wooden shutters. A gas chandelier of graceful design hung from the ceiling, but no frivolous glass globes were allowed to impede the light. A square sheet-iron stove might easily have been dispensed with during the hot Illinois summer; but the very business-like water cooler was doubtless popular, though furnished with only one stout tumbler.”
“…The woodcut shows a banjo clock and several framed pictures on the wall, and a section of stout chain hanging across one corner of the room. This roused the curiosity of [Nicolay fiancee] Therena Bates, who asked about it in one of her letters. My father answered: ‘The chain…has no particular significance. It is whittled out of wood and is a very perfect model of a common log-chain. It was sent to Mr Lincoln by some man in Wisconsin who wrote that being a cripple and unable to leave his bed, he had the rail brought in from the fence, and amused himself by whittling it out.’”112

Mr. Lincoln was the focus of widespread attention and fascination. “As the political campaign rolled on, Abe Lincoln led the simple life in Springfield, a prairie town with unpaved, tree-lined streets and about 10,000 plain people. The Presidential candidate chatted with friends as he walked to and from his office. At home in the evenings he sometimes chopped and carried in wood for the kitchen fire,” wrote Lincoln chronicler Melvin L. Hayes. “But Lincoln’s pattern of living could not remain unchanged. His most trivial actions, said the Republican Farmer (Bridgeport, Conn.), were made momentous affairs. ‘If he ventures to whistle, the echo comes back to him from a thousand partisan journals, and his friends forthwith urge in his favor that he is a good whistler.’”113

In the months just before and after his election in 1860, Mr. Lincoln was the repeated target of portrait painters and sculptors. Artist Charles Barry wrote of his experience: “Arriving in Springfield in the afternoon of Saturday, June 3, 1860, I went at once to the Lincoln home. When I rang the bell a very small boy called out: ‘Hello, Mister, what yer want?’ I replied that I wished to see Mr. Lincoln and had come all the way from Boston for that purpose. Then the small boy shouted: ‘Come down, Pop; here a man from Boston,’ and an instant later Mr. Lincoln appeared holding out a hand in welcome. ‘They want my head, do they?’ He asked, twisting my letter of introduction in his hands. ‘Well, if you can get it you may have it, that is, if you are able to take it off while I am on the jump; but don’t fasten me into a chair. I don’t suppose you Boston folks get up at cock-crowing as we do out here. I am an early riser and if you will come to my room at the State House on Monday at seven o’clock sharp, I will be there to let you in.’”

“The good man plainly thought I could not be ready at such an early hour for he shook with suppressed laughter when bidding me good-night. But Monday morning came, and precisely at the hour named, I turned the corner of the street upon which the State House faced to see Mr. Lincoln coming toward me from the other end of the sidewalk. ‘Well done, my boy,’ he said as we shook hands. ‘You are an early bird after all, if you do hail from Boston. Now, then, what shall I do?’ he asked when we reached the room – the executive chamber of the State House – which had been lately assigned to his use, at the same time pointing to a pile of unopened letters on the table. ‘Absolutely nothing,’ I replied, but allow me to walk around you occasionally, and once in a while measure a distance on your face. I will not disturb you in the least otherwise.’ ‘Capital,’ said Mr. Lincoln with a smile. ‘I won’t be in the least bit scared; go right ahead.’ Then he threw off his coat, and seating himself at the table in his shirt sleeves, plunged his hand into the great sheaf of letters before him, leaving me to begin my task. How vividly it all comes back to me – the lonely room, the great bony figure with its long arms and legs that seemed to be continually twisting themselves together; the long, wiry neck; the narrow chest; the uncombed hair; the cavernous sockets beneath the high forehead, the busy eyebrows hanging like curtains over the bright, dreamy eyes, the awkward speech, the evidence sincerity and patience. The studies thus begun were continued each morning for ten days. I did not require any long times of sitting, but sketched and studied Mr. Lincoln’s features while he was busy at his writing table or moving about the room, or when I was with him at his house or on the street. Much of my best work upon the portrait was done after moments of conversation with Mr. Lincoln, when he had turned away from his table and was facing me. At such times I had ample opportunity to study that wonderful face which in its entire construction was extraordinary. The head, as a whole, was very large, and the upper part of it high above the eyebrows, contrasting strangely with the thin and sunken cheeks and prominent cheek bones. But the eyes I looked upon so often never can be fully described by human language. They were not remarkable for constant brightness – on the contrary were dreamy and melancholy, always so when at rest, but could become, in an instant, when moved by some great thought, like coals of living fire. I have seen the eyes of Webster and Choate, of Macready, Forrest and the elder Booth, when they startled and awed the beholder, but I have never seen in all the wanderings of a varied life, such eyes as Lincoln had. His head was Jacksonian in shape, and the angle of the jaw all that nature intended that it should be as a sing of power and determination. It was ill advice that caused the growing of whiskers upon Lincoln’s face, for they utterly destroyed the harmony of its features, and added not a little to the melancholy of his countenance when in repose. Mr. Lincoln was a man of moods, and seemed to be constantly influenced by them, but not to the loss of a great and brave individuality Thus I had no end of trouble in getting the expression I wanted of his mouth – of the whole lower part of his face, in fact – his countenance changed so quickly.”
“At the end of ten days my crayon portrait was finished and I felt amply rewarded for my labor when Mr. Lincoln, pointing to it said: ‘Even my enemies must declare that to be a true likeness of Old Abe.”114

Wisconsin Republican leader Carl Schurz recalled: “While ‘stumping’ in Illinois I had an appointment to address an afternoon open-air meeting in the capitol grounds in Springfield, Mr. Lincoln’s place of residence. He asked me to take dinner with him at his house. At table we conversed about the course and the incidents of the campaign, and his genial and simple-hearted way of expressing himself would hardly permit me to remember that he was a great man and a candidate for the presidency of the United States. He was in the best of humor, and we laughed much. The inevitable brass band took position in front of the house and struck up a lively tune, admonishing us that the time for the business of the day had arrived. ‘I will go with you to the meeting,’ said Mr. Lincoln, ‘and hear what you have to say.’ The day was blazing hot. Mr. Lincoln expressed his regret that I had to exert myself in such a temperature, and suggested that I make myself comfortable. He indeed ‘made himself comfortable’ in a way which surprised me not a little, but which was thoroughly characteristic of his rustic habits. When he presented himself for the march to the capitol grounds I observed that he had divested himself of his waistcoat and put on, as his sole garment, a linen duster, the back of which had been marked by repeated perspirations and looked somewhat like a rough map of the two hemispheres. On his head he wore a well-battered ‘stove-pipe’ hat which evidently had seen several years of hard service. In this attire he marched with me behind the brass band, after us, the local campaign committee and the Wide-Awakes. Of course, he was utterly unconscious of his grotesque appearance. Nothing could have been farther from his mind than the thought that the world-conspicuous distinction bestowed upon him by his nomination for the presidency should have obliged him to ‘put on dignity’ among his neighbors. Those neighbors who, from the windows and the sidewalks on that hot afternoon, watched and cheered him as he walked by in the procession behind the brass band, may have regarded him, the future President, with a new feeling of reverential admiration, or awe; but he appeared before and among them entire unconcerned; as if nothing had happened, and so he nodded to his acquaintances, as he recognized them in the crowd, with a: ‘How are you, Dan?’ or ‘Glad to see you, Ned!’ or ‘How d’ye do, Bill?’ And so on – just as he had been accustomed to do. Arrived at the place of meeting, he declined to sit on the platform, but took a seat in the front row of the audience. He did not join in the applause which from time to time rewarded me, but occasionally he gave me a nod and a broad smile. When I had finished, a few voices called upon Mr. Lincoln for a speech, but he simply shook his head, and the crowd instantly respected the proprieties of the situation, some even shouting: ‘No, no!’ at which he gratefully signified his assent. Then the brass band, and the committee, and the Wide-Awakes, in the same order in which we had come, escorted us back to his house, the multitude cheering tumultuously for ‘Lincoln and Hamlin,’ or more endearingly for ‘Old Abe.’”115

Ohio attorney Don Piatt showed up later in the campaign. He wrote: “General Robert E. Schenck and I had been selected to canvass Southern Illinois in behalf of free soil and Abraham Lincoln. That part of Illinois was then known as Egypt, and in our missionary labors we learned we there that the American eagle sometimes lays rotten eggs. Our labors on the stump were closed in the wigwam at Springfield a few nights previous to the election. Mr. Lincoln was present, and listened, with intense interest, to General Schenck’s able argument. I followed in a cheerful review of the situation, that seemed to amuse the crowd, and none more so than our candidate for the Presidency. We were both invited to return to Springfield, at the jubilee, should success make such rejoicing proper. We did return, for this homely son of toil was elected, and we found Springfield drunk with delight. On the day of our arrival we were invited to a supper at the house of the President-elect. It was a plain, comfortable frame structure, and the supper was an old-fashioned mess of indigestion, composed mainly of cake, pies and chickens, the last evidently killed in the morning, to be eaten, as best they might, that evening.”

“After the supper, we sat, far into the night, talking over the situation. Mr. Lincoln was the homeliest man I ever saw. His body seemed to me a huge skeleton in clothes. Tall as he was, his hands and feet looked out of proportion, so long and clumsy were they. Every movement was awkward in the extreme. He sat with one leg thrown over the other, and the pendent foot swung almost to the floor. And all the while, two little boys, his sons, clambered over those legs, patted his cheeks, pulled his nose, and poked their fingers in his eyes, without causing reprimand or even notice. He had a face that defied artistic skill to soften or idealize. The multiplicity of photographs and engravings makes it familiar to the public. It was capable of few expressions, but those were extremely striking. When in repose, his face was dull, heavy and repellent. It brightened, like a lit lantern, when animated. His dull eyes would fairly sparkle with fun, or express as kindly a look as I ever saw, when moved by some matter of human interest.”
“I soon discovered that this strange and strangely gifted man, while not at all cynical, was a skeptic. His view of human nature was low, but good-natured. I could not call it suspicious, but he believed only what he saw. This low estimate of humanity blinded him to the South. He could not understand that men would get up in their wrath and fight for an idea. He considered the movement South as a sort of political game of bluff, gotten up by politicians, and meant solely to frighten the North. He believed that, when the leaders saw their efforts in that direction were unavailing, the tumult would subside. ‘They won’t give up the offices,’ I remember he said, and added, ‘were it believed that vacant places could be had at the North Pole, the road there would be lined with dead Virginians.’ He unconsciously accepted, for himself and party, the same low line that he awarded the South. Expressing no sympathy for the slave, he laughed at the Abolitionists as a disturbing element easily controlled, and without showing any dislike to the slave-holders, said only that their ambition was to be restrained.”
“I gathered more of this from what Mrs. Lincoln said than from the utterances of our host. This good lady injected remarks into the conversation with more force than logic, and was treated by her husband with about the same good-natured indifference with which he regarded the troublesome boys. In the wife’s talk of the coming administration there was an amusing assumption that struck me as very womanly, but somewhat ludicrous. For instance, she said, ‘The country will find how we regard that abolition sneak, Seward!’ Mr. Lincoln put the remarks aside, very much as he did the hand of one of his boys when that hand invaded his capacious mouth…”
“I felt myself studying this strange, quaint, great man with keen interest. A newly fashioned individuality had come within the circle of my observation. I saw a man of coarse, rough fiber, without culture, and yet of such force that every observation was original, incisive and striking, while his illustrations were as quaint as Aesop’s fables. He had little taste for, and less knowledge of, literature, and while well up in what we call history, limited his acquaintance with fiction to that somber poem known as ‘Why should the spirit of mortal be proud?”116

Biographer William Herndon wrote: “One of what Lincoln regarded as the remarkable features of his canvass for President was the attitude of some of his neighbors in Springfield. A poll of the voters had been made in a little book and given to him. On running over the names he found that the greater part of the clergy of the city – in fact all but three – were against him. This depressed him somewhat, and he called in Dr. Newton Bateman, who as Superintendent of Public Instruction occupied the room adjoining his own in the State House, and whom he habitually addressed as ‘Mr. Schoolmaster.’ He commented bitterly on the attitude of the preachers and many of their followers, who, pretending to be believers in the Bible and God-fearing Christians, yet by their votes demonstrated that they cared not whether slavery was voted up or down. ‘God cares and humanity cares,’ he reflected, ‘and if they do not they surely have not read their Bible aright.’”117

As election day approached, it became clear that Mr. Lincoln would be elected. The Illinois State Register continued to fight for the Democratic champion, editorializing “A vote for Douglas is a vote for Union; a vote for Lincoln is a vote for dis-union.”118 The Illinois State Journal, to which Mr. Lincoln had long been attached, rallied Republican voters: “Once More to the Breach! Strike for Freedom! Lincoln men of Old Sangamon, do not let it be said that you have failed to do your whole duty in this great crisis.”119

Historian Michael Burlingame wrote that on election day as Mr. Lincoln “approached the courthouse, accompanied by Ozias M. Hatch and other friends, ‘the dense crowd immediately began to shout with the wild abandon that characterizes the impulsive heart of the west,’ [John] Hay reported to the Providence, Rhode Island, Journal. ‘The crowded throng respectfully opened a passage for him from the street to the pools.’ [John G.] Nicolay observed his boss approach the courthouse steps ‘thronged with People, who welcomed him with immense cheering, and followed him in dense numbers along the hall and up stairs into the Court room, which was also crowded. Here the applause became absolutely deafening, and from the time he entered the room and until he cast his vote and again left it, there was wild huzzaing, waving of hats, and all sorts of demonstrations of applause, – rendering all other noise insignificant and futile.’ A correspondent for the New York Tribune noted that all traces of partisanship ‘seemed to be suddenly abandoned. Even the distributors of the Douglas tickets shouted and swung their hats as wildly as the rest.’”120

Election night, Mr. Lincoln tried to get a nap but couldn’t sleep. Before 9 P.M. he went to the local telegraph office at the invitation of manager C. F. McIntire, who wrote him: “If convenient for you, we would be happy to have you and any friends you may wish to bring, spend tomorrow night with us, where you can receive the good news without delay. Not wishing to have a noisy crowd inside, the doors will be closed at 9 o’clock.”121 Henry Guest McPike recalled arriving in Springfield with Senator Lyman Trumbull on the night of the election and seeing Mr. Lincoln in a room above the telegraph office: “Lincoln was sitting on a kind of sofa. [Jesse K.] DuBois, who was a stout man, was seated. Ed Baker was looking over the dispatches as they came in and trying to figure out something conclusive from them. After greetings all around Trumbull wanted to know how it looked. Mr. Lincoln was very quiet, less excited than anybody else in the party.” The news was good, but the results from New York were still not in when Mr. Lincoln went to Watson’s Saloon after midnight to enjoy refreshments prepared by Springfield women. Mary Lincoln joined him but retired before the definitive news from New York arrived. Illinois State Journal editor Edward Baker recalled: “We are working on New York State. We have just had something from New York City that looks very well.” Trumbull responded: “Well, if we get New York that settles it.” Baker responded: “Yes, that will settle it.”

McPike wrote: “We sat there, nobody else saying much, but all listening to Baker as he looked over the dispatches and commented on them. I don’t know what time it was, but it must have been very late, when Ed Baker got a dispatch and began to tell what was in it. He was so excited he did not read it clearly.” Dubois was startled: “How is that?” After Baker repeated the news from New York, Dubois jumped up and began singing, “Ain’t You Glad You Jined the Republicans?” McPike recalled: “We were all excited. There were hurried congratulations. Suddenly old Jesse grabbed the dispatch which settled it out of Ed Baker’s hands and started on a run for the door. We followed, baker after DuBois, I was next, and then came Trumbull, with Lincoln last. The staircase was narrow and steep. We went down it, still on the run. DuBois rushed across the street toward the meeting so out of breath he couldn’t speak plain. All he could say was ‘Spatch, spatch!’ Lincoln and Trumbull stopped on the sidewalk.” Mr. Lincoln told Trumbull: “Well, judge, good night. I guess I’ll go down and tell Mary about it.” 122 The New York results set off a massive street demonstration. Mr. Lincoln went home to tell his wife and begin preparing a draft Cabinet list.

Dr. Preston Bailache recalled: “Of course, Springfield was the Mecca of Central Illinois on that night of nights when the news flashed over the wires that Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States.”

In the meantime, early in the evening, a large number of ladies and gentlemen gathered in Ben Watson’s Ice Cream Saloon to watch the parade and heard the dispatches read. While waiting for the news, campaign songs were sung. Later, coffee and oysters were served and we were all having a good time when the dispatches began to come in to liven up things still more. Mr. Lincoln, with a few friends, was at the telegraph office near by, and toward midnight he and the others joined the gay crowd. At last a dispatch was handed him at midnight stating that New York City had given him a 28,000 majority, and the State a 50,000.
“I dare not even try to describe the scene that followed, where men fell in each other’s arms shouting and crying, yelling like mad, jumping up and down – pandemonium, in fact – but Mr. Lincoln slipped out quietly, looking grave and anxious.”123

The political and social pressures on the President-elect increased after the election. Young German-American journalist Henry Villard wrote: “Small as the number of attendants has been for some days – not over 160 per day – the receptions of the President are nevertheless highly interesting and worthy of detailed notice. They are held daily from ten A.M. to 12 Noon and from three P.M. to half-past five P.M. in the Governor’s room at the State House, which has been for some time give up to the wants of Mr. Lincoln.”

“The appointed hour having arrived, the crowd moved up stairs into the second story, in the southeast corner of which the reception room is located. Passing through a rather dark sort of doorway, the clear voice and often ringing laughter of the President usually guide them to the right door. The boldest of the party having knocked, a ready ‘Come in’ invites them to enter. On opening the door, the tall, lean form of ‘Old Abe’ directly confronts the leader of the party. Seizing the latter’s hand with a hearty shake, Lincoln leads him in, and bids the rest to follow suit with an encouraging ‘Get in, all of you.’ The whole party being in, he will ask for their names, and then immediately start a running conversation. Although he is naturally more listened to than talked to, he does not allow a pause to become protracted. He is never at a loss as to the subjects that please the different classes of visitors and there is a certain quaintness and originality about all he has to say, so that one cannot help feeling interested. His ‘talk’ is not brilliant. His phrases are not ceremoniously set, but pervaded with a humorousness and, at times, with a grotesque joviality, that will always please. I think it would be hard to find one who tells better jokes, enjoys them better and laughs oftener than Abraham Lincoln.”
“The room of the Governor of the State of Illinois cannot be said to indicate the vast territorial extent of that commonwealth. It is altogether inadequate for the accommodation of Mr. Lincoln’s visitors. Twenty persons will not find standing room in it, and the simultaneous presence of a dozen only will cause inconvenience. The room is furnished with a sofa, half-a-dozen armchairs, a table and a desk, the latter being assigned to the private secretary, who is always present during visiting hours. These, together with countless letters and files of newspapers, and quite an assortment of odd presents, constitute the only adornments of the apartment. No restrictions, whatever, being exercised as to visitors, the crowd, that daily waits on the President, is always of a motley description. Everybody who lives in this vicinity or passes through this place, goes to take a look at ‘Old Abe.’ Muddy boots and hickory shirts are just as frequent as broadcloth, fine linen, etc. The ladies, however, are usually dressed up in their very best, although they cannot hope to make an impression on old married Lincoln. Offensively democratic exhibitions of free manners occur every once in a while. Churlish fellows will obtrude themselves with their hats on, lighted cigars and their pantaloons tucked in their boos. Dropping into their chairs they sit puffing away and trying to gorgonize the President with their silent stares, until their boorish curiosity is fully satisfied. Formal presentations are dispensed with in most cases. Nearly everyone finds his own way in and introduces himself. Sometimes half a dozen rustics rush in, break their way through other visitors up to the object of their search and after calling their names and touching the Presidential fingers, back out again.”124

In one of his newspaper dispatches about Mr. Lincoln at the end of November, Villard wrote: “A pile of letters greeted him before which a less determined soul might well have quailed. Until late last night and all day yesterday did it absorb all his attention. With a creditable patience he waded through the contents of several hundreds letters, the perusal of which made him no wiser. Even his keen sense of the ludicrous begins to be blunted by the frequency of his imitation. Bad grammar and worse penmanship, stylistic originality, frankness of thought and pertinence of expression, vainglorious assurance and impudent attempts at exaction may do well enough for temporary excitement of humor. Mr. Lincoln’s correspondence would offer a most abundant source of knowledge to the student of human nature. It emanates from representatives of all grades of society. The grave effusions of statesmen; the disinterested advice of patriots reach him simultaneously with the well-calculated, wheedling praises of the expectant politician and the meaningless commonplaces of scribblers from mere curiosity. Female forwardness and inquisitiveness are frequently brought to his notice. Exuberant ‘wide-awake’ enthusiasm, with difficulty pressed into the narrow forms of a letter, is lavished upon him. Poets hasten to tax their muse in his glorification. A perfect shower of ‘able editorials’ is clipped out and enclosed. Artists express their happiness in supplying him; with wretched wood-cut representations of his surroundings. Authors and speculative booksellers freely send their congratulations, accompanied by complimentary volumes. Inventors are exceedingly liberal with circulars and samples. More impulsive than well-mannered, Southerners indulge in occasional missives containing senseless fulminations and, in a few instances, disgraceful threats and indecent drawings. A goodly number of seditious pamphlets and manifestoes has also arrived – in fine all the ‘light and shadow’ of Anglo-American political humanity is reflected by the hundreds of letters daily received by the President-elect.”125

Lincoln chronicler Larry Mansch wrote: “By seven o’clock on the morning following Lincoln’s election, several hundred people had gathered outside his home. Within the hour. After breakfast was served to her family, Mary allowed her husband to receive his callers. The admirers and well-wishers proceeded through Lincoln’s front door, into the parlor, and out again – one newspaper reported that the ‘entire community’ turnout out – and Lincoln greeted each person with a handshake and a smile.”126 Speaking at a post-election rally, Governor-elect Richard Yates said: “I cannot speak for Mr. Lincoln, nor do I know the emergencies he has to meet, but I have every confidence in his ability to meet, whatever crisis may come. I have known him too long and too well to doubt either his prudence or his courage. I know that every desire of his heart is for peace, but, if occasion demands, South Carolina will find in him the true metal, the fire and flint, the pluck of old Hickory himself. I would disdain to utter the words of the mere political braggart, but then, I do say, that while the most abundant caution should be used and the olive branch of peace and conciliation should be extended, yet the election of a President by a majority of the people is no excuse for treason, and that all the power of the Government should be brought to bear to crush it out wherever it shall rear its unsightly head.” Yates contended “that so firm is my belief in the integrity, in the purity of motives, in the patriotism of Mr. Lincoln; yea, I believe there is a Providence in it, and that Mr. Lincoln is raised up for this crisis, as Washington was for the Revolution.”127

For three months following the election, Mr. Lincoln endured same grind at the Illinois State Capitol as before the election. After the 1860 election, noted his friend Ward Hill Lamon, Mr. Lincoln “was overrun with visitors form all quarters of the country, – some to assist in forming his Cabinet, some to direct how patronage should be distributed, others to beg for or demand personal advancement.”128 New York Herald reporter Henry Villard wrote: “Mr. Lincoln soon found, after his election, that his modest two-story frame dwelling was altogether inadequate for the throng of local callers and of visitors from a distance, and, accordingly, he gladly availed himself of the offer of the use of the governor’s room in the Capitol building. On my arrival, he had already commenced spending a good part of each day in it. He appeared daily, except Sundays, between nine and ten o’clock, and held a reception till noon, to which all comers were admitted, without even the formality of first sending in cards. Whoever chose to call received the same hearty greeting. At noon, he went home to dinner and reappeared at about two. Then his correspondence was given proper attention, and visitors of distinction were seen by special appointment at either the State House or the hotel. Occasionally, but very rarely, he passed some time in his law office. In the evening, old friends called at his home for the exchange of news and political views. At times, when important news was expected, he would go to the telegraph or newspaper offices after supper, and stay there till late. Altogether, probably no other president-elect was so approachable to everybody, at least during the first weeks of my stay. But he found in the end, as was to be expected, that this popular practice involved a good deal of fatigue, and that he needed more time for himself; and the hours he gave up to the public were gradually restricted.”

“I was present almost daily for more or less time during his morning reception. I generally remained a silent listener, as I could get at him at other hours when I was in need of information. It was a most interesting study to watch the manner of his intercourse with callers. As a rule, he showed remarkable tact in dealing with each of them, whether they were rough-looking Sangamon County farmers still addressing him familiarly as ‘Abe,’ sleek and pert commercial travelers, staid merchants, sharp politicians, or preachers, lawyers, or other professional men. He showed a very quick and shrewd perception of and adaptation to individual characteristics and peculiarities. He never evaded a proper question, or failed to give a fit answer. He was ever ready for an argument, which always had an original flavor, and, as a rule, he got the better in the discussion. There was, however, one limitation to the freedom of his talks with his visitors. A great many of them naturally tried to draw him out as to his future policy as President regarding the secession movement in the South, but he would not commit himself. The most remarkable and attractive feature of those daily ‘levees,’ however, was his constant indulgence of his story-telling propensity. Of course, all the visitors had heard of it and were eager for the privilege of listening to a practical illustration of his preeminence in that line. He knew this, and took special delight in meeting their wishes. he never was at a loss for a story or an anecdote to explain a meaning or enforce a point, the aptness of which was always perfect. His supply was apparently inexhaustible, and the stories sounded so real that it was hard to determine whether he repeated what he had heard from others, or had invented himself.”
“None of his hearers enjoyed the wit – and wit was an unfailing ingredient – of his stories half as much as he did himself. It was a joy indeed to see the effect upon him. A high-pitched laughter lighted up his otherwise melancholy countenance with thorough merriment. His body shook all over with gleeful emotion, and when he felt particularly good over his performance, he followed his habit of drawing his knees, with his arms around them, up to his very face, as I had seen him do in 1858. I am sorry to state that he often allowed himself altogether too much license in the concoction of the stories. he seemed to be bent upon making his hit by fair means or foul. In other word, he never hesitated to tell a coarse or even outright nasty story, if it served his purpose. All his personal friends could bear testimony on this point. It was a notorious fact that this fondness for low talk clung to him even in the White House. More than once I heard him ‘with malice aforethought’ get off purposely some repulsive fiction in order to rid himself of an uncomfortable caller. Again and again I felt disgust and humiliation that such a person should have been called upon to direct the destinies of a great nation in the direst period of its history. Yet his achievements during the next few years proved him to be one of the great leaders of mankind in adversity, in whom low leanings only set off more strikingly his better qualities. At the time of which I speak, I could not have persuaded myself that the man might possibly possess true greatness of mind and nobility of heart. I do not wish to convey the idea, however, that he was mainly given to trivialities and vulgarities in his conversation; for, in spite of his frequent outbreaks of low humor, his was really a very sober and serious nature, and even inclined to gloominess to such an extent that all his biographers have attributed a strongly melancholic disposition to him.”
“I often availed myself of his authorization to come to him at any time for information. There were two questions in which the public, of course, felt the deepest interest, and upon which I was expected to supply light, namely, the composition of his Cabinet, and his views upon the secession movement that was daily growing in extent and strength. As to the former, he gave me to understand early, by indirection, that, as everybody expected, William H. Seward and S.P. Chase, his competitors for the presidential nomination, would be among his constitutional advisers. It was hardly possible for him not to recognize them, and he steadily turned a deaf ear to the remonstrances that were made against them as ‘extreme men’ by leading politicians from the Border States, particularly from Kentucky and Missouri. As to the remaining members of his Cabinet, they were definitely selected much later, and after a protracted and wearisome tussle with the delegations of various states that came to Springfield to urge the claims of their ‘favorite sons’. I shall refer again to this subject.”
“No one who heard him talk upon the other question could fail to discover his ‘other side’, and to be impressed with his deep earnestness, his anxious contemplation of public affairs, and his thorough sense of the extraordinary responsibilities that were coming upon him. He never refused to talk with me about secession, but generally evaded answers to specific interrogatories, and confined himself to generalization. I was present at a number of conversations which he had with leading public men upon the same subject, when he showed the same reserve. He did not hesitate to say that the Union ought to, and in his opinion would, be preserved, and to go into long arguments in support of the proposition, based upon the history of the republic, the homogeneity of the population, the natural features of the country, such as the common coast, the rivers and mountains, that compelled political and commercial unity. But he could not be got to say what he would do in the face of Southern secession, except that as President he should be sworn to maintain the Constitution of the United States, and that he was therefore bound to fulfill that duty. He met in the same general way the frequent questions whether he should consider it his duty to resort to coercion by force of arms against the states engaged in attempts to secede. In connection therewith I understood him, however, several times to express doubts as to the practicability of holding the slave states in the Union by main force, if they were all determined to break it up. He was often embarrassed by efforts of radical anti-slavery men to get something out of him in encouragement of their hopes that the crisis would result in the abolition of slavery. He did not respond as they wished, and made it clear that he did not desire to be considered an ‘abolitionist’, and that he still held the opinion that property in slaves was entitled to protection under the Constitution, and that its owners could not be deprived of it without due compensation. Consciously or unconsciously, he, like everybody else, must have been influenced in his views by current events. As political passion in the South rose higher and higher, and actual defiance of Federal authority by deeds of violence occurred almost daily after his election, culminating in the formal secession of seven states and the establishment of the Southern Confederacy under Jefferson Davis at Montgomery, Alabama, the belief, which he doubtless had originally, that by a conciliatory course as President he could pacify the rebellious states, must have become shaken. Still, I think I interpret his views up to the time of his departure for Washington correctly in saying that he had not lost faith in the preservation of peace between the North and the South, and he certainly did not dream that his principal duty would be to raise great armies and fleets, and the means to maintain them, for the suppression of the most determined and sanguinary rebellion, in defense of slavery, that our planet ever witnessed.”
“The Jacksonian ‘doctrine’ that ‘to the victors belong the spoils’, was still so universally the creed of all politicians, that it was taken for granted there would be a change not only in all the principal, but also in all the minor, Federal offices. It was also expected that the other time-honored party practice of a division of executive patronage among the several states would be carried out. Accordingly there appeared deputations from all the Northern and Border States at Springfield to put in their respective claims for recognition. Some of them came not only once, but several times. From a number of states several delegations turned up, representing rival factions in the Republican ranks, each pretending to be the rightful claimant. Almost every state presented candidates for the Cabinet and for the principal diplomatic and departmental offices. The hotel was the principal haunt of the place-hunters. The tricks, the intrigues, and the manoeuvrings that were practiced by them in pursuit of their aims came nearly all within the range of my observation, as it was my duty to furnish the earliest possible news of their success or failure. As a rule, the various sets of spoilsmen were very willing to take me into their confidence, but it was not always easy to distinguish what was true in their communications from what they wished me to say to the press purely in furtherance of their interests. Among the political visitors the most prominent I met were: Simon Cameron, S[almon]. P. Chase, Thurlow Weed, Lyman Trumbull, N[orman] B. Judd, Richard J. Oglesby, Francis P. Blair, Sr. and Jr., B. Gratz Brown, William Dennison, D.C. Carter of Ohio, Henry J. Winter, and Oliver P. Morton. Thurlow Weed was by far the most interesting figure and the most astute operator among them all.”
“From what I have said, it will be understood that the President-elect had a hard time of it with the office-seekers. But as he himself was a thorough believer in the doctrine of rotation in office, he felt it his duty to submit to this tribulation. The Cabinet appointments, other than those already named, were especially troublesome to him. There was an intense struggle between Indiana and Illinois, most embarrassing inasmuch as there were several candidates from his own state, all intimate personal friends. Then came the bitter contest between the Border States of Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland, and the Pennsylvania cabals pro and contra Simon Cameron. Amidst all his perplexities, Lincoln displayed a good deal of patience and shrewdness in dealing with these personal problems. His never-failing stories helped many times to heal wounded feelings and mitigate disappointments. But he gradually showed the wear and tear of these continuous visitations, and finally looked so careworn as to excite one’s compassion.”129

New York Herald reporter Henry Villard wrote of the transition period: “Today’s work was the hardest ‘Old Abe’ did since his election. He had hardly appeared at the State House when he was beset by an eager crowd that had been on the lookout for him ever since daylight. They gave him no time to occupy himself the usual two hours previous to the morning receptions with his private secretary, but clung to his coat tails with an obstinacy worthy of a better cause. He had to admit them at once into his apartment, and then submit for nearly ten long, weary hours to the importunities of a steady tide of callers. Limited as the space required by the lean proportions of the President is, he found it a most difficult task to find sufficient stand room. By constant entreaties to make room he maintained himself in close proximity to the door, which position he had chosen with a view to facilitating the inevitable hand shaking. But he found to his intense bodily inconvenience that this deference to the comfort of his callers was not the most practical plan he might have adopted. The curious defiled past him, after squeezing the Presidential fingers into the room, and settled either on the sofa or chairs or remained standing for protracted observations….A tight jam prevailed, therefore, all day, around the President, who found himself frequently ‘driven to the wall.’”130

When Mr. Lincoln briefly left Springfield to visit Chicago, reporter Villard took it as an opportunity to deprecate the state capital: “Its wonted lack of vivacity was interrupted heretofore only by the biennial sessions of the Legislature, but the unexpected windfall in the shape of the election of one of its citizens to the Presidency proved, however, a source of vitality altogether unparalleled…It will be the fortune of its hotel keepers and rumsellers. How great the influence of the fact of its being the residence of the President elect is upon the status of the town, is plainly shown by the now demonstrated effect of Lincolns’ temporary absence. The relapse into the old monotony was instantaneous and complete. A ludicrous scene was enacted today by half a dozen place seekers from Ohio and Indiana that arrived…on the early morning train, with a view to presenting their claims to substantial rewards for service in the campaign to ‘Old Abe.’ Having heard on the way of his intended excursion, they rushed frantically…into the hotel office, and pantingly asked the clerk whether the rumor of his absentation was well founded. The elongation of their faces on being answered in the affirmative was marvelous. After giving full vent to their anger and disappointment in language more forcible than refined, they concluded to extend their pilgrimage to the City of the Lakes, in search of the departed idol.” 131 Many of the office seekers were from Illinois – as one of them wrote his wife in early January: “There is a great crowd of people here, continually coming and going. I have seen a great many of the most prominent men of the State.” 132 The scheming for patronage positions among Mr. Lincoln’s friends began shortly after the 1860 election. Springfield political ally recalled:

“On another occasion, after the campaign was over and I was again in Mr. Lincoln’s office, mention was made of the interest and time I had given to the canvass locally. Lincoln asked me some questions which brought out the fact that I had spent a good deal of my own money in the canvass – a thousand dollars or more. Mr. Lincoln suggested that I was not able to lose that money. He spoke very seriously. I replied to him, ‘Yes, Mr. Lincoln, I am able to lose it because when you have reached Washington you are going to give me an office.’ The statement seemed to startle him and the look in his face grew very serious. He promptly denied that he had promised me any office what. ‘No, Mr. Lincoln,’ I replied, ‘you have not promised me anything, but you are going to give me an office just the same.’ ‘What office do you think I am going to give you?’ he asked. “The office of Pension Agent here in Illinois,’ I exclaimed. ‘During Isaac B. Curran’s term as Pension Agent under Buchanan I have done all the work in the office in order to get the deposits in my brother’s bank. The salary amounts to one thousand dollars, and when you go to Washington you are going to give me that office.’ To this he made no word of reply, and there was therefore no way of determining what effect my prediction made upon him. All I know is that three days after his inauguration as President, Caleb B. Smith, his Secretary of the Interior in Washington, sent to Springfield my commission as Pension Agent.”
“I do not believe that anything on earth could have exacted a promise from Mr. Lincoln to give me that office; nor do I think he would have bargained to give any man an administrative office before or after his election. It is probable that he selected the member of his Cabinet and that he had advised them of the fact before they were appointed, but outside of his Cabinet officers I do not believe he promised anybody an office before the day of his inauguration, and yet the incident I have above related shows that he was not by any means insensible to ordinary political considerations.”133

Mr. Lincoln did not like to be obligated but he did like to oblige when it came to patronage. President Lincoln wrote Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase on May 10, 1861: “I have felt myself obliged to refuse the post-office at this place to my old friend Nathan Sargent, which wounds him, and consequently me, very deeply. He now says there is an office in your department, called the ‘Commissioner of Customs,’ which the incumbent, a Mr. Ingham, wishes to vacate. I will be very much obliged if you agree for me to appoint Mr. Sargent to this place.” 134 As was his custom, President Lincoln listened to local officials in making decisions. In March 1861 Illinois Republicans in Congress – Lyman Trumbull, Elihu. B. Washburne, William Kellogg, Owen Lovejoy, and Isaac N. Arnold – wrote the President with their patronage requests:

“The Republican members of the Illinois delegation in Congress unanimously recommend the following persons for office in that State.”
“For Marshall of the Northern district of Illinois, J. Russel Jones.
For District Attorney of the same district Messrs. Lovejoy, Arnold Washburne and Kellogg recommend Mr. Knox. Mr. Arnold recommends Mr. Larned. Mr. Trumbull makes no recommendation. Lovejoy, Kellogg and Washburne recommend Mr. Larned as their second choice.
For Marshal of the Southern district of Illinois, David L. Philips. For District Attorney of the same district, Lawrence Weldon.”
“Territorial appointments.
For Chief Justice of Nebraska, Wm. Pitt Kellogg, to fill a vacancy.
For Governor of Dakotah, William Jayne.
For Surveyor General of Utah John A. Clark.
For the Secretary ship of a territory L. Jay S. Turney.
For Judge in a territory a person to be named by Mr. Arnold, Harvey B Hurd of Chicago, Ills.
Judge Kellogg shall be permitted to name a person for a $2000 consulship in Europe Germany– Names Dr. John D. Arnold, of Peoria.
Mr. Lovejoy shall be permitted to name of a person for a $2000 consulship in Europe.
Mr. Arnold shall be permitted to name a person for a $1000 consulship in Europe, and he names Charles J. Sundell for Stettin Prussia.
Mr. Washburne shall be permitted to name a person for a consulship at Leipsic.
Judge Trumbull shall be permitted to name a person for a $3000 consulship abroad, and also a $1000 consulship.
For an auditorship, John H. Bryant.
For a half mission: ($7.500) Geo. T. Brown.”

Individual and delegations continued to visit Mr Lincoln through the beginning of February – many looking for jobs or looking to block jobs for others. Henry Clay Whitney recalled going to the Lincoln home in January: “I found the President-elect surrounded by five or six exceedingly small bores, and one very disagreeable large bore: the latter trying to make himself solid with the prospective dispenser of a large patronage, and all trying to air their shrunken wit for their self-aggrandizement in this sublime presence….Lincoln himself was sad, abstracted and wearied: still, he responded to the flippant and inane remarks on the political situation, with a jaded smile and a mechanical assent…”135

Meanwhile, Mr. Lincoln arranged to rent his house to Lucian Tilton, a former executive of the Great Western Railroad. His furniture was sold at a public sale. But before he moved into Chenery House for his final few days in Springfield, he held a reception a private reception for friends and political associates on February 6. The 700 invited constituted a very large guest list for the relatively small Lincoln home. “The first levee given by the President-elect took place last evening at his own residence in this city and it was a grand outpouring of citizens and strangers together with the members of the legislature,” reported the Missouri Democrat in early February 1861. “Mr. Lincoln threw open his house for a general reception of all the people who felt disposed to give him and his lady a parting call. The levee lasted from seven to twelve o’clock in the evening and the house was thronged by thousands up to the latest hour. Mr. Lincoln received the guests as they entered and were made known. They then passed on and were introduced to Mrs. Lincoln, who stood near the center of the parlor, and who, I must say, acquitted herself most gracefully and admirably.”136 It was a memorable occasion.

Although Mrs. Lincoln occasionally entertained on a grand scale for her friends, the Lincolns seldom entertained over dinner with friends in Springfield. Lincoln scholar Douglas L. Wilson wrote that “if the experience of John T. Stuart, David Davis, and [William H.] Herndon himself is indicative, the Lincolns did not socialize over dinner. While close friends such as these were often in the Lincoln home, they were never invited to dine, except on special occasions.”137 Mr. Lincoln was a friendly man – but essentially a loner. He was driven by duty more than relationships, at which he excelled when he focused on them. A young woman who lived across the street in Springfield visited President-elect Lincoln at the State Capitol to introduce her future husband. According to her son: “Mr. Lincoln was very gracious. Taking her hand in his large hand, which was always very reassuring, he said, ‘This is my little friend Delie, Delie Wheelock.’ …and gave her a few moments of undivided attention. It was this unfailing quality of genial friendliness to all whom he knew that endeared him to them, and left his indelible impression.”138

William B. Thompson, who lived as a boy near Mr. Lincoln recalled: “The day Mr. Lincoln left Springfield in 1861 to go to Washington for the inauguration was the last time I saw him. All of the boys were at the station, and the most enthusiastic cheering came from them. Some of the older people looked very serious; they were predicting that Mr. Lincoln would not be allowed to reach Washington; that he would be able to reach Washington; that he would be stopped if he tried to pass through Maryland. Many believed there would be interference. I remember that I went up to John Hay, who was going with Mr. Lincoln, and asked him if he had any doubt about getting through. As we young fellows shouted our farewell to Mr. Lincoln that day we felt as we if were parting from a personal friend to whom we were deeply attached.”139 The farewell address he gave to his fellow Springfield residents on the morning of February 11, 1861 is a classic of political rhetoric:

“No one not in my position can appreciate the sadness I feel at this parting. To this people I owe all that I am. Here I have lived more than a quarter of a century; here my children were born, and here one of them lies buried. I know not how soon I shall see you again. A duty devolves upon me which is, perhaps, greater than that which has devolved upon any other man since the days of Washington. He never would have succeeded except for the aid of Divine Providence, upon which he at all times relied. I feel that I cannot succeed without the same Divine aid which sustained him, and on the same Almighty Being I place my reliance for support, and I hope you, my friends, will all pray that I may receive that Divine assistance without which I cannot succeed but with which success is certain. Again I bid you an affectionate farewell.”140

As State Superintendent of Instruction Newton Bateman recalled Mr. Lincoln’s departure: “His pale face was literally wet with tears as he re-entered the care, and the train rolled out of the city, which Abraham Lincoln was to enter no more – till, his great work finished he would come back from the war, a victor and a conqueror though with the seal of death upon his visage. Some politicians derided the solemn words of that farewell -but I knew they were the utterances of his inmost soul – never did speech of man move me as that did. Seeing every mournful tremor of those lips – noting every shadow that flitted over that face – catching every inflection of that voice – the words seemed to drop, every one, into my heart, and to be crystallized in my memory.”141

Shortly after 8 A.M., Mr. Lincoln began his 12-day journey to Washington and his four years, five weeks as the nation’s president.

As President, Mr. Lincoln continued to receive frequent visitors to Washington from Springfield. Journalist Alexander K. McClure wrote: “Two young men called on the President from Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln shook hands with them, and asked about the crops, the weather, etc. Finally one of the young men said, ‘Mother is not well, and she sent me up to inquire of you how the suit about the Wells property is getting on.’ Lincoln, in the same even tone with which he had asked the question, said: ‘Give my best wishes and respects to your mother, and tell her I have so many outside matters to attend to now that I have put that case, and others, in the hands of a lawyer friend of mine, and if you will call on him (giving name and address) he will give you the information you want.’ After they had gone, a friend, who was present, said: ‘Mr. Lincoln, you did not seem to know the young men?’ He laughed and replied: ‘No, I had never seen them before, and I had to beat around the bush until I found who they were. It was up-hill work, but I topped it at last.’”142

President Lincoln did not always please his erstwhile allies in Illinois state government back in Springfield. These officials were frequently were upset with him about political and patronage matters. Governor Richard Yates, Secretary of State Ozias Hatch, State Treasurer William Butler, and State Auditor Jesse Dubois were all longtime friends and political allies of Mr. Lincoln and each found reason to criticize President Lincoln’s handling of Illinois issues. Dubois first wanted appointment at 5th Auditor and later wanted to be named secretary of the interior. Dubois’s shaky relations with the White House were reflected in a letter from John Hay in August 1864, probably shortly after he had seen Dubois in Springfield: “Old Uncle Jesse is talking like an ass – say is if the Chicago nominee is a good man, he don’t know [whom he will support]. He blackguards you & me – says we are too big for our breeches – a fault for which it seems to me either Nature or our tailors are to blame. After all your kindness to the old whelp and his cub of a son, he hates you because you have not done more. I believe he thinks the Ex[ecutive] Mansion is somehow to blame because Bill married a harlot and Dick Oglesby is popular.”143

Neither of his former law partners, Stephen T. Logan and William Herndon, got their just patronage reward, according to Henry C. Whitney. “The citizens of Springfield were desirous to be honored in the exaltation of these two great men and finding Lincoln not endowed with the attribute of spontaneity as to them sent on a deputation of its citizens to Washington to urge that Logan be appointed Supreme Judge, and Herndon, Minister to Rome: but he was deaf to their requests, and Springfield was unrepresented in the list of general appointments. He even went into the southern part of the state for a marshal for that district, and let [David] Davis appoint one of his friends as district attorney. In the distribution of favors he avoided all of those dear friends to whom he owed all that he was, with an unfaltering constancy and it was an error (if at all) on the right side.”144 Logan did not expect a major Lincoln Administration appointment, according to Clinton L Conkling, whose father was a legal colleague of Logan’s. James Conkling and Logan were among those who raised $5000 in the summer of 1860 to fund Lincoln’s correspondence expense “and the tradition is that it was distinctly understood at the time that those making the contribution were not, or were not to be, applicants for any positions within Mr. Lincoln’s appointment.” But some friends did get federal patronage. For example, a former conductor on the Illinois-Central Railroad, H. L. Robinson, got a job from President Lincoln as an Army quartermaster.145

As a lawyer and as a President, Mr. Lincoln did not please everyone in Springfield. Lincoln biographer William E. Barton wrote: “Springfield itself was greatly divided concerning Mr. Lincoln. There were lawyers who had been on opposing sides of cases against him and had sometimes won them. There were all the petty animosities which grow up in a small city. Furthermore, Springfield was moderately full of disappointed people who had expected that their friendship for Lincoln would have procured for them some political appointment. Any political aspirant living in Maine or Missouri who had a fourth cousin living in Springfield and possessed of a speaking acquaintance with Mr. Lincoln, felt that he and his kinsfolk suffered an unmerited discourtesy if Mr. Lincoln through such influence did not produce on application a commission as Major-General or an appointment as Ambassador to some foreign court.”146

Governor Richard Yates was often were exasperated with President Lincoln and argued for tougher, quicker measures against opponents in the South and North. Yates was a strong if worried backer of the President and the war effort. Illinois cavalry officer William Pitt Kellogg remembered: “Governor Yates manifested such great interest in the equipment and care of all Illinois troops that he early came to be known as the War Governor. In September [1861] the Governor and myself came to Washington and saw Mr. Lincoln, who gave us a card to Assistant Secretary of War Thomas A. Scott, asking him to give us a lot of Smith and Wesson carbines which had just been received. Through Mr. Lincoln’s intervention we got six hundred carbines, which we divided between [T. Lyle] Dickey’s regiment and mine. As Mr. Lincoln handed us the card he said: ‘I suppose as usual they will think over the War Department that I am interfering with them. He seemed completely absorbed in the endeavor to hurry forward the organization and arming of the troops. He eagerly questioned Governor Yates as to the state of the public mind in the West, especially in Illinois.”147

Historian Bruce Tap wrote: “Resisting demands to merge with Republicans to form a Union party, the Democratic party held its statewide convention at Springfield on September 10, 1862. At this sparsely attended affair, the common consensus was that the Democrats were doomed in the upcoming election. The convention adopted a number of resolutions, including a declaration that the constitution was the supreme law of the land, a denunciation of both Northern and Southern extremists as equally inconsistent with the constitution, criticism of arbitrary arrests and emancipation, and a demand that state authorities enforce the anti-immigration provisions against blacks.”148

The political strength of Republicans was undermined in September by an order moving black “contrabands” northward through the state – in violation of the state constitution which prohibited free blacks from moving into the state. Historian Bruce Tap wrote: “On September 18, 1862, [Secretary of War Edwin M.] Stanton ordered the northward shipment of ex-slaves, ‘contrabands,’ who were temporarily being held at Cairo, Illinois. Stanton hoped that the contrabands might be resettled throughout Illinois and the Midwest so that they could assist farmers in harvesting the fall crop. The timing of Stanton’s order was most unfortunate. Issued just a few days prior to Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Illinois voters connected the two events, regarding the northward migration of free blacks as the inevitable result of the proclamation. Democratic newspapers throughout the state charged that the policy of the Republican party was to ‘Africanize’ Illinois, changing the character of the war from one waged for the Union to one waged for the establishment o black equality. For the Democratic party, the contraband issue symbolized everything that it despised in Lincoln’s war policy. Not only did Democrats object to the presence of ‘inferior’ blacks in Illinois, but the movement of contrabands heightened economic fears in a region already under stress due to the closing of the Mississippi River.”149

Republicans held their own state convention in Springfield on September 24. They nominated Lincoln friend Leonard Swett of Bloomington to run for Congress against Mr. Lincoln’s former law partner, John Todd Stuart, of Springfield. The well-known Stuart shrewdly avoided debates while he supported the war effort and opposed restrictions on civil liberties. Stuart tried to capitalize on the unpopularity of the President’s policies while pledging loyalty to the region’s favorite son. According to historian Harry E. Pratt, “Again and again Stuart declared his undiminished respect for Lincoln and ‘unbounding confidence…in his personal integrity.’ He implored the President to ‘follow the dictates’ of his ‘clear head and patriotic heart and preserve the Union by the use of the ample powers conferred upon him by the constitution, and repulse any resort to revolutionary means; and for a Union and a Constitution so preserved, history would erect monuments for him by the side of Washington.’”150

Stuart turned away Swett’s repeated challenges to debate. Swett gave his debate correspondence to Republican newspaper which suggested that Stuart was afraid of Swett. “Smarting under this ridicule, Stuart suddenly appeared on day at the court house in Lincoln where Swett was scheduled to speak, and asked his opponent to divide the time with him. In his speech Stuart did not come out either for or against the Emancipation Proclamation but made a most eloquent and effective speech. “Swett, like Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, planted himself squarely on the Proclamation and maintained it was a military necessity,” wrote Lincoln scholar Pratt. Swett, who had lost the 1860 Republican nomination for governor, proved less adept in political maneuvering and lost the election. Pratt wrote: “Upon hearing the news of the election, General William W. Orme, Swett’s law partner stationed at Springfield, Missouri, wrote: ‘Swett’s beaten! The democracy have carried everything, and I think the country is ruined. The result of these elections will palsy the arm of the President… I can scarcely foresee the effects of this election. It will nerve the rebels to redoubled energy.’”151 Nevertheless, when Congressman Stuart went to Washington, he resumed his close relations with President Lincoln and his cousin Mary.

Springfield Republicans were understandably irritable during this period. They were under siege from Democrats in a state which always had a strong Democratic, anti-black complexion and in which Democrats tried to denigrate them as “black Republicans.” In 1862, Democrats used those political instincts to pass anti-black amendments to the state constitution and place Republicans on the defensive, especially after President Lincoln issued the Draft Emancipation Proclamation in September. Furthermore, Republican officials like Governor Yates and Senator Lyman Trumbull were closely identified with Radical Republican positions. When Yates pressed Mr. Lincoln to adopt more radical measures in the summer, Mr. Lincoln wired back: “Dick, hold still and see the salvation of God.”152

There was some reason for Yates’ agitation as the war wore on. After the elections of 1862, anti-war Democrats took over the Illinois State Legislature in Springfield – opening a new war front against the President and Governor Yates. Illinois soldiers reacted vehemently to what they perceived was a threat to the war effort. Historian Mark E. Neely, Jr. wrote: “I have discovered resolutions from 55 Illinois infantry regiments, 4 cavalry regiments, and 4 batteries of artillery, altogether representing perhaps some 50,000 men. That equals the size of a Civil War army. The resolutions varied in content, but all denounced compromise and armistice with the Confederacy, nearly all denounced continuance of political party conflict, and many contained threats against legislators at home. Resolutions from at least 22 of the regiments and 2 of the batteries, representing upward of 20,000 men, contained threats to return to Springfield if…if the governor or the president gave them the order, if the Democrats persisted in their treason, if duty made it necessary.”153 Meanwhile, Yates wrote President Lincoln: “The Government must let us have at least four Regiments of well armed men in Illinois.”154

Some prominent Democratic leaders like Lyman Trumbull and John Palmer had joined the Republican Party in the mid-1850s; others like Congressmen John A. Logan and John McClernand became prominent supporters of the war and Union generals. General McClernand wrote Governor Yates in February to warn: “From all I see and hear a revolution is impending in the Northwest. I need not remind you that with the actual inception of this revolution, the cause of the Union will be seriously endangered, if not lost. The public authorities and loyal citizens should immediately prepare to crush it. Let the Home Guards be immediately organized and armed. The party that hesitates will be undone. Fortuna favet fortibus.”155 Yates forwarded the letter to the President. In early March, three top Illinois officials wrote President Lincoln to warn that “at the meeting of the Legislature in June they will, we think pass an act taking the military power out of the hands of the Gove[r]nor abolish the adjutant generals office and appoint a Commission placeing the power in their hands; they will resist a draft or any attempt to apprehend & return deserters to their Regiments in the field; which class is fast accumulating in our midst – for the remedy we would Surest in the absence of Some better plan (by the general Gove[r]m[n]ent that at least four of Our Old regiments that Are now mear scelatins [mere skeletons], be Ordered home under pretex of recru[i]ting so as to be here before the adjourned meeting of the Legislature, and be under the Command of Some loyal Commander who may be clothed with military power to declare the State under martial law of need be; and disperce the Legislature If Such anticipated Step is attempted.” Yates endorsed their letter.156

The plan was in place – and Yates put it into operation in June 1863. Historian Allen C. Guelzo wrote that “on June 10,] citing an obscure provision in the Illinois Constitution, Yates prorogued the legislature (and in fact would govern without the legislature’s help until the very end of the legislature’s term in 1864). The astounded representatives fumed against this monstrous and revolutionary usurpation of power,’ but after two weeks of helpless protest they conceded. ‘Well knowing that their peace resolutions were pending, and lots more were being “hatched up,”‘ Yates chortled. “I sent my polite note to them, telling them in the language of the soldiers to the rebels, to ‘skeedaddle.’ They had been in session for nine days, and it was a sight good for sore eyes to see them leaving with their nine dollars and postage stamps.” 157 Democrats called for a mass rally on June 17 at the fairgrounds outside of town. The meeting was addressed by Ohio Congressman Samuel S. Cox and Indiana Congressman Daniel Voorhees, both opponents of Lincoln Administration war policy.

In response to this affair, Springfield attorney James C. Conkling decided to organize a counter-rally of Administration supporters for early September. He also decided to invite his friend, President Abraham Lincoln, to address the rally. Although he seldom left Washington, Mr. Lincoln considered a return to his hometown. Historian Jennifer L. Weber wrote: “Lincoln rarely responded to Copperhead attacks, but he made an exception in late August, when he sent a speech to an old friend to be read at a gathering in Springfield.”158 Conkling invited President Lincoln to address a meeting of the “unconditional Union men of all parties in our State” on September 3, 1863. 159 Mr. Lincoln decided to send a letter instead – instructing Conkling to “read it very slowly.”160 Historian Allen C. Guelzo wrote: “Much as Conkling was disappointed at Lincoln’s decision, the promise of a public letter for the meeting touched off wild speculation that Lincoln was about to make a major policy announcement about emancipation. ‘President Lincoln has written a letter to the Mass Convention to meet in this city,’ wrote the proadministration Chicago Tribune’s Springfield correspondent. ‘Its perusal will gladden the heart of every true Union man in the country, vindicate the President fame and character, and be the keynote of the next Presidential campaign.”161

As was his practice, President Lincoln had probably been gathering his thoughts for some time waiting for an appropriate moment to release them. “Modest as he was, he knew the value of his own work, and when a friend called to ask him if he was going to Springfield he replied, ‘No, I shall send them a letter instead; and it will be a rather good letter.”162 According to Lincoln scholar Douglas L. Wilson, “Lincoln knew it would be a good letter because he had already written it. Or at least he had written a draft of what would become the main body of the letter. We can’t be certain when he began this first version, but he had probably been working on it for some time.”163 President Lincoln took great care in the preparation of the message and included instructions to Conkling on how his letter was to be read. It was a down-to-earth refutation of critics of his emancipation and war policies. “It was, like most of his speeches, addressed principally to his opponents, and in this short space he appealed successively to their reason, to their sympathies, and to their fears,” wrote Nicolay and Hay.164 Because of the care he put into this state paper, President Lincoln was very upset when a bastardized version was released prematurely.

Historian Allen C. Guelzo wrote that, “the meeting itself was everything that the organizer had hoped for. ‘Never, perhaps, in the history of Illinois, has such a gathering of men been seen,’ rejoiced the Illinois State Journal.”165 After the Conkling meeting, Judge Anson S. Miller visited President Lincoln at the Soldier’s Home in Washington. He described the setting: “I told him how we had acres of wagons, and how the people came in their teams sixty miles and camped out. But he was most anxious to know about the reception of his famous Conkling letter. I told him that the passage in the letter which was most vehemently cheered was the one about the colored men; and I quoted it to him: ‘We have promised the colored men their rights; and, by the help of God, that promise shall be kept.’ When I told him this, he replied, very earnestly, ‘Well, God helping me, that promise shall be fulfilled.’”166 Guelzo wrote that “the letter was Lincoln’s most extensive and forthright defense of emancipation since the issue of the Proclamation itself.” 167 Noted Douglas L. Wilson: “With the publication and general success of the Conkling letter, there began to be some wider recognition that the president, even with his idiosyncrasies, was an effective writer. It dawned on some of those open to the idea that their unpolished, self-educated chief magistrate, ‘Honest Old Abe,’ was developing a literary track record, having produced not one or two able papers but what was beginning to look like a whole series of them.”168

But anti-administration agitation continued in Illinois and Governor Yates grew concerned about the growing strength of the Sons of Liberty and their perhaps-treasonous agenda. President Lincoln was much less concerned, according to General John M. Palmer, who recalled: “In February of the same year [1864], I received a telegram from Governor Yates asking me to return home as he had with me ‘business of importance.’ I came to Springfield after stopping over one train with my family at Carlinville. After reaching the city I met Governor Yates and Dr. Fithian of Danville, who was provost marshal of his congressional district, and read many letters which the governor had received which indicated great danger of an uprising of the ‘Knights of the Golden Circle,’ and probably other disloyal organizations. The letters were written in January and February, and by persons who were loyal to the government of the United States, and some of the writers advised the governor to raise four or five more regiments of cavalry for ‘service in the state.’”

“I found the governor thoroughly alarmed on account of these letters, and he assigned to me the duty of going to Washington and consulting the president and secretary of war as to the propriety of raising a number of regiments for service in the State of Illinois!’ and referred me to the secretary of war as to the propriety of raising a number of regiments for service in the State of Illinois.”

Mr. Lincoln, in response to the letter of the governor, handed him by me, answered with one of his jokes which cannot be repeated, and said: ‘Who can we trust if we can’t trust Illinois!’ and referred me to the secretary of war. The president also asked me, ‘How the boys received his proclamation?’ I told him that we thought he ought to have to negroes: ‘Arise, Peter, slay and eat.’ He said: ‘You were all opposed to the proclamation when it was first issued, were you not?’ I replied: ‘Yes.’ ‘Well, don’t you see that on an average I am about right?’”
I called on the secretary of war (Mr. Stanton) as Mr. Lincoln had proposed, after I told him my business was from Governor Yates, and that he asked authority to raise four regiments of cavalry for service in Illinois, he said: ‘You are to command these troops, are you not?’ and when I replied, ‘No, I am not, and would refuse the command of troops raised for service in my own state and amongst my own people. I have a command of Illinois regiments which is entirely satisfactory to me. He then said: ‘That shows the d-d nonsense of the whole thing; if you thought your own family and friends were in danger, you would be willing to command troops raised to protect them.’ I reported to Governor Yates by letter and returned to my command which was in Tennessee.”169

According to Alexander K. McClure, California Democrat [Thomas] Shannon, from California visited President Lincoln soon after in 1861 inauguration: “In the conversation that ensued, Mr Shannon said: ‘Mr. President, I met an old friend of yours in California last summer, a Mr. Campbell, who had a good deal to say of your Springfield life.’ ‘Ah!” returned Mr. Lincoln, ‘I am glad to hear of him. Campbell used to be a dry fellow in those days,” he continued. “For a time he was Secretary of State. One day during the legislative vacation, a meek, cadaverous-looking man, with a white neckcloth, introduced himself to him at his office, and, stating that he had been informed that Mr. C. had the letting of the hall of representatives, he wished to secure it, if possible, for a course of lectures he desired to deliver in Springfield. “‘May I ask,’ said the Secretary, ‘what is to be the subject of your lectures?’ “‘Certainly,’ was the reply, with a very solemn expression of countenance. ‘The course I wish to deliver is on the Second Coming of our Lord.’”

“‘It is of no use,’ said C., ‘if you will take my advice, you will not waste your time in this city. It is my private opinion that, if the Lord has been in Springfield once, He will never come the second time!’”170

One perhaps apocryphal story was added by McClure: “A New York firm applied to Abraham Lincoln, some years before he became President, for information as to the financial standing of one of his neighbors. Mr. Lincoln replied: “I am well acquainted with Mr.– and know his circumstances. First of all, he has a wife and baby; together they ought to be worth $50,000 to any man. Secondly, he has an office in which there is a table worth $1.50 and three chairs worth, say, $1. Last of all, there is in one corner a large rat hole, which will bear looking into. Respectfully, A. Lincoln.”171

Shortly before he was assassinated, Mr. Lincoln said: “How happy, four years hence, will I be to return there [to Springfield] in peace and tranquility”172 Springfield turned out in force when Mr. Lincoln’s funeral train arrived in the city on May 3, 1865. William Herndon wrote: “The casket was borne to the State House and placed in Representative Hall – the very chamber in which in 1854 the deceased had pronounced that fearful invective against the sin of human slavery. The doors were thrown open, the coffin lid was removed, and we who had known the illustrious dead in others days, and before the nation lay its claim upon him, moved sadly through and looked for the last time on the silent, upturned face of our departed friend. All day long and through the night a stream of people filed reverently by the catafalque. Some of them were in colleagues at the bar; some his old friends from New Salem; some crippled soldiers fresh from the battlefields of the war; and some were little children who, scare realizing the impressiveness of the scene were destined to live and tell their children yet to be born the sad story of Lincoln’s death. 173

Mr. Lincoln was buried on May 4 at the Oak Ridge Cemetery outside of Springfield. Several Springfield leaders wanted to create a memorial at a grave in downtown Springfield. As one resident wrote at the time: “The people have bought the Mather grounds in the heart of the city six acres for a burial place. It is a beautiful grove of native trees. They got it for $5300.00 and have a vault nearly finished, but last night Mrs. Telegraphed that she would not let him be buried there. The people are in a rage about it and all the hard stories that ever were told about her are told all over again. She has no friends here…” 174 Mrs. Lincoln, distraught as she was in her grief, had a friend write local officials: “I have been requested by Mrs. Lincoln to say that if her wishes and directions in regard to her husband’s remains are complied with she will remove them to Chicago next June.”175


 
References

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