"When he had retired to his hotel after the trial, and while conversing with a number of gentlemen who had called to pay their respects to him, Lincoln was informed that an old colored woman, who had known him years before in Kentucky, wished to see him. She was too feeble to come to him, and desired him to go to her. Ascertaining where she lived, Lincoln started at once, accompanied by a boy who acted as pilot. He found the woman in a wretched hovel in the outskirts of the town, sick and destitute. He remembered her very well, as she had belonged to the owner of the farm upon which Lincoln was born. He gave her money to supply her immediate wants, promised her that he would see she did not suffer for the necessaries of life, and when he returned to town hunted up a physician and engaged him to give the old woman all the medical attention that her case demanded."
Mr. G.W. Harris, whose first meeting with Lincoln in a log school-house has been previously described in these pages, subsequently became a clerk in Lincoln's law-office at Springfield, and furnishes some excellent reminiscences of that interesting period. "A crack-brained attorney who lived in Springfield, supported mainly by the other lawyers of the place, became indebted, in the sum of two dollars and fifty cents, to a wealthy citizen of the county, a recent comer. The creditor, failing after repeated efforts to collect the amount due him, came to Mr. Lincoln and asked him to bring suit. Lincoln explained the man's condition and circumstances, and advised his client to let the matter rest; but the creditor's temper was up, and he insisted on having suit brought. Again Lincoln urged him to let the matter drop, adding, 'You can make nothing out of him, and it will cost you a good deal more than the debt to bring suit.' The creditor was still determined to have his way, and threatened to seek some other attorney who would be more willing to take charge of the matter than Lincoln appeared to be. Lincoln then said, 'Well, if you are determined that suit shall be brought, I will bring it; but my charge will be ten dollars.' The money was paid him, and peremptory orders were given that the suit be brought that day. After the client's departure, Lincoln went out of the office, returning in about an hour with an amused look on his face. I asked what pleased him, and he replied, 'I brought suit against ——, and then hunted him up, told him what I had done, handed him half of the ten dollars, and we went over to the squire's office. He confessed judgment and paid the bill.' Lincoln added that he didn't see any other way to make things satisfactory for his client as well as the rest of the parties.
"Mr. Lincoln had a heart that was more a woman's than a man's—filled to overflowing with sympathy for those in trouble, and ever ready to relieve them by any means in his power. He was ever thoughtful of others' comforts, even to the forgetting of himself. In those early days his face wore a sad look when at rest—a look that made you feel that you would like to take from him a part of his burden. One who knew him then and had known his career since would be inclined to think that he already felt premonitions of the heavy burdens that his broad shoulders were to bear, and the sorrows that his kind heart would have to endure.
"Mr. Lincoln was fond of playing chess and checkers, and usually acted cautiously upon the defensive until the game had reached a stage where aggressive movements were clearly justified. He was also somewhat fond of ten-pins, and occasionally indulged in a game. Whatever may have been his tastes in his younger days, at this period of his life he took no interest in fishing-rod or gun. He was indifferent to dress, careless almost to a fault of his personal appearance. The same indifference extended to money. So long as his wants were supplied—and they were few and simple—he seemed to have no further use for money, except in the giving or the lending of it, with no expectation or desire for its return, to those whom he thought needed it more than he. Debt he abhorred, and under no circumstances would he incur it. He was abstemious in every respect. I have heard him say that he did not know the taste of liquor. At the table he preferred plain food, and a very little satisfied him.
"Under no circumstances would he, as an attorney, take a case he knew to be wrong. Every possible means was used to get at the truth before he would undertake a case. More cases, by his advice, were settled without trial than he carried into the courts; and that, too, without charge. When on one occasion I suggested that he ought to make a charge in such cases, he laughingly answered, 'They wouldn't want to pay me; they don't think I have earned a fee unless I take the case into court and make a speech or two.' When trivial cases were brought to him, such as would most probably be carried no farther than a magistrate's office, and he could not induce a settlement without trial, he would generally refer them to some young attorney, for whom he would speak a good word at the same time. He was ever kind and courteous to these young beginners when he was the opposing counsel. He had a happy knack of setting them at their ease and encouraging them. In consequence he was the favorite of all who came in contact with him. When his heart was in a case he was a powerful advocate. I have heard more than one attorney say that it was little use to expect a favorable verdict in any case where Lincoln was opposing counsel, as his simple statements of the facts had more weight with the jury than those of the witnesses.
"As a student (if such a term could be applied to Mr. Lincoln) one who did not know him might have called him indolent. He would pick up a book and run rapidly over the pages, pausing here and there. At the end of an hour—never, as I remember, more than two or three hours—he would close the book, stretch himself out on the office lounge, and with hands under his head and eyes shut he would digest the mental food he had just taken.
"In the spring of 1846, war between the United States and Mexico broke out. Mr. Lincoln was opposed to the war. He looked upon it as unnecessary and unjust. Volunteers were called for. John J. Hardin, who lost his life in that war, and Edward D. Baker, who was killed at Ball's Bluff during our Civil War—both Whigs—were engaged in raising regiments. Meetings were held and speeches made. At one of them, after Baker and others had spoken, Lincoln, who was in the audience, was called for, and the call was repeated until at last he ascended the platform. He thanked the audience for the compliment paid him in the wish they had expressed to hear him talk, and said he would gladly make them a speech if he had anything to say. But he was not going into the war; and as he was not going himself, he did not feel like telling others to go. He would simply leave it to each individual to do as he thought his duty called for. After a few more remarks, and a story 'with a nib to it,' he bowed himself off the platform.
"About a year after this, Mr. Lincoln was seeking to be nominated as a candidate for Congress. Finding the writing of letters (at his dictation) to influential men in the different counties and even precincts of the district somewhat burdensome, I suggested printing circulars. He objected, on the ground that a printed letter would not have the same effect that a written one would; the latter had the appearance of personality, it was more flattering to the receiver, and would more certainly gain his assistance, or at least his good-will. In discussing the probabilities of his nomination, I remarked that there was so much unfairness, if not downright trickery, used that it appeared to me almost useless to seek a nomination without resort to similar means. His reply was: 'I want to be nominated; I would like to go to Congress; but if I cannot do so by fair means, I prefer to stay at home.' He was nominated, and in the following fall was elected by a majority over three times as large as the district had ever before given.
"Mr. Lincoln, like many others in their callow days, scribbled verses; and so far as I was capable of judging, their quality was above the average. It was accidentally that I learned this. In arranging the books and papers in the office, I found two or three quires of letter-paper stitched together in book form, nearly filled with poetical effusions in Mr. Lincoln's handwriting, and evidently original. I looked through them somewhat hurriedly, and when Lincoln came in I showed him the manuscript, asking him if it was his. His response was, 'Where did you find it?' and rolling it up, he put it in his coat-tail pocket; and I saw it no more. Afterwards, in speaking of the matter to Mr. Lincoln's partner, he said, 'I believe he has at times scribbled some verses; but he is, I think, somewhat unwilling to have it known.'"
Lincoln's love of poetry is further shown by the following incident, related by a gentleman who visited the old law-office of Lincoln & Herndon, at Springfield. He says: "I took up carelessly, as I stood thinking, a handsome octavo volume lying on the office table. It opened so persistently at one place, as I handled it, that I looked to see what it was, and found that somebody had thoroughly thumbed the pages of 'Don Juan.' I knew Mr. Herndon was not a man to dwell on it, and it darted through my mind that perhaps it had been a favorite with Lincoln. 'Did Mr. Lincoln ever read this book?' I said, hurriedly. 'That book!' said Herndon, looking up from his writing and taking it out of my hand. 'Oh, yes; he read it often. It is the office copy.'" Lincoln was so fond of the book that he kept it ready to his hand.
Mr. John T. Stuart, Lincoln's first law-partner, says of him that his accounts were correctly kept, but in a manner peculiar to himself. Soon after their law-partnership was formed, Mr. Stuart was elected to Congress, thereafter spending much of his time in Washington. Lincoln conducted the business of the firm in his absence. When Mr. Stuart reached home, at the close of the first session of Congress, Lincoln proceeded to give him an account of the earnings of the office during his absence. The charges for fees and entry of receipts of money were not in an account book, but stowed away in a drawer in Lincoln's desk, among the papers in each case. He proceeded to lay the papers before Mr. Stuart, taking up each case by itself. The account would run in this way:
Fees charged in this case................$ Amount collected.........................$ Stuart's half............................$
The half that belonged to Mr. Stuart would invariably accompany the papers in the case. Lincoln had the reputation of being very moderate in his charges. He was never grasping, and seemed incapable of believing that his services could be worth much to anyone.
One of the most famous cases in which Lincoln engaged was that of William D. Armstrong, son of Jack and Hannah Armstrong of New Salem, the child whom Lincoln had rocked in the cradle while Mrs. Armstrong attended to other household duties. Jack Armstrong, it will be remembered, was an early friend of Lincoln's, whom he had beaten in a wrestling-match on his first arrival in New Salem. He and his wife had from that time treated the youth with the utmost kindness, giving him a home when he was out of work, and showing him every kindness it was in their power to offer. Lincoln never forgot his debt of gratitude to them; and when Hannah, now a widow, wrote to him of the peril her boy was in, and besought him to help them in their extremity, he replied promptly that he would do what he could. The circumstances were these: "In the summer of 1857, at a camp-meeting in Mason County, one Metzgar was most brutally murdered. The affray took place about half a mile from the place of worship, near some wagons loaded with liquor and provisions. Two men, James H. Norris and William D. Armstrong, were indicted for the crime. Norris was tried in Mason County, convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to the penitentiary for a term of eight years. The popular feeling being very high against Armstrong in Mason County, he took a change of venue to Cass County, and was there tried (at Beardstown) in the spring of 1858. Hitherto Armstrong had had the services of two able counsellors; but now their efforts were supplemented by those of a most determined and zealous volunteer. The case was so clear against the accused that defense seemed almost useless. The strongest evidence was that of a man who swore that at eleven o'clock at night he saw Armstrong strike the deceased on the head; that the moon was shining brightly, and was nearly full; and that its position in the sky was just about that of the sun at ten o'clock in the morning, and by it he saw Armstrong give the mortal blow." This was fatal, unless the effect could be broken by contradiction or impeachment. Lincoln quietly looked up an almanac, and found that at the time this witness declared the moon to have been shining with full light there was no moon at all. Lincoln made the closing argument. "At first," says Mr. Walker, one of the counsel associated with him, "he spoke very slowly and carefully, reviewing the testimony and pointing out its contradictions, discrepancies and impossibilities. When he had thus prepared the way, he called for an almanac, and showed that at the hour at which the principal witness swore he had seen, by the light of the full moon, the mortal blow given, there was no moon. The last fifteen minutes of his speech were as eloquent as I ever heard; and such were the power and earnestness with which he spoke to that jury, that all sat as if entranced, and, when he was through, found relief in a gush of tears." Said one of the prosecutors: "He took the jury by storm. There were tears in Mr. Lincoln's eyes while he spoke, but they were genuine. His sympathies were fully enlisted in favor of the young man, and his terrible sincerity could not help but arouse the same passion in the jury. I have said a hundred times that it was Lincoln's speech that saved that man from the gallows." "Armstrong was not cleared by any want of testimony against him, but by the irresistible appeal of Mr. Lincoln in his favor," says Mr. Shaw, one of the associates in the prosecution. His mother, who sat near during Lincoln's appeal, says: "He told the stories about our first acquaintance, and what I did for him and how I did it. Lincoln said to me, 'Hannah, your son will be cleared before sundown.' He and the other lawyers addressed the jury, and closed the case. I went down to Thompson's pasture. Stator came to me and told me that my son was cleared and a free man. I went up to the court-house; the jury shook hands with me, so did the court, so did Lincoln. We were all affected, and tears were in Lincoln's eyes. He then remarked to me, 'Hannah, what did I tell you? I pray to God that William may be a good boy hereafter; that this lesson may prove in the end a good lesson to him and to all.' After the trial was over, Lincoln came down to where I was in Beardstown. I asked him what he charged me; told him I was poor. He said, 'Why, Hannah, I shan't charge you a cent—never. Anything I can do for you I will do willingly and without charges.' He wrote to me about some land which some men were trying to get from me, and said, 'Hannah, they can't get your land. Let them try it in the Circuit Court, and then you appeal it. Bring it to the Supreme Court, and Herndon and I will attend to it for nothing.'"
Lincoln regarded himself not only as the legal adviser of unfortunate people, but as their friend and protector; and he would never press them for pay for his services. A client named Cogdal was unfortunate in business, and gave Lincoln a note in payment of legal fees. Soon afterwards he met with an accident by which he lost a hand. Meeting Lincoln some time after, on the steps of the State House, the kind lawyer asked him how he was getting along. "Badly enough," replied Mr. Cogdal. "I am both broken up in business and crippled." Then he added, "I have been thinking about that note of yours." Lincoln, who had probably known all about Mr. Cogdal's troubles, and had prepared himself for the meeting, took out his pocket-book, and saying, with a laugh, "Well you needn't think any more about it," handed him the note. Mr. Cogdal protesting, Lincoln said, "Even if you had the money, I would not take it," and hurried away.
Mr. G.L. Austin thus describes an incident of Lincoln's career at the bar: "Mr. Lincoln was once associated with Mr. Leonard Swett in defending a man accused of murder. He listened to the testimony which witness after witness gave against his client, until his honest heart could stand it no longer; then, turning to his associate, he said: 'Swett, the man is guilty; you defend him; I can't.' Swett did defend him, and the man was acquitted. When proffered his share of the large fee, Lincoln most emphatically declined it, on the ground that 'all of it belonged to Mr. Swett, whose ardor and eloquence saved a guilty man from justice.'"
At a term of court in Logan County, a man named Hoblit had brought suit against a man named Farmer. The suit had been appealed from a justice of the peace, and Lincoln knew nothing of it until he was retained by Hoblit to try the case in the Circuit Court. G.A. Gridley, then of Bloomington, appeared for the defendant. Judge Treat, afterwards on the United States bench, was the presiding judge at the trial. Lincoln's client went upon the witness stand and testified to the account he had against the defendant, gave the amount due after allowing all credits and set-offs, and swore positively that it had not been paid. The attorney for the defendant simply produced a receipt in full, signed by Hoblit prior to the beginning of the case. Hoblit had to admit the signing of the receipt, but told Lincoln he "supposed the cuss had lost it." Lincoln at once arose and left the court-room. The Judge told the parties to proceed with the case; and Lincoln not appearing, Judge Treat directed a bailiff to go to the hotel and call him. The bailiff ran across the street to the hotel, and found Lincoln sitting in the office with his feet on the stove, apparently in a deep study, when he interrupted him with: "Mr. Lincoln, the Judge wants you." "Oh, does he?" replied Lincoln. "Well, you go back and tell the Judge I cannot come. Tell him I have to wash my hands." The bailiff returned with the message, and Lincoln's client suffered a non-suit. It was Lincoln's way of saying he wanted nothing more to do with such a case.
Lincoln would never advise clients into unwise or unjust lawsuits. He would always sacrifice his own interests, and refuse a retainer, rather than be a party to a case which did not command the approval of his sense of justice. He was once waited upon by a lady who held a real-estate claim which she desired to have him prosecute, putting into his hands, with the necessary papers, a check for two hundred and fifty dollars as a retaining fee. Lincoln said he would look the case over, and asked her to call again the next day. Upon presenting herself, he told her that he had gone through the papers very carefully, and was obliged to tell her frankly that there was "not a peg" to hang her claim upon, and he could not conscientiously advise her to bring an action. The lady was satisfied, and, thanking him, rose to go. "Wait," said Lincoln, fumbling in his vest pocket; "here is the check you left with me." "But, Mr. Lincoln," returned the lady, "I think you have earned that." "No, no," he responded, handing it back to her; "that would not be right. I can't take pay for doing my duty." To a would-be client who had carefully stated his case, to which Lincoln had listened with the closest attention, he said: "Yes, there is no reasonable doubt that I can gain your case for you. I can set a whole neighborhood at loggerheads; I can distress a widowed mother and her six fatherless children, and thereby get for you six hundred dollars, which rightfully belongs, it appears to me, as much to the woman and her children as it does to you. You must remember that some things that are legally right are not morally right. I shall not take your case, but will give you a little advice, for which I will charge you nothing. You seem to be a sprightly, energetic man. I would advise you to try your hand at making six hundred dollars some other way."
Senator McDonald states that he saw a jury trial in Illinois, at which Lincoln defended an old man charged with assault and battery. No blood had been spilled, but there was malice in the prosecution, and the chief witness was eager to make the most of it. On cross-examination, Lincoln "gave him rope" and drew him out; asked him how long the fight lasted and how much ground it covered. The witness thought the fight must have lasted half an hour and covered an acre of ground. Lincoln called his attention to the fact that nobody was hurt, and then with an inimitable air asked him if he didn't think it was "a mighty small crop for an acre of ground." The jury rejected the prosecution's claim.
Many of the stories told of Lincoln at the bar are extremely ridiculous, and represent him in anything but a dignified light. But they are a part of the character of the man, and should be given wherever there is reason to suppose they are genuine. Besides, they are usually full of a humor that is irresistible. Such an incident is given by the Hon. Lawrence Weldon, Lincoln's old friend and legal associate in Illinois. "I can see him now," says Judge Weldon, "through the decaying memories of thirty years, standing in the corner of the old court-room, and as I approached him with a paper I did not understand, he said: 'Wait until I fix this plug for my gallus, and I will pitch into that like a dog at a root.' While speaking, he was busily engaged in trying to connect his suspender with his trousers by making a 'plug' perform the function of a button. Lincoln liked old-fashioned words, and never failed to use them if they could be sustained as proper. He was probably accustomed to say 'gallows,' and he never adopted the modern word 'suspender.'"
On a certain occasion Lincoln appeared at the trial of a case in which his friend Judge Logan was his opponent. It was a suit between two farmers who had had a disagreement over a horse-trade. On the day of the trial, Mr. Logan, having bought a new shirt, open in the back, with a huge standing collar, dressed himself in extreme haste, and put on the shirt with the bosom at the back, a linen coat concealing the blunder. He dazed the jury with his knowledge of "horse points"; and as the day was sultry, took off his coat and "summed" up in his shirt-sleeves. Lincoln, sitting behind him, took in the situation, and when his turn came he remarked to the jury: "Gentlemen, Mr. Logan has been trying for over an hour to make you believe he knows more about a horse than these honest old farmers who are witnesses. He has quoted largely from his 'horse doctor,' and now, gentlemen, I submit to you," (here he lifted Logan out of his chair, and turned him with his back to the jury and the crowd, at the same time flapping up the enormous standing collar) "what dependence can you place in his horse knowledge, when he has not sense enough to put on his shirt?" Roars of laughter greeted this exposition, and the verdict was given to Lincoln.
The preceding incident leads to another, in which Lincoln himself figures as a horse-trader. The scene is a very humorous one; and, as usual in an encounter of wit, Lincoln came out ahead. He and a certain Judge once got to bantering each other about trading horses; and it was agreed that the next morning at nine o'clock they should make a trade, the horses to be unseen up to that hour,—and no backing out, under a forfeit of twenty-five dollars. At the hour appointed the Judge came up, leading the sorriest looking specimen of a nag ever seen in those parts. In a few minutes Lincoln was seen approaching with a wooden saw-horse upon his shoulders. Great were the shouts and the laughter of the crowd; and these increased, when Lincoln, surveying the Judge's animal, set down his saw-horse, and exclaimed: "Well, Judge, this is the first time I ever got the worst of it in a horse-trade!"
There has been much discussion as to Lincoln's rank and ability as a lawyer. Opinion among his contemporaries seems to have been somewhat divided. Mr. Herndon felt warranted in saying that he was at the same time a very great and a very insignificant lawyer. His mind was logical and direct. Generalities and platitudes had no charm for him. He had the ability to seize the strong points of a case and present them with clearness and compactness. His power of comparison was great. He rarely failed in a legal discussion to use this mode of reasoning. Yet he knew practically nothing of the rules of evidence, of pleading, of practice, as laid down in the text-books, and seemed to care little about them. Sometimes he lost cases of the plainest justice which the most inexperienced lawyer could have won. He looked upon two things as essential to his success in a case. One was time; he was slow in reasoning and slow in speech. The other was confidence that the cause he represented was just. "If either of these were lacking," said Mr. Herndon, "Lincoln was the weakest man at the bar. When it fell to him to address the jury he often relied absolutely on the inspiration of the moment,—but he seldom failed to carry his point."
Among the great number of opinions of Lincoln's rank as a lawyer, expressed by his professional brethren, a few may properly be given in closing this chapter, which is devoted chiefly to Mr. Lincoln's professional career. First we may quote the brief but emphatic words of the distinguished jurist, Judge Sidney Breese, Chief Justice of Illinois, who said: "For my single self, I have for a quarter of a century regarded Mr. Lincoln as the finest lawyer I ever knew, and of a professional bearing so high-toned and honorable, as justly, and without derogating from the claims of others, entitling him to be presented to the profession as a model well worthy of the closest imitation."
Another distinguished Chief Justice, Hon. John Dean Caton; says: "In 1840 or 1841, I met Mr. Lincoln, and was for the first time associated with him in a professional way. We attended the Circuit Court at Pontiac, Judge Treat presiding, where we were both engaged in the defense of a man by the name of Lavinia. That was the first and only time I was associated with him at the bar. He practiced in a circuit that was beyond the one in which I practiced, and consequently we were not brought together much in the practice of the law. He stood well at the bar from the beginning. I was a younger man, but an older lawyer. He was not admitted to the bar till after I was. I was not closely connected with him. Indeed, I did not meet him often, professionally, until I went on the bench in 1842; and he was then in full practice before the Supreme Court, and continued to practice there regularly at every term until he was elected President. Mr. Lincoln understood the relations of things, and hence his deductions were rarely wrong from any given state of facts. So he applied the principles of law to the transactions of men with great clearness and precision. He was a close reasoner. He reasoned by analogy, and enforced his views by apt illustration. His mode of speaking was generally of a plain and unimpassioned character, and yet he was the author of some of the most beautiful and eloquent passages in our language, which, if collected, would form a valuable contribution to American literature. The most punctilious honor ever marked his professional and private life."
The Hon. Thomas Drummond, for many years Judge of the United States District Court at Chicago, said: "It is not necessary to claim for Mr. Lincoln attributes or qualities which he did not possess. He had enough to entitle him to the love and respect and esteem of all who knew him. He was not skilled in the learning of the schools, and his knowledge of the law was acquired almost entirely by his own unaided study and by the practice of his profession. Nature gave him great clearness and acuteness of intellect and a vast fund of common-sense; and as a consequence of these he had much sagacity in judging of the motives and springs of human conduct. With a voice by no means pleasing, and, indeed, when excited, in its shrill tones sometimes almost disagreeable; without any of the personal graces of the orator; without much in the outward man indicating superiority of intellect; without great quickness of perception,—still, his mind was so vigorous, his comprehension so exact and clear, and his judgments so sure, that he easily mastered the intricacies of his profession, and became one of the ablest reasoners and most impressive speakers at our bar. With a probity of character known to all, with an intuitive insight into the human heart, with a clearness of statement which was itself an argument, with an uncommon power and facility of illustration, often, it is true, of a plain and homely kind, and with that sincerity and earnestness of manner to carry conviction, he was perhaps one of the most successful jury lawyers we have ever had in the State. He always tried a case fairly and honestly. He never intentionally misrepresented the testimony of a witness or the arguments of an opponent. He met both squarely, and, if he could not explain the one or answer the other, substantially admitted it. He never misstated the law according to his own intelligent view of it. Such was the transparent candor and integrity of his nature that he could not well or strongly argue a side or a cause that he thought wrong. Of course, he felt it his duty to say what could be said, and to leave the decision to others; but there could be seen in such cases the inward struggle in his own mind. In trying a cause he might occasionally dwell too long or give too much importance to an inconsiderable point; but this was the exception, and generally he went straight to the citadel of a cause or a question, and struck home there, knowing if that were won the outwork would necessarily fall. He could hardly be called very learned in his profession, and yet he rarely tried a cause without fully understanding the law applicable to it. I have no hesitation in saying he was one of the ablest lawyers I have ever known. If he was forcible before the jury he was equally so with the court. He detected with unerring sagacity the marked points of his opponents' arguments, and pressed his own views with overwhelming force. His efforts were quite unequal, and it may have been that he would not on some occasions strike one as at all remarkable; but let him be thoroughly aroused, let him feel that he was right and that some great principle was involved in his case, and he would come out with an earnestness of conviction, a power of argument, and a wealth of illustration, that I have never seen surpassed.... Simple in his habits, without pretensions of any kind, and distrustful of himself, he was willing to yield precedence and place to others, when he ought to have claimed them for himself. He rarely, if ever, sought office except at the urgent solicitations of his friends. In substantiation of this, I may be permitted to relate an incident which now occurs to me. Prior to his nomination for the Presidency, and, indeed, when his name was first mentioned in connection with that high office, I broached the subject upon the occasion of meeting him here. His response was, 'I hope they will select some abler man than myself.'"
Mr. C.S. Parks, a lawyer associated with Lincoln for some years, furnishes the following testimony concerning his more prominent qualities: "I have often said that for a man who was for a quarter of a century both a lawyer and a politician he was the most honest man I ever knew. He was not only morally honest, but intellectually so. He could not reason falsely; if he attempted it, he failed. In politics he would never try to mislead. At the bar, when he thought he was wrong, he was the weakest lawyer I ever saw."
Hon. David Davis, afterwards Associate Justice U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Senator, presided over the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Illinois during the remaining years of Lincoln's practice at the bar. He was united to Lincoln in close bonds of friendship, and year after year travelled with him over the circuit, put up with him at the same hotels, and often occupied the same room with him. "This simple life," says Judge Davis, "Mr. Lincoln loved, preferring it to the practice of the law in the city. In all the elements that constitute the great lawyer, he had few equals. He seized the strong points of a cause, and presented them with clearness and great compactness. He read law-books but little, except when the cause in hand made it necessary; yet he was unusually self-reliant, depending on his own resources, and rarely consulting his brother lawyers either on the management of his case or the legal questions involved. He was the fairest and most accommodating of practitioners, granting all favors which he could do consistently with his duty to his client, and rarely availing himself of an unwary oversight of his adversary. He hated wrong and oppression everywhere, and many a man, whose fraudulent conduct was undergoing review in a court of justice, has withered under his terrific indignation and rebuke."
Mr. Speed says: "As a lawyer, after his first year he was acknowledged to be among the best in the State. His analytical powers were marvellous. He always resolved every question into its primary elements, and gave up every point on his own side that did not seem to be invulnerable. One would think, to hear him present his case in the court, he was giving his case away. He would concede point after point to his adversary. But he always reserved a point upon which he claimed a decision in his favor, and his concessions magnified the strength of his claim. He rarely failed in gaining his cases in court."
The special characteristics of Lincoln's practice at the bar are thus ably summed up: "He did not make a specialty of criminal cases, but was engaged frequently in them. He could not be called a great lawyer, measured by the extent of his acquirement of legal knowledge; he was not an encyclopaedia of cases; but in the clear perception of legal principles, with natural capacity to apply them, he had great ability. He was not a case lawyer, but a lawyer who dealt in the deep philosophy of the law. He always knew the cases which might be quoted as absolute authority, but beyond that he contented himself in the application and discussion of general principles. In the trial of a case he moved cautiously. He never examined or cross-examined a witness to the detriment of his side. If the witness told the truth, he was safe from his attacks; but woe betide the unlucky and dishonest individual who suppressed the truth or colored it against Mr. Lincoln's side. His speeches to the jury were very effective specimens of forensic oratory. He talked the vocabulary of the people, and the jury understood every point he made and every thought he uttered. I never saw him when I thought he was trying to make an effort for the sake of mere display; but his imagination was simple and pure in the richest gems of true eloquence. He constructed short sentences of small words, and never wearied the minds of the jury by mazes of elaboration."
Lincoln and Slavery—The Issue Becoming More Sharply Defined—Resistance to the Spread of Slavery—Views Expressed by Lincoln in 1850—His Mind Made Up—Lincoln as a Party Leader—The Kansas Struggle—Crossing Swords with Douglas—A Notable Speech by Lincoln—Advice to Kansas Belligerents—Honor in Politics—Anecdote of Lincoln and Yates—Contest for the U.S. Senate in 1855—Lincoln's Defeat—Sketched by Members of the Legislature.
At the death of Henry Clay, in June, 1852, Lincoln was invited to deliver a eulogy on Clay's life and character before the citizens of Springfield. He complied with the request on the 16th of July. The same season he made a speech before the Scott Club of Springfield, in reply to the addresses with which Douglas had opened his extended campaign of that summer, at Richmond, Virginia. Except on these two occasions, Lincoln took but little part in politics until the passage of the Nebraska Bill by Congress in 1854. The enactment of this measure impelled him to take a firmer stand upon the question of slavery than he had yet assumed. He had been opposed to the institution on grounds of sentiment since his boyhood; now he determined to fight it from principle. Mr. Herndon states that Lincoln really became an anti-slavery man in 1831, during his visit to New Orleans, where he was deeply affected by the horrors of the traffic in human beings. On one occasion he saw a slave, a beautiful mulatto girl, sold at auction. She was felt over, pinched, and trotted around to show bidders she was sound. Lincoln walked away from the scene with a feeling of deep abhorrence. He said to John Hanks, "If I ever get a chance to hit that institution, John, I'll hit it hard!" Again, in the summer of 1841, he was painfully impressed by a scene witnessed during his journey home from Kentucky, described in a letter written at the time to the sister of his friend Speed, in which he says: "A fine example was presented on board the boat for contemplating the effect of conditions upon human happiness. A man had purchased twelve negroes in different parts of Kentucky, and was taking them to a farm in the South. They were chained six and six together; a small iron clevis was around the left wrist of each, and this was fastened to the main chain by a shorter one, at a convenient distance from the others, so that the negroes were strung together like so many fish upon a trot-line. In this condition they were being separated forever from the scenes of their childhood, their friends, their fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and many of them from their wives and children, and going into perpetual slavery."
Judge Gillespie records a conversation which he had with Lincoln in 1850 on the slavery question, remarking by way of introduction that the subject of slavery was the only one on which he (Lincoln) was apt to become excited. "I recollect meeting him once at Shelbyville," says Judge Gillespie, "when he remarked that something must be done or slavery would overrun the whole country. He said there were about six hundred thousand non-slaveholding whites in Kentucky to about thirty-three thousand slaveholders; that in the convention then recently held it was expected that the delegates would represent these classes about in proportion to their respective numbers; but when the convention assembled, there was not a single representative of the non-slaveholding class; everyone was in the interest of the slaveholders; 'and,' said he, 'the thing is spreading like wildfire over the country. In a few years we will be ready to accept the institution in Illinois, and the whole country will adopt it.' I asked him to what he attributed the change that was going on in public opinion. He said he had recently put that question to a Kentuckian, who answered by saying, 'You might have any amount of land, money in your pocket, or bank-stock, and while travelling around nobody would be any wiser; but if you had a darkey trudging at your heels, everybody would see him and know that you owned a slave. It is the most ostentatious way of displaying property in the world; if a young man goes courting, the only inquiry is as to how many negroes he owns.' The love for slave property was swallowing up every other mercenary possession. Its ownership not only betokened the possession of wealth, but indicated the gentleman of leisure who scorned labor. These things Mr. Lincoln regarded as highly pernicious to the thoughtless and giddy young men who were too much inclined to look upon work as vulgar and ungentlemanly. He was much excited, and said with great earnestness that this spirit ought to be met, and if possible checked; that slavery was a great and crying injustice, an enormous national crime, and we could not expect to escape punishment for it. I asked him how he would proceed in his efforts to check the spread of slavery. He confessed he did not see his way clearly; but I think he made up his mind that from that time he would oppose slavery actively. I know that Lincoln always contended that no man had any right, other than what mere brute force gave him, to hold a slave. He used to say it was singular that the courts would hold that a man never lost his right to property that had been stolen from him, but that he instantly lost his right to himself if he was stolen. Lincoln always contended that the cheapest way of getting rid of slavery was for the nation to buy the slaves and set them free."
While in Congress, Lincoln had declared himself plainly as opposed to slavery; and in public speeches not less than private conversations he had not hesitated to express his convictions on the subject. In 1850 he said to Major Stuart: "The time will soon come when we must all be Democrats or Abolitionists. When that time comes, my mind is made up. The slavery question cannot be compromised." The hour had now struck in which Lincoln was to espouse with his whole heart and soul that cause for which finally he was to lay down his life. In the language of Mr. Arnold, "He had bided his time. He had waited until the harvest was ripe. With unerring sagacity he realized that the triumph of freedom was at hand. He entered upon the conflict with the deepest conviction that the perpetuity of the Republic required the extinction of slavery. So, adopting as his motto, 'A house divided against itself cannot stand,' he girded himself for the contest. The years from 1854 to 1860 were on his part years of constant, active, and unwearied effort. His position in the State of Illinois was central and commanding. He was now to become the recognized leader of the anti-slavery party in the Northwest, and in all the Valley of the Mississippi. Lincoln was a practical statesman, never attempting the impossible, but seeking to do the best thing practicable under existing circumstances. He knew that prohibition in the territories would result in no more slave states and no slave territory. And now, when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise shattered all parties into fragments, he came forward to build up the Free Soil party and threw into the conflict all his strength and vigor. The conviction of his duty was deep and sincere. Hence he pleaded the cause of liberty with an energy, ability, and power which rapidly gained for him a national reputation. Conscious of the greatness of his cause, inspired by a genuine love of liberty, animated and made strong by the moral sublimity of the conflict, he solemnly announced his determination to speak for freedom and against slavery until—in his own words—wherever the Federal Government has power, 'the sun shall shine, the rain shall fall, and the wind shall blow upon no man who goes forth to unrequited toil.'"
The absorbing political topic in 1855 was the contest in Kansas, which proved the battle-ground for the struggle over the introduction of slavery into the territories north of the line established by the "Missouri Compromise." Lincoln's views on the subject are defined in a notable letter to his friend Joshua Speed, a resident of Kentucky. The following passages show, in Lincoln's own words, where he stood on the slavery question at this memorable epoch:
SPRINGFIELD, AUGUST 24, 1855.
Dear Speed:—You know what a poor correspondent I am. Ever since I received your very agreeable letter of the twenty-second of May, I have been intending to write you in answer to it. You suggest that in political action now, you and I would differ. You know I dislike slavery, and you fully admit the abstract wrong of it. So far, there is no cause of difference. But you say that sooner than yield your legal right to the slave, especially at the bidding of those who are not themselves interested, you would see the Union dissolved. I am not aware that any one is bidding you yield that right—very certainly I am not. I leave the matter entirely to yourself. I also acknowledge your rights and my obligations under the Constitution, in regard to your slaves. I confess I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down, and caught, and carried back to their stripes and unrequited toil; but I bite my lip and keep quiet. In 1841 you and I had together a tedious low-water trip on a steamboat from Louisville to St. Louis. You may remember, as I well do, that from Louisville to the mouth of the Ohio, there were on board ten or a dozen slaves, shackled together with irons. That sight was a continual torment to me; and I see something like it every time I touch the Ohio, or any other slave border. It is not fair for you to assume that I have no interest in a thing which has, and continually exercises, the power of making me miserable. You ought rather to appreciate how much the great body of the people of the North do crucify their feelings in order to maintain their loyalty to the Constitution and the Union.
I do oppose the extension of slavery, because my judgment and feelings so prompt me; and I am under no obligations to the contrary. If for this you and I must differ, differ we must. You say, if you were President you would send an army and hang the leaders of the Missouri outrages upon the Kansas elections; still, if Kansas fairly votes herself a slave State, she must be admitted, or the Union must be dissolved. But how if she votes herself a slave State unfairly—that is, by the very means for which you would hang men? Must she still be admitted, or the Union dissolved? That will be the phase of the question when it first becomes a practical one. In your assumption that there may be a fair decision of the slavery question in Kansas, I plainly see you and I would differ about the Nebraska law. I look upon that enactment not as a law but a violence from the beginning. It was conceived in violence, passed in violence, is maintained in violence, and is being executed in violence. I say it was conceived in violence, because the destruction of the Missouri Compromise under the Constitution was nothing less than violence. It was passed in violence, because it could not have passed at all but for the votes of many members in violent disregard of the known will of their constituents. It is maintained in violence, because the elections since clearly demand its repeal; and the demand is openly disregarded. That Kansas will form a slave constitution, and with it will ask to be admitted into the Union, I take to be already a settled question, and so settled by the very means you so pointedly condemn. By every principle of law ever held by any court, North or South, every negro taken to Kansas is free; yet in utter disregard of this—in the spirit of violence merely—that beautiful Legislature gravely passes a law to hang any man who shall venture to inform a negro of his legal rights. This is the substance and real object of the law. If, like Haman, they should hang upon the gallows of their own building, I shall not be among the mourners for their fate. In my humble sphere I shall advocate the restoration of the Missouri Compromise so long as Kansas remains a Territory; and, when, by all these foul means, it seeks to come into the Union as a slave State, I shall oppose it.... You inquire where I now stand. That is a disputed point. I think I am a Whig; but others say there are no Whigs, and that I am an Abolitionist. When I was in Washington I voted for the Wilmot Proviso as good as forty times, and I never heard of any attempt to unwhig me for that. I now do no more than oppose the extension of slavery. I am not a Know-Nothing—that is certain. How could I be? How can anyone who abhors the oppression of the negroes be in favor of degrading classes of white people? Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that 'all men are created equal.' We now practically read it 'all men are created equal, except negroes.' When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read, 'all men are created equals, except negroes and foreigners and Catholics.' When it comes to that, I should prefer emigrating to some other country where they make no pretense of loving liberty—to Russia for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.
Your friend forever, A. LINCOLN.
Lincoln was soon accorded an opportunity to cross swords again with his former political antagonist, Douglas, who had lately come from his place in the Senate Chamber at Washington, where he had carried the obnoxious Nebraska Bill against the utmost efforts of Chase, Seward, Sumner, and others, to defeat it. As Mr. Arnold narrates the incident,—"When, late in September, 1854, Douglas returned to Illinois he was received with a storm of indignation which would have crushed a man of less power and will. A bold and courageous leader, conscious of his personal power over his party, he bravely met the storm and sought to allay it. In October, 1854, the State Fair being then in session at Springfield, with a great crowd of people in attendance from all parts of the State, Douglas went there and made an elaborate and able speech in defense of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Lincoln was called upon by the opponents of this repeal to reply, and he did so with a power which he never surpassed and had never before equalled. All other issues which had divided the people were as chaff, and were scattered to the winds by the intense agitation which arose on the question of extending slavery, not merely into free territory, but into territory which had been declared free by solemn compact. Lincoln's speech occupied more than three hours in delivery, and during all that time he held the vast crowd in the deepest attention."
Mr. Herndon said of this event: "This anti-Nebraska speech of Mr. Lincoln was the profoundest that he made in his whole life. He felt burning upon his soul the truths which he uttered, and all present felt that he was true to his own soul. His feelings once or twice came near stifling utterance. He quivered with emotion. He attacked the Nebraska Bill with such warmth and energy that all felt that a man of strength was its enemy, and that he intended to blast it, if he could, by strong and manly efforts. He was most successful, and the house approved his triumph by loud and continued huzzas, while women waved their white handkerchiefs in token of heartfelt assent. Douglas felt the sting, and he frequently interrupted Mr. Lincoln; his friends felt that he was crushed by the powerful argument of his opponent. The Nebraska Bill was shivered, and, like a tree of the forest, was torn and rent asunder by hot bolts of truth. At the conclusion of this speech, every man, woman, and child felt that it was unanswerable." In speaking of the same occasion, Mr. Lamon says: "Many fine speeches were made upon the one absorbing topic; but it is no shame to any one of these orators that their really impressive speeches were but slightly appreciated or long remembered beside Mr. Lincoln's splendid and enduring performance,—enduring in the memory of his auditors, although preserved upon no written or printed page."
A few days after this encounter, Douglas spoke in Peoria, and was followed by Lincoln with the same crushing arguments that had served him at the State Fair, and with the same triumphant effect. His Peoria speech was written out by him and published after its delivery. A few specimens will show its style and argumentative power.
Argue as you will, and as long as you will, this is the naked front and aspect of the measure; and in this aspect it could not but produce agitation. Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man's nature; opposition to it, in his love of justice. These principles are an eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely as slavery extension brings them, shocks, throes, and convulsions must ceaselessly follow. Repeal the Missouri Compromise; repeal all compromises; repeal the Declaration of Independence; repeal all past history,—you still cannot repeal human nature. It still will be the abundance of man's heart, that slavery extension is wrong; and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will continue to speak.... When Mr. Pettit, in connection with his support of the Nebraska Bill, called the Declaration of Independence 'a self-evident lie,' he only did what consistency and candor require all other Nebraska men to do. Of the forty-odd Nebraska Senators who sat present and heard him, no one rebuked him.... If this had been said among Marion's men, Southerners though they were, what would have become of the man who said it? If this had been said to the men who captured Andre, the man who said it would probably have been hung sooner than Andre was. If it had been said in old Independence Hall seventy-eight years ago, the very doorkeeper would have throttled the man, and thrust him into the street.... Thus we see the plain, unmistakable spirit of that early age towards slavery was hostility to the principle, and toleration only by necessity. But now it is to be transformed into a 'sacred right.' Nebraska brings it forth, places it on the high road to extension and perpetuity, and with a pat on its back says to it: 'Go, and God speed you.' Henceforth it is to be the chief jewel of the nation, the very figurehead of the ship of state. Little by little, but steadily as man's march to the grave, we have been giving the old for the new faith. Nearly eighty years ago we began by declaring that all men are created equal; but now from that beginning we have run down to that other declaration, 'that for some men to enslave others is a sacred right of self-government.' ... In our greedy chase to make profit of the negro, let us beware lest we cancel and tear to pieces even the white man's charter of freedom.... If all earthly power were given me, I should not know what to do as to the existing institution. My first impulse would be to free all the slaves, and send them to Liberia—to their own native land. But, if they were all landed there in a day, they would all perish in the next ten days; and there are not surplus shipping and surplus money enough to carry them there in many times ten days. What then? Free them all, and keep them among us as underlings? Is it quite certain that this betters their condition? I think I would not hold one in slavery at any rate; yet the point is not clear enough for me to denounce people upon. What next? Free them, and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this; and, if mine would, we well know that those of the great mass of white people will not. A universal feeling, whether well or ill founded, cannot be safely disregarded. We cannot then make them equals. It does seem to me that systems of gradual emancipation might be adopted; but, for their tardiness in this, I will not undertake to judge our brethren of the South.
Our Republican robe is soiled—trailed in the dust. Let us repurify it. Let us turn and wash it white, in the spirit, if not the blood, of the Revolution. Let us turn slavery from its claims of 'moral right,' back upon its existing legal rights and its arguments of 'necessity.' Let us return it to the position our fathers gave it, and there let it rest in peace. Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it the practices and policy which harmonize with it. Let North and South—let all Americans—let all lovers of liberty everywhere—join in the great and good work. If we do this, we shall not only have saved the Union, but we shall have so saved it as to make and to keep it forever worthy of the saving. We shall have so saved it that the succeeding millions of free and happy people, the world over, shall rise up and call us blessed to the latest generations.
It was in one of these speeches that Lincoln's power of repartee was admirably illustrated by a most laughable retort made by him to Douglas. Mr. Ralph E. Hoyt, who was present, says: "In the course of his speech, Mr. Douglas had said, 'The Whigs are all dead.' For some time before speaking, Lincoln sat on the platform with only his homely face visible to the audience above the high desk before him. On being introduced, he arose from his chair and proceeded to straighten himself up. For a few seconds I wondered when and where his head would cease its ascent; but at last it did stop, and 'Honest Old Abe' stood before us. He commenced, 'Fellow-citizens: My friend, Mr. Douglas, made the startling announcement to-day that the Whigs are all dead. If this be so, fellow-citizens, you will now experience the novelty of hearing a speech from a dead man; and I suppose you might properly say, in the language of the old hymn:
"Hark! from the tombs a doleful sound!"'
This set the audience fairly wild with delight, and at once brought them into full confidence with the speaker."
Hating slavery though he did, Lincoln was steadily opposed to all forms of unlawful or violent opposition to it. At about the time of which we are speaking a party of Abolitionists in Illinois had become so excited over the Kansas struggle that they were determined to go to the aid of the Free-State men in that territory. As soon as Lincoln learned of this project, he opposed it strongly. When they spoke to him of "Liberty, Justice, and God's higher law," he replied in this temperate and judicious strain:
Friends, you are in the minority—in a sad minority; and you can't hope to succeed, reasoning from all human experience. You would rebel against the Government, and redden your hands in the blood of your countrymen. If you have the majority, as some of you say you have, you can succeed with the ballot, throwing away the bullet. You can peaceably, then, redeem the Government and preserve the liberties of mankind, through your votes and voice and moral influence. Let there be peace. In a democracy, where the majority rule by the ballot through the forms of law, these physical rebellions and bloody resistances are radically wrong, unconstitutional, and are treason. Better bear the ills you have than fly to those you know not of. Our own Declaration of Independence says that governments long established should not be resisted for trivial causes. Revolutionize through the ballot-box, and restore the Government once more to the affection and hearts of men, by making it express, as it was intended to do, the highest spirit of justice and liberty. Your attempt, if there be such, to resist the laws of Kansas by force, will be criminal and wicked; and all your feeble attempts will be follies, and end in bringing sorrow on your heads, and ruin the cause you would freely die to preserve.
No doubt was felt of Lincoln's sympathies; indeed, he is known to have contributed money to the Free-State cause. But it is noticeable that in this exciting episode he showed the same coolness, wisdom, moderation, love of law and order that so strongly characterized his conduct in the stormier period of the Civil War, and without which it is doubtful if he would have been able to save the nation.
Some interesting recollections of the events of this stirring period, and of Lincoln's part in them, are given by Mr. Paul Selby, for a long time editor of the "State Journal" at Springfield, and one of Lincoln's old-time friends and political associates. "While Abraham Lincoln had the reputation of being inspired by an almost unbounded ambition," says Mr. Selby, "it was of that generous quality which characterized his other attributes, and often led him voluntarily to restrain its gratification in deference to the conflicting aspirations of his friends. All remember his magnanimity towards Col. Edward D. Baker, when the latter was elected to Congress from the Springfield District in 1844, and the frankness with which he informed Baker of his own desire to be a candidate in 1846—when for the only time in his life, he was elected to that body. In 1852, Richard Yates of Jacksonville, then recognized as one of the rising young orators and statesmen of the West, was elected to Congress for the second time from the Springfield District. It was during the term following this election that the Kansas-Nebraska issue was precipitated upon the country by Senator Douglas, in the introduction of his bill for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Yates, in obedience to his impulses, which were always on the side of freedom, took strong ground against the measure—notwithstanding the fact that a majority of his constituents, though originally Whigs, were strongly conservative, as was generally the case with people who were largely of Kentucky and Tennessee origin. In 1854 the Whig party, which had been divided on the Kansas-Nebraska question, began to manifest symptoms of disintegration; while the Republican party, though not yet known by that name, began to take form. At this time I was publishing a paper at Jacksonville, Yates's home; and although from the date of my connection with it, in 1852, it had not been a political paper, the introduction of a new issue soon led me to take decided ground on the side of free territory. Lincoln at once sprang into prominence as one of the boldest, most vigorous and eloquent opponents of Mr. Douglas's measure, which was construed as a scheme to secure the admission of slavery into all the new territories of the United States. At that time Lincoln's election to a seat in Congress would probably have been very grateful to his ambition, as well as acceptable in a pecuniary point of view; and his prominence and ability had already attracted the eyes of the whole State toward him in a special degree. Having occasion to visit Springfield one day while the subject of the selection of a candidate was under consideration among the opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, I encountered Mr. Lincoln on the street. As we walked along, the subject of the choice of a candidate for Congress to succeed Yates came up, when I stated that many of the old-line Whigs and anti-Nebraska men in the western part of the district were looking to him as an available leader. While he seemed gratified by the compliment, he said: 'No; Yates has been a true and faithful Representative, and should be returned.' Yates was renominated; and although he ran ahead of his ticket, yet so far had the disorganization of the Whig party then progressed, and so strong a foothold had the pro-slavery sentiment obtained in the district, that he was defeated by Major Thomas L. Harris, of Petersburg, whom he had defeated when he first entered the field as a candidate four years before. While it is scarcely probable that Lincoln, if he had been a candidate, could have changed the result, yet the prize was one which he would then have considered worth contending for; and if the nomination could have been tendered him without doing injustice to his friend, he would undoubtedly have accepted it gladly and thrown all the earnestness and ability which he possessed into the contest. This instance only illustrates a feature of his character which has so often been recognized and commented upon—his generosity toward those among his political friends who might be regarded as occupying the position of rivals."
In 1854, during Lincoln's absence from Springfield, he was nominated as a candidate for the State Legislature. It was in one of Lincoln's periods of profound depression, and it was with the greatest difficulty that he could be persuaded to accept the nomination. "I went to see him," says one of his close political friends, Mr. William Jayne, "in order to get his consent to run. This was at his house. He was then the saddest man I ever saw—the gloomiest. He walked up and down the floor, almost crying; and to all my persuasions to let his name stand in the paper, he said, 'No, I can't. You don't know all. I say you don't begin to know one-half; and that's enough.'" His name, however, was allowed to stand, and he was elected by about 600 majority. But Lincoln was then extremely desirous of succeeding General James Shields, whose term in the United States Senate was to expire the following March. The Senate Chamber had long been the goal of his ambition. He summed up his feelings in a letter to Hon. N.B. Judd, some years after, saying, "I would rather have a full term in the United States Senate than the Presidency." He therefore resigned his seat in the Legislature—the fact that a majority in both houses was opposed to the Nebraska Bill allowing him to do so without injury to his party—and became a candidate for the Senate. But the act was futile. When the Legislature met, in February, 1855, to make choice of a Senator, a clique of anti-Nebraska Democrats held out so firmly against the nomination of Lincoln that there was danger of the Whigs leaving their candidate altogether. In this dilemma Lincoln was consulted. Mr. Lamon thus describes the incident: "Lincoln said, unhesitatingly, 'You ought to drop me and go for Trumbull; that is the only way you can defeat Matteson.' Judge Logan came up about that time, and insisted on running Lincoln still; but the latter said, 'If you do, you will lose both Trumbull and myself; and I think the cause in this case is to be preferred to men.' We adopted his suggestion, and took up Trumbull and elected him, although it grieved us to the heart to give up Lincoln." Mr. Parks, a member of the Legislature at this time, and one of Lincoln's intimate friends, said: "Mr. Lincoln was very much disappointed, for I think it was the height of his ambition to get into the United States Senate. Yet he manifested no bitterness toward Mr. Judd or the other anti-Nebraska Democrats by whom politically he was beaten, but evidently thought their motives were right. He told me several times afterwards that the election of Trumbull was the best thing that could have happened."
Hon. Elijah M. Haines, ex-Speaker of the Illinois Legislature, a resident of the State for over half a century, and one of Lincoln's early friends, was a member of the Legislature during the Senatorial struggle just referred to. His familiarity with all its incidents lends value to his distinct and vivid recollections. "Abraham Lincoln had been elected a member of the House on the Fusion ticket, with Judge Stephen T. Logan, for the district composed of Sangamon County," writes Mr. Haines. "But it being settled that the Fusion party—which was an anti-Douglas combination, including Whigs, Free-Soilers, Know-Nothings, etc.—would have a majority of the two houses on ballot, Mr. Lincoln was induced to become a candidate for United States Senator, for the support of that party. He therefore did not qualify as a member. Although Mr. Lincoln never acquired the reputation of being an office-seeker, yet it happened frequently that his name would be mentioned in connection with some important position. He became quite early in life one of the prominent leaders of the Whig party of the State, and for a long time, in connection with a few devoted associates, led the forlorn hope of that party. During a period of about twenty years there was seldom more than one Whig member in the Illinois delegation of Congressmen. The Sangamon district, in which Mr. Lincoln lived, was always sure to elect a Whig member when the party was united; but it contained quite a number of aspiring Whig orators, and there was a kind of understanding between them that no one who attained the position of Representative in Congress should hold it longer than one term; that he would then give way for the next favorite. Mr. Lincoln had held the position once, and its return to him was far in the future. The Fusion triumph in the Legislature was considered by the Whig element as a success, in which they acknowledged great obligation to Mr. Lincoln. That element in the Fusion party therefore urged his claims as the successor of General Shields. His old associate and tried friend in the Whig cause, Judge Logan, became the champion of his interests in the House of Representatives. I was present and saw something of Mr. Lincoln during the early part of the session, before the vote for Senator was taken. He was around among the members much of the time. His manner was agreeable and unassuming; he was not forward in pressing his case upon the attention of members, yet before the interview would come to a close some allusion to the Senatorship would generally occur, when he would respond in some such way as this: 'Gentlemen, that is rather a delicate subject for me to talk upon; but I must confess that I would be glad of your support for the office, if you shall conclude that I am the proper person for it.' When he had finished, he would generally take occasion to withdraw before any discussion on the subject arose. When the election of Senator occurred, in February, Lincoln received 45 votes—the highest number of any of the candidates, and within six votes of enough to secure his election. This was on the first ballot, after which Lincoln's votes declined. After the ninth ballot, Mr. Lincoln stepped forward—or, as Mr. Richmond expresses it, leaned forward from his position in the lobby—and requested the committee to withdraw his name. On the tenth ballot Judge Trumbull received fifty-one votes and was declared elected." Thus were Lincoln's political ambitions again frustrated. But their realization was only delayed for the far grander triumph that was so soon to come, although no man then foresaw its coming.
Birth of the Republican Party—Lincoln One of Its Fathers—Takes His Stand with the Abolitionists—The Bloomington Convention—Lincoln's Great Anti-Slavery Speech—A Ratification Meeting of Three—The First National Republican Convention—Lincoln's Name Presented for the Vice-Presidency—Nomination of Fremont and Dayton—Lincoln in the Campaign of 1856—His Appearance and Influence on the Stump—Regarded as a Dangerous Man—His Views on the Politics of the Future—First Visit to Cincinnati—Meeting with Edwin M. Stanton—Stanton's First Impressions of Lincoln—Regards Him as a "Giraffe"—A Visit to Cincinnati.
The year 1856 saw the dissolution of the old Whig party. It had become too narrow and restricted to answer the needs of the hour. A new platform was demanded, one that would admit the great principles and issues growing out of the slavery agitation. A convention of the Whig leaders throughout the country met at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on the 22d of February of that year, to consider the necessity of a new organization. A little later, Mr. Herndon, in the office of Lincoln, prepared a call for a convention at Bloomington, Illinois, "summoning together all those who wished to see the government conducted on the principles of Washington and Jefferson." This call was signed by the most prominent Abolitionists of Illinois, with the name of A. LINCOLN at the head. The morning after its publication, Major Stuart entered Mr. Herndon's office in a state of extreme excitement, and, as the latter relates, demanded: "'Sir, did Mr. Lincoln sign that Abolition call which is published this morning?' I answered, 'Mr. Lincoln did not sign that call.' 'Did Lincoln authorize you to sign it?' 'No, he never authorized me to sign it.' 'Then do you know that you have ruined Mr. Lincoln?' 'I did not know that I had ruined Mr. Lincoln; did not intend to do so; thought he was a made man by it; that the time had come when conservatism was a crime and a blunder.' 'You, then, take the responsibility of your acts, do you?' 'I do, most emphatically.' However, I instantly sat down and wrote to Mr. Lincoln, who was then in Pekin or Tremont—possibly at court. He received my letter, and instantly replied, either by letter or telegraph—most likely by letter—that he adopted in toto what I had done, and promised to meet the radicals—Lovejoy and such like men—among us." Mr. Herndon adds: "Never did a man change as Lincoln did from that hour. No sooner had he planted himself right on the slavery question than his whole soul seemed burning. He blossomed right out. Then, too, other spiritual things grew more real to him."
Mr. Herndon had been an Abolitionist from birth. It was an inheritance with him; but Lincoln's conversion was a gradual process, stimulated and confirmed by the influence of his companion. "From 1854 to 1860," says Mr. Herndon, "I kept putting into Lincoln's hands the speeches and sermons of Theodore Parker, Wendell Phillips, and Henry Ward Beecher. I took 'The Anti-Slavery Standard' for years before 1856, 'The Chicago Tribune,' and 'The New York Tribune'; kept them in my office, kept them purposely on my table, and would read to Lincoln the good, sharp, solid things, well put. Lincoln was a natural anti-slavery man, as I think, and yet he needed watching,—needed hope, faith, energy; and I think I warmed him."
It is stated that "when Herndon was very young—probably before Mr. Lincoln made his first protest in the Legislature of the State in behalf of liberty—Lincoln once said to him: 'I cannot see what makes your convictions so decided as regards the future of slavery. What tells you the thing must be rooted out?' 'I feel it in my bones,' was Herndon's emphatic answer. 'This continent is not broad enough to endure the contest between freedom and slavery!' It was almost in these very words that Lincoln afterwards opened the great contest with Douglas. From this time forward he submitted all public questions to what he called 'the test of Bill Herndon's bone philosophy'; and their arguments were close and protracted."
Lincoln's attitude on slavery aroused formidable opposition among his friends, and even in his own family. Mrs. Lincoln was decidedly pro-slavery in her views. Once while riding with a friend she said: "If my husband dies, his spirit will never find me residing outside the limits of a slave State." But opposition, whether from without or within, could never swerve him from a course to which conscience and reason clearly impelled him. Long before Mr. Herndon published the call for the Bloomington convention, he had said to a deputation of men from Chicago, in answer to the inquiry whether Lincoln could be trusted for freedom: "Can you trust yourselves? If you can, you can trust Lincoln forever."
The convention met at Bloomington, May 29, 1856. One of its chief incidents was a speech by Lincoln. This speech was one of the great efforts of his life, and had a powerful influence on the convention. "Never," says one of the delegates, "was an audience more completely electrified by human eloquence. Again and again his hearers sprang to their feet, and by long continued cheers expressed how deeply the speaker had aroused them." "It was there," says Mr. Herndon in one of his lectures, "that Lincoln was baptized and joined our church. He made a speech to us. I have heard or read all of Mr. Lincoln's great speeches; and I give it as my opinion that the Bloomington speech was the grand effort of his life. Heretofore, and up to this moment, he had simply argued the slavery question on grounds of policy,—on what are called the statesman's grounds,—never reaching the question of the radical and eternal right. Now he was newly baptized and freshly born; he had the fervor of a new convert; the smothered flame broke out; enthusiasm unusual to him blazed up; his eyes were aglow with inspiration; he felt a new and more vital justice; his heart was alive to the right; his sympathies burst forth; and he stood before the throne of the eternal Right, in presence of his God, and then and there unburdened his penitential and fired soul. This speech was fresh, new, genuine, odd, original; filled with fervor not unmixed with a divine enthusiasm; his head breathing out through his tender heart its truths, its sense of right, and its feeling of the good and for the good. This speech was full of fire and energy and force; it was logic; it was pathos; it was enthusiasm; it was justice, equity, truth, right, and good, set ablaze by the divine fires of a soul maddened by wrong; it was hard, heavy, knotty, gnarly, edged, and heated. I attempted for about fifteen minutes, as was usual with me then, to take notes; but at the end of that time I threw pen and paper to the dogs, and lived only in the inspiration of the hour. If Mr. Lincoln was six feet four inches high usually, at Bloomington he was seven feet, and inspired at that. From that day to the day of his death, he stood firm on the right. He felt his great cross, had his great idea, nursed it, kept it, taught it to others, and in his fidelity bore witness of it to his death, and finally sealed it with his precious blood."
The committee on resolutions at the convention found themselves, after hours of discussion, unable to agree; and at last they sent for Lincoln. He suggested that all could unite on the principles of the Declaration of Independence and hostility to the extension of slavery. "Let us," said he, "in building our new party make our cornerstone the Declaration of Independence; let us build on this rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against us." The problem was mastered, and the convention adopted the following:
Resolved, That we hold, in accordance with the opinions and practices of all the great statesmen of all parties for the first sixty years of the administration of the government, that under the Constitution Congress possesses full power to prohibit slavery in the territories; and that while we will maintain all constitutional rights of the South, we also hold that justice, humanity, the principles of freedom, as expressed in our Declaration of Independence and our National Constitution, and the purity and perpetuity of our government, require that that power should be exerted to prevent the extension of slavery into territories heretofore free.
The Bloomington convention concluded its work by choosing delegates to the National Republican convention to be held at Philadelphia the following month, for the nomination of candidates for the Presidency and Vice-presidency of the United States. And thus was organized the Republican party in Illinois, which revolutionized the politics of the State and elected Lincoln to the Presidency.
The people of Bloomington seem to have had but little sympathy with this convention. A few days later, Herndon and Lincoln tried to hold a ratification meeting; but only three persons were present—Lincoln, Herndon, and John Pain. "When Lincoln came into the court-room where the meeting was to be held," says Herndon, "there was an expression of sadness and amusement on his face. He walked to the stand, mounted it in a kind of mockery—mirth and sadness all combined—and said, 'Gentlemen, this meeting is larger than I thought it would be. I knew that Herndon and myself would come, but I did not know that anyone else would be here; and yet another has come—you, John Pain. These are sad times, and seem out of joint. All seems dead; but the age is not yet dead; it liveth as sure as our Maker liveth. Under all this seeming want of life and motion, the world does move nevertheless. Be hopeful. And now let us adjourn and appeal to the people.'"
The National convention of the Republican party met at Philadelphia in June, 1856, and adopted a declaration of principles substantially based upon those of the Bloomington convention. John C. Fremont was nominated as candidate for President. Among the names presented for Vice-president was that of Abraham Lincoln, who received 110 votes. William L. Dayton received 259 votes and was unanimously declared the nominee. Fremont and Dayton thus became the standard-bearers of the new national party. When the news reached Lincoln, in Illinois, that he had received 110 votes as nominee for the Vice-presidency, he could not at first believe that he was the man voted for, and said, "No, it could not be; it must have been the great Lincoln of Massachusetts!" He was then in one of his melancholy moods, full of depression and despondency.
In the stirring presidential campaign of 1856, Lincoln was particularly active, and rendered most efficient service to the Republican party. He spoke constantly, discussing the great question of "slavery in the territories" in a manner at once original and masterly. A graphic picture of one of these campaign gatherings is furnished by Hon. William Bross, afterwards Lieutenant-Governor of Illinois. "I first met Mr. Lincoln, to know him," says Governor Bross, "at Vandalia, the old capital of the State, in October, 1856. There was to be a political meeting in front of the old State House, in the center of the square, at 2 o'clock. Soon after that hour the sonorous voice of Dr. Curdy rang through the town: 'O, yes! O, yes! All ye who want to hear public speaking, draw near!' The crowd at once began to gather from all sides of the square. The Doctor then introduced the first speaker, and he proceeded to make the best presentation he could of the principles of the newly-formed Republican party, and the reasons why Fremont, 'the gallant pathfinder of the West,' should be elected President. About the time the first speaker closed his remarks, Hon. Ebenezer Peck and Abraham Lincoln arrived and took the stand; and both made able and effective speeches. After that, Lincoln and I frequently met during the canvass, and often afterwards I spoke with him from the same platform. The probable result of an election was often canvassed, and a noticeable fact was that in most cases he would mark the probable result below rather than above the actual majority."
Some lively reminiscences of Lincoln's appearance and efforts in this campaign are given by Mr. Noah Brooks, the well-known journalist and author, who at that time lived in Northern Illinois and attended many of the great Republican mass-meetings. "At one of these great assemblies in Ogle County," says Mr. Brooks, "to which the country people came on horseback, in farm wagons, or afoot, from far and near, there were several speakers of local celebrity. Dr. Egan of Chicago, famous for his racy stories, was one; and Joe Knox of Bureau County, a stump speaker of renown, was another attraction. Several other orators were 'on the bills' for this long-advertised 'Fremont and Dayton rally,' among them being a Springfield lawyer who had won some reputation as a close reasoner, and a capital speaker on the stump. This was Abraham Lincoln, popularly known as 'Honest Abe Lincoln.' In those days he was not so famous in our part of the State as the two speakers whom I have named. Possibly he was not so popular among the masses of the people; but his ready wit, his unfailing good humor, and the candor which gave him his character for honesty, won for him the admiration and respect of all who heard him. I remember once meeting a choleric old Democrat striding away from an open-air meeting where Lincoln was speaking, striking the earth with his cane as he stumped along, and exclaiming, 'He's a dangerous man, sir! A d——d dangerous man! He makes you believe what he says, in spite of yourself!' It was Lincoln's manner. He admitted away his whole case apparently—and yet, as his political opponents complained, he usually carried conviction with him. As he reasoned with his audience, he bent his long form over the railing of the platform, stooping lower and lower as he pursued his argument, until, having reached his point, he clinched it, usually with a question, and then suddenly sprang upright, reminding one of the springing open of a jack-knife blade. At the Ogle County meeting to which I refer, Lincoln led off, the raciest speakers being reserved for the latter part of the political entertainment. I am bound to say that Lincoln did not awaken the boisterous applause which some of those who followed him did, but his speech made a more lasting impression. It was talked about for weeks afterward in the neighborhood, and it probably changed many votes; for that was the time when Free-soil votes were being made in Northern Illinois."
Mr. Brooks had made Lincoln's acquaintance early in the day referred to; and after Lincoln had spoken, and while some of the other orators were entertaining the audience, the two drew a little off from the crowd and fell into a discussion over the political situation and prospects. "We crawled under the pendulous branches of a tree," says Mr. Brooks, "and Lincoln, lying flat on the ground, with his chin in his hands, talked on, rather gloomily as to the present but absolutely confident as to the future. I was dismayed to find that he did not believe it possible that Fremont could be elected. As if half pitying my youthful ignorance, but admiring my enthusiasm, he said, 'Don't be discouraged if we don't carry the day this year. We can't do it, that's certain. We can't carry Pennsylvania; those old Whigs down there are too strong for us. But we shall sooner or later elect our President. I feel confident of that.' 'Do you think we shall elect a Free-soil President in 1860?' I asked. 'Well, I don't know. Everything depends on the course of the Democracy. There's a big anti-slavery element in the Democratic party, and if we could get hold of that we might possibly elect our man in 1860. But it's doubtful, very doubtful. Perhaps we shall be able to fetch it by 1864; perhaps not. As I said before, the Free-soil party is bound to win in the long run. It may not be in my day; but it will be in yours, I do really believe.'" The defeat of Fremont soon verified Lincoln's prediction on that score.
A peculiarly interesting episode of Lincoln's life belongs to this period, though unrelated to political events. This was the meeting, in a professional way, with Edwin M. Stanton, at that time a prominent lawyer of Pittsburgh, afterwards the great War Secretary of President Lincoln's cabinet. The circumstances were briefly these: Among Lincoln's law cases was one connected with the patent of the McCormick Reaper; and in the summer of 1857 he visited Cincinnati to argue the case before Judge McLean of the United States Circuit Court. It was a case of great importance, involving the foundation patent of the machine which was destined to revolutionize the harvesting of grain. Reverdy Johnson was on one side of the case, and E.M. Stanton and George Harding on the other. It became necessary, in addition, to have a lawyer who was a resident of Illinois; and inquiry was made of Hon. E.B. Washburne, then in Congress, as to whether he knew a suitable man. The latter replied that "there was a man named Lincoln at Springfield, who had considerable reputation in the State." Lincoln was retained in the case, and came on to Cincinnati with a brief. Stanton and Harding saw in their associate counsel "a tall, dark, uncouth man, who did not strike them as of any account, and, indeed, they gave him hardly any chance." An interesting account of this visit, and of various incidents connected with it, has been prepared by the Hon. W.M. Dickson of Cincinnati. "Mr. Lincoln came to the city," says Mr. Dickson, "a few days before the argument took place, and remained during his stay at the house of a friend. The case was one of large importance pecuniarily, and in the law questions involved. Reverdy Johnson represented the plaintiff. Mr. Lincoln had prepared himself with the greatest care; his ambition was to speak in the case, and to measure swords with the renowned lawyer from Baltimore. It was understood between his client and himself, before his coming, that Mr. Harding of Philadelphia was to be associated with him in the case, and was to make the 'mechanical argument.' Mr. Lincoln was a little surprised and annoyed after reaching Cincinnati, to learn that his client had also associated with him Mr. Edwin M. Stanton, of Pittsburgh, and a lawyer of our own bar; the reason assigned being that the importance of the case required a man of the experience and power of Mr. Stanton to meet Mr. Johnson. The reasons given did not remove the slight conveyed in the employment, without consultation with Lincoln, of this additional counsel. He keenly felt it, but acquiesced. The trial of the case came on; the counsel for defense met each morning for consultation. On one of these occasions one of the counsel moved that only two of them should speak in the case. This motion was also acquiesced in. It had always been understood that Mr. Harding was to speak to explain the mechanism of the reapers. So this motion excluded either Mr. Lincoln or Mr. Stanton. By the custom of the bar, as between counsel of equal standing and in the absence of any action of the client, the original counsel speaks. By this rule Mr. Lincoln had precedence. Mr. Stanton suggested to Mr. Lincoln to make the speech. Mr. Lincoln answered, 'No; you speak,' Mr. Stanton replied, 'I will,' and taking up his hat, said he would go and make preparation. Mr. Lincoln acquiesced in this, but was deeply grieved and mortified; he took but little more interest in the case, though remaining until the conclusion of the trial. He seemed to be greatly depressed, and gave evidence of that tendency to melancholy which so marked his character. His parting on leaving the city cannot be forgotten. Cordially shaking the hand of his hostess, he said: 'You have made my stay here most agreeable, and I am a thousand times obliged to you; but as for repeating my visit, I must say to you I never expect to be in Cincinnati again. I have nothing against the city, but things have so happened here as to make it undesirable for me ever to return.' Thus untowardly met for the first time, Lincoln and Stanton. Little did either then suspect that they were to meet again on a larger theatre, to become the chief actors in a great historical epoch."
If Lincoln was "surprised and annoyed" at the treatment he received from Stanton, the latter was no less surprised, and a good deal more disgusted, on seeing Lincoln and learning of his connection with the case. He made no secret of his contempt for the "long, lank creature from Illinois," as he afterwards described him, "wearing a dirty linen duster for a coat, on the back of which the perspiration had splotched wide stains that resembled a dirty map of the continent." He blurted out his wrath and indignation to his associate counsel, declaring that if "that giraffe" was permitted to appear in the case he would throw up his brief and leave it. Lincoln keenly felt the affront, but his great nature forgave it so entirely that, recognizing the singular abilities of Stanton beneath his brusque exterior, he afterwards, for the public good, appointed him to a seat in his cabinet.
Lincoln, says Mr. Dickson, "remained in Cincinnati about a week, moving freely about. Yet not twenty men in the city knew him personally, or knew he was here; not a hundred would have known who he was had his name been given to them. He came with the fond hope of making fame in a forensic contest with Reverdy Johnson. He was pushed aside, humiliated and mortified. He attached to the innocent city the displeasure that filled his bosom, and shook its dust from his feet."
In his Autobiography, Moncure D. Conway records a glimpse of Lincoln during his Cincinnati visit that seems worth transcribing. "One warm evening in 1859, passing through the market-place in Cincinnati, I found there a crowd listening to a political speech in the open air. The speaker stood on the balcony of a small brick house, some lamps assisting the moonlight. Something about the speaker, and some words that reached me, led me to press nearer. I asked the speaker's name, and learned that it was Abraham Lincoln. Browning's description of the German professor, 'Three parts sublime to one grotesque,' was applicable to this man. The face had a battered and bronzed look, without being hard. His nose was prominent, and buttressed a strong and high forehead. His eyes were high-vaulted, and had an expression of sadness; his mouth and chin were too close together, the cheeks hollow. On the whole, Lincoln's appearance was not attractive until one heard his voice, which possessed variety of expression, earnestness, and shrewdness in every tone. The charm of his manner was that he had no manner; he was simple, direct, humorous. He pleasantly repeated a mannerism of his opponent,—'This is what Douglas calls his 'gur-reat per-rinciple.' But the next words I remember were these: 'Slavery is wrong.'"
The Great Lincoln-Douglas Debate—Rivals for the U.S. Senate—Lincoln's "House-Divided-against-Itself" Speech—An Inspired Oration—Alarming His Friends—Challenges Douglas to a Joint Discussion—The Champions Contrasted—Their Opinions of Each Other—Lincoln and Douglas on the Stump—Slavery the Leading Issue—Scenes and Anecdotes of the Great Debate—Pen-Picture of Lincoln on the Stump—Humors of the Campaign—Some Sharp Rejoinders—Words of Soberness—Close of the Conflict.
The year 1858 is memorable alike in the career of Lincoln and in the political history of the country. It was distinguished by the joint discussions between the two great political leaders of Illinois, which rank among the ablest forensic debates that have taken place since the foundation of the republic. The occasion was one to call out the greatest powers of the two remarkable men who there contested for political supremacy. It was not alone that Lincoln and Douglas were opposing candidates for a high office—that of Senator of the United States: they were the champions and spokesmen of their parties at a critical period when great issues were to be discussed and great movements outlined and directed. It was naturally expected that the winner in the contest would become the political leader of his State. Little was it imagined that the loser would become the leader and savior of the Nation.
On the 21st of April the Democratic convention of Illinois met at Springfield and announced Stephen A. Douglas, then United States Senator, as its choice for another term. June 16 the Republican convention met at the same place and declared unanimously that "Abraham Lincoln is our first and only choice for United States Senator to fill the vacancy about to be created by the expiration of Mr. Douglas's term of office." For a number of days previous to the meeting of the Republican convention Lincoln had been engaged in preparing a speech for the occasion. It was composed after his usual method—the separate thoughts jotted down as they came to him, on scraps of paper at hand at the moment, and these notes were arranged in order and elaborated into a finished essay, copied on large sheets of paper in a plain and legible handwriting. This was the speech which afterwards came to be so celebrated as the "house-divided-against-itself" speech. Lincoln was gravely conscious of its unusual importance, and gave great care and deliberation to its composition. The evening of June 16—the day of his nomination by the convention—Lincoln went to his office, accompanied by his friend Herndon, and having locked the door proceeded to read his speech. Slowly and distinctly he read the first paragraph, and then turned to Herndon with, "What do you think of that?" Mr. Herndon was startled at its boldness. "I think," said he, "it is all true. But is it entirely politic to read or speak it as it is written?" "That makes no difference," said Lincoln. "That expression is a truth of all human experience,—'a house divided against itself cannot stand.' The proposition is indisputably true, and has been true for more than six thousand years; I want to use some universally known figure, expressed in simple language, that may strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times." Mr. Herndon was convinced by Lincoln's language, and advised him to deliver the speech just as it was written. Lincoln was satisfied, but thought it would be prudent to consult a few other friends in the matter, and about a dozen were called in. "After seating them at the round table," says John Armstrong, one of the number, "he read that clause or section of his speech which reads, 'a house divided against itself cannot stand,' etc. He read it slowly and cautiously, so as to let each man fully understand it. After he had finished the reading, he asked the opinions of his friends as to the wisdom or policy of it. Every man among them condemned the speech in substance and spirit, especially that section quoted above, as unwise and impolitic if not untrue. They unanimously declared that the whole speech was too far in advance of the times. Herndon sat still while they were giving their respective opinions of its unwisdom and impolicy; then he sprang to his feet and said, 'Lincoln, deliver it just as it reads. If it is in advance of the times, let us lift the people to its level. The speech is true, wise, and politic, and will succeed now or in the future. Nay, it will aid you, if it will not make you President of the United States.' Mr. Lincoln sat still a moment, then rose from his chair, walked backwards and forwards in the hall, stopped, and said: 'Friends, I have thought about this matter a great deal, have weighed the questions from all corners, and am thoroughly convinced the time has come when this speech should be uttered; and if it be that I must go down because of it, 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.' This was spoken with emotion—the effects of his love of truth, and sorrow from the disagreement of his friends."