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  • 1900
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wrote a composition on the American Government, urging the necessity for
preserving the Constitution and perpetuating the Union. A Rockport lawyer,
by the name of Pickert, who read this composition, declared that “the world couldn’t beat it.”

When the dreaded disease, known as the “milk-sick” created such havoc in Indiana in 1829, the father of Abraham Lincoln, who was of a roving disposition, sought and found a new home in Illinois, locating near the town of Decatur, in Macon county, on a bluff overlooking the Sangamon river. A short time thereafter Abraham Lincoln came of age, and having done his duty to his father, began life on his own account.

His first employer was a man named Denton Offut, who engaged Lincoln, together with his step-brother and John Hanks, to take a boat-load of stock and provisions to New Orleans. Offut was so well pleased with the energy and skill that Lincoln displayed on this trip that he engaged him as clerk in a store which Offut opened a few months later at New Salem.

It was while clerking for Offut that Lincoln performed many of those marvelous feats of strength for which he was noted in his youth, and displayed his wonderful skill as a wrestler. In addition to being six feet four inches high he now weighed two hundred and fourteen pounds. And his strength and skill were so great combined that he could out-wrestle and out-lift any man in that section of the country.

During his clerkship in Offut’s store Lincoln continued to read and study and made considerable progress in grammar and mathematics. Offut failed in business and disappeared from the village. In the language of Lincoln he “petered out,” and his tall, muscular clerk had to seek other employment.


In his first public speech, which had already been delivered, Lincoln had contended that the Sangamon river was navigable, and it now fell to his lot to assist in giving practical proof of his argument. A steamboat had arrived at New Salem from Cincinnati, and Lincoln was hired as an assistant in piloting the vessel through the uncertain channel of the Sangamon river to the Illinois river. The way was obstructed by a milldam. Lincoln insisted to the owners of the dam that under the Federal Constitution and laws no one had a right to dam up or obstruct a navigable stream and as he had already proved that the Sangamon was navigable a portion of the dam was torn away and the boat passed safely through.


At this period in his career the Blackhawk War broke out, and Lincoln was one of the first to respond to Governor Reynold’s call for a thousand mounted volunteers to assist the United States troops in driving Blackhawk back across the Mississippi. Lincoln enlisted in the company from Sangamon county and was elected captain. He often remarked that this gave him greater pleasure than anything that had happened in his life up to this time. He had, however, no opportunities in this war to perform any distinguished service.

Upon his return from the Blackhawk War, in which, as he said afterward, in a humorous speech, when in Congress, that he “fought, bled and came away,” he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Legislature. This was the only time in his life, as he himself has said, that he was ever beaten by the people. Although defeated, in his own town of New Salem he received all of the two hundred and eight votes cast except three.


Lincoln’s next business venture was with William Berry in a general store, under the firm name of Lincoln & Berry, but did not take long to show that he was not adapted for a business career. The firm failed, Berry died and the debts of the firm fell entirely upon Lincoln. Many of these debts he might have escaped legally, but he assumed them all and it was not until fifteen years later that the last indebtedness of Lincoln & Berry was discharged. During his membership in this firm he had applied himself to the study of law, beginning at the beginning, that is with Blackstone. Now that he had nothing to do he spent much of his time lying under the shade of a tree poring over law books, borrowed from a comrade in the Blackhawk War, who was then a practicing lawyer at Springfield.


It was about this time, too, that Lincoln’s fame as a story-teller began to spread far and wide. His sayings and his jokes were repeated throughout that section of the country, and he was famous as a story-teller before anyone ever heard of him as a lawyer or a politician.

It required no little moral courage to resist the temptation that beset an idle young man on every hand at that time, for drinking and carousing were of daily and nightly occurrence. Lincoln never drank intoxicating liquors, nor did he at that time use tobacco, but in any sports that called for skill or muscle he took a lively interest, even in horse races and cock fights.


John Calhoun was at that time surveyor of Sangamon county. He had been a lawyer and had noticed the studious Lincoln. Needing an assistant he offered the place to Lincoln. The average young man without any regular employment and hard-pressed for means to pay his board as Lincoln was, would have jumped at the opportunity, but a question of principle was involved which had to be settled before Lincoln would accept. Calhoun was a Democrat and Lincoln was a Whig, therefore Lincoln said, “I will take the office if I can be perfectly free in my political actions, but if my sentiments or even expression of them are to be abridged in any way, I would not have it or any other office.”

With this understanding he accepted the office and began to study books on surveying, furnished him by his employer. He was not a natural mathematician, and in working out his most difficult problems he sought the assistance of Mentor Graham, a famous schoolmaster in those days, who had previously assisted Lincoln in his studies. He soon became a competent surveyor, however, and was noted for the accurate way in which he ran his lines and located his corners.

Surveying was not as profitable then as it has since become, and the young surveyor often had to take his pay in some article other than money. One old settler relates that for a survey made for him by Lincoln he paid two buckskins, which Hannah Armstrong “foxed” on his pants so that the briars would not wear them out.

About this time, 1833, he was made postmaster at New Salem, the first Federal office he ever held. Although the postoffice was located in a store, Lincoln usually carried the mail around in his hat and distributed it to people when he met them.


The following year Lincoln again ran for the Legislature, this time as an avowed Whig. Of the four successful candidates, Lincoln
received the second highest number of votes.

When Lincoln went to take his seat in the Legislature at Vandalia he was so poor that he was obliged to borrow $200 to buy suitable clothes and uphold the dignity of his new position. He took little part in the proceedings, keeping in the background, but forming many lasting acquaintances and friendships.

Two years later, when he was again a candidate for the same office, there were more political issues to be met, and Lincoln met them with characteristic honesty and boldness. During the campaign he issued the following letter

“New Salem, June 13, 1836.

“To the Editor of The Journal:

“In your paper of last Saturday I see a communication over the signature of ‘Many Voters’ in which the candidates who are announced in the journal are called upon to ‘show their hands.’ Agreed. Here’s mine:

“I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist in bearing its burdens. Consequently, I go for admitting all whites to the right of suffrage who pay taxes or bear arms (by no means excluding females).

“If elected, I shall consider the whole people of Sangamon my constituents, as well those that oppose as those that support me.

“While acting as their Representative, I shall be governed by their will on all subjects upon which I have the means of knowing what their will is; and upon all others I shall do what my own judgment teaches me will best advance their interests. Whether elected or not, I go for distributing the proceeds of the sales of public lands to the several States to enable our State, in common with others, to dig canals and construct railroads without borrowing money and paying the interest on it.

“If alive on the first Monday in November, I shall vote for Hugh L. White, for President.

“Very respectfully


This was just the sort of letter to win the support of the plain-spoken voters of Sangamon county. Lincoln not only received more votes than any other candidate on the Legislative ticket, but the county which had always been Democratic was turned Whig.


The other candidates elected with Lincoln were Ninian W. Edwards, John Dawson, Andrew McCormick, “Dan” Stone, William F. Elkin, Robert L. Wilson, “Joe” Fletcher, and Archer G. Herndon. These were known as the “Long Nine.” Their average height was six feet, and average weight two hundred pounds.

This Legislature was one of the most famous that ever convened in Illinois. Bonds to the amount of $12,000,000 were voted to assist in building thirteen hundred miles of railroad, to widen and deepen all the streams in the State and to dig a canal from the Illinois river to Lake Michigan. Lincoln favored all these plans, but in justice to him it must be said that the people he represented were also in favor of them.

It was at this session that the State capital was changed from Vandalia to Springfield. Lincoln, as the leader of the “Long Nine,” had charge of the bill and after a long and bitter struggle succeeded in passing it.


At this early stage in his career Abraham Lincoln began his opposition to slavery which eventually resulted in his giving liberty to four million human beings. This Legislature passed the following resolutions on slavery

“Resolved by the General Assembly, of the State of Illinois: That we highly disapprove of the formation of Abolition societies and of the doctrines promulgated by them,

“That the right of property in slaves is sacred to the slave-holding States by the Federal Constitution, and that they cannot be deprived of that right without their consent,

“That the General Government cannot abolish slavery in the District of Columbia against the consent of the citizens of said district without a manifest breach of good faith.”

Against this resolution Lincoln entered a protest, but only succeeded in getting one man in the Legislature to sign the protest with him.

The protest was as follows:

“Resolutions upon the subject of domestic slavery having passed both branches of the General Assembly at its present session, the undersigned hereby protest against the passage of the same.

“They believe that the institution of slavery is founded on both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather o increase than abate its evils.

“They believe that the Congress of the United States has no power under the Constitution to interfere with the institution of slavery in the different States.

“They believe that the Congress of the United States has the power under the Constitution to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, but that the power ought not to be exercised unless at the request of the people of the District.

“The difference between these opinions and those contained in the above resolutions is their reason for entering this protest.

“Representatives from the county of Sangamon.”


At the end of this session of the Legislature, Mr. Lincoln decided to remove to Springfield and practice law. He entered the office of John T. Stuart, a former comrade in the Blackhawk War, and in March, 1837, was licensed to practice.

Stephen T. Logan was judge of the Circuit Court, and Stephen A. Douglas, who was destined to become Lincoln’s greatest political opponent, was prosecuting attorney. When Lincoln was not in his law office his headquarters were in the store of his friend Joshua F. Speed, in which gathered all the youthful orators and statesmen of that day, and where many exciting arguments and discussions were held. Lincoln and Douglas both took part in the discussion held in Speed’s store. Douglas was the acknowledged leader of the Democratic side and Lincoln was rapidly coming to the front as a leader among the Whig debaters. One evening in the midst of a heated argument Douglas, or “the Little Giant,” as he was called, exclaimed:

“This store is no place to talk politics.”


Arrangements were at once made for a joint debate between the leading Democrats and Whigs to take place in a local church. The Democrats were represented by Douglas, Calhoun, Lamborn and Thomas. The Whig speakers were Judge Logan, Colonel E. D. Baker, Mr. Browning and Lincoln. This discussion was the forerunner of the famous joint-debate between Lincoln and Douglas, which took place some years later and attracted the attention of the people throughout the United States. Although Mr. Lincoln was the last speaker in the first discussion held, his speech attracted more attention than any of the others and added much to his reputation as a public debater.

Mr. Lincoln’s last campaign for the Legislature was in 1840. In the same year he was made an elector on the Harrison presidential ticket, and in his canvass of the State frequently met the Democratic champion, Douglas, in debate. After 1840 Mr. Lincoln declined re-election to the Legislature, but he was a presidential elector on the Whig tickets of 1844 and 1852, and on the Republican ticket for the State at large in 1856.


Among the social belles of Springfield was Mary Todd, a handsome and cultivated girl of the illustrious descent which could be traced back to the sixth century, to whom Mr. Lincoln was married in 1842. Stephen A. Douglas was his competitor in love as well as in politics. He courted Mary Todd until it became evident that she preferred Mr. Lincoln.

Previous to his marriage Mr. Lincoln had two love affairs, one of them so serious that it left an impression upon his whole future life. One of the objects of his affection was Miss Mary Owen, of Green county, Kentucky, who decided that Mr. Lincoln “was deficient in those little links which make up the chain of woman’s happiness.” The affair ended without any damage to Mr. Lincoln’s heart or the heart of the lady.


Lincoln’s first love, however, had a sad termination. The object of his affections at that time was Anne Rutledge, whose father was one of the founders of New Salem. Like Miss Owen, Miss Rutledge was also born in Kentucky, and was gifted with the beauty and graces that distinguish many Southern women. At the time that Mr. Lincoln and Anne Rutledge were engaged to be married, he thought himself too poor to properly support a wife, and they decided to wait until such time as he could better his financial condition. A short time thereafter Miss Rutledge was attacked with a fatal illness, and her death was such a blow to her intended husband that for a long time his friends feared that he would lose his mind.


Just previous to his marriage with Mary Todd, Mr. Lincoln was challenged to fight a duel by James Shields, then Auditor of State. The challenge grew out of some humorous letters concerning Shields, published in a local paper. The first of these letters was written by Mr. Lincoln. The others by Mary Todd and her sister. Mr. Lincoln acknowledged the authorship of the letters without naming the ladies, and agreed to meet Shields on the field of honor. As he had the choice of weapons he named broadswords, and actually went to the place selected for the duel.

The duel was never fought. Mutual friends got together and patched up an understanding between Mr. Lincoln and the hot-headed Irishman.


Before this time Mr. Lincoln had dissolved partnership with Stuart and entered into a law partnership with Judge Logan. In 1843 both Lincoln and Logan were candidates for nomination for Congress and the personal ill-will caused by their rivalry resulted in the dissolution of the firm and the formation of a new law firm of Lincoln & Herndon, which continued, nominally at least, until Mr. Lincoln’s death.

The congressional nomination, however, went to Edward D. Baker, who was elected. Two years later the principal candidates for the Whig nomination for Congress were Mr. Lincoln and his former law partner, Judge Logan. Party sentiment was so strongly in favor of Lincoln that Judge Logan withdrew and Lincoln was nominated unanimously. The campaign that followed was one of the most memorable and interesting ever held in Illinois.


Mr. Lincoln’s opponent on the Democratic ticket was no less a person than old Peter Cartwright, the famous Methodist preacher and circuit rider. Cartwright had preached to almost every congregation in the district and had a strong following in all the churches. Mr. Lincoln did not underestimate the strength of his great rival. He abandoned his law business entirely and gave his whole attention to the canvass. This time Mr. Lincoln was victorious and was elected by a large majority.

When Lincoln took his seat in Congress, in 1847, he was the only Whig member from Illinois. His great political rival, Douglas, was in the Senate. The Mexican War had already broken out, which, in common with his party, he had opposed. Later in life he was charged with having opposed the voting of supplies to the American troops in Mexico, but this was a falsehood which he easily disproved. He was strongly opposed to the War, but after it was once begun he urged its vigorous prosecution and voted with the Democrats on all measures concerning the care and pay of the soldiers. His opposition to the War, however, cost him a re-election; it cost his party the congressional district, which was carried by the Democrats in 1848. Lincoln’s former law partner, Judge Logan, secured the Whig nomination that year and was defeated.


In the national convention at Philadelphia, in 1848, Mr. Lincoln was a delegate and advocated the nomination of General Taylor.

After the nomination of General Taylor, or “Old Zach,” or “rough and Ready,” as he was called, Mr. Lincoln made a tour of New York and several New England States, making speeches for his candidate.

Mr. Lincoln went to New England in this campaign on account of the great defection in the Whig party. General Taylor’s nomination was unsatisfactory to the free-soil element, and such leaders as Henry Wilson, Charles Francis Adams, Charles Allen, Charles Sumner, Stephen C. Phillips, Richard H. Dana, Jr., and Anson Burlingame, were in open revolt. Mr. Lincoln’s speeches were confined largely to a defense of General Taylor, but at the same time he denounced the free-soilers for helping to elect Cass. Among other things he said that the free-soilers had but one principle and that they reminded him of the Yankee peddler going to sell a pair of pantaloons and describing them as “large enough for any man, and small enough for any boy.”

It is an odd fact in history that the prominent Whigs of Massachusetts at that time became the opponents of Mr. Lincoln’s election to the presidency and the policy of his administration, while the free-soilers, whom he denounced, were among his strongest supporters, advisers and followers.

At the second session of Congress Mr. Lincoln’s one act of consequence was the introduction of a bill providing for the gradual emancipation of the slaves in the District of Columbia. Joshua R. Giddings, the great antislavery agitator, and one or two lesser lights supported it, but the bill was laid on the table.

After General Taylor’s election Mr. Lincoln had the distribution of Federal patronage in his own Congressional district, and this added much to his political importance, although it was a ceaseless source of worry to him.


Just before the close of his term in Congress Mr. Lincoln was an applicant for the office of Commissioner of the General Land Office, but was unsuccessful. He had been such a factor in General Taylor’s election that the administration thought something was due him, and after his return to Illinois he was called to Washington and offered the Governorship of the Territory of Oregon. It is likely he would have accepted this had not Mrs. Lincoln put her foot down with an emphatic no.

He declined a partnership with a well-known Chicago lawyer and returning to his Springfield home resumed the practice of law.

>From this time until the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, which
opened the way for the admission of slavery into the territories, Mr. Lincoln devoted himself more industriously than ever to the practice of law, and during those five years he was probably a greater student than he had ever been before. His partner, W. H. Herndon, has told of the changes that took place in the courts and in the methods of practice while Mr. Lincoln was away.


When he returned to active practice he saw at once that the courts had grown more learned and dignified and that the bar relied more upon method and system and a knowledge of the statute law than upon the stump speech method of early days.

Mr. Herndon tells us that Lincoln would lie in bed and read by candle light, sometimes until two o’clock in the morning, while his famous colleagues, Davis, Logan, Swett, Edwards and Herndon, were soundly and sometimes loudly sleeping. He read and reread the statutes and books of practice, devoured Shakespeare, who was always a favorite of his, and studied Euclid so diligently that he could easily demonstrate all the propositions contained in the six books.

Mr. Lincoln detested office work. He left all that to his partner. He disliked to draw up legal papers or to write letters. The firm of which he was a member kept no books. When either Lincoln or Herndon received a fee they divided the money then and there. If his partner were not in the office at the time Mr. Lincoln would wrap up half of the fee in a sheet of paper, on which he would write, “Herndon’s half,” giving the name of the case, and place it in his partner’s desk.

But in court, arguing a case, pleading to the jury and laying down the law, Lincoln was in his element. Even when he had a weak case he was a strong antagonist, and when he had right and justice on his side, as he nearly always had, no one could beat him.

He liked an outdoor life, hence he was fond of riding the circuit. He enjoyed the company of other men, liked discussion and argument, loved to tell stories and to hear them, laughing as heartily at his own stories as he did at those that were told to him.


The court circuit in those days was the scene of many a story-telling joust, in which Lincoln was always the chief. Frequently he would sit up until after midnight reeling off story after story, each one followed by roars of laughter that could be heard all over the country tavern, in which the story-telling group was gathered. Every type of character would be represented in these groups, from the learned judge on the bench down to the village loafer.

Lincoln’s favorite attitude was to sit with his long legs propped up on the rail of the stove, or with his feet against the wall, and thus he would sit for hours entertaining a crowd, or being entertained.

One circuit judge was so fond of Lincoln’s stories that he often would sit up until midnight listening to them, and then declare that he had laughed so much he believed his ribs were shaken loose.

The great success of Abraham Lincoln as a trial lawyer was due to a number of facts. He would not take a case if he believed that the law and justice were on the other side. When he addressed a jury he made them feel that he only wanted fair play and justice. He did not talk over their heads, but got right down to a friendly tone such as we use in ordinary conversation, and talked at them, appealing to their honesty and common sense,

And making his argument plain by telling a story or two that brought the matter clearly within their understanding.

When he did not know the law in a particular case he never pretended to know it. If there were no precedents to cover a case he would state his side plainly and fairly; he would tell the jury what he believed was right for them to do, and then conclude with his favorite expression, “it seems to me that this ought to be the law.”

Some time before the repeal of the Missouri Compromise a lawyer friend said to him: “Lincoln, the time is near at hand when we shall have to be all Abolitionists or all Democrats.”

“When that time comes my mind is made up,” he replied, “for I believe the slavery question never can be compromised.”


While Lincoln took a mild interest in politics, he was not a candidate for office, except as a presidential elector, from the time of leaving Congress until the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. This repeal Legislation was the work of Lincoln’s political antagonist, Stephen A. Douglas, and aroused Mr. Lincoln to action as the lion is roused by some foe worthy of his great strength and courage.

Mr. Douglas argued that the true intent and meaning of the act was not to legislate slavery into any territory or state, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way.

“Douglas’ argument amounts to this,” said Mr. Lincoln, “that if any one man chooses to enslave another no third man shall be allowed to object.”

After the adjournment of Congress Mr. Douglas returned to Illinois and began to defend his action in the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. His most important speech was made at Springfield, and Mr. Lincoln was selected to answer it. That speech alone was sufficient to make Mr. Lincoln the leader of anti-Slavery sentiment in the West, and some of the men who heard it declared that it was the greatest speech he ever made.

With the repeal of the Missouri Compromise the Whig party began to break up, the majority of its members who were pronounced Abolitionists began to form the nucleus of the Republican party. Before this party was formed, however, Mr. Lincoln was induced to follow Douglas around the State and reply to him, but after one meeting at Peoria, where they both spoke, they entered into an agreement to return to their homes and make no more speeches during the campaign.


Mr. Lincoln made no secret at this time of his ambition to represent Illinois in the United States Senate. Against his protest he was nominated and elected to the Legislature, but resigned his seat. His old rival, James Shields, with whom he was once near to a duel, was then senator, and his term was to expire the following year.

A letter, written by Mr. Lincoln to a friend in Paris, Illinois, at this time is interesting and significant. He wrote:

“I have a suspicion that a Whig has been elected to the Legislature from Eagar. If this is not so, why, then, ‘nix cum arous;’ but if it is so, then could you not make a mark with him for me for United States senator? I really have some chance.”

Another candidate besides Mr. Lincoln was seeking the seat in the United States Senate, soon to be vacated by Mr. Shields. This was Lyman Trumbull, an anti-slavery Democrat. When the Legislature met it was found that Mr. Lincoln lacked five votes of an election, while Mr. Trumbull had but five supporters. After several ballots Mr. Lincoln feared that Trumbull’s votes would be given to a Democratic candidate and he determined to sacrifice himself for the principle at stake. Accordingly he instructed his friends in the Legislature to vote for Judge Trumbull, which they did, resulting in Trumbull’s election.

The Abolitionists in the West had become very radical in their views, and did not hesitate to talk of opposing the extension of slavery by the use of force if necessary. Mr. Lincoln, on the other hand, was conservative and counseled moderation. In the meantime many outrages, growing out of the extension of slavery, were being perpetrated on the borders of Kansas and Missouri, and they no doubt influenced Mr. Lincoln to take a more radical stand against the slavery question.

An incident occurred at this time which had great effect in this direction. The negro son of a colored woman in Springfield had gone South to work. He was born free, but did not have his free papers with him. He was arrested and would have been sold into slavery to pay his prison expenses, had not Mr. Lincoln and some friends purchased his liberty. Previous to this Mr. Lincoln had tried to secure the boy’s release through the Governor of Illinois, but the Governor informed him that nothing could be done.

Then it was that Mr. Lincoln rose to his full height and exclaimed:

“Governor, I’ll make the ground in this country too hot for the foot of a slave, whether you have the legal power to secure the release of this boy or not.”


The year after Mr. Trumbull’s election to the Senate the Republican party was formally organized. A state convention of that party was called to meet at Bloomington May 29, 1856. The call for this convention was signed by many Springfield Whigs, and among the names was that of Abraham Lincoln. Mr. Lincoln’s name had been signed to the call by his law partner, but when he was informed of this action he endorsed it fully. Among the famous men who took part in this convention were Abraham Lincoln, Lyman Trumbull, David Davis, Leonard Swett, Richard Yates, Norman, B. Judd and Owen Lovejoy, the Alton editor, whose life, like Lincoln’s, finally paid the penalty for his Abolition views. The party nominated for Governor, Wm. H. Bissell, a veteran of the Mexican War, and adopted a platform ringing with anti-slavery sentiment.

Mr. Lincoln was the greatest power in the campaign that followed. He was one of the Fremont Presidential electors, and he went to work with all his might to spread the new party gospel and make votes for the old “Path-Finder of the Rocky Mountains.”

An amusing incident followed close after the Bloomington convention. A meeting was called at Springfield to ratify the action at Bloomington. Only three persons attended–Mr. Lincoln, his law partner and a man named John Paine. Mr. Lincoln made a speech to his colleagues, in which, among other things, he said: “While all seems dead, the age itself is not. It liveth as sure as our Maker liveth.”

In this campaign Mr. Lincoln was in general demand not only in his own state, but in Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin as well.

The result of that Presidential campaign was the election of Buchanan as President, Bissell as Governor, leaving Mr. Lincoln the undisputed leader of the new party. Hence it was that two years later he was the inevitable man to oppose Judge Douglas in the campaign for United States Senator.


No record of Abraham Lincoln’s career would be complete without the story of the memorable joint debates between the “Rail-Splitter of the Sangamon Valley” and the “Little Giant.” The opening lines in Mr. Lincoln’s speech to the Republican Convention were not only prophetic of the coming rebellion, but they clearly made the issue between the Republican and Democratic parties for two Presidential campaigns to follow. The memorable sentences were as follows:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this Government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all the one thing or the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it becomes alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South.”

It is universally conceded that this speech contained the most important utterances of Mr. Lincoln’s life.

Previous to its delivery, the Democratic convention had endorsed Mr. Douglas for re-election to the Senate, and the Republican convention had resolved 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’ term of office.”

Before Judge Douglas had made many speeches in this Senatorial campaign, Mr. Lincoln challenged him to a joint debate, which was accepted, and seven memorable meetings between these two great leaders followed. The places and dates were: Ottawa, August 21st; Freeport, August 27th; Jonesboro, September 15th; Charleston, September 18th; Galesburg, October 7th; Quincy, October 13th; and Alton, October 15th.

The debates not only attracted the attention of the people in the state of Illinois, but aroused an interest throughout the whole country equal to that of a Presidential election.


All the meetings of the joint debate were attended by immense crowds of people. They came in all sorts of vehicles, on horseback, and many walked weary miles on foot to hear these two great leaders discuss the issues of the campaign. There had never been political meetings held under such unusual conditions as these, and there probably never will be again. At every place the speakers were met by great crowds of their friends and escorted to the platforms in the open air where the debates were held. The processions that escorted the speakers were most unique. They carried flags and banners and were preceded by bands of music. The people discharged cannons when they had them, and, when they did not, blacksmiths’ anvils were made to take their places.

Oftentimes a part of the escort would be mounted, and in most of the processions were chariots containing young ladies representing the different states of the Union designated by banners they carried. Besides the bands, there was usually vocal music. Patriotic songs were the order of the day, the “Star-Spangled Banner” and “Hail Columbia” being great favorites.

So far as the crowds were concerned, these joint debates took on the appearance of a circus day, and this comparison was strengthened by the sale of lemonade, fruit, melons and confectionery on the outskirts of the gatherings.

At Ottawa, after his speech, Mr. Lincoln was carried around on the shoulders of his enthusiastic supporters, who did not put him down until they reached the place where he was to spend the night.

In the joint debates, each of the candidates asked the other a series of questions. Judge Douglas’ replies to Mr. Lincoln’s shrewd questions helped Douglas to win the Senatorial election, but they lost him the support of the South in the campaign for President two years thereafter. Mr. Lincoln was told when he framed his questions that if Douglas answered them in the way it was believed he would that the answers would make him Senator.

“That may be,” said Mr. Lincoln, “but if he takes that shoot he never can be President.”

The prophecy was correct. Mr. Douglas was elected Senator, but two years later only carried one state–Missouri–for President.


After the close of this canvass, Mr. Lincoln again devoted himself to the practice of his profession, but he was destined to remain but a short time in retirement. In the fall of 1859 Mr. Douglas went to Ohio to stump the state for his friend, Mr. Pugh, the Democratic candidate for Governor. The Ohio Republicans at once asked Mr. Lincoln to come to the state and reply to the “Little Giant.” He accepted the invitation and made two masterly speeches in the campaign. In one of them, delivered at Cincinnati, he prophesied the outcome of the rebellion if the Southern people attempted to divide the Union by force.

Addressing himself particularly to the Kentuckians in the audience, he said:

“I have told you what we mean to do. I want to know, now, when that thing takes place, what do you mean to do? I often hear it intimated that you mean to divide the Union whenever a Republican, or anything like it, is elected President of the United States. [A Voice–“That is so.”] ‘That is so,’ one of them says; I wonder if he is a Kentuckian? [A Voice–“He is a Douglas man.”] Well, then, I want to know what you are going to do with your half of it?

“Are you going to split the Ohio down through, and push your half off a piece? Or are you going to keep it right alongside of us outrageous fellows? Or are you going to build up a wall some way between your country, and ours, by which that movable property of yours can’t come over here any more, to the danger of your losing it? Do you think you can better yourselves on that subject by leaving us here under no obligation whatever to return those specimens of your movable property that come hither?

“You have divided the Union because we would not do right with you, as you think, upon that subject; when we cease to be under obligations to do anything for you, how much better off do you think you will be? Will you make war upon us and kill us all? Why, gentlemen, I think you are as gallant and as brave men as live; that you can fight as bravely in a good cause, man for man, as any other people living; that you have shown yourselves capable of this upon various occasions; but, man for man, you are not better than we are, and there are not so many of you as there are of us.

“You will never make much of a hand at whipping us. If we were fewer in numbers than you, I think that you could whip us; if we were equal, it would likely be a drawn battle; but, being inferior in numbers, you will make nothing by attempting to master us.

“But perhaps I have addressed myself as long, or longer, to the Kentuckians than I ought to have done, inasmuch as I have said that, whatever course you take, we intend in the end to beat you.”


Later in the year Mr. Lincoln also spoke in Kansas, where he was received with great enthusiasm, and in February of the following year he made his great speech in Cooper Union, New York, to an immense gathering, presided over by William Cullen Bryant, the poet, who was then editor of the New York Evening Post. There was great curiosity to see the Western rail-splitter who had so lately met the famous “Little Giant” of the West in debate, and Mr. Lincoln’s speech was listened to by many of the ablest men in the East.

This speech won for him many supporters in the Presidential campaign that followed, for his hearers at once recognized his wonderful ability to deal with the questions then uppermost in the public mind.


The Republican National Convention of 1860 met in Chicago, May 16, in an immense building called the “Wigwam.” The leading candidates for President were William H. Seward of New York and Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. Among others spoken of were Salmon P. Chase of Ohio and Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania.

On the first ballot for President, Mr. Seward received one hundred and seventy-three and one-half votes; Mr. Lincoln, one hundred and two votes, the others scattering. On the first ballot, Vermont had divided her vote, but on the second the chairman of the Vermont delegation announced: “Vermont casts her ten votes for the young giant of the West–Abraham Lincoln.”

This was the turning point in the convention toward Mr. Lincoln’s nomination. The second ballot resulted: Seward, one hundred and eighty-four and one-half; Lincoln, one hundred and eighty-one. On the third ballot, Mr. Lincoln received two hundred and thirty votes. One and one-half votes more would nominate him. Before the ballot was announced, Ohio made a change of four votes in favor of Mr. Lincoln, making him the nominee for President.

Other states tried to follow Ohio’s example, but it was a long time before any of the delegates could make themselves heard. Cannons planted on top of the wigwam were roaring and booming; the large crowd in the wigwam and the immense throng outside were cheering at the top of their lungs, while bands were playing victorious airs.

When order had been restored, it was announced that on the third ballot Abraham Lincoln of Illinois had received three hundred and fifty-four votes and was nominated by the Republican party to the office of President of the United States.

Mr. Lincoln heard the news of his nomination while sitting in a newspaper office in Springfield, and hurried home to tell his wife.

As Mr. Lincoln had predicted, Judge Douglas’ position on slavery in the territories lost him the support of the South, and when the Democratic convention met at Charleston, the slave-holding states forced the nomination of John C. Breckinridge. A considerable number of people who did not agree with either party nominated John Bell of Tennessee.

In the election which followed, Mr. Lincoln carried all of the free states, except New Jersey, which was divided between himself and Douglas; Breckinridge carried all the slave states, except Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, which went for Bell, and Missouri gave its vote to Douglas.


The election was scarcely over before it was evident that the Southern States did not intend to abide by the result, and that a conspiracy was on foot to divide the Union. Before the Presidential election even, the Secretary of War in President Buchanan’s Cabinet had removed one hundred and fifty thousand muskets from Government armories in the North and sent them to Government armories in the South.

Before Mr. Lincoln had prepared his inaugural address, South Carolina, which took the lead in the secession movement, had declared through her Legislature her separation from the Union. Before Mr. Lincoln took his seat, other Southern States had followed the example of South Carolina, and a convention had been held at Montgomery, Alabama, which had elected Jefferson Davis President of the new Confederacy, and Alexander H. Stevens, of Georgia, Vice-President.

Southern men in the Cabinet, Senate and House had resigned their seats and gone home, and Southern States were demanding that Southern forts and Government property in their section should be turned over to them.

Between his election and inauguration, Mr. Lincoln remained silent, reserving his opinions and a declaration of his policy for his inaugural address.

Before Mr. Lincoln’s departure from Springfield for Washington, threats had been freely made that he would never reach the capital alive, and, in fact, a conspiracy was then on foot to take his life in the city of Baltimore.

Mr. Lincoln left Springfield on February 11th, in company with his wife and three sons, his brother-in-law, Dr. W. S. Wallace; David Davis, Norman B. Judd, Elmer E. Elsworth, Ward H. Lamon, Colonel E. V. Sunder of the United States Army, and the President’s two secretaries.


Early in February, before leaving for Washington, Mr. Lincoln slipped away from Springfield and paid a visit to his aged step-mother in Coles county. He also paid a visit to the unmarked grave of his father and ordered a suitable stone to mark the spot.

Before leaving Springfield, he made an address to his fellow-townsmen, in which he displayed sincere sorrow at parting from them.

“Friends,” he said, “no one who has never been placed in a like position can understand my feelings at this hour, nor the oppressive sadness I feel at this parting. For more than a quarter of a century I have lived among you, and during all that time I have received nothing but kindness at your hands. Here I have lived from my youth until now I am an old man. Here the most sacred ties of earth were assumed. Here all my children were born, and here one of them lies buried.

“To you, dear friends, I owe all that I have, all that I am. All the strange, checkered past seems to crowd now upon my mind. To-day I leave you. I go to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved upon Washington. Unless the great God who assisted him shall be with and aid me, I must fail; but if the same omniscient mind and almighty arm that directed and protected him shall guide and support me, I shall not fail–I shall succeed. Let us all pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now.

“To Him I commend you all. Permit me to ask that with equal sincerity and faith you will invoke His wisdom and guidance for me. With these words I must leave you, for how long I know not. Friends, one and all, I must now bid you an affectionate farewell.”

The journey from Springfield to Philadelphia was a continuous ovation for Mr. Lincoln. Crowds assembled to meet him at the various places along the way, and he made them short speeches, full of humor and good feeling. At Harrisburg, Pa., the party was met by Allan Pinkerton, who knew of the plot in Baltimore to take the life of Mr. Lincoln.


Throughout his entire life, Abraham Lincoln’s physical courage was as great and superb as his moral courage. When Mr. Pinkerton and Mr. Judd urged the President-elect to leave for Washington that night, he positively refused to do it. He said he had made an engagement to assist at a flag raising in the forenoon of the next day and to show himself to the people of Harrisburg in the afternoon, and that he intended to keep both engagements.

At Philadelphia the Presidential party was met by Mr. Seward’s son, Frederick, who had been sent to warn Mr. Lincoln of the plot against his life. Mr. Judd, Mr. Pinkerton and Mr. Lamon figured out a plan to take Mr. Lincoln through Baltimore between midnight and daybreak, when the would-be assassins would not be expecting him, and this plan was carried out so thoroughly that even the conductor on the train did not know the President-elect was on board.

Mr. Lincoln was put into his berth and the curtains drawn. He was supposed to be a sick man. When the conductor came around, Mr. Pinkerton handed him the “sick man’s” ticket and he passed on without question.

When the train reached Baltimore, at half-past three o’clock in the morning, it was met by one of Mr. Pinkerton’s detectives, who reported that everything was “all right,” and in a short time the party was speeding on to the national capital, where rooms had been engaged for Mr. Lincoln and his guard at Willard’s Hotel.

Mr. Lincoln always regretted this “secret passage” to Washington, for it was repugnant to a man of his high courage. He had agreed to the plan simply because all of his friends urged it as the best thing to do.

Now that all the facts are known, it is assured that his friends were right, and that there never was a moment from the day he crossed the Maryland line until his assassination that his life was not in danger, and was only saved as long as it was by the constant vigilance of those who were guarding him.


The wonderful eloquence of Abraham Lincoln–clear, sincere, natural–found grand expression in his first inaugural address, in which he not only outlined his policy toward the States in rebellion, but made that beautiful and eloquent plea for conciliation. The closing sentences of Mr. Lincoln’s first inaugural address deservedly take rank with his Gettysburg speech

“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen,” he said, “and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you.

“You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect and defend’ it.

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

“The mystic cord of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”


In selecting his Cabinet, Mr. Lincoln, consciously or unconsciously, followed a precedent established by Washington, of selecting men of almost opposite opinions. His Cabinet was composed of William H. Seward of New York, Secretary of State; Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, Secretary of the Treasury; Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, Secretary of War; Gideon E. Welles of Connecticut, Secretary of the Navy; Caleb B. Smith of Indiana, Secretary of the Interior; Montgomery Blair of Maryland, Postmaster-General; Edward Bates of Missouri, Attorney-General.

Mr. Chase, although an anti-slavery leader, was a States-Rights Federal Republican, while Mr. Seward was a Whig, without having connected himself with the anti-slavery movement.

Mr. Chase and Mr. Seward, the leading men of Mr. Lincoln’s Cabinet, were as widely apart and antagonistic in their views as were Jefferson, the Democrat, and Hamilton, the Federalist, the two leaders in Washington’s Cabinet. But in bringing together these two strong men as his chief advisers, both of whom had been rival candidates for the Presidency, Mr. Lincoln gave another example of his own greatness and self-reliance, and put them both in a position to render greater service to the Government than they could have done, probably, as President.

Mr. Lincoln had been in office little more than five weeks when the War of the Rebellion began by the firing on Fort Sumter.


The War of the Rebellion revealed to the people–in fact, to the whole world–the many sides of Abraham Lincoln’s character. It showed him as a real ruler of men–not a ruler by the mere power of might, but by the power of a great brain. In his Cabinet were the ablest men in the country, yet they all knew that Lincoln was abler than any of them.

Mr. Seward, the Secretary of State, was a man famed in statesmanship and diplomacy. During the early stages of the Civil War, when France and England were seeking an excuse to interfere and help the Southern Confederacy, Mr. Seward wrote a letter to our minister in London, Charles Francis Adams, instructing him concerning the attitude of the Federal government on the question of interference, which would undoubtedly have brought about a war with England if Abraham Lincoln had not corrected and amended the letter. He did this, too, without yielding a point or sacrificing in any way his own dignity or that of the country.


Throughout the four years of war, Mr. Lincoln spent a great deal of time in the War Department, receiving news from the front and conferring with Secretary of War Stanton concerning military affairs.

Mr. Lincoln’s War Secretary, Edwin M. Stanton, who had succeeded Simon Cameron, was a man of wonderful personality and iron will. It is generally conceded that no other man could have managed the great War Secretary so well as Lincoln. Stanton had his way in most matters, but when there was an important difference of opinion he always found Lincoln was the master.

Although Mr. Lincoln’s communications to the generals in the field were oftener in the nature of suggestions than positive orders, every military leader recognized Mr. Lincoln’s ability in military operations. In the early stages of the war, Mr. Lincoln followed closely every plan and movement of McClellan, and the correspondence between them proves Mr. Lincoln to have been far the abler general of the two. He kept close watch of Burnside, too, and when he gave the command of the Army of the Potomac to “Fighting Joe” Hooker he also gave that general some fatherly counsel and advice which was of great benefit to him as a commander.


It was not until General Grant had been made Commander-in-Chief that President Lincoln felt he had at last found a general who did not need much advice. He was the first to recognize that Grant was a great military leader, and when he once felt sure of this fact nothing could shake his confidence in that general. Delegation after delegation called at the White House and asked for Grant’s removal from the head of the army. They accused him of being a butcher, a drunkard, a man without sense or feeling.

President Lincoln listened to all of these attacks, but he always had an apt answer to silence Grant’s enemies. Grant was doing what Lincoln wanted done from the first–he was fighting and winning victories, and victories are the only things that count in war.


The crowning act of Lincoln’s career as President was the emancipation of the slaves. All of his life he had believed in gradual emancipation, but all of his plans contemplated payment to the slaveholders. While he had always been opposed to slavery, he did not take any steps to use it as a war measure until about the middle of 1862. His chief object was to preserve the Union.

He wrote to Horace Greeley that if he could save the Union without freeing any of the slaves he would do it; that if he could save it by freeing some and leaving the others in slavery he would do that; that if it became necessary to free all the slaves in order to save the Union he would take that course.

The anti-slavery men were continually urging Mr. Lincoln to set the slaves free, but he paid no attention to their petitions and demands until he felt that emancipation would help him to preserve the Union of the States.

The outlook for the Union cause grew darker and darker in 1862, and Mr. Lincoln began to think, as he expressed it, that he must “change his tactics or lose the game.” Accordingly he decided to issue the Emancipation Proclamation as soon as the Union army won a substantial victory. The battle of Antietam, on September 17, gave him the opportunity he sought. He told Secretary Chase that he had made a solemn vow before God that if General Lee should be driven back from Pennsylvania he would crown the result by a declaration of freedom to the slaves.

On the twenty-second of that month he issued a proclamation stating that at the end of one hundred days he would issue another proclamation declaring all slaves within any State or Territory to be forever free, which was done in the form of the famous Emancipation Proclamation.


In the conduct of the war and in his purpose to maintain the Union, Abraham Lincoln exhibited a will of iron and determination that could not be shaken, but in his daily contact with the mothers, wives and daughters begging for the life of some soldier who had been condemned to death for desertion or sleeping on duty he was as gentle and weak as a woman.

It was a difficult matter for him to refuse a pardon if the slightest excuse could be found for granting it.

Secretary Stanton and the commanding generals were loud in declaring that Mr. Lincoln would destroy the discipline of the army by his wholesale pardoning of condemned soldiers, but when we come to examine the individual cases we find that Lincoln was nearly always right, and when he erred it was always on the side of humanity.

During the four years of the long struggle for the preservation of the Union, Mr. Lincoln kept “open shop,” as he expressed it, where the general public could always see him and make known their wants and complaints. Even the private soldier was not denied admittance to the President’s private office, and no request or complaint was too small or trivial to enlist his sympathy and interest.


It was once said of Shakespeare that the great mind that conceived the tragedies of “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” etc., would have lost its reason if it had not found vent in the sparkling humor of such comedies as “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “The Comedy of Errors.”

The great strain on the mind of Abraham Lincoln produced by four years of civil war might likewise have overcome his reason had it not found vent in the yarns and stories he constantly told. No more fun-loving or humor-loving man than Abraham Lincoln ever lived. He enjoyed a joke even when it was on himself, and probably, while he got his greatest enjoyment from telling stories, he had a keen appreciation of the humor in those that were told him.

His favorite humorous writer was David R. Locke, better known as “Petroleum V. Nasby,” whose political satires were quite famous in their day. Nearly every prominent man who has written his recollections of Lincoln has told how the President, in the middle of a conversation on some serious subject, would suddenly stop and ask his hearer if he ever read the Nasby letters.

Then he would take from his desk a pamphlet containing the letters and proceed to read them, laughing heartily at all the good points they contained. There is probably no better evidence of Mr. Lincoln’s love of humor and appreciation of it than his letter to Nasby, in which he said: “For the ability to write these things I would gladly trade places with you.”

Mr. Lincoln was re-elected President in 1864. His opponent on the Democratic ticket was General George B. McClellan, whose command of the Army of the Potomac had been so unsatisfactory at the beginning of the war. Mr. Lincoln’s election was almost unanimous, as McClellan carried but three States–Delaware, Kentucky and New Jersey.

General Grant, in a telegram of congratulation, said that it was “a victory worth more to the country than a battle won.”

The war was fast drawing to a close. The black war clouds were breaking and rolling away. Sherman had made his famous march to the sea. Through swamp and ravine, Grant was rapidly tightening the lines around Richmond. Thomas had won his title of the “Rock of Chickamauga.” Sheridan had won his spurs as the great modern cavalry commander, and had cleaned out the Shenandoah Valley. Sherman was coming back from his famous march to join Grant at Richmond.

The Confederacy was without a navy. The Kearsarge had sunk the Alabama, and Farragut had fought and won the famous victory in Mobile Bay. It was certain that Lee would soon have to evacuate Richmond only to fall into the hands of Grant.

Lincoln saw the dawn of peace. When he came to deliver his second inaugural address, it contained no note of victory, no exultation over a fallen foe. On the contrary, it breathed the spirit of brotherly love and of prayer for an early peace: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphans, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Not long thereafter, General Lee evacuated Richmond with about half of his original army, closely pursued by Grant. The boys in blue overtook their brothers in gray at Appomattox Court House, and there, beneath the warm rays of an April sun, the great Confederate general made his final surrender. The war was over, the American flag was floated over all the territory of the United States, and peace was now a reality. Mr. Lincoln visited Richmond and the final scenes of the war and then returned to Washington to carry out his announced plan of “binding up the nation’s wounds.”

He had now reached the climax of his career and touched the highest point of his greatness. His great task was over, and the heavy burden that had so long worn upon his heart was lifted.

While the whole nation was rejoicing over the return of peace, the Saviour of the Union was stricken down by the hand of an assassin.


>From early youth, Mr. Lincoln had presentiments that he would die
a violent death, or, rather, that his final days would be marked by some great tragic event. From the time of his first election to the Presidency, his closest friends had tried to make him understand that he was in constant danger of assassination, but, notwithstanding his presentiments, he had such splendid courage that he only laughed at their fears.

During the summer months he lived at the Soldiers’ Home, some miles from Washington, and frequently made the trip between the White House and the Home without a guard or escort. Secretary of War Stanton and Ward Lamon, Marshal of the District, were almost constantly alarmed over Mr. Lincoln’s carelessness in exposing himself to the danger of assassination.

They warned him time and again, and provided suitable body-guards to attend him. But Mr. Lincoln would often give the guards the slip, and, mounting his favorite riding horse, “Old Abe,” would set out alone after dark from the White House for the Soldiers’ Home.

While riding to the Home one night, he was fired upon by some one in ambush, the bullet passing through his high hat. Mr. Lincoln would not admit that the man who fired the shot had tried to kill him. He always attributed it to an accident, and begged his friends to say nothing about it.

Now that all the circumstances of the assassination are known, it is plain that there was a deep-laid and well-conceived plot to kill Mr. Lincoln long before the crime was actually committed. When Mr. Lincoln was delivering his second inaugural address on the steps of the Capitol, an excited individual tried to force his way through the guards in the building to get on the platform with Mr. Lincoln.

It was afterward learned that this man was John Wilkes Booth, who afterwards assassinated Mr. Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre, on the night of the 14th of April.


The manager of the theatre had invited the President to witness a performance of a new play known as “Our American Cousin,” in which the famous actress, Laura Keane, was playing. Mr. Lincoln was particularly fond of the theatre. He loved Shakespeare’s plays above all others and never missed a chance to see the leading Shakespearean actors.

As “Our American Cousin” was a new play, the President did not care particularly to see it, but as Mrs. Lincoln was anxious to go, he consented and accepted the invitation.

General Grant was in Washington at the time, and as he was extremely anxious about the personal safety of the President, he reported every day regularly at the White House. Mr. Lincoln invited General Grant and his wife to accompany him and Mrs. Lincoln to the theatre on the night of the assassination, and the general accepted, but while they were talking he received a note from Mrs. Grant saying that she wished to leave Washington that evening to visit her daughter in Burlington. General Grant made his excuses to the President and left to accompany Mrs. Grant to the railway station. It afterwards became known that it was also a part of the plot to assassinate General Grant, and only Mrs. Grant’s departure from Washington that evening prevented the attempt from being made.

General Grant afterwards said that as he and Mrs. Grant were riding along Pennsylvania avenue to the railway station a horseman rode rapidly by at a gallop, and, wheeling his horse, rode back, peering into their carriage as he passed.

Mrs. Grant remarked to the general: “That is the very man who sat near us at luncheon to-day and tried to overhear our conversation. He was so rude, you remember, as to cause us to leave the dining-room. Here he is again, riding after us.”

General Grant attributed the action of the man to idle curiosity, but learned afterward that the horseman was John Wilkes Booth.


Probably one reason why Mr. Lincoln did not particularly care to go to the theatre that night was a sort of half promise he had made to his friend and bodyguard, Marshal Lamon. Two days previous he had sent Lamon to Richmond on business connected with a call of a convention for reconstruction. Before leaving, Mr. Lamon saw Mr. Usher, the Secretary of the Interior, and asked him to persuade Mr. Lincoln to use more caution about his personal safety, and to go out as little as possible while Lamon was absent. Together they went to see Mr. Lincoln, and Lamon asked the President if he would make him a promise.

“I think I can venture to say I will,” said Mr. Lincoln. “What is it?”

“Promise me that you will not go out after night while I am gone,” said Mr. Lamon, “particularly to the theatre.”

Mr. Lincoln turned to Mr. Usher and said: “Usher, this boy is a monomaniac on the subject of my safety. I can hear him or hear of his being around at all times in the night, to prevent somebody from murdering me. He thinks I shall be killed, and we think he is going crazy. What does any one want to assassinate me for? If any one wants to do so, he can do it any day or night if he is ready to give his life for mine. It is nonsense.”

Mr. Usher said to Mr. Lincoln that it was well to heed Lamon’s warning, as he was thrown among people from whom he had better opportunities to know about such matters than almost any one.

“Well,” said Mr. Lincoln to Lamon, “I promise to do the best I can toward it.”


The assassination of President Lincoln was most carefully planned, even to the smallest detail. The box set apart for the President’s party was a double one in the second tier at the left of the stage. The box had two doors with spring locks, but Booth had loosened the screws with which they were fastened so that it was impossible to secure them from the inside. In one door he had bored a hole with a gimlet, so that he could see what was going on inside the box.

An employee of the theatre by the name of Spangler, who was an accomplice of the assassin, had even arranged the seats in the box to suit the purposes of Booth.

On the fateful night the theatre was packed. The Presidential party arrived a few minutes after nine o’clock, and consisted of the President and Mrs. Lincoln, Miss Harris and Major Rathbone, daughter and stepson of Senator Harris of New York. The immense audience rose to its feet and cheered the President as he passed to his box.

Booth came into the theatre about ten o’clock. He had not only, planned to kill the President, but he had also planned to escape into Maryland, and a swift horse, saddled and ready for the journey, was tied in the rear of the theatre. For a few minutes he pretended to be interested in the performance, and then gradually made his way back to the door of the President’s box.

Before reaching there, however, he was confronted by one of the President’s messengers, who had been stationed at the end of the passage leading to the boxes to prevent any one from intruding. To this man Booth handed a card saying that the President had sent for him, and was permitted to enter.

Once inside the hallway leading to the boxes, he closed the hall door and fastened it by a bar prepared for the occasion, so that it was impossible to open it from without. Then he quickly entered the box through the right-hand door. The President was sitting in an easy armchair in the left-hand corner of the box nearest the audience. He was leaning on one hand and with the other had hold of a portion of the drapery. There was a smile on his face. The other members of the party were intently watching the performance on the stage.

The assassin carried in his right hand a small silver-mounted derringer pistol and in his left a long double-edged dagger. He placed the pistol just behind the President’s left ear and fired.

Mr. Lincoln bent slightly forward and his eyes closed, but in every other respect his attitude remained unchanged.

The report of the pistol startled Major Rathbone, who sprang to his feet. The murderer was then about six feet from the President, and Rathbone grappled with him, but was shaken off. Dropping his pistol, Booth struck at Rathbone with the dagger and inflicted a severe wound. The assassin then placed his left hand lightly on the railing of the box and jumped to the stage, eight or nine feet below.


The box was draped with the American flag, and, in jumping, Booth’s spurs caught in the folds, tearing down the flag, the assassin falling heavily to the stage and spraining his ankle. He arose, however, and walked theatrically across the stage, brandished his knife and shouted, “Sic semper tyrannis!” and then added, “The South is avenged.”

For the moment the audience was horrified and incapable of action. One man only, a lawyer named Stuart, had sufficient presence of mind to leap upon the stage and attempt to capture the assassin. Booth went to the rear door of the stage, where his horse was held in readiness for him, and, leaping into the saddle, dashed through the streets toward Virginia. Miss Keane rushed to the President’s box with water and stimulants, and medical aid was summoned.

By this time the audience realized the tragedy that had been enacted, and then followed a scene such as has never been witnessed in any public gathering in this country. Women wept, shrieked and fainted; men raved and swore, and horror was depicted on every face. Before the audience could be gotten out of the theatre, horsemen were dashing through the streets and the telegraph was carrying the terrible details of the tragedy throughout the nation.


Walt Whitman, the poet, has sketched in graphic language the scenes of that most eventful fourteenth of April. His account of the assassination has become historic, and is herewith given:

“The day (April 14, 1865) seems to have been a pleasant one throughout the whole land–the moral atmosphere pleasant, too– the long storm, so dark, so fratricidal, full of blood and doubt and gloom, over and ended at last by the sunrise of such an absolute national victory, and utter breaking down of secessionism–we almost doubted our senses! Lee had capitulated, beneath the apple tree at Appomattox. The other armies, the flanges of the revolt, swiftly followed.

“And could it really be, then? Out of all the affairs of this world of woe and passion, of failure and disorder and dismay, was there really come the confirmed, unerring sign of peace, like a shaft of pure light–of rightful rule–of God?

“But I must not dwell on accessories. The deed hastens. The popular afternoon paper, the little Evening Star, had scattered all over its third page, divided among the advertisements in a sensational manner in a hundred different places:

“‘The President and his lady will be at the theatre this evening.’

“Lincoln was fond of the theatre. I have myself seen him there several times. I remember thinking how funny it was that he, the leading actor in the greatest and stormiest drama known to real history’s stage, through centuries, should sit there and be so completely interested in those human jackstraws, moving about with their silly little gestures, foreign spirit, and flatulent text.

“So the day, as I say, was propitious. Early herbage, early flowers, were out. I remember where I was stopping at the time, the season being advanced, there were many lilacs in full bloom.

“By one of those caprices that enter and give tinge to events without being a part of them, I find myself always reminded of the great tragedy of this day by the sight and odor of these blossoms. It never fails.

“On this occasion the theatre was crowded, many ladies in rich and gay costumes, officers in their uniforms, many well-known citizens, young folks, the usual cluster of gas lights, the usual magnetism of so many people, cheerful with perfumes, music of violins and flutes–and over all, that saturating, that vast, vague wonder, Victory, the nation’s victory, the triumph of the Union, filling the air, the thought, the sense, with exhilaration more than all the perfumes.

“The President came betimes, and, with his wife, witnessed the play from the large stage boxes of the second tier, two thrown into one, and profusely draped with the national flag. The acts and scenes of the piece–one of those singularly witless compositions which have at the least the merit of giving entire relief to an audience engaged in mental action or business excitements and cares during the day, as it makes not the slightest call on either the moral, emotional, esthetic or spiritual nature–a piece in which among other characters, so called, a Yankee–certainly such a one as was never seen, or at least like it ever seen in North America, is introduced in England, with a varied fol-de-rol of talk, plot, scenery, and such phantasmagoria as goes to make up a modern popular drama–had progressed perhaps through a couple of its acts, when, in the midst of this comedy, or tragedy, or non-such, or whatever it is to be called, and to offset it, or finish it out, as if in Nature’s and the Great Muse’s mockery of these poor mimics, comes interpolated that scene, not really or exactly to be described at all (for on the many hundreds who were there it seems to this hour to have left little but a passing blur, a dream, a blotch)–and yet partially described as I now proceed to give it:

“There is a scene in the play, representing the modern parlor, in which two unprecedented ladies are informed by the unprecedented and impossible Yankee that he is not a man of fortune, and therefore undesirable for marriage-catching purposes; after which, the comments being finished, the dramatic trio make exit, leaving the stage clear for a moment.

“There was a pause, a hush, as it were. At this period came the death of Abraham Lincoln.

“Great as that was, with all its manifold train circling around it, and stretching into the future for many a century, in the politics, history, art, etc., of the New World, in point of fact, the main thing, the actual murder, transpired with the quiet and simplicity of any commonest occurrence–the bursting of a bud or pod in the growth of vegetation, for instance.

“Through the general hum following the stage pause, with the change of positions, etc., came the muffled sound of a pistol shot, which not one-hundredth part of the audience heard at the time–and yet a moment’s hush–somehow, surely a vague, startled thrill–and then, through the ornamented, draperied, starred and striped space-way of the President’s box, a sudden figure, a man, raises himself with hands and feet, stands a moment on the railing, leaps below to the stage, falls out of position, catching his bootheel in the copious drapery (the American flag), falls on one knee, quickly recovers himself, rises as if nothing had happened (he really sprains his ankle, unfelt then)–and the figure, Booth, the murderer, dressed in plain black broadcloth, bareheaded, with a full head of glossy, raven hair, and his eyes, like some mad animal’s, flashing with light and resolution, yet with a certain strange calmness holds aloft in one hand a large knife–walks along not much back of the footlights–turns fully towards the audience, his face of statuesque beauty, lit by those basilisk eyes, flashing with desperation, perhaps insanity–launches out in a firm and steady voice the words, ‘Sic semper tyrannis’–and then walks with neither slow nor very rapid pace diagonally across to the back of the stage, and disappears.

“(Had not all this terrible scene–making the mimic ones preposterous–had it not all been rehearsed, in blank, by Booth, beforehand?)

“A moment’s hush, incredulous–a scream–a cry of murder–Mrs. Lincoln leaning out of the box, with ashy cheeks and lips, with involuntary cry, pointing to the retreating figure, ‘He has killed the President!’

“And still a moment’s strange, incredulous suspense–and then the deluge!–then that mixture of horror, noises, uncertainty–the sound, somewhere back, of a horse’s hoofs clattering with speed– the people burst through chairs and railings, and break them up–that noise adds to the queerness of the scene–there is inextricable confusion and terror–women faint–quite feeble persons fall, and are trampled on–many cries of agony are heard –the broad stage suddenly fills to suffocation with a dense and motley crowd, like some horrible carnival–the audience rush generally upon it–at least the strong men do–the actors and actresses are there in their play costumes and painted faces, with mortal fright showing through the rouge–some trembling, some in tears–the screams and calls, confused talk–redoubled, trebled–two or three manage to pass up water from the stage to the President’s box, others try to clamber up, etc., etc.

“In the midst of all this the soldiers of the President’s Guard, with others, suddenly drawn to the scene, burst in–some two hundred altogether–they storm the house, through all the tiers, especially the upper ones–inflamed with fury, literally charging the audience with fixed bayonets, muskets and pistols, shouting, ‘Clear out! clear out!’

“Such a wild scene, or a suggestion of it, rather, inside the playhouse that night!

“Outside, too, in the atmosphere of shock and craze, crowds of people filled with frenzy, ready to seize any outlet for it, came near committing murder several times on innocent individuals.

“One such case was particularly exciting. The infuriated crowd, through some chance, got started against one man, either for words he uttered, or perhaps without any cause at all, and were proceeding to hang him at once to a neighboring lamp-post, when he was rescued by a few heroic policemen, who placed him in their midst and fought their way slowly and amid great peril toward the station-house.

“It was a fitting episode of the whole affair. The crowd rushing and eddying to and fro, the night, the yells, the pale faces, many frightened people trying in vain to extricate themselves, the attacked man, not yet freed from the jaws of death, looking like a corpse; the silent, resolute half-dozen policemen, with no weapons but their little clubs, yet stern and steady through all those eddying swarms, made, indeed, a fitting side scene to the grand tragedy of the murder. They gained the station-house with the protected man, whom they placed in security for the night, and discharged in the morning.

“And in the midst of that night pandemonium of senseless hate, infuriated soldiers, the audience and the crowd–the stage, and all its actors and actresses, its paint pots, spangles, gas-light–the life-blood from those veins, the best and sweetest of the land, drips slowly down, and death’s ooze already begins its little bubbles on the lips.

“Such, hurriedly sketched, were the accompaniments of the death of President Lincoln. So suddenly, and in murder and horror unsurpassed, he was taken from us. But his death was painless.”

The assassin’s bullet did not produce instant death, but the President never again became conscious. He was carried to a house opposite the theatre, where he died the next morning. In the meantime the authorities had become aware of the wide-reaching conspiracy, and the capital was in a state of terror.

On the night of the President’s assassination, Mr. Seward, Secretary of State, was attacked while in bed with a broken arm, by Booth’s fellow-conspirators, and badly wounded.

The conspirators had also planned to take the lives of Vice-President Johnson and Secretary Stanton. Booth had called on Vice-President Johnson the day before, and, not finding him in, left a card.

Secretary Stanton acted with his usual promptness and courage. During the period of excitement he acted as President, and directed the plans for the capture of Booth.

Among other things, he issued the following reward:

War Department, Washington, April 20, 1865. Major-General John A. Dix, New York:

The murderer of our late beloved President, Abraham Lincoln, is still at large. Fifty thousand dollars reward will be paid by this Department for his apprehension, in addition to any reward offered by municipal authorities or State Executives.

Twenty-five thousand dollars reward will be paid for the apprehension of G. W. Atzerodt, sometimes called “Port Tobacco,” one of Booth’s accomplices. Twenty-five thousand dollars reward will be paid for the apprehension of David C. Herold, another of Booth’s accomplices.

A liberal reward will be paid for any information that shall conduce to the arrest of either the above-named criminals or their accomplices.

All persons harboring or secreting the said persons, or either of them, or aiding or assisting their concealment or escape, will be treated as accomplices in the murder of the President and the attempted assassination of the Secretary of State, and shall be subject to trial before a military commission, and the punishment of death.

Let the stain of innocent blood be removed from the land by the arrest and punishment of the murderers.

All good citizens are exhorted to aid public justice on this occasion. Every man should consider his own conscience charged with this solemn duty, and rest neither night nor day until it be accomplished.

EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.


Booth, accompanied by David C. Herold, a fellow-conspirator, finally made his way into Maryland, where eleven days after the assassination the two were discovered in a barn on Garrett’s farm near Port Royal on the Rappahannock. The barn was surrounded by a squad of cavalrymen, who called upon the assassins to surrender. Herold gave himself up and was roundly cursed and abused by Booth, who declared that he would never be taken alive.

The cavalrymen then set fire to the barn and as the flames leaped up the figure of the assassin could be plainly seen, although the wall of fire prevented him from seeing the soldiers. Colonel Conger saw him standing upright upon a crutch with a carbine in his hands.

When the fire first blazed up Booth crept on his hands and knees to the spot, evidently for the purpose of shooting the man who had applied the torch, but the blaze prevented him from seeing anyone. Then it seemed as if he were preparing to extinguish the flames, but seeing the impossibility of this he started toward the door with his carbine held ready for action.

His eyes shone with the light of fever, but he was pale as death and his general appearance was haggard and unkempt. He had shaved off his mustache and his hair was closely cropped. Both he and Herold wore the uniforms of Confederate soldiers.


The last orders given to the squad pursuing Booth were: “Don’t shoot Booth, but take him alive.” Just as Booth started to the door of the barn this order was disobeyed by a sergeant named Boston Corbett, who fired through a crevice and shot Booth in the neck. The wounded man was carried out of the barn and died four hours afterward on the grass where they had laid him. Before he died he whispered to Lieutenant Baker, “Tell mother I died for my country; I thought I did for the best.” What became of Booth’s body has always been and probably always will be a mystery. Many different stories have been told concerning his final resting place, but all that is known positively is that the body was first taken to Washington and a post-mortem examination of it held on the Monitor Montauk. On the night of April 27th it was turned over to two men who took it in a rowboat and disposed of it secretly. How they disposed of it none but themselves know and they have never told.


The conspiracy to assassinate the President involved altogether twenty-five people. Among the number captured and tried were David C. Herold, G. W. Atzerodt, Louis Payne, Edward Spangler, Michael O’Loughlin, Samuel Arnold, Mrs. Surratt and Dr. Samuel Mudd, a physician, who set Booth’s leg, which was sprained by his fall from the stage box. Of these Herold, Atzerodt, Payne and Mrs. Surratt were hanged. Dr. Mudd was deported to the Dry Tortugas. While there an epidemic of yellow fever broke out and he rendered such good service that he was granted a pardon and died a number of years ago in Maryland.

John Surratt, the son of the woman who was hanged, made his escape to Italy, where he became one of the Papal guards in the Vatican at Rome. His presence there was discovered by Archbishop Hughes, and, although there were no extradition laws to cover his case, the Italian Government gave him up to the United States authorities.

He had two trials. At the first the jury disagreed; the long delay before his second trial allowed him to escape by pleading the statute of limitation. Spangler and O’Loughlin were sent to the Dry Tortugas and served their time.

Ford, the owner of the theatre in which the President was assassinated, was a Southern sympathizer, and when he attempted to re-open his theatre after the great national tragedy, Secretary Stanton refused to allow it. The Government afterward bought the theatre and turned it into a National museum.

President Lincoln was buried at Springfield, and on the day of his funeral there was universal grief.


No final words of that great life can be more fitly spoken than the eulogy pronounced by Henry Ward Beecher:

“And now the martyr is moving in triumphal march, mightier than when alive. The nation rises up at every stage of his coming. Cities and States are his pall-bearers, and the cannon speaks the hours with solemn progression. Dead, dead, dead, he yet speaketh.

“Is Washington dead? Is Hampden dead? Is any man that was ever fit to live dead? Disenthralled of flesh, risen to the unobstructed sphere where passion never comes, he begins his illimitable work. His life is now grafted upon the infinite, and will be fruitful as no earthly life can be.

“Pass on, thou that hast overcome. Ye people, behold the martyr whose blood, as so many articulate words, pleads for fidelity, for law, for liberty.”


Abraham Lincoln was married on November 4, 1842, to Miss Mary Todd, four sons being the issue of the union.

Robert Todd, born August 1, 1843, removed to Chicago after his father’s death, practiced law, and became wealthy; in 1881 he was appointed Secretary of War by President Garfield, and served through President Arthur’s term; was made Minister to England in 1889, and served four years; became counsel for the Pullman Palace Car Company, and succeeded to the presidency of that corporation upon the death of George M. Pullman.

Edward Baker, born March 10, 1846, died in infancy.

William Wallace, born December 21, 1850, died in the White House in February, 1862.

Thomas (known as “Tad”), born April 4, 1853, died in 1871.

Mrs. Lincoln died in her sixty-fourth year at the home of her sister, Mrs. Ninian W. Edwards, at Springfield, Illinois, in 1882. She was the daughter of Robert S. Todd, of Kentucky. Her great-uncle, John Todd, and her grandfather, Levi Todd, accompanied General George Rogers Clark to Illinois, and were present at the capture of Kaskaskia and Vincennes. In December, 1778, John Todd was appointed by Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia, to be lieutenant of the County of Illinois, then a part of Virginia. Colonel John Todd was one of the original proprietors of the town of Lexington, Kentucky. While encamped on the site of the present city, he heard of the opening battle of the Revolution, and named his infant settlement in its honor.

Mrs. Lincoln was a proud, ambitious woman, well-educated, speaking French fluently, and familiar with the ways of the best society in Lexington, Kentucky, where she was born December 13, 1818. She was a pupil of Madame Mantelli, whose celebrated seminary in Lexington was directly opposite the residence of Henry Clay. The conversation at the seminary was carried on entirely in French.

She visited Springfield, Illinois, in 1837, remained three months and then returned to her native State. In 1839 she made Springfield her permanent home. She lived with her eldest sister, Elizabeth, wife of Ninian W. Edwards, Lincoln’s colleague in the Legislature, and it was not strange she and Lincoln should meet. Stephen A. Douglas was also a friend of the Edwards family, and a suitor for her hand, but she rejected him to accept the future President. She was one of the belles of the town.

She is thus described at the time she made her home in Springfield–1839:

“She was of the average height, weighing about a hundred and thirty pounds. She was rather compactly built, had a well rounded face, rich dark-brown hair, and bluish-gray eyes. In her bearing she was proud, but handsome and vivacious; she was a good conversationalist, using with equal fluency the French and English languages.

“When she used a pen, its point was sure to be sharp, and she wrote with wit and ability. She not only had a quick intellect but an intuitive judgment of men and their motives. Ordinarily she was affable and even charming in her manners; but when offended or antagonized she could be very bitter and sarcastic.

“In her figure and physical proportions, in education, bearing, temperament, history–in everything she was the exact reverse of Lincoln.”

That Mrs. Lincoln was very proud of her husband there is no doubt; and it is probable that she married him largely from motives of ambition. She knew Lincoln better than he knew himself; she instinctively felt that he would occupy a proud position some day, and it is a matter of record that she told Ward Lamon, her husband’s law partner, that “Mr. Lincoln will yet be President of the United States.”

Mrs. Lincoln was decidedly pro-slavery in her views, but this never disturbed Lincoln. In various ways they were unlike. Her fearless, witty, and austere nature had nothing in common with the calm, imperturbable, and simple ways of her thoughtful and absent-minded husband. She was bright and sparkling in conversation, and fit to grace any drawing-room. She well knew that to marry Lincoln meant not a life of luxury and ease, for Lincoln was not a man to accumulate wealth; but in him she saw position in society, prominence in the world, and the grandest social distinction. By that means her ambition was certainly satisfied, for nineteen years after her marriage she was “the first lady of the land,” and the mistress of the White House.

After his marriage, by dint of untiring efforts and the recognition of influential friends, the couple managed through rare frugality to move along.

In Lincoln’s struggles, both in the law and for political advancement, his wife shared his sacrifices. She was a plucky little woman, and in fact endowed with a more restless ambition than he. She was gifted with a rare insight into the motives that actuate mankind, and there is no doubt that much of Lincoln’s success was in a measure attributable to her acuteness and the stimulus of her influence.

His election to Congress within four years after their marriage afforded her extreme gratification. She loved power and prominence, and was inordinately proud of her tall and ungainly husband. She saw in him bright prospects ahead, and his every move was watched by her with the closest interest. If to other persons he seemed homely, to her he was the embodiment of noble manhood, and each succeeding day impressed upon her the wisdom of her choice of Lincoln over Douglas–if in reality she ever seriously accepted the latter’s attentions.

“Mr. Lincoln may not be as handsome a figure,” she said one day in Lincoln’s law office during her husband’s absence, when the conversation turned on Douglas, “but the people are perhaps not aware that his heart is as large as his arms are long.”


The remains of Abraham Lincoln rest beneath a magnificent monument in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Ill. Before they