Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Impartial History...Will Write You Down as the Greatest Tyrant that Ever Lived..."

I think the weekly edition of Lincolniana on auction we've been doing has the potential to be incredibly useful. I began the program thinking this would be a good way for us to track the value of certain items in today's marketplace, but my thinking has evolved a bit over the past few weeks.

Most of the Lincoln documents available for auction are not found in the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. The editors of that monumental documentary editing project knew they had not been able to locate every document in existence. As you might imagine, hundreds of documents have come to light since the project was completed. In part, that is why the folks at the Papers of Abraham Lincoln Project in Springfield are working so hard to create a 21st Century Collected Works.

As we continue to monitor the auction sites, I am pleasantly surprised with both the quantity and quality of the documents that are still in private hands. As I find documents and spend a few moments digging up research on them, I am amazed by how many individual stories still need to be told. Today's document is another fantastic example of this.

This week, a controversial, full-page document, written by Lincoln on July 4, 1864, is up for auction. This document has an absolutely breathtaking backstory.

According to my eyes, the document reads as follows:

July 4, 1864

Senator Powell


The Sec. of War informs me that Col. Woolford will be put on trial this week & just as early in the week as the case can be prepared

Very Respectfully

A. Lincoln

In response to General James B. Fry's order of "the enrollment without delay, of all colored males of military age," Union Colonel Frank L. Wolford of the 1st Kentucky Volunteer Cavalry, denounced President Abraham Lincoln as a tyrant and a traitor during a public ceremony on March 10, 1864. Wolford urged his fellow Kentuckians to resist the enrollment of African American soldiers.

Wolford's incendiary remarks were promptly telegraphed to mlitary authorites and Wolford was arrested. On March 24, Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton "dishonorably dismissed" Wolford from service for "violation of the Fifth of the Rules and Aricles of War, in using disrespectful words against the Presdient of the United States, for disloyalty, and for conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman."

The Chicago Tribune condemned Wolford in a graphic editorial, calling the disgraced cavalryman a "negrophobist." In language closely resembling Lincoln's letter to James C. Conkling, which was read in public the previous August and published, the Tribune condemned Wolford:

Let Mr. Wolford, and all his kith and kin in politics, remember that the God-fearing black, who, with musket in hand steps forward at the call of the country, is tenfold more the brother and fellow citizen of the true patriot, than the wretcheswho to spite the negro would ruin the country.

Nonetheless, on April 1, 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant revoked the previous order and Wolford was indeed reinstated in command.

But that is hardly the end of the story.

According to the very detailed item description:

Col. Wolford was chosen a presidential elector of Kentucky's pro-McClellan Conservative Union Party and, as he had done previously, spoke throughout the state against Lincoln's policies. On June 27, 1864, Wolford was arrested again at Lebanon, Kentucky, and sent to Washington in shackles per Gen. Burbridge's orders, though still no formal charges had been filed. Burbridge became known as the "Butcher of Kentucky" for the imprisonment and execution of numerous Kentuckians, including public figures, on charges of treason and other crimes, many of which were baseless. When Wolford was brought to Secretary of War Stanton, the shackles were ordered to be removed and Wolford to be taken to a room at the Willard Hotel just a few blocks from the White House. At the hotel, Wolford received a message that Pres. Lincoln wanted to see him. The bearer of the message, Van Buren, who had served under Wolford as an engineer, and was a friend, was told by Wolford that he was a prisoner, he had seen the President's picture, and did not care to see him, but if the President wished to see him, he could "call around." Van Buren at first refused to carry such a message, but finally consented. Col. Wolford met with Lincoln, Stanton, Kentucky Senator Lazarus Powell, and others at the Willard.

On July 7, 1864, three days after writing this letter to Sen. Powell, Lincoln met again with Col. Wolford at the White House and handwrote a statement for Wolford to sign on Executive Mansion stationery:

I hereby give my parol of honor, that if allowed, I will forthwith proceed to Louisville Kentucky, and then remain, until the court for my trial shall arrive, when I will report myself to their charge, and that in the mean time I will abstain from public speaking, and every thing intended or calculated to produce excitement." Wolford signed it, beneath which the President penned, "Col. Wolford is allowed to go on the above conditions. A. Lincoln.

On July 17, 1864, Pres. Lincoln wrote to Wolford that he had that day sent to Attorney General James Speed "a blank parole in duplicate, which, if you chose, you can sign, and be discharged. He will call upon you. I inclose a printed copy of the letter I read to you the last day you were with me, and which I shall be pleased for you to look over." The parole, handwritten by Lincoln for Wolford's signature: "I hereby pledge my honor that I will neither do or say anything which will directly or indirectly tend to hinder, delay, or embarrass the employment and use of colored persons, as soldiers, seamen, or otherwise, in the suppression of the rebellion, so long as the U.S. government chooses to so employ and use them."

On July 30th, Wolford replied to Lincoln in a lengthy letter.

In answer to this proposal I have frankly to say that I can not bargain for my liberty and the exercise of rights as a freeman on any such terms. I have committed no crime. I have broken no law of my country or of my state. I have not violated any military order or any usages of war, no act or word of mine has ever given encouragement to the enemy. I have no sympathy for the rebellion; all my sympathies are with and all my hopes are for my country. The triumph of the national arms, the preservation of the Union, the maintenance of the Constitution, the restoration of the supremacy of the law over all the States, and the perpetuation of civil and religious liberty are the objects most dear to my heart. I may say without presumption that I have done more to enlist white men in the army of the Union than any other man in the State of Kentucky. I have done nothing to hinder the enlistment even of negroes, because I do not associate with them and have no influence over them. You, Mr. President, if you will excuse the bluntness of a soldier, by an exercise of arbitrary power, have caused me to be arrested and held in confinement contrary to law, not for the good of our common country, but to increase the chances of your re-election to the Presidency and otherwise to serve the purposes of the political party whose candidate you are, and now you ask me to stultify myself by signing a pledge whereby I shall virtually support you in deterring other men from criticising the policy of your Administration. No, sir; much as I love liberty I will fester in a prison or die on a gibbet before I will agree to any terms that do not abandon all charges against me and fully acknowledge my innocence...If, Mr. President, you can not face your case, so stated, it is only because you can not face the truth. If you by persisting in your policy of forcibly abolishing slavery, should cause this war to continue two years longer...It will bring over a million freemen to a bloody end. It will cause cripples and widows and orphans to become so numerous, and crime and violence and bloodshed and misery will increase to such an extent, and your tyranny will have become so great in carrying out the policy you have adopted in order to keep down the discontented and wounded spirits, that your course will come to rise up to defy you, that impartial history, in attesting the goodness and severity of God, will write you down as the greatest tyrant that ever lived...

Four days later, on August 3rd, Wolford telegraphed Lincoln. The Judge Advocate had ordered him to immediately report to Washington to be tried before a military commission. Wolford told the President that he had "scrupulously kept" the terms of his July 7th parole and that Lincoln had promised he would be tried in Louisville.

On August 4th, Lincoln telegraphed:

Yours of yesterday received. Before interfering with the Judge Advocate General's order, I should know his reasons for making it. Meanwhile, if you have not already started, wait till you hear from me again. Did you receive letter and inclosures from me?

Wolford's August 5th reply indicates that he had not as yet mailed the lengthy July 30th response to Lincoln's July 17th offer of parole and discharge:

I duly recd letter and was on the point of mailing my answer when the order of the Judge Advocate came. My answer is now on the way to you.

Lincoln never replied to Wolford's lengthy, critical letter.

With his fate undecided, Wolford went back on the campaign trail. On September 19, 1864, Col. Wolford spoke in Richmond, Kentucky, at a McClellan rally, beginning:

I have been asked to point out a single clause in the Constitution of the United States that Mr. Lincoln has violated. This is an easy task; for there is scarcely a clause in that sacred instrument that he has not violated.

In the November 8, 1864, presidential election, Lincoln won in a landslide, 212-21 electoral votes. Lincoln won 22 states to McClellan's 3, including Kentucky, Pres. Lincoln's birthplace.

On July 5, 1864, a day after Lincoln wrote this letter about Col. Wolford to Senator Powell, the President issued a the following proclamation:

Whereas many citizens of the State of Kentucky have joined the forces of the insurgents and...that combinations have been formed in the said State of Kentucky with a purpose of inciting revel forces to renew the said operations of civil war within the said State...I, Abraham hereby declare that in my judgment the public safety especially required that the suspension of the privilege of the writ of Habeas Corpus be effectually suspended within the said State...and that martial law be established therein...

Habeas Corpus was protection against illegal imprisonment. With its suspension, Col. Wolford and other Kentuckians could be imprisoned indefinitely without going to trial. Arrested frequently, Wolford never went to trial.

Col. Frank Lane Wolford had served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1847 until 1849. From 1849 until the outbreak of the Civil War, he had earned a reputation as one of the best criminal lawyers in the state . On March 4, 1865, Wolford returned to the Kentucky House, serving until 1867 when he was appointed Adjutant General of Kentucky by Gov. John W. Stevenson. In 1869, Wolford returned to his law practice and, in 1882, was elected to Congress, serving from 1883-1887.

The letter has been professionally restored, the folds have been reinforced on verso. Toning and a few spots of foxing as well as some soiling.

This letter, measuring 5" x 8", does not appear in the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lincoln-Douglas at 150


The Southern Illinoisan ran a nice story on Friday about the progress at the Lincoln-Douglas debate site in Jonesboro. We've been tracking their progress for over a year now and have been quite impressed with their efforts.

In preparation for their celebration, which will take place September 12-14, organizers have opened a visitor’s center. The center includes information about the debates, copies of period letters, as well as a video of a reenactment of the debates.

Jonesboro is just one of several Illinois communities planning to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Here’s a look at some of scheduled events:

June 14-16, Springfield

Saturday, June 14

All Day: Traveling exhibit, Confronting Democracy's Boundaries: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates Traveling Exhibit, Old State Capitol.

1-2 pm: Lincoln and Douglas performers George Buss and Tim Connors mingle with visitors, Old State Capitol.

2 pm: Lincoln and Douglas Debate Performance, Old State Capitol's Representative Hall.

4-5 pm: "Together We Read Libraries" featuring audience interaction with award-winning historian Allen Guelzo, discussing his new book, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America, Old State Capitol

Sunday, June 15

All Day: Traveling exhibit, Confronting Democracy's Boundaries: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates Traveling Exhibit, Old State Capitol.

1-3 pm: Lincoln and Douglas performers George Buss and Tim Connors mingle with visitors, Old State Capitol.

2 pm: Lincoln and Douglas Debate Performance, Old State Capitol's Representative Hall.

3-4:30 pm: "Historians Speak" a public conversation between award-winning Lincoln historian, Allen Guelzo, and Illinois State Historian, Thomas F. Schwartz. Audience participation encouraged. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

4:30 pm: Book Signing by historian Allen Guelzo, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum Store.

Monday, June 16

All Day: Traveling exhibit, Confronting Democracy's Boundaries: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates Traveling Exhibit, Old State Capitol.

10-11 am: "Researching Lincoln & Douglas at the Presidential Library." Outreach program for the general public highlighting the Library's research materials for Stephen A. Douglas & Lincoln-Douglas Debates, featuring Glenna Schroeder-Lein from the Manuscripts Division, Mary Michals from the A/V Division, and Lincoln Curator James Cornelius, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. CPDUs offered.

11-2:30 pm: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Education Department. Half-day Teachers' Workshop on Lincoln & Douglas and related topics: Lunch & Workshop in Presidential Library Classroom with Allen Guelzo. Teachers who come early can also attend the Research program at 10 am. CPDUs offered. Cost: $10.00. To reserve a space, go to or call (217) 558-8934.

1-3 pm: Lincoln and Douglas performers George Buss and Tim Connors mingle with visitors, Old State Capitol.

2 pm: Lincoln and Douglas Debate Performance, Old State Capitol's Representative Hall.

5:30 pm: Special Performance—"House Divided Speech" Sesquicentennial Commemoration featuring historical readings by Lincoln-Douglas performers George Buss and Tim Connors with running historical commentary by award-winning historian Allen Guelzo; Representative Hall. Cost: $8.00. Purchase Tickets Online or by calling (217) 558-8934

July 26, Bement

Lincoln and Douglas reportedly met in Bement to finalize the details for the seven debates. Although no debate took place here, Bement has been chosen to host the grand opening event of the Sesquicentennial Celebration. Commemorations include a Lincoln Douglas Press Conference, a play called "The Bement Story", a band and chorus concert, Civil War infantry demonstrations and drills, and a torch light parade featuring Lincoln and Douglas. For more information call 217-678-8184.

August 22-23, Ottawa

Friday events: Yarns and Fables Story Telling Festival. Refreshments available.

Saturday events: Two performances at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. of Reunion Tour 2008 at the historic debate site. Lots of entertainment all day including an old town Farmers Market and a Petticoats and Pantaloons Vintage Fashion Show. The day will end with a costume ball honoring Mr. and Lincoln and Mr. Douglas aboard the Spirit of Peoria paddle wheel boat. For more information call 888-688-2924.

August 29-September 1, Freeport

Friday: Lincoln and Douglas will arrive by steam train. Their arrival will be followed by a torchlight parade and a re-enactment of an abolitionist rally. The rally will include Frederick Douglas.

Saturday: Morning parade through downtown Freeport followed in the afternoon by the dedication of Debate Square and a performance of Reunion Tour 08 with Lincoln and Douglas. In the evening is an 1860 era Grand Ball.

Sunday: Family Day and Art in the Park-juried art and family activities.

Labor Day: The Flavors of Lincoln's Freeport will provide ethnic foods and entertainment and an opportunity to visit with Lincoln and Douglas. For more information call 1-800-369-2955.

September 12-14, Jonesboro

Friday Events: Lincoln and Douglas will meet with the local press and school children. The evening ends with a "Dinner with the Debaters" Reservations are required.

Saturday: All day community festival featuring period crafts demonstrations, food, music and games. At 2:00 the Reunion Tour 2008 press conference will take place with Lincoln and Douglas.

Sunday: Old Fashioned Picnic in Park with Lincoln and Douglas.

For more information call 1-800-248-4373.

September 20-21, Charleston

Saturday Events: All day festival will take place at the original site of the Lincoln Douglas Debate. Activities include a pancake breakfast, 4K run/walk, tours of the Lincoln Douglas Debate Museum, an art fair with traditional 19th century artisans along with modern loca artists, period music and performs. Reunion Tour Press Conference.

Sunday: Events include tours of historic homes and the Downtown Square where Lincoln and Douglas once visited regularly. For more information call 217-348-0430.

October 3-5, Galesburg

On Saturday, listen to Lincoln and Douglas describe the important issues of the debates. Tour Old Main at Knox College, original site of the Debate. Exhibits through the building tell the story of Lincoln's time in Galesburg. Visit the Galesburg Colony Underground Railroad Freedom Station to discover how escaping slaves found shelter in Knox County. Join the fun at the Galesburg Scarecrow Festival. For more information call 309-343-2485. The weekend will include music, entertainment, food and other special programming.

October 11-13, Quincy

Saturday Events: A Grand Welcom Celebration will greet Lincoln and Douglas as they arrive at the site of the former Quincy Railroad Depot. Dedication of the enhanced Lincoln Douglas Debate site in Washington Park.

Sunday: Reunion Tour 2009 festivities will take place in Washington Park. Then join the fun at a Community Contra Dance.

Monday: After spending a day with school children, Lincoln and Douglas will participate in a Farewell Celebration at the Quincy Riverfront. The three day celebration will include music, entertainment, food and other special programming. For more information call 1-800-978-4748.

October 17-18, Danville

Free, advance seat reservation by call 217-442-2922. A paraphrase of the debates with actors from the college drama department and characters from Vermilion County history.

October 17-19, Alton

Friday Events: Alton School will host Lincoln and Douglas and then attend "Dinner with the Lincoln's featuring authentic Lincoln and Civil War recipes along with special programming. Reservations required.

Saturday: The Debate Festival will cover a nine block area of downtown Alton plus City Hall and the debate site. Activities will include period vendors a living history tour with re-enactors and docents at 10 different Lincoln and Civil War interpretive panels and presentations of Reunion Tour 08 Press Conference. Special programs at the Hayner Public Library and the Alton Museum of History and Art.

Sunday: Through the weekend festival special cruises with the Lincoln re-enactors will be available for scenic fall color and historic cruises. The St. Louis Science Center is also tying in Lincoln Segway tours of the historic Lincoln sites in Alton. For more information call 1-800-258-6645.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Odds and Ends

Lincoln Bicentennial Painting

A number of stories caught my eye this week, but time did not allow me to bring them all to your attention. I thought we'd might do an "odds and ends" type post this morning:

  • Thomas Kennedy, a Spencer County, Indiana artist, unveiled his new Lincoln Bicentennial painting on Monday. Kennedy hopes a print will hang in every school in his home state. The local news station Fox 7 WTVW covered the story, which you can view here.

  • Barack Obama must be reading In the wake of Monday's post on the coveted Lincoln endorsement, Obama told voters in Boca Raton, Florida about Doris Kearns Goodwin's "wonderful book" Team of Rivals. "Lincoln basically pulled in all the people who had been running against him into his Cabinet because whatever, you know, personal feelings there were, the issue was, 'How can we get this country through this time of crisis?'" Obama said he would take the same approach as president. His rivals on the Democratic side, which include Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd, might receive Cabinet positions. What about John McCain? "You know, if I really thought that John McCain was the absolute best person for the Department of Homeland Security, I would put him in there," Obama said.

  • Daniel Mark Epstein has a new book, The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage. I enjoyed his previous book Lincoln and Whitman: Parallel Lives in Civil War Washington and am looking forward to this one. On Tuesday Andrew Ferguson, the author of Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America, reviewed Epstein's latest offering for the Wall Street Journal.

  • On a related note, both Epstein and Daniel Stowell, the Director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, will be appearing on Saturday, May 31st for a Virtual Book Signing. You can order signed copies of Epstein's book, as well as the four-volume The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases.

  • Happy Memorial Day!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Crime Against Kansas

Southern Chivalry: Argument versus Clubs

On Monday and Tuesday the Republican Senator from Massachusetts delivered a speech. “The Crime Against Kansas” denounced the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the “slave power of our Republic.” Charles Sumner’s rhetoric was characteristically graphic, but two passages were particularly objectionable.

The first passage included an extended metaphor, in which Sumner compared the crisis in Kansas to “the rape of a virgin Territory.” The slave states were forcing “the hateful embrace of Slavery” on Kansas. Sumner predicted the “hideous offspring of such a crime” would soon add “to the power of slavery in the National Government.”

While the first passage was generally offensive to the slave states, the second passage attacked a specific individual, Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina.

The Senator from South Carolina has read many books of chivalry, and believes himself a chivalrous knight, with sentiments of honor and courage. Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight I mean the harlot, Slavery. For her, his tongue is always profuse in words. Let her be impeached in character, or any proposition made to shut her out from the extension of her wantonness, and no extravagance of manner or hardihood of assertion is then too great for this Senator.

Butler’s cousin, Representative Preston Brooks, was outraged. He would make Sumner pay for his crime.

Brooks had a violent past. A few years earlier, he fought a duel and had been shot in the hip, forcing him to use a cane for the rest of his life.

How would he respond to this latest insult?

He initially wanted to challenge Sumner to a duel, but he quickly dismissed the notion. A duel was indeed the wrong way to settle the matter. The code duello required two participants of equal social standing. Brooks concluded the Senator from Massachusetts was not his social equal. Sumner’s reckless speech on the Senate floor proved as much.

Brooks collected his debt on Thursday, May 22, 1856.

“Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully,” Brooks exclaimed. “It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine.”

As Sumner looked up from his desk and began to rise, Brooks began beating him on the head with his thick, gold-handled cane.

Brooks was merciless.

He landed a number of vicious blows before his cane snapped in half. Blinded by his own blood, Sumner staggered a few feet up the aisle before he collapsed unconscious.

Suffering from the physical, as well as the mental, effects of the beating, Sumner’s seat remained empty for the next three years.

Northern newspapers decried Brooks, as well as “the slave-power.” Writing in the New York Evening Post, William Cullen Bryant asked:

Has it come to this, that we must speak with bated breath in the presence of our Southern masters?...Are we to be chastised as they chastise their slaves? Are we too, slaves, slaves for life, a target for their brutal blows, when we do not comport ourselves to please them?

Similarly, the political cartoon (pictured above) comes from a Northern paper. Notice what is in Sumner’s hands, a pen and paper, sure symbols of “the words of truth,” to which Southern men could only reply with force. Notice too the other Senators in the background, some are even smiling and holding others at bay.

Conversely, Southern papers like the Richmond Enquirer praised the act as "good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in consequences." The "vulgar abolitionists in the Senate" had been allowed "to run too long without collars," but Brooks thankfully "lashed" them "into submission."

Sectional hostilities continued to deteriorate.

Two days after the beating, blood stained the Kansas landscape. Anti-slavery forces, led by the messianic abolitionist John Brown, massacred five pro-slavery men with broadswords at Pottawatomie.

The long march toward Fort Sumter had begun.

For his actions, Brooks was not punished. Southern votes prevented his expulsion from Congress by the required two-thirds majority. Regardless, Brooks resigned his seat, only to recapture it a short time later.

Brooks became a hero, not only in South Carolina, but throughout the slave-holding states. A South Carolinian mayor presented Brooks with a new cane, while the city of Charleston gave him another one with the inscription, “Hit Him Again.” Brooks received dozens of canes from all across the South and became a hero to the emerging fire-eaters. However, he did not have long to revel in his new-found celebrity. He died eight months later of the croup.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Author Pleads Guilty to Stealing Lincoln Document

Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, Springfield, IL

Hat tip to one of my favorite bloggers, Kevin Levin, at Civil War Memory, for calling my attention to this unfortunate story.

Edward Renehan, historian and author of six books, plead guilty on Tuesday to interstate transportation of stolen property for trying to resell historical documents through a Manhattan gallery.

Prosecutors said Renehan stole three documents from the Theodore Roosevelt Association in Oyster Bay on Long Island, NY and tried to resell them for $97,000. To make matters worse, Renehan was acting director of the association at the time of the theft.

Renehan's lawyer told reporters his client was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which along with family issues, contributed to his actions.

"It's similar to getting drunk and doing something you wouldn't do if you were thinking straight," he said.

Renehan faces up to two years in prison and a possible fine of $250,000. He will be sentenced on August 21.

Renehan is also accused of stealing at least one more document, a 1918 letter written by Theodore Roosevelt, which details his son's death in World War I. Those charges are still pending.

However, the three documents Renehan plead guilty to stealing included two letters written by George Washington, one penned on December 29, 1778, the other on August 9, 1791.

The other stolen document was a handwritten letter by Abraham Lincoln. This was no ordinary letter. It was dated March 1, 1840, more than twenty years before he became president.

The letter appears in the Collected Works of Abraham. Here is the document in full, along with the relevant annotations:

AL to John T. Stuart, 1 March 1840, CW, 1:206-207

Springfield, March 1, 1840. [1]

Dear Stuart: I have never seen the prospects of our party so bright in these parts as they are now. We shall carry this county by a larger majority than we did in 1836, when you ran against May. [2] I do not think my prospects individually are very flattering, for I think it is probable I shall not be permitted to be a candidate; but the party ticket will succeed triumphantly. Subscriptions to the ``Old Soldier'' pour in without abatement. This morning I took from the post-office a letter from Dubois [3] inclosing the names of sixty subscribers; and on carrying it to Francis, I found he had received one hundred and forty more from other quarters by the same day's mail. That is but an average specimen of every day's receipts. Yesterday Douglas, having chosen to consider himself insulted by something in the ``Journal,'' undertook to cane Francis in the street. [4] Francis caught him by the hair and jammed him back against a market-cart, where the matter ended by Francis being pulled away from him. The whole affair was so ludicrous that Francis and everybody else (Douglas excepted) have been laughing about it ever since.

I send you the names of some of the Van Buren men who have come out for Harrison about town, and suggest that you send them some documents: Moses Coffman (he let us appoint him a delegate yesterday), Aaron Coffman, George Gregory, H. M. Briggs,---Johnson [5] (at Birchall's book-store), Michael Glynn,---Armstrong [6] (not Hosea, nor Hugh, but a carpenter), Thomas Hunter, Moses Pilcher (he was always a Whig, and deserves attention), Matthew Crowder, Jr., Greenberry Smith, John Fagan, George Fagan, William Fagan (these three fell out with us about Early, and are doubtful now), [7] John Cartmel, Noah Rickard, John Rickard, Walter Marsh (the foregoing should be addressed at Springfield). Also send some to Solomon Miller and John Auth at Saulsbury; [8] also to Charles Harper, Samuel Harper, and B. C. Harper; and T. J. Scroggins, John Scroggins, [9] at [Mount] Pulaski, Logan County.

Speed says he wrote you what Jo. Smith [10] said about you as he passed here. We will procure the names of some of his people here and send them to you before long. Speed also says you must not fail to send us the New York journal he wrote for some time since. Evan Butler [11] is jealous that you never send your compliments to him. You must not neglect him next time. Your friend, as ever,



[1] ALS, Theodore Roosevelt Assoc. Oyster Bay, NY

[2] William L. May, Democrat.

[3] Jesse Kilgore Dubois, state representative from Lawrence County.

[4] Simeon Francis, editor.

[5] J. H. Johnson, partner of Caleb Birchall.

[6] John Armstrong.

[7] William Fagan, a Kentuckian who settled on a farm near Springfield in 1831, and his two sons, John, who was Lincoln's age, and George, who was a few years younger. Probably Lincoln refers to the defense by Stuart & Lincoln which brought about the acquittal of Henry B. Truett for the murder of Dr. Jacob M. Early on March 7, 1838.

[8] Salisbury, Illinois.

[9] Thomas J. Scroggin.

[10] Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism.

[11] Evan T. Butler, deputy circuit clerk, Sangamon County.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lincolniana for Auction

Back by popular demand, we have another example of Lincolniana for auction!

This Ebay auction caught my eye last week. The item is a note, approximately 4.25 x 3.5", purportedly written by Lincoln on March 18, 1865, less than a month before the assassination.

According to my eyes, it reads as follows:

If the service needs such an appointment, let Mr. Taylor be appointed unless some valid objection to him be known at the Department.

A. Lincoln

March 18 1865

The owner claims the note has been in the possession of the family since it was written, which suggests they might be able to shed some light on Mr. Taylor's identity.

The timing of the note is particularly interesting. Earlier in the week, on Tuesday, March 14, Lincoln had been so ill he conducted a Cabinet meeting in his bedroom (Gideon Welles, Diary). The following day, he resumed his usual schedule, but reporters commented on his "feeble" condition for the rest of the week.

This is just my opinion, but Lincoln's handwriting in this brief note doesn't look as strong as it does in other documents. Perhaps he was simply rushed or maybe he was still feeling rather weak from his illness earlier in the week.

Though March 18th was a Saturday, Lincoln was nonetheless hard at work. According to the Collected Works, Lincoln authorized General Edward R. S. Canby to assist in raising funds for an orphanage, he discharged Charles T. Dorsett from the draft, annulled the sentence of the Smith brothers of Boston for fraud, revoked the order dismissing Dr. George Burr, and issued a pass to Rev. Thomas C. Teasdale through military lines.

Though this note does not appear in the Collected Works, it is one of the many documents Lincoln wrote that Saturday in March, less than a month before the assassination.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Who Would Lincoln Endorse?

Lincoln Memorial

The campaign season has reached an inevitable point. The conversation has momentarily shifted away from the economy, health care, and foreign policy to delegates, super delegates, and political endorsements. Hardly a week goes by without two former rivals embracing in front of a large crowd of voters.

Just last week, former presidential hopeful John Edwards announced he was throwing his support to Barack Obama. The endorsement offers the Obama camp something they desperately need: white, working-class voters, a key constituency Obama lost by more than 2-to-1 in last week's West Virginia primary.

Edwards is only one of the many people to officially endorse Obama. Others include Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy, as well as Governor Bill Richardson. Celebrities such as horror writer Stephen King, film-maker Ken Burns, and of course, talk show mogul Oprah Winfrey have also joined the Obama bandwagon.

John McCain has also compiled an impressive list of endorsements. Senators Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Former Army General Norman Schwarzkopf support McCain. Former presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have bandaged their wounds and now support their rival. Celebrities such as Sylvester Stallone and even Red Sox pitcher Curt Shilling have also spoken out in favor of McCain.

And then there is Hillary Clinton. She is still in the race and still touting the endorsements of Senators Evan Bayh and Dianne Feinstein. She also has support among celebrities, which include poet Maya Angelou, actor Jack Nicholson, and even Madonna.

What do all of these endorsements really mean? If you learned something from Ken Burns' massive Civil War documentary, are you going to vote for Obama? If you root for the Red Sox, are you going to support McCain? If you like Nicholson's portrayal of Colonel Jessep in A Few Good Men, does that mean Clinton has earned your vote?

Celebrity endorsements are fun to read about, but I doubt they sway anyone to vote for a particular candidate. I suspect endorsements like those of Edwards, Lieberman, and Bayh have a more meaningful effect on a political campaign.

However, there is another endorsement politicians are eager to capture.

It is the WWLE question: Who Would Lincoln Endorse?

Of course, there is no answer to this question, but that does not prevent political pundits from claiming the "Great Emancipator" endorses their candidate.

On Friday, former Senator and 1972 Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern told a South Dakota crowd he was switching his support from Clinton to Obama. "Illinois gave us Abraham Lincoln," McGovern said. "That state may have now given us a second Abraham Lincoln."

McGovern is not the first person to compare Obama to Lincoln. Obama's rise from relative obscurity to presidential frontrunner has fueled comparisons, as has his gift for soaring oratory, which has been called "Lincolnesque" (see also Garry Wills, "Two Speeches on Race," in New York Review of Books 55:7(1 May 2008).

Instead of running from such lofty comparisons, Obama has encouraged them. Almost two years before the general election, Obama and 17,000 supporters stood in Lincoln's adopted hometown on a freezing February morning. "And that is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States," Obama said.

Similarly, McCain's supporters have begun to "get right with Lincoln." Just this week, Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan claimed the Lincoln endorsement for McCain. McCain, like Lincoln, Duncan argued, "understands the importance of the struggle" during wartime. Vague enough to be believed by some, Duncan went on to reminded voters that McCain is a Vietnam veteran, so he understands the importance of military victory, while his Democrat opponents are both too liberal to lead the nation effectively during a time of war.

By emphasizing military victory, Duncan resurrects Lincoln, circa 1864, as he ran for re-election against his war-weary Democratic opponent. If McCain is Lincoln, Duncan wants us to believe Obama is George McClellan.

And again, there is Hillary Clinton. The first woman to have a legitimate chance of capturing the White House has not been immune to nineteenth century analogies. Last month Manisha Sinha of the Huffington Post penned a thoughtful piece comparing Clinton's unexpected presidential collapse to William H. Seward, the Republican favorite in 1860, who eventually lost the nomination to an unknown lawyer from central Illinois.

Not to be outdone, David Quigg has added an additional wrinkle to the Clinton dilemma. After reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, Quigg ponders which path Clinton will take once Obama officially captures the nomination. If she is asked to play a role in an Obama administration, will she pattern herself after Seward, who as Lincoln's Secretary of State, became a staunch supporter of his former rival? Or, as Quigg seems to fear, will Clinton become the modern equivalent of Salmon P. Chase, who despite being Lincoln's Secretary of the Treasury, never yielded to his former rival and never stopped believing he deserved to be the one in the White House?

What do we make of all this? As David Herbert Donald pointed out more than a half century ago, Lincoln remains the most relevant political figure in American history. The 2008 presidential election has certainly followed a well-trodden path: each candidate has tried to convince voters they have earned Lincoln's endorsement.

However, the 2008 presidential election has indeed broken new ground in one very important area. McCain, Obama, and Clinton have emerged as the most diverse collection of presidential hopefuls in American history. By courting the coveted, yet ultimately unobtainable, Lincoln endorsement, they offer the most compelling evidence to date that Lincoln's legacy truly transcends party, race, and gender.

Friday, May 16, 2008

House Divided Speech Sesquicentennial

The folks at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum have put together an impressive program that will take place June 14-16, 2008.

They plan to mark the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's "House Divided Speech" with a three-day long celebration, featuring commentary by historians Allen C. Guelzo and Thomas F. Schwartz, as well as performances by Lincoln-Douglas presenters George Buss and Tim Connors.

For more details, check out their website. You can also download a free brochure.

For your convenience, I have included a brief run-down of events:

Saturday, June 14

All Day: Traveling exhibit, Confronting Democracy's Boundaries: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates Traveling Exhibit, Old State Capitol.

1-2 pm: Lincoln and Douglas performers George Buss and Tim Connors mingle with visitors, Old State Capitol.

2 pm: Lincoln and Douglas Debate Performance, Old State Capitol's Representative Hall.

4-5 pm: "Together We Read Libraries" featuring audience interaction with award-winning historian Allen Guelzo, discussing his new book, Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America, Old State Capitol

Sunday, June 15

All Day: Traveling exhibit, Confronting Democracy's Boundaries: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates Traveling Exhibit, Old State Capitol.

1-3 pm: Lincoln and Douglas performers George Buss and Tim Connors mingle with visitors, Old State Capitol.

2 pm: Lincoln and Douglas Debate Performance, Old State Capitol's Representative Hall.

3-4:30 pm: "Historians Speak" a public conversation between award-winning Lincoln historian, Allen Guelzo, and Illinois State Historian, Thomas F. Schwartz. Audience participation encouraged. Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.

4:30 pm: Book Signing by historian Allen Guelzo, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum Store.

Monday, June 16

All Day: Traveling exhibit, Confronting Democracy's Boundaries: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates Traveling Exhibit, Old State Capitol.

10-11 am: "Researching Lincoln & Douglas at the Presidential Library." Outreach program for the general public highlighting the Library's research materials for Stephen A. Douglas & Lincoln-Douglas Debates, featuring Glenna Schroeder-Lein from the Manuscripts Division, Mary Michals from the A/V Division, and Lincoln Curator James Cornelius, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. CPDUs offered.

11-2:30 pm: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum Education Department. Half-day Teachers' Workshop on Lincoln & Douglas and related topics: Lunch & Workshop in Presidential Library Classroom with Allen Guelzo. Teachers who come early can also attend the Research program at 10 am. CPDUs offered. Cost: $10.00. To reserve a space, go to or call (217) 558-8934.

1-3 pm: Lincoln and Douglas performers George Buss and Tim Connors mingle with visitors, Old State Capitol.

2 pm: Lincoln and Douglas Debate Performance, Old State Capitol's Representative Hall.

5:30 pm: Special Performance—"House Divided Speech" Sesquicentennial Commemoration featuring historical readings by Lincoln-Douglas performers George Buss and Tim Connors with running historical commentary by award-winning historian Allen Guelzo; Representative Hall. Cost: $8.00. Purchase Tickets Online or by calling (217) 558-8934

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Springfield Race Riot of 1908

A Storm in Springfield

We’ve been on something of a Vachel Lindsay kick this week, but I’m not ready to shift gears just yet.

Let’s take a step back this morning to Springfield, Illinois in August 1908. That’s right, a full 99 years after Lincoln’s birth and 43 years after his assassination.

Twenty-eight-year-old Vachel Lindsay was living with parents in their home across the street from the governor’s mansion when he witnessed one of the most horrific scenes in Springfield history.

Two black men had been arrested a little more than a month apart. One was accused of killing a white man with a straight razor, while the other was accused of raping a white woman.

An angry mob gathered in downtown Springfield on August 14. They had read the newspaper reports and heard the rumors. They had no desire to wait for the judicial process to play out. They wanted the sheriff to hand the criminals over. Justice would be swift.

The sheriff refused. In a daring act, he borrowed an automobile from Harry Loper, a local restaurant owner, and shuttled the prisoners 60 miles to the north to Bloomington.

When news of the transfer filtered through the mob, they did not disperse; instead, their anger grew more intense.

The mob began by trashing Loper’s restaurant. They quickly moved toward the Levee, an area of Springfield where black-owned businesses thrived, and began destroying anything in their path. From there, they moved onto the Badlands, an area where dozens of black families lived.

Scott Burton, a black barber, tried to defend his shop. Not only did the mob burn his barber shop, but they murdered him and hung his body from a tree; William Donnegan, an 84 year old black man married to a white woman, met a similar fate.

"Abe Lincoln brought them to Springfield," shouted someone in the mob, "and we will run them out!"

It took 4,000 militiamen two days to restore order. When it was over, 40 homes and 24 business were destroyed; at least six people were dead, two black men and four whites. Though there were 107 indictments issued against members of the white mob, only one man was convicted. His crime? He stole a soldier's sword.

What about the crimes that sparked the riot in the first place? The black man who was accused of murdering a white man was found guilty; however, the white woman who accused another black man of raping her admitted she had indeed made the story up.

The horrific Springfield Race Riot led to the establishment of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. February 12, 1909, the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birth, is often cited as the birth of the NAACP.

What was Vachel Lindsay’s response to the most horrific event in Springfield history?

Instead of running away from the event, the young poet confronted it.

He began by delivering a series of lectures at the local YMCA. His talks not only celebrated diversity, but they highlighted Springfield’s unique distinction as the adopted home of America’s Great Emancipator.

For the rest of his all too brief life, Lindsay used both Springfield and Lincoln as reoccuring images in his brilliant paintings, poetry, and prose.

You can read more about the ways in which these images reappear throughout Lindsay’s art in this insightful post by Larry Stevens.

If you want to learn more about the Springfield Race Riot of 1908, I have a few recommendations.

There is a full-length book on the subject by Roberta Senechal called Sociogenesis of a Race Riot: Springfield, Illinois, in 1908 (Urbana: university of Illinois Press, 1990). The book is quite good.

Senechal has also contributed a brief narrative, which you can view online, here. The site also features several very innovative lesson plans, complete with assignments.

I also encourage you to check out the oral history collection at the University of Illinois in Springfield. Their archive features 30 oral histories that deal with the race riot. You can access the archive online, by clicking here. Click on the PDF icon to read the transcripts.

Finally, I am happy to promote the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s upcoming exhibit, Something So Horrible: The Springfield Race Riot of 1908. It begins in June and looks first-rate. Here is the description from their site:

Upcoming at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in June is Something So Horrible: Springfield Race Riot of 1908. Gathering photographs, news accounts, oral histories, artifacts and other materials, the library will present an exhibition exploring Springfield’s most violent racial confrontation. In the one hundred years since the riot occurred, the historical record has been clouded, reshaped, denied, or forgotten. The purpose of the exhibition is to tell the story of the riot clearly so that the public will know what happened and begin to understand why it happened.

Within hours of a reported rape of a White woman by a Black man, a mob of thousands took control of Springfield. In the violence that held sway in the city for two days, two Black men were lynched, four White men were killed, scores of people were injured, and extensive property was damaged before 4000 state militiamen intervened.

Something So Horrible: Springfield Race Riot of 1908 will illustrate how racism and political corruption undermined law and order and set the stage for mob rule. The exhibit will also show how an event of one hundred years ago lives in both the historical record of the past and the racial divisions that continue to confound us.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight in Charelston, West Virginia Too!

Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight in Charleston, West Virginia

Many thanks to Dave Wiegers on the Discussion Board for calling my attention to this magnificent statue in Charleston, West Virginia.

Inspired by Vachel Lindsay's poem, "Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight," West Virginian Fred Torrey created a 42-inch plaster model of Lincoln, pacing late at night, while cloaked in a long robe.

The plaster model was exhibited at the 1939-1940 World's Fair in New York. However, the sculptor passed away before he had a chance to complete the piece in bronze. Using Torrey's original model, local sculptor Bernie Wiepper created the nine-and-a-half-foot scultpure that now stands at the foot of the state capitol in Charleston, West Virginia.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight in Springfield, Illinois

Vachel Lindsay

As Europe stood on the precipice of world war in 1914, Springfield’s most famous poet roused the ghost of Springfield’s most famous citizen.

"Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight (In Springfield, Illinois)"

By: Vachel Lindsay

It is portentous, and a thing of state
That here at midnight, in our little town
A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,
Near the old court-house, pacing up and down.

Or by his homestead, or by shadowed yards
He lingers where his children used to play,
Or through the market, on the well-worn stones
He stalks until the dawn-stars burn away.

A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black,
A famous high top-hat, and plain worn shawl
Make him the quaint, great figure that men love,
The prairie-lawyer, master of us all.

He cannot sleep upon his hillside now.
He is among us:--as in times before!
And we who toss or lie awake for long
Breathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door.

His head is bowed. He thinks on men and kings.
Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?
Too many peasants fight, they know not why,
Too many homesteads in black terror weep.

The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart.
He sees the dreadnaughts scouring every main.
He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now
The bitterness, the folly and the pain.

He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn
Shall come:--the shining hope of Europe free:
The league of sober folk, the Workers' Earth,
Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp and Sea.

It breaks his heart that kings must murder still,
That all his hours of travail here for men
Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace
That he may sleep upon his hill again?

Monday, May 12, 2008 Redesign & Hollywood's Lincoln

Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)

Welcome to the newly redesigned! Though we're still in the process of uploading the individual archive, document, and book review pages, each of our redesigned main pages should already be in place.

I encourage you to give the site a quick scan. You'll find a handful of new features. For instance, the Lincoln on Ebay page now features a whopping 200 live auctions!

Similarly, the Bookstore page has a new look. Now the page features a rotating selection of new Lincoln books available for purchase from Whether you wish to purchase books or simply keep up to date on new publications, I think you'll find the page useful. While you're there, click the link just below today's date; it will take you to our expanded Bookstore, which features 16 different categories of books, music, and dvds for the history enthusiast. We even have a category for children's books!

As always, I encourage you to send me an email if you experience any problems as you navigate through the redesigned site. You should be able to find my email by clicking on my name, which will soon be at the bottom of every page on the site.

Now, onto our regularly scheduled program...

As you can see by today's image, I want to talk about Hollywood's Lincoln. Today's image is a publicity poster for Robert E. Sherwood's 1940 film, Abe Lincoln in Illinois, starring Raymond Massey. The film was based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same title, which in recent years has enjoyed a run on Broadway with Sam Waterson playing the lead role.

Both the film and the play follow Lincoln from his early days as a lawyer up to the election of 1860; however, they both end before Lincoln takes office.

As many of you know, Hollywood now has its eye set on Lincoln's presidency.

Stephen Spielberg has plans to turn Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals into a major motion picture.

As I've reported, Liam Neeson is slated to play Lincoln, while Sally Field will portray Mary. There is also word that Harrison Ford will play Andrew Johnson.

More than a year ago, Spielberg hinted that filming would begin just after he finished shooting the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones saga. However, it appears the plan has changed.

The Los Angeles Times is now reporting that instead of the Lincoln biopic, Spielberg's next project will be Tintin, which will go into production in September. He has told a German magazine that he is going to wait until early 2009 to film Lincoln.

Barring any other delays, I suppose we might look forward to a 2009 or early 2010 release date.

Friday, May 9, 2008

End of the Semester

Lincoln Painting

Today marks the end of another semester, which means I have a stack of blue books in front of me waiting to be graded. I've only looked at a handfull of them, but so far the essays seem to be quite good. Let's hope the rest of the stack follows suit.

However, my weekend will not be devoted entirely to grading. Check back throughout the weekend to see what we've got in store for

Everything is going to look a lot different here very soon!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Now it's Official: Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area

George W. Bush

I have just learned that President Bush has indeed signed the "Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area" bill into law.

I've been tracking this story for a few months now, from its original incarnation in October to the modified version the Congress passed last week.

The Journal Gazette-Times Courier in Charleston, Illinois is reporting that the funding for this project will go directly into the "Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition," which will then distribute the money to groups throughout central Illinois.

Again, as I get more information, I will pass it along.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

"A Rather Dull Business After All"

Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, Springfield, Illinois

My apologies for the late post today. Apparently a resident of nearby Murphysboro cut a line, which promptly knocked out internet access to the greater portion of southern Illinois. It was frustrating not being online, but I certainly got a lot of work done in the meantime. I suppose there is a lesson there, but I’ll pass over it quickly.

I want to focus instead on a revealing letter Abraham Lincoln wrote in 1837. At twenty-eight, Lincoln had already accomplished a great deal, but he was still uneasy. He was a young lawyer, as well as a member of the Illinois state legislature, but he had yet to enjoy any sense of financial stability. He had recently moved from New Salem to Springfield, but the transition was not easy; he feared that life in this “busy wilderness” was not for him. And he was involved with a girl, but he wasn’t sure where the relationship was headed.

With his mind clouded by questions, he decided to compose a letter.

[AL to Mary S. Owens, 7 May 1837, Collected Works, 1:78-79.]

Friend Mary Springfield, May 7. 1837

I have commenced two letters to send you before this, both of which displeased me before I got half done, and so I tore them up. The first I thought wasn't serious enough, and the second was on the other extreme. I shall send this, turn out as it may.

This thing of living in Springfield is rather a dull business after all, at least it is so to me. I am quite as lonesome here as [I] ever was anywhere in my life. I have been spoken to by but one woman since I've been here, and should not have been by her, if she could have avoided it. I've never been to church yet, nor probably shall not be soon. I stay away because I am conscious I should not know how to behave myself.

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

You must write me a good long letter after you get this. You have nothing else to do, and though it might not seem interesting to you, after you had written it, it would be a good deal of company to me in this ``busy wilderness.'' Tell your sister I dont want to hear any more about selling out and moving. That gives me the hypo whenever I think of it

Yours, &c.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Riding the 8th Judicial Circuit with Lincoln


What do you think about when you hear the name Abraham Lincoln?

I've asked that question dozens of times and I'm always intrigued by the answers I recieve.

Some have said they immediately think of images associated with the Civil War. Heroic soldiers in new uniforms, as well as horrific images of death and dying on the battlefield come to mind. Some even mention images associated with the institution of slavery.

Others think of Lincoln's words. "Four score and seven years ago..." or "With malice toward none; with charity for all..." Some people even cite the Emancipation Proclamation, though the "quotable language" in that document is practically nonexistent.

Not everyone associates Lincoln with words or actions, some are simply reminded of his "costume." When they think of Lincoln, they think of his stovepipe hat, his funny beard, or his ill-fitting black suit.

As you might imagine, many of Lincoln's contemporaries had a much different memory of Lincoln. Those who knew him well did not immediately associate Lincoln with the Civil War, political rhetoric, or his way of dress. No, when they thought of Lincoln, they immediately thought of his profession.

Unlike many of today's career politicians, Lincoln's profession was not politics. Politics was certainly his passion, but it did not pay the bills.

For nearly a quarter of a century, Lincoln was a practicing attorney; in fact, he built one of the most successful law pratices in central Illinois.

He was involved in more than 5,000 legal cases, an astonishing number. He practiced law on the local, state, and federal level; he even practiced before the United States Supreme Court.

However, the bread-and-butter of Lincoln's law practice came on the Eighth Judicial law circuit. Each year, he spent four to six months "riding the circuit," that muddy trail stretching from country courthouse to courthouse throughout central Illinois. Few of his contemporaries enjoyed their rough existence on the circuit, but Lincoln seemed to thrive.

If you want to know more about Lincoln's time on the law circuit, you are in luck. According to this story in the Bloomington Pantagraph, a group has put together a two-day tour called "Riding the 8th Circuit with Lincoln."

The tour will begin and end in Bloomington. The group will visit more than a half dozen sites in the town, including the David Davis Mansion, where the group will even be served a catered dinner and view a presentation called "An Autobiography of A. Lincoln" by Lincoln presenter James Keeran.

From Bloomington, the group will visit a number of other sites, including courthouses in Metamora, Postville, and Mount Pulaski.

The tour will be led by Guy Fraker, a Bloomington attorney who is working on a book about Lincoln's time on the circuit. I've met Mr. Fraker on a number of occassions and like him very much. He is enthusiastic, knowledgable, and perhaps most importantly for a two-day tour, very cordial.

"Riding the 8th Judicial Circuit with Lincoln"

Where: Various sites in Central Illinois; the two-day tour begins and ends each day in Bloomington

When: Tours are May 29-30 or June 19-20.

Cost: $275 per person includes transportation, lunch both days, dinner Thursday night, entertainment and commentary by Lincoln authority Guy C. Fraker. Not included are motel accommodations and a Friday night dinner at C.J.'s Restaurant in Bloomington.

Tips: The tours involve walking. Wear comfortable shoes and bring an umbrella.

Registration deadlines: May 14 for the May tour, June 4 for the June tour.

More information: Judy Markowitz at (309) 663-2074 or email

PS: The image at the top of this post is a sketch called, "Lincoln, the Circuit Lawyer," by Lloyd Ostendorf. Ostendorf was a very talented artist who produced a great many sketches from Lincoln's life. This one is my favorite, but you can view, as well as purchase, others at Abraham Lincoln Collectables.

Monday, May 5, 2008

What's Wrong with this Clip?

Can you identify what is wrong with this clip?

Many thanks to David Markwell for calling this Fox News blunder to my attention!

Apparently, the clip has already spawned some good humored parodies. Check out this one:

One more:

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, Part 2


Remember Congressman Ray LaHood and Senator Dick Durbin's bill that promised to create a historical-geographic entity called the "Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area?"

When I covered the story last October, the proposed piece of legislation had passed the House, but had yet to make its way through the Senate. However, the story quickly fell off my radar. I heard nothing about its fate and assumed the Senate killed it.

Well, it’s back. I haven’t worked out all the particulars, but I think it went something like this. The Senate modified the bill and then passed it. The modified bill then went back to the House for consideration. After debating the changes, the bill passed the House last Tuesday by a vote of 291-117. Now, the legislation goes to the president, who is expected to sign it into law.

As a result, central Illinois could receive up to $30 million over the next 15 years to promote Lincoln’s legacy. The financial figures include $1million annually from the federal government, plus an additional $1 million per year from public and private sources on the state and local level.

Of course, I’ll continue to follow this story and pass along more information as it becomes available.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

April 2008 Sets Record for


I want to thank all of the readers of for making April our most successful month to date! April readership was up a whopping 66% over April 2007.

As usual, we covered a wide-range of topics this month, which you can still read by visiting the April 2008 page in the Archive.

I especially want to thank Lewis Gannett for contributing such a fine guest editorial on April 4. His article sparked several vigorous discussions on the Lincoln Studies Discussion Board.

If you haven't yet made the Discussion Board a regular part of your daily routine, I encourage you to do so. It gives us a chance to ask questions, find answers, workshop our ideas, and receive feedback.

I also want to call your attention to the painting at the top of this post. The piece is titled "Lincoln the Railsplitter" and was painted by Norman Rockwell in 1965. I just came across it today and like it very much.

The painting is on display at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. They acquired the piece at auction in November 2006 for $1.6 million. The previous owner was none other than Texas billionaire/former presidential candidate Ross Perot. You can read more about the painting here.

Again, thanks to everyone who made April 2008 a special month for!