Before we can enter understandingly into the actual story of the courtship of Lincoln and Ann Rutledge, before we can read in the light of knowledge the letters that passed between them, preserved for us through successive generations and never before known to history, we should acquaint ourselves with the general course of Lincoln's life and his means of employment during the years 1832 and 1833. It is a record in itself containing much of struggle and vicissitude, drama and achievement.
Had navigation been established on the Sangamon River when he set up his store at New Salem, James Offutt might have become a very prosperous man. His store and mill, of which Lincoln had active charge, might have earned gratifying profits. But navigation by steamboat was no more than a hope in 1831. It was a hope in which the citizens of Springfield and, of course, New Salem were intensely interested. But it was a hope destined to go glimmering.
Offutt could not even abide the issue of the question. His New Salem project did not thrive. For a town so small, New Salem possessed a disproportionate number of merchants. The trade parceled out among them was meagre, and in less than a year Offutt abandoned his venture. James Rutledge took back the rented mill, and Offutt, in Lincoln's phrase, had 'winked out.'
With Offutt's failure, Lincoln was again without a job. He had lived in New Salem only through the course of a single winter, but this had been time enough for him to become the most popular man in the town. He decided to offer himself as a candidate for the state legislature. Already known as 'Honest Abe,' he possessed in that epithet a political asset not to be despised. His address to the voters of Sangamon County was two thousand words in length. It was not prepared without toil and difficulty, nor without the assistance of such good friends as Mentor Graham, the schoolmaster.
Lincoln's appeal, distributed in the form of a handbill, dealt at length with the navigation of the Sangamon, about which he took a strongly optimistic position. He explained the opportunities he had enjoyed, in his second flatboat voyage to New Orleans and in his work at the Rutledge mill, for observing the flow of water in the river, and asserted his belief in the possibility of developing the channel for practical navigation. His other pronouncements were of a general character, not markedly different from the somewhat noncommittal utterances wise candidates have in all times found it politic to make. His concluding paragraph contained these significant words: —
Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say, for one, that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow-men by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.
Soon after the appearance of Lincoln's handbills in March l832, the steamer Talisman reached Beardstown on the Illinois River. The inhabitants of Sangamon County were wild with excitement. Some weeks before, a Captain Vincent Bogue of Springfield had announced that he would bring a steamer from Cincinnati to the Sangamon, and demonstrate conclusively the navigability of the stream.
Expectation became intense, speeches and subscriptions were plentiful, and when the Talisman actually put in its appearance at Beardstown the county prepared for a carnival of congratulation. Lincoln was, of course, among those who met the boat at Beardstown, and he was chosen to pilot it on its course up the Sangamon. He brought the steamer successfully to its landing place near Springfield, toasts, bouquets of flowers, and festivities marking every stage of the voyage. At Springfield, falling water warned the proprietors that the return journey should not be postponed. At the proud rate of four miles a day, the steamer descended the stream again. Lincoln received forty dollars for his part in the exploit, and nothing could have been better calculated to promote his political fortunes than the acclaim accorded him as pilot.
Almost immediately another circumstance occurred to help his candidacy. A rider with a vehement message from Governor Reynolds brought to New Salem the news that Black Hawk, an Indian chief familiar to the people of Illinois as an enemy of settlers and friend of the British, had gone on the warpath. Lincoln at once volunteered for service, and found himself in company with John Calhoun, Billy Greene, and his friends the Clary's Grove boys. The captaincy of the company was determined by election, the men forming groups about the candidates of their choice. Lincoln was one candidate, William Kirkpatrick the other. This was a man who had once done Lincoln an ill turn, and he was not insensible to the opportunity of getting even. Lincoln was naturally pleased when the great majority of the men gathered about him. But his success would hardly have been possible without the allegiance of Jack Armstrong and the other roisterers of Clary's Grove, who were described by another member of the company as the hardest set of men' he had ever seen.
Lincoln's experiences as captain of his often disorderly troop need not be pursued in detail. Norman Hapgood has remarked, 'As Lincoln was not in any engagement of this disgraceful little Indian war, it has little to do with the story of his life.' Suffice it that, after the company disbanded, Lincoln was a second time mustered into service as a volunteer, this time as a private. The officer who enrolled him was Lieutenant Robert Anderson, who thirty years later, as Brigadier General, commanded Fort Sumter. After still a third term of service, Lincoln returned, in July, to New Salem. He entered at once into active electioneering.
Votes depended more upon personal liking and prowess than upon political principles in the campaign in which Lincoln engaged in 1832. Lincoln himself was a devoted supporter of Clay, while most of his friends in Sangamon County were partisans of Jackson. Yet Lincoln found his preference little to his disadvantage, such was his personal popularity. He went about, like other candidates, making speeches wherever groups of people were gathered together, and again the Clary's Grove boys were his attendants and supporters. It might be said that they fought for their candidate both physically and politically, but the distinction would scarcely be necessary. Lincoln himself expressed his prowess in physical as well as mental terms. It is recorded that during his first speech at Pappsville a fight broke out, and Lincoln perceived that one of his friends was having the worst of it. He jumped wholeheartedly into the fracas, threw his friends assailant 'ten or twelve feet,' and resumed his harangue. This feat was undoubtedly of as great use to him as any other argument he employed.
Despite his popularity and the circumstances that worked in his favor, Lincoln awoke on the morning of August 7, 1832, to learn that he had been defeated. In the county as a whole he had made a good showing, however, and in the precinct which included New Salem he received a vote so overwhelmingly in the majority as to be almost unanimous.
Lincoln was again at a loss; no means of maintaining himself in the world seemed to be within sight. It was at this juncture that he entered into partnership with William F. Berry. This was the dissolute son of the worthy Reverend John Berry. An idler and a source of grief to his father, he had bought out the interest of James Herndon in the store owned by the Herndon brothers. With Berry for a partner, Rowan Herndon wished to dispose of his share of the business, and Lincoln offered his note for three hundred dollars, thus becoming a merchant in his own right.
Not content with one store, Lincoln and Berry promptly acquired another. Reuben Radford incurred the dislike of the Clary's Grove boys to such an extent that he felt compelled to leave town. He sold his store to Billy Greene, who employed Lincoln to make an inventory of the goods. Lincoln and Berry in turn gave their note to Billy Greene for his goods, and not only did they acquire in this way Reuben Radford's store, but the small business of James Rutledge as well. Their total indebtedness amounted to about fifteen hundred dollars.
Berry was not a satisfactory partner, and Lincoln was not a satisfactory merchant. Whiskey demoralized one, books the other. It was not long before they sold the unprofitable business to the brothers Trent, accepting their note as payment. But the brothers Trent did not prove permanent residents of New Salem. Before their note fell due, they disappeared. To add to Lincoln's embarrassments, Berry died, and the accumulated debts fell heavily upon his shoulders. He bravely assumed the burden, although he was still sending money to pay his creditors after he had gone to Washington as Representative in Congress in 1847.
The following year, in 1833, two jobs fell to Lincoln which improved his circumstances in some degree. He was appointed postmaster of New Salem, despite the fact that he was a Whig and Jackson was in office. More important was another employment which he obtained. Sangamon County was being rapidly settled, and the duties of the official surveyor were more than one man could comfortably perform.
The surveyor at this time was John Calhoun, who had taken part with Lincoln in the Black Hawk War. Calhoun offered to make Lincoln his assistant, and Lincoln eagerly set about acquiring the necessary knowledge He procured Flint and Gibson's treatise, and Mentor Graham gave him what help he could. Lincoln's feat of application in mastering within some six weeks all the books on surveying which he could secure was little short of prodigious. He labored day and night until his friends protested at his haggardness. Calhoun put him to work at once when Lincoln reported to him after his course of relentless selftraining. Besides surveying privately owned tracts of land, Lincoln laid out public roads, and tradition has it that in his first essays he used a grapevine in place of a chain.
An entry in the unpublished memorandum which Sally Calhoun wrote at her father's suggestion in 1848 preserves his impression of Lincoln's feat: —
Father says when Lincoln first began to study surveying under him he gave him instructions and loaned him some books and that after that (with a little help from Graham Mentor) in only 6 to 8 weeks Lincoln was able to take his lesson in actual demonstration. This proved to my Father that Lincoln was a very apt pupil and retained in his mind everything he studied; and this added to much else which my Father has discovered about his character, makes Father feel assured of a great future for the man, much better educated men listen with attention to Lincoln, whenever he speaks he seems to be much better educated than they.
Such was the course of Lincoln's life, and such were his efforts to advance in the world, in the significant years 1839, and in the significant years 1832 and 1833. He piloted the Talisman, stood for election, volunteered for service in the Black Hawk War, gave his notes for part ownership in three New Salem stores, fell heavily in debt, was appointed postmaster, and became John Calhoun's assistant in surveying. These main occupations were diversified by odd jobs when the business of Lincoln and Berry was at low ebb.
The romance of Lincoln and Ann Rutledge begins with the story of John McNeil. There are elements of melodrama in the record, and McNeil has frequently been called upon by biographers to furnish the figure of the villain. His true character, however, is not easy to discern behind the mists and traditions of the years. 1
New Salem as a whole had not flourished as the early settlers had expected. James Rutledge himself felt the business depression; his mill on his hands again, after the failure of Offutt, he needed capital, and decided to sell his farm at Sand Ridge. He found a buyer in John McNeil, a young man who had come to New Salem in 1829 and prospered remarkably as a merchant and landowner. Not the least item in his good fortune appeared to be his engagement to Ann Rutledge.
McNeil already owned the Sand Ridge Farm of the Reverend John Cameron. The papers recording the transfer had been drawn by Lincoln himself, and in asking Lincoln's aid the buyer had admitted an important secret. His name was not McNeil, but McNamar. Uneasy, perhaps, at holding land under an alias, he had made his confession, offering the explanation that when his father had suffered severe financial losses he had left home and assumed another name so that he might make his own fortune unhampered by previous ties. Lincoln had accordingly drawn the deed in the name of McNamar.
Lincoln was not at this time a lawyer, but even before coming to New Salem he had had access to books of law. The late Senator Beveridge tells us that he appeared from time to time in the court of the corpulent New Salem Justice of the Peace, Bowling Green, to plead a case, and he possessed a book of legal forms with the aid of which he wrote out deeds, mortgages, and other instruments for those who needed them, charging no fee.
The papers recording the sale of the Rutledge farm to McNamar were drawn in July 1832. A personal fact of such significance as the identity, of one of the town's principal landowners and citizens could hardly escape the Argus-eyed scrutiny of the village. By this time the inhabitants of New Salem knew as a body the secret of McNamar's alias. The deception which had been practised on them gave rise to gossip and disapproval. It would have been unnatural if the village had not from time to time sheltered drifters making use of assumed names to cut a breach with a past which they did not wish to revive. McNamar had not seemed such a drifter; he had appeared upright and honest. But now it began to be whispered that he must have a record. Perhaps he had a wife in New York State, whence he had come. Perhaps he was wanted for some crime. At best he seemed to have taken his dubious course to relieve himself of the responsibility of caring for his parents while he made a fortune for himself. But there was a disposition not to accept his explanation as genuine, and he found himself looked at with suspicion.
In the fall of 1832, McNamar possessed a large amount of valuable property in land in the region of New Salem, his holdings including the farms of both James Rutledge and John Cameron. But his secret had become known, and he stood in some personal disfavor. He declared his intention of returning to New York for his parents, whom he said he would bring back to New Salem with him. At that time could take place his marriage to Ann. Accordingly he sold his half-interest in his store to his partner, Samuel Hill. Trade was a weak reed in New Salem, and not likely to stiffen. Land values, on the other hand, were steadily increasing, so that McNamar's situation when he left the village was by no means unfavorable financially. Whatever may have been his character, he managed his affairs with acumen.
With the departure of McNamar began a period of trial and strain for Ann Rutledge. It seems clear that she honestly loved or believed that she loved him. But the revelation that he had called himself by a name not his own was a shock to her which the suspicions of her friends and neighbors, probably garrulous and highly colored, did not diminish. Her love may well have undergone a change and reached a point at which it would naturally turn from the prosperous McNamar, contaminated, as his character seemed to be, by meanness and deceit, to the impecunious Lincoln, who even in these early years gave evidence of his capacity for tenderness, who won his way with men of all stations by his humor and his fairness, and who impressed his friends with portents of the greatness that was later to be his.
Biographers have hitherto lacked the materials for a full and understanding account of the story of Lincoln and Ann Rutledge. But they have agreed about the personal qualities of Ann, her beauty, her natural intelligence, her attractiveness. She was red-haired, of moderate, well-proportioned figure, and in 1832, when McNamar left New Salem, she was in her twentieth year. Abundant testimony remains of her gentleness and the affection in which she was held by her friends and neighbors. She was the most popular and beautiful girl in New Salem, and before the decline of her father's fortunes she would have occupied somewhat the position of a desirable heiress. These facts may throw additional light on the conduct and character of McNamar, who first courted her, and then gave at least the strong impression of abandoning his claims.
Lincoln had, of course, met Ann Rutledge at his first entrance into New Salem. It was Ann who served the meals at the Rutledge Tavern, and, more than this, she was a pupil at the school of Mentor Graham, which Lincoln was in the habit of visiting. But not until the departure of McNamar was it possible for their acquaintance to ripen into knowledge, and knowledge into love.
There was nothing, however, to prevent Lincoln from having his own feelings from the beginning. He had had little time to give to the girls in his rugged life, and had sometimes given evidence of shyness with women; but on more than one occasion he had proved himself at least normally susceptible. It would have been unnatural if he had been slow to respond to Ann Rutledge, beautiful and popular as New Salem acknowledged her to be. In my Lincoln collection is a letter written by Sally Calhoun, dated from St. Joseph, Missouri, August 20, 1849. This letter gives interesting evidence upon the point. Historians, when they have accepted Lincoln's love of Ann at all, have confined it to the later years of his residence in New Salem. But Sarah Calhoun's letter shows us that, as far as his own impulses were concerned, Lincoln was less patient than history. Lincoln, Sally declares, told her father that when Offutt's flatboat stuck on the Rutledge mill dam on its way to New Orleans he himself 'right there got stuck much harder on Ann.' Calhoun spoke to his daughter also of the shock which Lincoln suffered when he learned of Ann's engagement to McNeil. Nevertheless, Lincoln and McNeil (to give him the name by which New Salem was used to thinking of him) were friends, and McNeil helped him, among other ways, in the drafting of his election handbill.
When McNeil left New Salem, he had given assurance that he would return quickly, with his parents, and at that time claim Ann. Actually it was three years before he made his way back to a New Salem which had not long to survive. Sickness, the death of his father, and the confusion of the family affairs, may well have made it impossible for him to return as soon as he expected. But in the meantime Ann waited patiently for word which did not come. Whatever correspondence may have passed between them flickered and died; its record is at best obscure, and the only certainty seems to be that it stopped. Tradition has pictured Ann as a girl calling regularly at the post office in expectation of a letter she never received. Since Lincoln had been appointed postmaster on May 7, 1833, tradition has also assigned his interest in Ann Rutledge to the circumstance that it was to him she applied for the expected letter. In any case, it was natural that their acquaintance should ripen into intimacy, and that, having discovered their love for each other, they should reach an understanding. It seems clear that Ann was troubled by her promise to McNeil, or McNamar, and that her family regarded a formal release from him as necessary or desirable before Ann definitely pledged herself to Lincoln. But in the meantime events marched on with their own movement.
So much for the circumstances; let us turn from them to the actual records of the romance as they remain in the words of Lincoln and Ann themselves and in the words of their friends. These precious records which have descended to me - letters which passed between Lincoln and Ann, the diary of Matilda Cameron, a memorandum and letters by Sally Calhoun, and a little group of books owned and annotated by Lincoln - have never before been known or published. They make it possible for us to understand and follow in detail for the first time an episode which has baffled historians and tantalized lovers of the human Lincoln as perhaps scarcely another passage in his life has done.
First let us present Matilda ('Mat') Cameron, Ann's cousin and confidante, to whose irrepressible diary we are richly in debt for a first-hand and unstudied picture of New Salem life and of our two protagonists. Here is the first page of her manuscript; it established the fact that in the summer of 1833, if Lincoln and Ann were not openly engaged, they had at least reached an understanding which Ann had confided to her bosom friend.
My diary. Matilda Cameron. July 10—1833
Samuel Hill feched me this book for a present to keep my diary in. I am so happy coz now that Abe Lincoln and my' deerest frend Ann are a ingaged cupel Sam 'has feched me to literary wonst and to meetin twist, at meetin we both sung out of the New Missouri Harmany Hyrn book. our church got the first won last boat from Springfield. Sam and me sung won salmtune and in won of the anthems, and he sed my voice was good as Anns. I know better. gess he likes me to say that. Abe and Ann are awful in love he rites her leters. I am to keep them for Ann for Nance got hold of won and shoed Anns mother and she sed it wuz outlandish he outer tend more to bizness insted when John wuz gon. so I will keep everthing in my box James giv me last crismas. my first bow wuz James and now Sam Anns wuz first John and now Abe. she was 17 when she met John and I wuz 19 when I first met James. Abe told Ann he kep company with 2 girls in gentryville the place he ust to liv but he did not love them and Sam told me he just liked Ann coz she wuz to thin I way twist as much. Sam has religon like me and Ann but Abe sed he red a book wonst that got him to wondrin. I gess Ann will sune fech him into the fold. I like my book fin. Sam is coming to fech me to prayor-meetin to-nite. so good-by diary til we meet agen.
Books played a part in this courtship, for Lincoln was ambitious, and Ann herself aspired to education. A brother was a student at Illinois College in Jacksonville, and Ann herself later planned to enter the Female Seminary there. An undated letter written by Ann to Lincoln which I have in my collection suggests the studies which they pursued together, and the earnestness with which they set themselves to acquire knowledge.
Tradition might lead us to expect Ann Rutledge to show already a greater degree of education than the letters in my collection reveal. But it would be unsafe to infer from her acknowledged intelligence, or from the instruction she is known to have received, any definite degree of mastery over the three R's. A search has been made for other specimens of her writing than those which are in my possession; but the report of collectors and scholars is that no other example is known to exist. It is enough that Ann was ambitious to learn, that she and Lincoln had this common bond.
MY BELOVED ABE
I am trying to do as you ask me to and praktise . . . you but I gess I am slow if you git me the dictshinery . . . I no I can do both speeling and riting better. I am glad you sed that girls aint suposed to no like boys. but I will . . . sum-time I no. cos you need a wife who will be a help to you, not a drag-bak like sum ar. my hart runs over with hapynes when I think yore name. I do not beleave I can find time to rite you a leter every day. stil I no as you say it wood shurely improve my spelling and all that. Newton tole me to rite biger leters and that wood help and I think it doz. I am greatfull for the Spencers copy-book I copy frum that every time I can spair. I dreem of yore ... words every nite and long for you by day. I mus git super now. all my hart is ever thine.
The Newton mentioned by Ann is the schoolmaster, Newton Mentor Graham, who had already given Lincoln much friendly help in his study of grammar, his mastery of the treatise on surveying, and his attacks upon knowledge generally. It was during the New Salem years that Lincoln's attention became concentrated upon the study of law, and it was toward the close of the brief existence of the little town that he took his actual decision to make the law his profession. Before his arrival in New Salem he had already read the Statutes of Indiana and had had access occasionally to the books of lawyers such as Judge John Pitcher of Rockport, Indiana. He also knew thoroughly the Revised Laws of Illinois, of which he made use in the cases he presented before Bowling Green. While he was keeping store during his partnership with Berry, a fortunate accident befell him. A man migrating to the West asked Lincoln if he would buy an old barrel for which the traveler had no room in his wagon. Lincoln obliged him by paying half a dollar for the barrel; later, rummaging in it by chance, he discovered a set of Blackstone's Commentaries. To the study of this he gave himself with his usual intensity, later declaring, 'Never in my life was my mind so thoroughly absorbed.'
The purchase of the barrel has passed into history; but it has not been known to history that, besides the set of Blackstone's Commentaries, the barrel contained a little breastpin which Lincoln gave to Ann. The cheap metal coils of this pin remain to-day, preserved among the keepsakes which found their way into Mat Cameron's possession.
The bane of every courtship is gossip; Lincoln and Ann did not entirely escape the usual fate. In their case it was the amiable but not always responsible Jack Kelso, who, in one of his frequent moments of inebriation, brought about a brief crisis. In my collection is a letter in which we learn of the incident. It calls up an interesting picture of Lincoln's instructor in Burns and Shakespeare being held to strict account by his towering, ominous pupil.
Both Ann Rutledge and Mat Cameron had sisters named Nancy.
My BELOVED ANN
Nancy has been telling me regarding the matter Jack was supposed to discuss down at Clarys —but when I severely questioned him he became filled with wrath in his denial. He is so defective in his conduct when he is drinking I was not sure. However no one in Salem would deem it unfavorable that you should keep company with me. I write this and send it by Nancy as the mail came -there is only five letters, if they keep the postage up to 5 cts for each letter poor people cannot avail themselves much therefore this job of mine will pay indifferently, however I am going over to Grahams as he is going to help me in my grammer. So am coming late to supper I am happy to ask you to accompany me later to literary they have planned for you to sing and I am to recite. I could write to you forever but Nance will not wait that long.
With great affection Abe.
We have already seen that, to Mat Cameron, Lincoln appeared refractory on the subject of religion. The same deplorable trait crops out again in another entry of Mat's diary, in which we are allowed a glimpse but half a remove from life itself into the New Salem Sabbath.
Sunday Nite. Wel diary my Paw (I meen my Father) preched the sermon today, the boys Abe and Sam cum to fech us girls. Abe sed he ruther down by the mill in the woods. but we got him to meetin. then after diner we went to the woods. Abe layd doun on the groun and recited sum things he sed wuz esops fabuls and shackspeer. I like the fabuls better. Sam likes him to recite - o why shud the spiret of mortale be be proud? - it has 14 stanses. he leves out 2 stanses bout religon he ses has no berinon the case. he ses it tuk him 3 months to subdu that won. the boat being du Satiday cum in while we wuz by the mill and Dave Turnham a frend of Abes from gentryville. he is the constibul from ther. cum doun and we all cum bak to the tavern and it wuz time to git super. then we all set up for awhile in the tavern. then Sam and Abe tuk me home, as he bords here now. good-nite diary nomore to-nite.
The fourteen stanzas of 'Immortality' - or, to call the poem by its first line, 'Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud?' - are preserved entire, including the two omitted by Lincoln because they had 'no berin on the case,' in the lecture which William H. Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, delivered in 1866 in the Old Sangamon County Court House. It was this lecture which gave the principal basis for the Ann Rutledge tradition as it has hitherto been accepted or denied by biographers. We may content ourselves here with four stanzas, which will fittingly suggest the melancholy temper of the elegy which Lincoln was fond of reciting.
Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud? —
Like a swift-fleeing meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
He passeth from life to his rest in the grave.
The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade
Be scattered around and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high,
Shall moulder to dust and together shall lie.
The infant, a mother attended and loved:
The mother, that infant's affection who proved:
The husband, that mother and infant who blest, —
Each, all, are away to their dwellings of rest.
And thus the poem concludes: —
'T is the wink of an eye -'t is the draught of breath,
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death;
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud: —
Oh! why should the spirit of mortal be proud
More cheerful are the pictures of New Salem life which Mat let fall in her diary. Unconscious of the needs of history, Mat found 'Monday' or 'Friday' a sufficient date for her purposes.
Marthy Calhone teched Ann sum new patern of kroshay and she is going to tech me. Ann is imbrodering her things to git maryed in. she doz lovly neddel work. I can weve as good as eny won. Ann wares shose to meetin now. Maw sea Ann is to upity but I like that in her. Sam sea he doz not nead to improv on Natur. my new slazy dres gits his eye it is very prity. it raned all day I hop it lets up by nite. I wory over sister Nance she has chils and fever real bad cum week this Satiday. I tuk camomile and broak mine up. all for to-day diary.
Nance is better. Ann is going to help me in my spelling I do not have no chanst to go to school with all the borders enymore. I bin cardin all day. the rane has stopt so I will go to see Sofie Prewitt to-nite. she is abel to set up now.
One day in the spring of 1833, Lincoln was startled by a column of smoke which rose up in the direction of the Tavern. He rushed in alarm to the place, and found that a lean-to attached to the main building had caught fire from the blaze which had been built to furnish lye ash for soft soap. The confused efforts of Mrs. Rutledge and her daughters were doing little to help the situation. Lincoln tore the lean-to from the Tavern wall by main strength, and dragged it to a safe distance. It was an act deserving of gratitude, and Lincoln made the most of the opportunity by asking the privilege of taking Ann to the river bank, where he had noticed violets growing.
Next day Ann wrote to her second self, Mat, a note into which escaped some of the joy, intimate as it was, that she could not contain.
MY BELOVED MAT
I just can not help teling you about yestidy after-noon when Abe and I walked done to the river to gether vilets. they are not many left but we felt that a good exkuse. though we did find a few, he sad vilets smeled Just like my hair. he handels my hair and kises it he sez I wuz borned of flours on acount of my red-hair and that I am danty and have such wonderful color. he taulks to me just like poetry. He gets me to sing hymns to him he joins in sumtimes and his singing is awfull, so off key. but he is so quant and diferent to any body I ever . . . I do not mind how he dose things like . . . I never new such love I am al ...so now Mat do distr. . . but keep all I send over of his, if you can . . . pleas bring me the wild-goose quilt patern as . . . Peace one . . . a lot of comfort to rite what you ... to a true frend like you and he sez the more I rite the beter I will learn to spell proper. cum over to-nite if you can and I will show you somthing I made.
Your true frend ANN.
P. S. do-not forget what I told you!
The year 1834 found Lincoln still struggling ambitiously to advance, still coping as best he could with misfortunes and trials, and yet making his first sure advances toward success. It was the year in which he sold the store to the Trent brothers, and in which the resulting debt laid a heavy burden on his shoulders -'the national debt,' as he was fond of calling it. It was the year in which he ran a second time for the state legislature, this time successfully.
In the meanwhile he continued his practice of surveying, and at the centre of his life was his love for Ann. Here is a note from my collection which he wrote to John Calhoun.
May 9, 1834
DEAR FRIEND JOHN
if you have in your possession or can tell me where you left the Certificate of Survey of Joshua Blackburn's Claim, there seems some controversy between him and Green concerning that North East quarter of Section 40-you remember? if this is convenient for you - otherwise do not hesitate to refrain from bothering until your return, the 'Bixbys' are leaving this week for some place in Kansas. I think the move a mistake. I believe a man should make his fight where he has friends, however who comes or who goes I am stationary at present seeing for myself a glowing future through clouds of red - red hair! how is that? I grow poetic with the years, but truly John apart from jesting I am the happiest and luckiest man in Salem! I am awaiting your return.
Lincoln was aided in repaying his debts by many kindnesses. One instance, in particular, has been recorded in history. His creditors were for the most part lenient, but one of them, Peter Van Bergen, brought suit against him when his note fell due and he was unable to pay. Lincoln would have lost his horse, saddle, and surveying instruments had not James Short, more familiarly known as Uncle Jimmy Short, a farmer at Sand Ridge, bought and restored this essential property to Lincoln. Years later Lincoln was able to return this kindness. As President, he heard that Uncle Jimmy was living in California, and that he had been greatly reduced in circumstances. Lincoln commissioned him an Indian agent.
To Lincoln's own kindness the testimony has been abundant, and there can be no doubt that this influenced the attitude of his creditors toward him. One instance of his humanity, inseparable, as always, from his quaint humor, is preserved for us by Sally Calhoun in her memorandum. As it happens, it concerns a dog, but it will be none the less welcome on this account.
he was allways kind to animals—one time a traveler left a poor sick dog behind in Salem—the dog had many ailments and no hair and sores etc. Jack Armstrong was going to shoot it but Lincoln stopping him said 'he looks just like I often feel so I guess I'll see what can be done between us.' so he took the dog and doctored him up. he named him 'Opportunity' and called him 'Opper' for short. Father cannot remember what became of the dog—only that he followed Lincoln everywhere for a long time.
The year 1834 saw a further decline in the fortunes of New Salem. The difficulties of business were augmented by a scourge of grasshoppers which descended like a cloud upon every green or growing thing. Both James Rutledge and John Cameron found the struggle too great. They moved from the town to what had been the Cameron farm, now owned by McNamar, at Sand Ridge, a few miles to the west.
The older children in both families were compelled to 'work out,' and Ann was placed in the friendly home of Uncle Jimmy Short. Lincoln spent much of the summer in active campaigning. His post as assistant surveyor was of the greatest help to him, as he met men of all stations in all parts of the county, and his figure became a familiar and beloved sight throughout the whole district. He found time to ride to Sand Ridge now and again, however, for visits with Ann. We can picture him jogging toward his delectable goal, his face abstracted in thought, his feet dangling almost in the dust on either side of his horse's belly.
Lincoln's popularity was such at this time that, although he was a Republican and accepted Clay as his political hero, the Democrats of the county offered to make him their candidate. Lincoln, as the late Senator Beveridge tells us, consulted John T. Stuart of Springfield, the leader of the Republicans, and on his advice accepted the proposal. This time be issued no printed appeal, but went about meeting as many people as be could and making his way by his humor, good nature, and willingness to perform a good turn wherever the opportunity occurred.
Lincoln was becoming well known in Springfield for his powers as a speaker as well as for his unmatched skill in stories and jokes. The Clary's Grove boys continued to spread his reputation and champion his cause, but Lincoln was rapidly forming friendships which were to be of service to him in his public life, soon to carry him far beyond the primitive, friendly stage of New Salem. Such a friend was John T. Stuart, who later became Lincoln's first law partner, and who was a first cousin of Mary Todd; whom Lincoln married.
The failure of James Rutledge, and the news that Ann had been forced with her sisters to work out, Lincoln felt keenly and, loverlike, accepted as a reproach to himself. Reviewing his situation, he chafed at the resistance which his ambition and his confidence in his abilities seemed at every hand to meet. Yet aspects of hope were present; he felt that his campaign was this time destined to success. He had his post as surveyor, and his mind was grappling with the study of the law. Out of these mingled feelings of depression, disappointment, hope, and inward confidence, he wrote to Ann the noble letter which appears below, surely one of the most precious among the documents which have descended to me.
MY BELOVED ANN:
I am filled with regret over the defect of the conduct of a fate that has bourne down so heavily upon you and yours. I try to persuade myself that my unlucky star has not overshaddowed you. Molly Prewitt told me about you going to work for James Shorts family, you are too frail for that hard work. my treasured one I should now be standing between you and such trials. Oh when will success crown my untiring efforts I sicken at my many failures especially as no more am I lazy in the discharge of my duties, forgive this long-faced letter, as I should now be upholding you in hope for the future, for I but to-day have been greatly assured of my election as member to the Legislature. So perhaps our dreams will come true. I am borrowing Jacks horse to ride over to see you this coming Saturday. cutting my foot prevents my walking. I will be at your pleasure to accompany you to the Sand Ridge taffy-pull. I will be glad to hear your good Father's sermon on the Sabbath. I feel unusually lifted with hope of relieving your present worry at an early date and likewise doing myself the best turn of my life, with you my beloved all things are possible. now James kindly promises to deliver into your dear little hands this letter. may the good Lord speed Saturday afternoon.
affectionately A. LINCOLN
At the close of the letter Lincoln has added these verses: —
Oh Maid! thou art so beauteous
That yon bright moon is rising, in all haste,
To gaze on thee,
and these first lines of the selection in Kirkham's Essay on Elocution which, as we saw in a previous paper, he had endorsed 'To Ann': —
If that high world which lies beyond
Our own, surviving love endears;
If there the cherished heart be found,
The eye the same, except in tears;
How welcome those untrodden spheres —
Lincoln has written the verses imperfectly, and at the point where they break off appears the word 'over.'
Receiving this letter, Ann replied by sending Lincoln a precious and intimate possession. But our account of her answer must be given in the succeeding article.
1. The late Senator Beveridge, in his Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1858, takes an entirely favorable view of the character of McNeil. —Author
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