Springfield, Illinois, Saturday, July 29th, 2017, continued
I leave the Myers Building at the former site of Joshua Fry Speed’s store and Abraham Lincoln’s last law office on S 5th Street, and head north, crossing E Washington St, and continue halfway up the block. On my left (west), at 109 N 5th St / NW Old State Capitol Plaza, is a historical marker for the Stuart & Lincoln Law Office. John Todd Stuart was Lincoln’s first law partner, the man from whom he borrowed the law books he needed for his legal training, and his future wife Mary Todd’s first cousin. Lincoln received his license to practice law two years after he began his studies, and joined Stuart’s law practice as a junior partner in April of 1837. He was living over Speed’s store, having moved here to Springfield to embark on his legal career, so he walked the very same route to get to work as I walk today from the Myers Building.
Stuart and Lincoln met in 1832 during the Black Hawk War and were friends and colleagues for many years after that. They served together in the same battalion, and their acquaintance turned to friendship when they both campaigned for, and served in, the Illinois State legislature in 1834. Stuart was only two years old than Lincoln, but like his cousin Mary Todd, he was the educated, sophisticated son of a well-to-do Kentucky family. So, he assigned himself a paternalistic role in their relationship. Perhaps it was this attitude that caused their friendship to erode once Lincoln eclipsed him in his success as a lawyer and then as a politician. They did not agree politically: Stuart was a Democrat sympathetic to the slaveowners’ cause, and as we all well know, Lincoln was most decidedly neither. But as the example of Joshua Speed demonstrates, Lincoln was ready and able to remain friends with political opponents. As many who knew them both well attest, Stuart was jealous of Lincoln, and at least one friend believed that Stuart even grew to hate him.
But during the years of their friendship, Stuart did much for Lincoln. He recognized Lincoln’s ability, despite his rough appearance and manners, and liked him personally. Stuart encouraged the precocious young entrepreneur and fellow budding politician to study law, a field that suited Lincoln’s natural abilities as well as the traditional field from which successful politicians so often emerged in those days. And after Lincoln received his law license and completed his last term in the Illinois State Legislature, Stuart accepted Lincoln as a junior law partner. Lincoln’s education in the law continued in Stuart’s practice. He observed Stuart closely and read his legal papers carefully, and during his first years as a lawyer, modeled his own legal practice and language on Stuart’s.
Stuart & Lincoln’s office was also directly over a Sangamon County courtroom. The County occupied Hoffman’s Row starting in 1837, the same year that Lincoln joined Stuart’s practice here, until the first proper Greek-revival Sangamon County Courthouse was completed in 1845. As Lincoln was wont to do, he took advantage of this opportunity to learn by observation. There was a trap door in the floor of their office which communicated with the courtroom below, so Lincoln could easily hear the proceedings. As his later law partner and biographer William Herndon observed, Lincoln was not such an avid reader in the years succeeding his youth and early adulthood as he had once been. It seems Lincoln had become more of a listener.
During my research, I’m rather amused to learn that Stuart was once bitten by Stephen A. Douglas, now most famed for the series of debates between him and Lincoln which so well encapsulated the issues which were tearing the Union apart in the years leading up to the Civil War. Stuart and Douglas were also political rivals, both Democrats, so their political battles took place in the primaries. For the most part, their debates were civil, but on one occasion in the 1838 congressional race, Douglas said something that really enraged Stuart. So the tall Stuart picked up ‘The Little Giant’ and carried him around in front of the crowd. As you may remember, Douglas may not have been tall, but neither was he slim, so Stuart must have been fairly strong. Douglas repaid the insult by biting Stuart’s thumb so severely that infection later set in, and it took some time for that painful wound to heal.
During that healing time, as well as during much of the time Stuart was busy with politics, Lincoln took on more and more of their practices’ legal matters as well as the paperwork. I suppose that the jealous Stuart later regretted giving Lincoln that opportunity to master the skills that helped him eclipse Stuart’s own success later on. On one occasion, Stuart said to a friend, ‘…I believe I am going to live to posterity only as the man who advised Mr. Lincoln to study law and lent him his law books. It is a little humiliating that a man who has served his country in Congress and in his State, should have no further claim to remembrance than that, but I believe it will be so.’ It’s easy to understand, perhaps even forgive, Stuart’s developing antipathy towards his onetime protegee, given he believed Lincoln’s reputation obscured, even erased, his own hard-earned one. Stuart and Lincoln did keep in contact over the years and outwardly, their relationship remained cordial; Stuart visited the Lincolns at the White House on several occasions, as friend and as family. But according to some of those who knew both men, Stuart undermined and opposed Lincoln’s policies when he had the opportunity to do so covertly.
To visit the next site on my list, all I need to do is swing on my heels and head directly across the street. The large modular office building there stands on the site where the first Logan & Lincoln law office was located.
In April of 1841, Lincoln and Stuart dissolved their partnership, apparently over their political differences, and Lincoln joined Stephen T. Logan’s law practice. Their joint practice lasted three and a half years, until October of 1844. As you may remember from an earlier installment of this Springfield account, Logan was a circuit judge for a time, from 1835-1837, while Lincoln was still preparing to become a lawyer. Logan gave up his judgeship because it paid too little, and redirected all his efforts to making his practice successful and lucrative.
As Logan tells it, Lincoln showed promise very early. Despite his awkward and messy appearance in his too-short pants and coat, rough shirt, and tousled hair, Lincoln displayed the same ‘superior’ and ‘peculiar’ way of putting things, notable for its ‘individuality,’ that would characterize his public speaking throughout his career as a lawyer, a politician, and as President. Since the time Logan met Lincoln in 1832, the same year that Logan moved to Illinois from Kentucky, he acted as friend, mentor, promoter, and colleague. In some ways, they were political and legal rivals, but unlike Stuart, Logan did not let this interfere with his friendship with or political support for Lincoln. Lincoln reciprocated Logan’s ability to maintain a respectful friendship by keeping the personal and the professional separate, and, as President, repaid Logan’s personal integrity by awarding Logan with unsought appointments.
It seems that the main thing that ever came between them to a significant degree was money, with the possible exception of Logan’s rather high-handed style of running his law practice. Lincoln did chafe at times under Logan’s blunt and demanding manner, but Lincoln also considered this partnership a challenge and an opportunity to increase his still limited knowledge of the law. He certainly did rise to the challenge. Logan’s account of Lincoln’s reading habits during his years as a lawyer match Stuart’s and Herndon’s: Lincoln had let go of his old habit of steady book-reading. In his years studying and practicing law, Lincoln turned to learning by observation, by listening to cases as they were argued in court and by closely studying the cases that his law partners prepared, and through practice, by carefully and rigorously preparing for his own. Over time, according to Logan, Lincoln’s method proved itself effective, and he became a ‘formidable’ lawyer in his own right. He never became as knowledgeable about the law as the restlessly intelligent, well-read Logan, but he was often more effective. Lincoln was certainly more successful and effective than Logan politically. Unlike Logan, Lincoln was charismatic and ‘seemed to put himself at once on an equality with everybody,’ and was a popular man as a result. Many of Lincoln’s political races were won on this account alone; his very wide circle of friends and acquaintances would vote for him against their own party just because of the high regard they held him in personally.
But to return to the subject of the dissolution of the Logan & Lincoln practice: the official reason that Logan gave for it was his wish to partner exclusively with his now-grown son David instead. But some who knew both men and their personalities attribute the end of their partnership primarily to Logan’s tightfistedness with money, which was a hardship for Lincoln. He had a new family to support and was probably still paying off some of his old debts incurred from his failed entrepreneurial efforts in New Salem. Secondly, Lincoln had gained a new confidence with his increasing success and knowledge as a lawyer. This, combined with his ambitious instincts, led to his desire to take the lead in his practice. So, as discussed in the previous installment of my Springfield account, Lincoln took on a young and inexperienced but bright and promising partner, just as Stuart and Logan had done with him. For any conflict they may have had as law partners, Lincoln retained his respect and regard for Logan, and they remained friends both publicly and privately for life.
I continue my journey north towards Union Station, heading north on 5th St about a block and a half and then through the park south and in front of the station. The station and the park occupy the whole block bounded by 5th and 6th Sts to the west and east, and Washington and Jefferson Sts to the north and south. There are various plaques scattered around the building recounting interesting tidbits about Springfield history, but the station building itself is closed for the day. It’s no longer a train station: it’s been incorporated into the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum complex and serves as a visitor center and venue for special exhibits.
As I wander around the building and park, seeing what there is to see outside, my attention is caught by two sculptures, placed side by side at an angle, their shape reminiscent of two giant, stylized, square-sided bottles, with images of people and objects over their surfaces in high relief. I read the large bronze plaque accompanying the sculptures, and learn that they are entitled Acts of Intolerance, a two-part sculpture commemorating the Springfield Race Riots of 1908. I’ve been noticing sites commemorating events and people related to the race riots all over downtown, and I’m glad to learn more about the story here since my curiosity has been aroused repeatedly throughout the day.
The shapes of the sculpture’s two parts, in fact, echo the shape of a burned-out home’s two remaining walls and chimneys in a photograph taken in the aftermath of the riot. This was only one of the multitude of homes and shops of Springfield’s black population that had been damaged or destroyed. The riot started on Friday evening, when the sheriff refused to release two black men, one jailed for the murder of a white man who caught him trying to assault his daughter, and another accused of attempted rape, to the justice of a gathering mob. (The second of these was later proved to be wrongly accused so as to divert blame from a white man.)
When they discovered that the sheriff had secreted the men away to a secure location, the mob decided to turn their rage on the entire black population of Springfield, shouting curses on the day that Lincoln freed their people from slavery. They lynched two black men. One was an elderly barber named Scott Burton, tortured and killed for daring to try and defend himself from the mob who were shooting at him and burning down his home. The other was 84-year-old William Donegan, strung up, his throat, body,and limbs sliced for the perceived crime of having been married for over 30 years to a white woman. There were tales of white heroism too, of which Lincoln, turning over in his grave, would surely have been comforted to hear. One was Henry Loper, who had his restaurant and car destroyed for daring to drive the accused black men to safety. Another was prohibitionist presidential candidate Eugene Chafin, who shielded a black man with his own body, his face badly bruised from the stones thrown by the crowd at the Court House Square.
Historian James L. Crouthamel writes that the mob
‘wrecked almost every building on Washington, Jefferson, and Madison Streets between Eighth and Twelfth Streets. It appears that the mob leaders were careful in destroying only homes and businesses which were either owned by Negroes or served a Negro clientele. (White handkerchiefs marked the homes and businesses of whites, and these were left untouched in the midst of the general destruction.)’
Around two thousand black people were driven from town, terrorized, their homes and means of making a living destroyed.
Although about 150 people were arrested for taking part in the riots, all escaped conviction and punishment except two: Kate Howard, who committed suicide by poison on her way to jail, and Roy Young, who confessed and was convicted of burglary, arson, and rioting. On the whole, sadly, the citizens of Springfield showed little remorse for their behavior, editorializing that the black people of Springfield brought it all on themselves. The press hailed Kate Howard as a ‘new Joan of Arc‘ for the role she played in attacking Loper’s restaurant and in lynching Burton. They certainly did no justice to the memory of their most famous and beloved citizen Lincoln.
The last Lincoln site I visit for the day is the Great Western Railroad Depot, now called the Lincoln Depot. Since I’m heading back to my lodging directly afterwards, I take the car which I had parked near Union Station earlier today and zigzag a few blocks southeast to get here. This railroad station, at 930 E Monroe and the railroad tracks, is the site of Lincoln’s ‘Farewell Address’ to the city of Springfield. On February 11, 1861, Lincoln left for Washington, DC for his first inauguration as President. That morning, he delivered a speech of farewell to the city he had begun life in as a lonely and broke young man, and was about to leave as a father, husband, successful lawyer, congressman, and President-Elect.
The Lincoln Depot is one of the few original buildings in Springfield to survive to this day to actually host Lincoln, though it’s quite altered. The red brick building was restored following a 1968 fire. The originally very small, one-story structure became the larger two-story structure we see today around 1900. Though is it very much altered, it retains its original general shape and style, even to the curved metal supports for the roof.
Lincoln delivered a very moving speech that day, which moved very many in the sizable crowd to tears. We don’t have Lincoln’s original written text for this address, but several newspapers printed it, each with slight to moderate variations. One version is inscribed on a plaque in the Lincoln Tomb:
It was understood and expected by all that Lincoln would return one day, including Lincoln himself. He did indeed return, but not in the way that anyone hoped or expected.
I’ll return to downtown Springfield tomorrow to visit a few more places on my itinerary. Stay tuned!
Sources and inspiration:
Andreasen, Bryon C. Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: Lincoln’s Springfield. Southern Illinois University Press, 2015
Brink, McCormick & Co. ‘Springfield Township, Springfield City.‘ from Atlas of Sangamon County, 1874.
Brown, Caroline Owsley. ‘Springfield Society Before the Civil War.’ Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984), vol. 15, no. 1/2, 1922, pp. 477–500. JSTOR
Burlingame, Michael, ed. An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln: John G. Nicolay’s Interviews and Essays. Southern Illinois University Press, Jan 2006
Carwardine, Richard. Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power. New York: Random House, 2003
‘Central Springfield Historic District‘ National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Prepared by Nicholas P. Kalogeresis for the National Park Service.
Crouthamel, James L. ‘The Springfield Race Riot of 1908.’ The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Jul., 1960), pp. 164-181
Deming, Henry Champion. ‘Eulogy of Abraham Lincoln: before the General Assembly of Connecticut, at Allyn Hall, Hartford, Thursday, June 8th, 1865.’ Hartford: A.N. Clark & Co. State Printers, 1985
Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995
‘Elijah Iles‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
Giger, Henry Douglas. ‘The Story of the Sangamon County Court House.’ Via the Sangamon County Circuit Clerk website, originally published Apr 29, 1901
Hart, Dick. ‘Lincoln’s Springfield: Hotels and Taverns.’ Lincoln’s Springfield blog
Havlik, Robert J. ‘Abraham Lincoln and the Reverend Dr. James Smith: Lincoln’s Presbyterian Experience in Springfield.‘ Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1998-) Vol. 92, No. 3, A Lincoln Issue (Autumn, 1999), pp. 222-237
Herndon, William H. and Jesse W. Weik. Herndon’s Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life. 1889
History of Sangamon County, Illinois; Together with Sketches of its Cities, Villages and Townships … Portraits of Prominent Persons, and Biographies of Representative Citizens. Chicago: Interstate Publishing Co., 1881
Illinois, Springfield: Tinsley Building. Excerpts from newspapers and other sources compiled by the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1993
‘John Todd Stuart,’ Sangamon Link: History of Sangamon County, Illinois, Oct 6, 2013.
Lehrman Institute articles ‘The Lawyers: John Todd Stuart (1807-1885)‘ and ‘Stephen Trigg Logan’ from Mr. Lincoln and Friends, and Visitors from Congress: John Todd Stuart (1807-1885) from Mr. Lincoln’s White House
Lehrman, Lewis E. Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.
Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois. Website, National Park Service
Looking for Lincoln: various historical/informational placards throughout the Springfield, Illinois and surrounding areas about the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln at their associated sites
MacLean, Maggie. ‘Elizabeth Todd Edwards: Sister of Mary Todd Lincoln.’ Civil War Women blog, Jul 28, 2013
‘Memorials of the Life and Character of Stephen T. Logan‘ by Stuart, John T.; Edwards, Benjamin S.; Cullom, Shelby; Davis, David et al. From Lincoln/Net by Northern Illinois University Libraries
Nicolay, John George. An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln: John G. Nicolay’s Interviews and Essays. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2006
‘Springfield Race Riot‘, in the Encyclopædia Britannica
Yu, Karlson. ‘Springfield Race Riot, 1908.’ BlackPast.org