Photobook: Missouri Constitutional Rights Flag Captured by Union Soldiers on June 14th, 1861

Missouri Constitutional Rights Flag captured by Union soldiers on June 14th, 1861, Old State Capitol Building, Springfield, Illinois.

The claim that the Southern states seceded primarily over the Constitutional issue of states’ rights issues is an oft-repeated one, and I think a troubling one for many reasons. For one thing, it’s part of a long tradition of trying to sidestep or minimize the problems of race-based slavery and the resulting intransigent racism that has plagued our country since its formative years, often on the part of people who don’t want to support laws that promote racial equality. For another, this states’ rights claim was as disingenuous then as it is now: the Southern states seceded not because the federal government was trying to stop slavery in their states. There was, as yet, no concerted attempt to do so. They were incensed that the federal government, in their view, was not doing enough to enforce the legal right to own slaves in free states: by forcing local governments and private individuals, against their own philosophical and religious convictions, to return escaped slaves; to allow slaveowners to retain their rights to own slaves when they traveled and even moved to free states; and to extend the rights to own slaves to new territories.

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Springfield, Illinois, In Search of Abraham Lincoln, Part 5

Downstairs hallway in the Lincoln Home with the Lincolns’ original hatstand – but no, not Abe’s original hat

Springfield, Illinois, Saturday, July 30th, 2017

I sleep in then linger over a continental breakfast-of-sorts in my rented room as I catch up on some rest, writing, and research. When I finally bestir myself in earnest, I head over to D’arcy’s Pint to enjoy a local delicacy for lunch. My brother John lived in Springfield for a time some years ago and told me I must eat a horseshoe while I’m in town. The internet tells me that this gastropub is the best place to enjoy this decadent regional take on the open-face sandwich, so here I am. I order a full-size one with the works, spicy, and a pint to wash it down with. They bring me a small mountain on a plate composed of Texas toast, french fries, ground meats, chopped tomatoes and other veggies, and cheese sauce, the spiciness added at the discretion of the diner from the little cup of (mildly) hot sauce on the side. It’s tasty enough, I can’t deny, and the cheese sauce is very good and appears to be homemade, not at all like the waxy bright yellow kind that comes from a can or jar. But it’s not the tastiest thing I’ve ever eaten: it’s really starchy. Potatoes and bread in one dish? Hmmm. Still, it’s plenty good enough to pack up the other half to eat later. The physically-demanding, hiking-heavy portion of my journey is far enough behind me now that I just can’t digest a heavy meal of this size all at once.

The Lincoln Home at the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets, Springfield, Illinois. Abraham Lincoln planted the elm tree at the left.

Feeling pleasantly languorous, I return to the Lincoln Home Historic Site. The house where Abraham Lincoln, Mary Todd Lincoln, and their children lived from 1844 to 1861 stands at 413 S 8th St. It’s the only house where Lincoln lived that’s still standing except for the White House.  I park in front of the Visitor Center at 426 S 7th Street and buy my ticket for the next available tour. In the intervening forty-five minutes or so before my tour starts, I wander through the exhibits in the small museum/bookshop of the visitor center and obtain a little more information for the rest of my Illinois trip. There’s lots of great stuff here.

Another view of the exterior of the Lincolns’ home in Springfield, Illinois

A view of the front parlor at the Lincoln Home, Springfield, Illinois.

A few minutes before our scheduled time, I meet the little tour group outside on a bench on the grass-edged wide walkway leading from the Visitor Center to the Lincoln Home. It sits among a very tidy little neighborhood of historic homes from around the Lincolns’ time here. Houses from later periods were not preserved, and a few stand empty and neatly painted, but not yet restored. Since the only activity at the streets and houses here are visitors strolling and gazing, guided and informed by the signs erected in front of some of the homes and other points of interests, it feels more like a nice outdoor museum or park than a neighborhood.

The Lincoln Home dining room

The Lincoln Home living room, with a closeup of Mary Todd Lincoln’s sewing table at the right

A view of the Lincolns’ extra-long four-poster bed in their bedroom at the Lincoln Home. It was the best shot I could get given I had to wait for the crowd to pass, then had only a few seconds before they ushered me along.

It’s a two-story house and, with the additions that the Lincolns added over the years, a decent size for a household of two adults and three children. Mary bore four sons; as you may remember, Robert was born the year before they moved here. Sadly, little Eddie died just short of four years old in 1850. He was the Lincolns’ second child and the first to be born in this house. Almost ten months after Eddie’s death, William was born, followed by Thomas, called Tad, in 1853.

The house originally consisted of just the front two-story section, tall but narrow, and this part feels as small today as I’m sure it did for the growing Lincoln family. It may seem roomier if I was here without my fellow visitors all herded together to one side of each room by the guardrail. Still, everything seems just a few steps away. The relatively small rooms would be practical for the time: they were easier and cheaper to keep warm in winter, hard to do since double-pane windows weren’t a thing yet. And since they had no modern appliances, the smaller rooms would have made cleaning the house more manageable as well.

We wind our way upstairs to the bedrooms. Each has its own wallpaper pattern, which modern tastes would generally find too ‘busy’, but these patterns were very French and therefore, very fashionable. It was very important to Mary that her homes be stylish enough to welcome and impress visitors even from the highest and wealthiest social classes. She continued this practice of elaborate home decorating at the White House, and she was reviled by many, and still is, for being an irresponsible, image-obsessed spendthrift.

One of the children’s’ bedrooms on the upper floor of the Lincoln Home

But I don’t believe that Mary Todd’s insistence on style and elegance was the simple result of vanity or thirst for luxury. One of the things that originally drew Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln to one another was their love of politics, and Mary, like Abraham, was ambitious; he on his own behalf, she mostly on his, since he was the only one who could engage actively in politics. She, like Abraham, was practical, and a woman’s sphere of influence then was in the home and in the entertainment of guests. She knew that her husband was more likely to be respected and admired as a political leader if he lived in homes that displayed taste, culture, and yes, money, since that was emblematic of responsibility, ability, and power. She was only one of many First Ladies who recognized this and who likewise put a lot of energy and money into making the White House a symbol of national pride and success. But she, I believe, has been the most reviled for it.

After viewing the upper floor and its bedrooms, we return to the ground floor and pass through the little kitchen. I think I would find it inconveniently small, but Mary was a petite woman, so perhaps that helped. At least everything was in easy reach! She did most of the household cooking, a new feature of her life once she married Abraham.

The cozy little kitchen in the Lincoln Home

Many considered their courtship and marriage a poor fit: Mary had grown up with all of the advantages of wealth while Abraham very much did not. But she, like many others once they got to know him, was impressed enough with his intelligence and character that his long background of debt and poverty didn’t seem to deter her much. But married life with Abraham was not always so easy for Mary. It wasn’t just that she had to learn to cook and to perform many of the household duties that the team of domestics at her parents’ house used to take care of. Over time, as Abraham became a more financially successful lawyer and then politician, they enjoyed a much more comfortable middle-class lifestyle and Mary had money to spend on her household and personal effects again. But Abraham was notoriously ‘deficient in those little links which make up the chain of a woman’s happiness,’ as one of his prior sweethearts observed, and often much less demonstrative of his feelings than Mary would wish.

Mary Todd Lincoln, ca 1860 – 1865, Brady-Handy Photograph Collection, public domain via the Library of Congress

Yet especially during the early and middle years of their marriage, despite Lincoln’s law partner and eventual biographer William H. Herndon‘s many negative portrayals, the couple were very loving, respectful, and supportive of one another. Yes, they quarreled at times; both of them were moody, willful people. When angered, Mary would vent her frustrations but Abraham would bottle his up and withdraw, which, no doubt, sometimes made matters worse. Abraham may have had to put up with a lot sometimes, but at least for much of their marriage, Mary had to put up with more. She had a lot more character and a lot less selfishness and vanity than Herndon and many others later gave her credit for later. After all, this was a woman who gave up a life of ease and wealth to marry an awkward-with-women, undemonstrative, unromantic, funny-looking guy of little means and few signs of promise besides his intelligence and charisma. She ended up with a faithful and hardworking but often absentee husband and father as he went out on the law circuit sometimes for weeks at a time, laying most of the household burdens on her shoulders. Their children were hard to deal with too: Mary and Abraham could not agree on a consistent method of discipline so they mostly gave it up, to the dismay of Lincoln’s colleagues at his law office and the White House since he’d sometimes bring his rambunctious kids to work.

Later on, the heartbreak at losing two of her children by the time she left the White House and the strain of public life took their toll on Mary. Mary was outspoken and decisive, and Victorian America was not yet accepting of such overt displays of will and opinion by women, especially by the First Lady, expected to be a model of decorum, of womanly modesty and restraint. But Mary would have none of it, and she made many enemies with her cutting wit, sarcasm, and displays of temper. She stood up for herself, not always gracefully, and this did not make her popular. Mary’s emotions, her depressions and passionate outbursts, became more volatile and frequent over time, and the Lincolns’ relationship was often more severely strained than ever. But although they very different ways of expressing themselves, Mary and Abraham shared the sources of their pain and remained as supportive of one another as they knew how to be, and loyal to one another, for the rest of their lives.

Site of Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s second home on 4th St just north of Adams, Springfield, IL 2017 Amy Cools

We complete the tour of the house and I zigzag north and west, returning to central downtown Springfield. I had confirmed the location of a few more sites in my research this morning, and in books and maps I found at the Lincoln Home Visitor Center while I was waiting for the tour to begin. The next site I visit is on 4th St, just north of Adams St, on the east side. There’s only a parking lot here now, where used to stand a modest three-room frame house. Search as I may, there seems to be no photo of the house, or, as the historical plaque at the site describes it, cottage. The Lincolns and their infant son Robert moved here in the fall of 1843. They didn’t want to raise their children in a bustling hotel, though the Globe Tavern was a nice enough place for a young couple, so they moved into the best home they could afford until Lincoln’s practice began bringing in enough money again for something better. They were here only about a year before they moved into their permanent home on 8th St.

Lincoln was still paying off old debts, and as you may remember from the last installment of my Lincoln story, his law partner at the time, Stephen T. Logan, was a little tightfisted with the practice’s money. But as Lincoln became better known and more in demand; with a little help from Mary’s father, who liked Abraham despite the fact that he couldn’t yet provide his daughter a more comfortable lifestyle; and with Lincoln’s new senior partnership with Herndon in late 1844, they felt able to afford the 8th St house that same winter.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield, Illinois. The Library building stands on the site of Mr. and Mrs. Simeon Francis’ home, where Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd renewed their courtship.

Then I return to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. On my first day here, I missed the sign that indicated that the Library stands on the house site of Eliza and Simeon Francis; the sign is across the street on the sidewalk next to the business building and PNC bank parking lot. Simeon Francis was the editor of Sangamo Journal and had become close friends with Lincoln in this capacity. Lincoln was a regular contributor to the editorial page through much of the 1830’s. After Mary Todd moved to town in 1839, she and Eliza Francis became close friends as well. Within the first year of their courtship, Lincoln panicked and broke off his engagement with Mary Todd on New Year’s Day, 1841 (what a day to choose, Lincoln!), and they didn’t speak much for a while.

Close-ups from the Looking for Lincoln sign for the Francis home site

But they shared so many acquaintances, friends, and interests that they were inevitably brought together again, especially by their friend Eliza. They were reconciled in this house the next year and met regularly here to renew their courtship in secret. They didn’t want their relationship to be the subject of gossip and public speculation as to the reasons for the breakup and the renewal of their relationship. I’m guessing this may have been caution especially on Mary’s part: she was pretty head over heels for this guy; her family didn’t approve of him as a match for her however much they may have liked him personally; and she had observed how the normally gregarious and social Lincoln became awkward, shy, and skittish in the presence of most women. But when they were alone, Abraham and Mary got along excellently and had much to talk about. It all went so well this time around that Abraham and Mary Todd were married on November 4th, 1842.

Site of the old Baptist Church at the southwest corner of 7th & Adams Sts where the Young Men’s Lyceum was held. Lincoln delivered his famous Lyceum Address here on January 27th, 1838.

I continue two blocks south and one block east to the northwest corner of 7th and Adams Sts. There’s a Looking for Lincoln sign here on E Adams which points out the site across the street.

The Young Men’s Lyceum used to meet here at the old Baptist Church from 1838-1840. Early on during their tenure here, on January 27th, 1938, Lincoln addressed the young men with a speech titled The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions. Now known as the Lyceum Address, Lincoln spoke against the ‘mobocracy’ which he feared was becoming too common a substitution for reasoned debate and institutional reform in American life. The rancor between abolitionist and pro-slavery sympathizers was growing, breaking out in increasing numbers of violent episodes. The Lyceum Address revolves around the lynching of Francis McIntosh, a young freeman of mixed-African and European descent, who was lynched in St. Louis less than two years before Lincoln’s address here.

Lovejoy on the lynching of McIntosh in The Observer, May 5, 1835

McIntosh was working on a steamboat that docked in St Louis, and on his way to visit his girlfriend, he stumbled upon two policemen pursuing another man who had been in a drunken brawl. McIntosh did not obey the policeman’s shouted orders for his to help them catch the man. Like the average American of African descent, free or enslaved, McIntosh was very likely not in the habit of mixing himself up in any circumstance that involved police or government officials, for the simple reason that very few of them had any interest in dispensing justice to people like himself, especially in slave states like Missouri. The drunk man got away and McIntosh was arrested instead. When the police officers threatened him with five years in jail, in a slave state, remember, McIntosh panicked. He grabbed a knife and fled, killing one officer and wounding the other. He was caught and jailed again. A mob gathered, broke him out, chained him to a tree, and burned him alive. At first McIntosh begged for someone from the crowd, anyone, to shoot him and release him from his torture; when no one was willing to show even this level of mercy, he prayed and sang hymns until the pain and the flames silenced him for good.

Abolitionist minister and editor of The Observer Elijah Lovejoy picked up the story and, contrary to most of the press, condemned this episode as an episode of wickedness and lawlessness. Proslavery sympathizers ran a sabotage campaign against his St Louis press until he was forced to move across the Missouri River to Alton. But he was not safe there, either, and on November 7, 1837, a mob attacked the warehouse where he had hidden his press in a vain attempt at safety. They shot into the warehouse while Lovejoy and his supporters were inside. Forced to defend themselves, they shot back, wounding some members of the mob and killing one. In revenge, the mob tried to burn down the warehouse with the men still inside it, and Lovejoy was shot to death when he emerged to stop them. As was the case with McIntosh, the judge voiced his support for the mob and no-one was convicted of the murder.

Lincoln feared that his beloved country would devolve from an enlightened union of states founded on principles of reason and reverence for the rule of law into an association weakened and fractured by the same ideological intolerance and strife which marked old Europe. He did not fear that any European, or Asian, or African nation, or any other foreign power, could destroy the United States: he recognized that in this, the only thing Americans had to fear was themselves. Lincoln’s fear was prescient: Bleeding Kansas was still twenty-six years away, the Civil War thirty-three. When he delivered this speech, Lincoln was just short of 29 years old. He had been first elected a state legislator less than four years before and had been a practicing lawyer for less than a year. While ambitious for high office, I doubt that even Lincoln’s prophetic skills could help him foresee that he would be leading his nation to the ‘new birth of freedom’ he spoke of in his even more famous 1863 Gettysburg Address, with strengthened political institutions that could, it was hoped, better serve a government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ – but all the people this time around. We’re still working on it.

The Gettysburg Address on the Wills House wall in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; photo taken during my visit there in 2016

The foyer of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, Illinois

It’s early evening, and those leftovers are sounding pretty good right now. The last places I’d like to follow Lincoln here in Springfield will be open tomorrow, so I return to my lodging.

Springfield, Illinois, Sunday, July 31st, 2017

I begin my day at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and get a little writing done. I would love to dig into the archives here, which now include the Robert Ingersoll Papers, but I’m itching to get back on the road. I have this big comfy rental car (a free upgrade since the first one broke down) and only a certain number of road trip days left before I leave the U.S. for a while. But I’ll certainly be back here again.

A five minute’s drive north from the Library takes me to the Edwards Place Historic Home, now owned and operated by the Springfield Art Association. I enter the visitor center to the right of the house, and though I don’t have anything scheduled, a woman on staff there was kind enough to take me on a one-on-one tour. My timing is lucky: before long it will be closed to the public for restoration, at least until May 2018. As it is, I get to see some of the rooms decorated and ready for the public complete with nice carpet, wallpaper, artifacts original to the family and to the time period, as well as other rooms and passageways in various stages of disrepair, construction, and deconstruction. I see layers of plaster, wood, wallpaper, and paint peeled and cut away, little doorways into its history. Particularly revealing to me, familiar with vintage and antique textiles, I recognize various attempts at recreating the house’s antebellum history more or less successfully in the wallpapers, with 1990’s, 1960’s-1970’s, 1920’s, and other eras’ ideas of what wallpaper from the time would look like.  None of it looks at all like the Edwards’ own wallpaper peeking out from where bits of it had escaped the remodelers’ scrapers.

Edwards Place Historical Home, Springfield, Illinois

A view inside the Edwards Place Historical Home before planned restoration

The house was originally built in 1833 and expanded to its current grand dimensions after Benjamin and Helen Dodge Edwards bought the house in 1843. Benjamin Edwards was the brother of Mary Todd’s sister Elizabeth’s husband Ninian, named for the Edward brothers’ father. When Mary Todd moved to town in 1840 and settled in with her older sister Elizabeth, Mary and Helen became good friends. When Helen and her husband moved to this house three years later, Mary and her new husband Abraham were regular guests.

As Springfield Art Association says on their website, the

‘Edwards Place was a center for social activity in Springfield. Prominent citizens and politicians such as Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas, David Davis, and numerous governors, judges, lawyers, and politicians were entertained at lavish dinner parties and the grounds played host to many summer picnics and political rallies…. Although the Lincolns did not court or marry here, Edwards Place is currently home to the “courting couch” on which Lincoln and Mary Todd sat during the early days of their romance, originally the property of Ninian Edwards.’

The Lincolns’ courting couch at Edwards Place Historical Home, Springfield, Illinois

The website’s article points out that I made the same mistake many people do: I mixed up the Edwards houses. This Edwards house, which currently houses the famous black horsehair couch where Abraham and Mary courted, is not the same house where that couch originally was, where the Lincolns originally courted and were married. These Edwards moved into this house the year after the Lincolns were married. The other Edwards house site, where Ninian and Elizabeth Edwards welcomed Elizabeth’s younger sister Mary into their home in 1840, is where the Michael J. Howlett building now stands. That’s downtown near where I just came from. Well, no matter. It’s only a five-minute or so backtrack.

Michael J. Howlett Building, Springfield, Illinois

I find a parking spot near the Michael J. Howlett building–not easy to do since its a workday–and look for a plaque or marker. There’s sure to be one since it’s the site of such significance in Lincoln’s life. I don’t see one at first, so I visit the Illinois State Archive, the next building to the west of the Howlett building. The man at the front desk there doesn’t know of such a thing but hazards a few guesses. However, before I go on that little goose chase, the man looking after the state employee parking lot passes by. I tell him what I’m looking for, and he knows right off. Of course! He spends his days out here where it’s likely to be found. I follow his directions: if you start from the Howlett building sign on E Edwards St, head north on the driveway towards the Illinois State Capitol Building following the west side of the Howlett building. Turn right at the corner of the building, then look low on the outer wall of the accessible ramp. That’s why I missed it: it’s well below eye level, and not on a structure, or rather, the part of the structure, that I expected it to be on.

North (back) of the Michael J. Howlett building where the Edwards house site historical plaque is set low in the on the ramp wall

Mary Todd Lincoln returned to this house many years after her years in Springfield as a vivacious debutante, fiancée, wife of a lawyer and congressman, mother of a brood of wild young boys, and new First Lady. Her sister Elizabeth discovered that her oldest son Robert had her committed to an insane asylum in 1875 and was dismayed. Mary had lost her husband and three sons and had increasingly had a terrible time after each one. She may have struggled with what today we might call a mental illness, but since emotional issues were so poorly understood by the medical establishment at the time (as they are, in many ways, in our time) and there was no one to give a qualified assessment at the time, I won’t repeat modern diagnostic speculations here. Robert and Mary had not gotten along for a long time, and we can’t know for sure if he thought she really needed to be committed or if he was just wanted to get her out of the way and out of the bank accounts. She had adopted many unsettling habits, such as consulting spiritualists and alternating heavy spending on trifles she never used with eccentric miserly behavior, fearing poverty despite her generous government pension. Mary was able to get herself released from the asylum into the care of Elizabeth. She lived here for a time then moved to France for awhile until her health significantly declined, then returned to live with Elizabeth. She died here on July 16th, 1882.

Edwards House site historical plaque on the north (back) side of the Michael J. Howlett building

Having visited all the sites on my list as well as a few I discovered during this journey, I continue on from Springfield to one more very important place associated with Lincoln’s life and ideas, and then arrive at another amazing place this evening. Stay tuned!

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Sources and inspiration:

Abraham Lincoln Online: Edwards PlaceLincoln Family TimelineLincoln Legal Career Timeline, Lincoln Timelines and Highlights, and Lyceum Address

Andreasen, Bryon C. Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: Lincoln’s Springfield. Southern Illinois University Press, 2015

Baker, Jean H. ‘Mary Todd Lincoln: Managing Home, Husband, and Children.Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, Volume 11, Issue 1, 1990, pp. 1-12

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.

Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995

Edwards Place Historical Home website and page on the Springfield Art Association website

Graham, Beckett and Susan Vollenweider. ‘Mary Todd Lincoln,’ Parts One and Two. The History Chicks podcast

Gourevitch, Philip. ‘Abraham Lincoln Warned Us About Donald Trump‘. The New Yorker, March 15, 2016

Herndon, William H. and Jesse W. Weik. Herndon’s Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life. 1889

Lehrman, Lewis E. Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois, website by the 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

Nicolay, John George. An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln: John G. Nicolay’s Interviews and Essays. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2006

Simon, Paul. Freedom’s Champion-Elijah Lovejoy. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2004

Wright, John Aaron. Discovering African American St. Louis: A Guide to Historic Sites. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 2002

Springfield, Illinois, In Search of Abraham Lincoln, Part 4

Site of Stuart & Lincoln law office at Hoffman’s Row, Springfield, Illinois

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 S 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.

Sculpture of Lincoln as a soldier in the Black Hawk War at the Lincoln Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

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.

Clipping from Sangamo Journal, Mar 27, 1840 describing location of Stuart & Lincoln office, via the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America

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.

Photo showing Hoffman’s Row, Springfield, IL 1859. Stuart & Lincoln’s office was located on the third floor from 1837-1841; many years later, Lincoln & Herndon’s office moved here after their tenure at the Tinsley Building. Photo from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library; ‘X marks the spot’ and photo caption by the University of Chicago Libraries

John T. Stuart, Brady’s National Photographic Portrait Galleries, Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, Allen County Public Library

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.

Building on the east side of North 5th St at former site of Logan & Lincoln law office, Springfield, Illinois

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.

Stephen T. Logan, from the Helm and Todd Family Photographs and Papers at the Kentucky Digital Library

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.

Clipping from Sangamo Journal, Feb 18, 1842 describing location of Lincoln & Logan office, via Library of Congress’ Chronicling America

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.

Union Station and the park before it, with a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln sitting on a park bench to the left.

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.

Acts of Intolerance by Preston Jackson, a commemorative sculpture for the 1908 Springfield Race Riots

Historical plaque for the 1908 Springfield Race Riot and Preston Jackson’s memorial sculpture

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.

Photograph showing the remains of a home in the aftermath of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot

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 Lincoln Depot at 930 E Monroe St, Springfield, Illinois

Great Western Depot historical placard, which includes a photo of the depot more or less how it appeared in Lincoln’s time.

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:

Abraham Lincoln Farewell to Springfield Address on a plaque at the Lincoln Tomb, Springfield, Illinois

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!

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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Sources and inspiration:

Abraham Lincoln Online: Lincoln Family TimelineLincoln Legal Career Timeline,  Lincoln Timelines and Highlights, and Three Versions of Lincoln’s Farewell Address

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

Springfield, Illinois, In Search of Abraham Lincoln, Part 2

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield, Illinois. The Museum is to the left, the Library is to the right

Springfield, Illinois, Saturday, July 29th, 2017, continued

After my visit to the Lincoln Tomb at the Oak Ridge Cemetery and a quick stop to drop off my luggage at the room where I’ll be staying, I continue my Springfield journey downtown at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, 112 N. Sixth St. It’s a large complex, the two public buildings each stretching the length of one city block along N. Sixth. It has a very late-1990’s – early 2000’s style, neither particularly handsome nor offensive in my view, just… generic. I associate it with municipal buildings such as city halls, libraries, and large post offices, perhaps because so many were built in this general style in my native California throughout my teens and my early adulthood.

I start with the Museum at the northeast corner of N. Sixth and E. Jefferson. After passing through the foyer and security entrance, I step into a large central room, with very tall ceilings and a life-size family grouping of the Lincoln family. I find I’ve neglected to take pictures of this, I think because I don’t like the sculptures much. For the most part, I don’t care for sculptures that attempt to recreate historical figures in a hyper-realistic way. These ones look like giant dolls: the hair looks like cheap wigs; the postures are stiff and slightly unnatural; and the face paint is a little off, like not-quite-successful funeral-parlor makeup. This one of those sorts of things like playing the bagpipe or the violin, I think: you need to get it just right or the result is unpleasant. The overall effect of these figures, to me, is a little creepy and more than a little campy.

‘Satire on Slavery’ exhibit featuring ‘Fragment on Pro-Slavery Theology’. In these 1858 notes, Abraham Lincoln mocked pro-slavery arguments. On exhibit at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, Springfield

Still, overall, I like the museum well enough, and I do enjoy most of the life-size, walk-through dioramas of imagined scenes from Abraham Lincoln’s life. The figures within them look better in the low light and they are surrounded by original and recreated interiors, structures, and artifacts of interest, so they are properly illustrative and educational for a museum. They do also have something of an amusement park quality but, hearing the reactions of the visiting children and the discussions following their questions, they appear to be effective in sparking interest in Lincoln’s history.

‘President Abraham Lincoln is blamed for the Civil War’s huge human toll and for deflecting the issue with his notorious storytelling in this 1864 cartoon by Joseph E. Baker.’ – Image and its caption courtesy of the Library of Congress. I don’t remember that a reproduction of this particular cartoon is displayed in the ALPM, but it’s representative of the sort of cartoons on display in the Whispering Room exhibit. As you may know, or may remember from one of my earlier accounts, Lincoln was notorious, for good or ill, for his penchant for storytelling

Pocket compass and sundial which belonged to Abraham Lincoln’s grandfather of the same name. He was a Revolutionary War captain and moved from Virginia to Lincoln’s native Kentucky in 1782. ALPL&M, Springfield

There’s one exhibit hall which I find particularly creative and interesting: it’s covered with reproductions satirical political cartoons critical of Lincoln’s real and fabricated opinions and policies. It’s an effective way to reveal the political issues and contrasting beliefs of the time, and the ways in which our nation was so deeply divided, just as we are deeply divided now. Comedy and satire, then as now, are two of the most efficient ways of communicating the nuances of issues that otherwise can be difficult to clearly explain. I did hear one grandmother use this as a teaching moment to tell her grandchild that, see, it’s not nice to make fun of presidents, just like people are making fun of Donald Trump today! I think she may have missed the point of the exhibit a little.

I also find many of the original artifacts on exhibit particularly interesting and I wish there was more space dedicated to the exhibit of these than to dioramas. There’s a tiny and delicate looking pocket sundial and compass set belonging to Captain Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln’s grandfather. They must not have been so delicate, however, since they traveled with him from Virginia to Kentucky in 1782, quite a rugged trek in those days.

Original front door key and deed of sale of the Lincoln family home in Springfield, on display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum

An original plaster model by Gutzon Borglum for his 1908 marble bust of Lincoln is also on display. The bronze bust of Lincoln at the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield and the other smaller one in Peoria Heights are also derived from this plaster cast. As you can see, and as the accompanying placard in the museum describes, Borglum left the left side of Lincoln’s face unfinished and without an ear. He explained that he thought the right side of Lincoln’s face was fully developed and much more expressive while the left side was ‘immature.’ However, when he sculpted Lincoln into the Mt. Rushmore National Monument, Lincoln’s head is positioned so that the left side of his face is more readily seen. But there as here, his left ear is unsculpted. I wonder how long it took Borglum to decide where to place Lincoln’s head among the others on Mt. Rushmore, given that he preferred the right side of his face. In Borglum’s original model for Mt Rushmore, the left side of Lincoln’s face is fully sculpted, ear and all. But Mt. Rushmore is unfinished. It was even less finished when Borglum died, but his son, whom he named Lincoln, by the way, completed the sculpture to the point we see today. I also wonder if Lincoln Borglum decided not to finish carving the left side of Lincoln’s face based on this plaster cast and on his father’s remarks.

Plaster cast by Gutzon Borglum for 1908 marble bust now in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building. On display at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum

After touring the Museum, I cross the street and step into the Library to see if there are any more interesting artifacts on exhibit. There are only a few, and none that I find that are directly linked to Lincoln. The Library’s soon to close, so I’ll return another time to explore it more fully and to get some writing done.

Old State Capitol Building at 6th and Adams Streets, Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln had many associations with this building and its predecessor, a brick courthouse in the center of the square which was torn down to make room for this one

I head south for one block, turn right, and enter the Greek Revival Old State House to my left. It’s a handsome, classical Doric-order building in natural, textured cream and pinkish-tan stone with a smoothly painted off-white tall, narrow, red-roofed dome that looks as if it’s been stuck on top without concern as to whether it will match or not. Nevertheless, the effect is good: it all works together, somehow. It was mainly built between 1837-1840, completed in 1851, and then reconstructed in the 1960’s. It stands by itself among a large grassy lawn and gardens in the public square bordered by E. Washington St, S. 6th St, E. Adams St, and S. 5th St.

Parts of the structure we see here today are original, but much of it had been changed drastically over the years: in 1899, the entire building was raised to insert a new ground floor underneath, and a new dome replaced the old to better harmonize with the building’s changed proportions. The building had quickly become too small to accommodate the staff and the public in this rapidly growing state capital. Even with the addition of another floor, the administrative needs of the city outgrew the old state house and it was moved to a grand new capital building. In 1876, this building became the Sangamon County Courthouse. In the subsequent years, the building survived every successive move in and out of the various county bodies that had been assigned to it. It was the scene of so many great historic moments, especially those associated with the life and death of Lincoln, that all motions to tear it down were firmly opposed and defeated. Finally, in the 1960’s, the historic value of the building was fully realized in a complete restoration. What I see here today is a faithful manifestation of the original design and decor; examinations of old photos reveal that both the interior and exteriors appear almost exactly as they did in Lincoln’s time.

Old State House, Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, by Clark Bullard for the Historic American Buildings Survey, July 13, 1935. Public domain via the Library of Congress. Notice the ground floor and larger dome that had been added in 1899-1900.

Lincoln had many connections with this site, in the 1831 red-brick courthouse that stood in the middle of the square, and in the state house built here over its former location. In 1901, historian Henry Douglas Giger wrote:

‘The brick court house stood in the middle of the square, and was completed in 1831 at a cost of $6,841.00. It was a two‐story square, brick building, with a hip roof, and cupalo on top, similar to the court houses peculiar to the Mississippi valley at that period, and from the time it was built all the business of the town centered around the square, and the old town on Jefferson street began to decay. The row of small shops on the east end of the north side of the square was called “Chicken Row.” In the fall of 1835 a young man fresh from the prim and dignified courts of New York arrived in Springfield. He wandered into the brick building standing in the center of the square, and saw the judge on his bench with his chair tilted back, his heels higher than his head, a cob pipe in his mouth, his hair all awry, and before him stood a small dark man with long black hair pleading his case. Attentively listening sprawled a long sombre form on the low platform used for the judge’s rostrum. The room was filled with men laughing and smoking. The judge was Stephen T. Logan, acknowledged to be the greatest lawyer Illinois has ever produced. The little man was Stephen A. Douglas the “Little Giant,” and the form on the floor was that of Abraham Lincoln, destined in the years to come to be the two foremost characters in the most formidable crisis the Union ever knew.’

Six years after this scene that Giger described took place, Lincoln would become Logan’s law partner. More on that to come. And as you know, Lincoln’s public debates with the ‘Little Giant’ Douglas 19 and then again 23 years later would catapult him to the national stage. Lincoln attended many court sessions in the old brick courthouse that stood here while he was studying to become a lawyer in the mid-1830’s. After he earned his law license in September of 1836, Lincoln would have argued his early cases here, and then in the larger, grander brick courthouse that was built in 1845 across the street where the building at 104 N. 6th St stands now. That was the county courthouse until it moved back here to its original location in the public square in January of 1876. That second brick courthouse was torn down shortly after that.

Lincoln likely visited that first brick courthouse which stood on this site a few years before he heard Logan argue that 1835 case. On March 26th, 1832, there was a celebration for the successful voyage of the steamer Talisman up the Sangamon River, while Lincoln was running his first political campaign for state legislator when he was 23 years old (he lost that one). He was a shop clerk at the time, with less than one year of formal education, and he hopped on board to pilot the Talisman through this section of the river. Lincoln was an experienced boatman at this point and knew this river well.

Interior of the Hall of Representatives, Old State House, Springfield, Illinois

On October 3rd and 4th, 1854, Lincoln and Douglas held their first debate here at the State House in the Hall of Representatives. It was not a scheduled debate. Douglas was on a cross country campaign to garner public support for his Kansas-Nebraska Act, co-drafted with President Franklin Pierce, which effectively overturned the Missouri Compromise. The 1820 Compromise prohibited slavery in all new territories and states north of the 36°30′ parallel except for Missouri. The 1854 Act would leave the issue up to the individual states and territories to decide for themselves. Douglas, as we’ve seen, defended the Act as an instantiation of popular sovereignty on the principle that people have the right to govern themselves. Lincoln, by his own account, was drawn back into politics by the passage of the Act and his opposition to Douglas’ arguments and tried many times to schedule a public debate with Douglas, but the proud Senator refused to share a stage with this homegrown lawyer and minor ex-politician.

Douglas was originally scheduled to speak outdoors at the Illinois County Fair on October 3rd, but the speech was moved indoors because of the rain. After he delivered his speech in the Hall of Representatives, Lincoln loudly announced that Douglas’ speech would be answered in this same hall the next day, and Douglas could respond if he chose to do so. Douglas apparently felt he had no choice this time, and he appeared on the stage the next day. Lincoln’s three-hour speech on October 4th covered most of the same ground as his Peoria speech delivered two weeks later. It was an effective speech on this occasion, and much more so when he delivered a refined version on the front portico of the old Peoria courthouse on October 16, 1854.

As I was growing up and even still today, I often heard that the Civil War was not really about slavery, it was about states’ rights. The South just wanted to stand up for the right of the people to govern themselves, it was said. It was not just Southern sympathizers and states’-rights proponents who perpetuated this idea, very many American historians did as well. As a child and a young adult, I accepted that received wisdom. But it’s quite clear from the texts of the Lincoln and Douglas debates and from the history of the public controversy surrounding the Dred Scott case, the Missouri Compromise, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, that this was not the case at all. It’s so clear that it’s not, in fact, that I still wonder why anyone believed it then or believes it now. Fortunately, most historians no longer accept that view.

Abraham Lincoln, September 1858, photographer unknown

A key reason why all of these compromises and acts failed to avert the Civil War was that Southern states were often in favor of allowing new territories and states to allow slavery if they chose, but they were not at all in favor of states deciding for themselves whether slaves taken into their territories automatically became free, or of states deciding for themselves whether to enforce federal fugitive slave laws. So, the Southern claim to be on the side of ‘states rights’ was selective, limited to allowing, protecting, and promoting slavery, and nothing else. Otherwise, they insisted that it was the duty of the federal government to protect slave-property rights of Southerners in all states and to enforce fugitive slave laws in free states as well. In short, it was all about slavery, and Douglas’ doctrine of popular sovereignty came to be recognized as the non-solution it was. Lincoln’s election to the Presidency was the signal that the federal government was not going to enforce the right of slaveowners to own human beings against antislavery laws in free states. Therefore, most Southern states seceded from the Union.

Lincoln, having made a careful study and examination of the issues and history of race-based slavery in the United States, knew very well that no number of compromises and acts would effectively resolve the inevitable conflicts between free and slave states. The principles of liberty that the North and hypocritically, the South called upon to defend the rights of their states to defend or counteract slavery were incompatible with that institution. Since that same desire for liberty appears to be a constant in human nature, slaves would always escape to freedom in the North, inevitably leading to those same old fugitive-slave-law-conflicts between the states. And at that time, there was no reason to believe that slavery would just die out anytime soon, given the Dred Scott decision, the compromises that pleased no one for very long, and the constant expansion of the country that kept disrupting the balance of political power between slave and free states. So, at the State House, in the Hall of Representatives where he first confronted Douglas face to face, candidate-for-state-senator Lincoln delivered his famous ‘House Divided Speech‘ on June 16, 1858, in which he clearly and succinctly made that case. He lost the race for the Senate seat to Douglas, but in this case as it so often happened in his political career, Lincoln lost the battle but won the war. Douglas’ platform lost popularity as Lincoln’s reputation grew, and just two and a half years later, Lincoln was elected President of the United States.

Picture of Abraham Lincoln’s lying-in-state canopy in the Hall of Representatives, Old State House, Springfield

Lincoln’s Funeral at the Old State Capitol 1865. Springfield, Illinois. Courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

Almost seven years later, in 1865, Lincoln’s assassinated body lay in state here in the Hall of Representatives. He was no longer the fiery, energetic lawyer and politician seen in this Hall on so many occasions. Lincoln had guided the country through the most horrific war the States had ever seen, freed the slaves (at least on paper; race-based slavery de facto would not be ended until black codes, convict leasing, and other like practices were outlawed well into the twentieth century), saved the Union, and lost a beloved son. He had suffered much and therefore aged much in the few intervening years. I like to think he did not die in vain, but I’m not quite sure what that phrase means. Lincoln could have achieved what he did and not died, and therefore could have achieved much more, so his death was a great waste of potential as well as a great injustice. It’s true that he went from being a hero to many to being a martyr to even more, and many who were doubtful about his legacy became so no longer. The great Frederick Douglass was one of those. And it’s true that his perceived martyrdom went on to inspire many more people to do good in their own lives.

When researching this piece, I discover that our first black President, Barack Obama, chose to announce his candidacy for President here at the Old State Capitol building in February of 2007. I think it’s quite fitting.

To be continued

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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Sources and inspiration:

Abraham Lincoln Online: Lincoln Timelines and Highlights

Allen, Eric. ‘Creating Cartoons: Art and Controversy.’ Library of Congress Blog, June 2, 2015

Brink, McCormick & Co. ‘Springfield Township, Springfield City.‘ from Atlas of Sangamon County, 1874.

Carwardine, Richard. Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power. New York: Random House, 2003

Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995

Giger, Henry Douglas. ‘The Story of the Sangamon County Court House.’ Via the Sangamon County Circuit Clerk website, originally published Apr 29, 1901

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

Jackson, Nicholas. ‘Picture of the Day: Mount Rushmore as Originally Planned‘. The Atlantic, May 16, 2011

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

Old State Capitol (Sangamon County Courthouse).’ Historic Sites Survey, prepared by Stephen Lissandrello for the National Park Service, Apr 28, 1975

MacLean, Maggie. ‘Elizabeth Todd Edwards: Sister of Mary Todd Lincoln.’ Civil War Women blog, Jul 28, 2013

Sangamon County Courthouse (Old State Capitol).‘ National Park Service Historic Site nomination paper, prepared by Charles  Shedd, Sep 14, 1961