The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

You know with what sleepless vigilance I have watched you ever
since the commencement of your affair; and although I am almost
confident it is useless, I cannot forbear once more to say that I
think it is even yet possible for your spirits to flag down and
leave you miserable. If they should, don’t fail to remember that
they cannot long remain so. One thing I can tell you which I
know you will be glad to hear, and that is that I have seen–and
scrutinized her feelings as well as I could, and am fully
convinced she is far happier now than she has been for the last
fifteen months past.

You will see by the last Sangamon Journal, that I made a
temperance speech on the 22d of February, which I claim that
Fanny and you shall read as an act of charity to me; for I cannot
learn that anybody else has read it, or is likely to.
Fortunately it is not very long, and I shall deem it a sufficient
compliance with my request if one of you listens while the other
reads it.

As to your Lockridge matter, it is only necessary to say that
there has been no court since you left, and that the next
commences to-morrow morning, during which I suppose we cannot
fail to get a judgment.

I wish you would learn of Everett what he would take, over and
above a discharge for all the trouble we have been at, to take
his business out of our hands and give it to somebody else. It
is impossible to collect money on that or any other claim here
now; and although you know I am not a very petulant man, I
declare I am almost out of patience with Mr. Everett’s
importunity. It seems like he not only writes all the letters he
can himself, but gets everybody else in Louisville and vicinity
to be constantly writing to us about his claim. I have always
said that Mr. Everett is a very clever fellow, and I am very
sorry he cannot be obliged; but it does seem to me he ought to
know we are interested to collect his claim, and therefore would
do it if we could.

I am neither joking nor in a pet when I say we would thank him to
transfer his business to some other, without any compensation for
what we have done, provided he will see the court cost paid, for
which we are security.

The sweet violet you inclosed came safely to hand, but it was so
dry, and mashed so flat, that it crumbled to dust at the first
attempt to handle it. The juice that mashed out of it stained a
place in the letter, which I mean to preserve and cherish for the
sake of her who procured it to be sent. My renewed good wishes
to her in particular, and generally to all such of your relations
who know me.

As ever,




DEAR SPEED:–Yours of the 16th June was received only a day or
two since. It was not mailed at Louisville till the 25th. You
speak of the great time that has elapsed since I wrote you. Let
me explain that. Your letter reached here a day or two after I
started on the circuit. I was gone five or six weeks, so that I
got the letters only a few weeks before Butler started to your
country. I thought it scarcely worth while to write you the news
which he could and would tell you more in detail. On his return
he told me you would write me soon, and so I waited for your
letter. As to my having been displeased with your advice, surely
you know better than that. I know you do, and therefore will not
labor to convince you. True, that subject is painful to me; but
it is not your silence, or the silence of all the world, that can
make me forget it. I acknowledge the correctness of your advice
too; but before I resolve to do the one thing or the other, I
must gain my confidence in my own ability to keep my resolves
when they are made. In that ability you know I once prided
myself as the only or chief gem of my character; that gem I lost-
-how and where you know too well. I have not yet regained it;
and until I do, I cannot trust myself in any matter of much
importance. I believe now that had you understood my case at the
time as well as I understand yours afterward, by the aid you
would have given me I should have sailed through clear, but that
does not now afford me sufficient confidence to begin that or the
like of that again.

You make a kind acknowledgment of your obligations to me for your
present happiness. I am pleased with that acknowledgment. But a
thousand times more am I pleased to know that you enjoy a degree
of happiness worthy of an acknowledgment. The truth is, I am not
sure that there was any merit with me in the part I took in your
difficulty; I was drawn to it by a fate. If I would I could not
have done less than I did. I always was superstitious; I believe
God made me one of the instruments of bringing your Fanny and you
together, which union I have no doubt He had fore-ordained.
Whatever He designs He will do for me yet. “Stand still, and see
the salvation of the Lord” is my text just now. If, as you say,
you have told Fanny all, I should have no objection to her seeing
this letter, but for its reference to our friend here: let her
seeing it depend upon whether she has ever known anything of my
affairs; and if she has not, do not let her.

I do not think I can come to Kentucky this season. I am so poor
and make so little headway in the world, that I drop back in a
month of idleness as much as I gain in a year’s sowing. I should
like to visit you again. I should like to see that “sis” of
yours that was absent when I was there, though I suppose she
would run away again if she were to hear I was coming.

My respects and esteem to all your friends there, and, by your
permission, my love to your Fanny.

Ever yours,



Article written by Lincoln for the Sangamon Journal in ridicule
of James Shields, who, as State Auditor, had declined to receive
State Bank notes in payment of taxes. The above letter purported
to come from a poor widow who, though supplied with State Bank
paper, could not obtain a receipt for her tax bill. This, and
another subsequent letter by Mary Todd, brought about the
“Lincoln-Shields Duel.”


August 27, 1842.


I see you printed that long letter I sent you a spell ago. I ‘m
quite encouraged by it, and can’t keep from writing again. I
think the printing of my letters will be a good thing all round–
it will give me the benefit of being known by the world, and give
the world the advantage of knowing what’s going on in the Lost
Townships, and give your paper respectability besides. So here
comes another. Yesterday afternoon I hurried through cleaning up
the dinner dishes and stepped over to neighbor S_______ to see if
his wife Peggy was as well as mout be expected, and hear what
they called the baby. Well, when I got there and just turned
round the corner of his log cabin, there he was, setting on the
doorstep reading a newspaper. “How are you, Jeff?” says I. He
sorter started when he heard me, for he hadn’t seen me before.
“Why,” says he, “I ‘m mad as the devil, Aunt ‘Becca!” “What
about?” says I; “ain’t its hair the right color? None of that
nonsense, Jeff; there ain’t an honester woman in the Lost
Townships than…”–“Than who?” says he; “what the mischief are
you about?” I began to see I was running the wrong trail, and so
says I, “Oh! nothing: I guess I was mistaken a little, that’s
all. But what is it you ‘re mad about?”

“Why,” says he, “I’ve been tugging ever since harvest, getting
out wheat and hauling it to the river to raise State Bank paper
enough to pay my tax this year and a little school debt I owe;
and now, just as I ‘ve got it, here I open this infernal Extra
Register, expecting to find it full of ‘Glorious Democratic
Victories’ and ‘High Comb’d Cocks,’ when, lo and behold! I find a
set of fellows, calling themselves officers of the State, have
forbidden the tax collectors, and school commissioners to receive
State paper at all; and so here it is dead on my hands. I don’t
now believe all the plunder I’ve got will fetch ready cash enough
to pay my taxes and that school debt.”

I was a good deal thunderstruck myself; for that was the first I
had heard of the proclamation, and my old man was pretty much in
the same fix with Jeff. We both stood a moment staring at one
another without knowing what to say. At last says I, “Mr.
S______ let me look at that paper.” He handed it to me, when I
read the proclamation over.

“There now,” says he, “did you ever see such a piece of impudence
and imposition as that?” I saw Jeff was in a good tune for saying
some ill-natured things, and so I tho’t I would just argue a
little on the contrary side, and make him rant a spell if I
could. “Why,” says I, looking as dignified and thoughtful as I
could, “it seems pretty tough, to be sure, to have to raise
silver where there’s none to be raised; but then, you see, ‘there
will be danger of loss’ if it ain’t done.”

“Loss! damnation!” says he. “I defy Daniel Webster, I defy King
Solomon, I defy the world–I defy–I defy–yes, I defy even you,
Aunt ‘Becca, to show how the people can lose anything by paying
their taxes in State paper.”

“Well,” says I, “you see what the officers of State say about it,
and they are a desarnin’ set of men. But,” says I, “I guess you
‘re mistaken about what the proclamation says. It don’t say the
people will lose anything by the paper money being taken for
taxes. It only says ‘there will be danger of loss’; and though
it is tolerable plain that the people can’t lose by paying their
taxes in something they can get easier than silver, instead of
having to pay silver; and though it’s just as plain that the
State can’t lose by taking State Bank paper, however low it may
be, while she owes the bank more than the whole revenue, and can
pay that paper over on her debt, dollar for dollar;–still there
is danger of loss to the ‘officers of State’; and you know, Jeff,
we can’t get along without officers of State.”

“Damn officers of State!” says he; “that’s what Whigs are always
hurrahing for.”

“Now, don’t swear so, Jeff,” says I, “you know I belong to the
meetin’, and swearin’ hurts my feelings.”

“Beg pardon, Aunt ‘Becca,” says he; “but I do say it’s enough to
make Dr. Goddard swear, to have tax to pay in silver, for
nothing only that Ford may get his two thousand a year, and
Shields his twenty-four hundred a year, and Carpenter his sixteen
hundred a year, and all without ‘danger of loss’ by taking it in
State paper. Yes, yes: it’s plain enough now what these officers
of State mean by ‘danger of loss.’ Wash, I s’pose, actually lost
fifteen hundred dollars out of the three thousand that two of
these ‘officers of State’ let him steal from the treasury, by
being compelled to take it in State paper. Wonder if we don’t
have a proclamation before long, commanding us to make up this
loss to Wash in silver.”

And so he went on till his breath run out, and he had to stop. I
couldn’t think of anything to say just then, and so I begun to
look over the paper again. “Ay! here’s another proclamation, or
something like it.”

“Another?” says Jeff; “and whose egg is it, pray?”

I looked to the bottom of it, and read aloud, “Your obedient
servant, James Shields, Auditor.”

“Aha!” says Jeff, “one of them same three fellows again. Well
read it, and let’s hear what of it.”

I read on till I came to where it says, “The object of this
measure is to suspend the collection of the revenue for the
current year.”

“Now stop, now stop!” says he; “that’s a lie a’ready, and I don’t
want to hear of it.”

“Oh, maybe not,” says I.

“I say it-is-a-lie. Suspend the collection, indeed! Will the
collectors, that have taken their oaths to make the collection,
dare to end it? Is there anything in law requiring them to
perjure themselves at the bidding of James Shields?

“Will the greedy gullet of the penitentiary be satisfied with
swallowing him instead of all of them, if they should venture to
obey him? And would he not discover some ‘danger of loss,’ and be
off about the time it came to taking their places?

“And suppose the people attempt to suspend, by refusing to pay;
what then? The collectors would just jerk up their horses and
cows, and the like, and sell them to the highest bidder for
silver in hand, without valuation or redemption. Why, Shields
didn’t believe that story himself; it was never meant for the
truth. If it was true, why was it not writ till five days after
the proclamation? Why did n’t Carlin and Carpenter sign it as
well as Shields? Answer me that, Aunt ‘Becca. I say it’s a lie,
and not a well told one at that. It grins out like a copper
dollar. Shields is a fool as well as a liar. With him truth is
out of the question; and as for getting a good, bright, passable
lie out of him, you might as well try to strike fire from a cake
of tallow. I stick to it, it’s all an infernal Whig lie!”

“A Whig lie! Highty tighty!”

“Yes, a Whig lie; and it’s just like everything the cursed
British Whigs do. First they’ll do some divilment, and then
they’ll tell a lie to hide it. And they don’t care how plain a
lie it is; they think they can cram any sort of a one down the
throats of the ignorant Locofocos, as they call the Democrats.”

“Why, Jeff, you ‘re crazy: you don’t mean to say Shields is a

“Yes, I do.”

“Why, look here! the proclamation is in your own Democratic
paper, as you call it.”

“I know it; and what of that? They only printed it to let us
Democrats see the deviltry the Whigs are at.”

“Well, but Shields is the auditor of this Loco–I mean this
Democratic State.”

“So he is, and Tyler appointed him to office.”

“Tyler appointed him?”

“Yes (if you must chaw it over), Tyler appointed him; or, if it
was n’t him, it was old Granny Harrison, and that’s all one. I
tell you, Aunt ‘Becca, there’s no mistake about his being a Whig.
Why, his very looks shows it; everything about him shows it: if I
was deaf and blind, I could tell him by the smell. I seed him
when I was down in Springfield last winter. They had a sort of a
gatherin’ there one night among the grandees, they called a fair.
All the gals about town was there, and all the handsome widows
and married women, finickin’ about trying to look like gals, tied
as tight in the middle, and puffed out at both ends, like bundles
of fodder that had n’t been stacked yet, but wanted stackin’
pretty bad. And then they had tables all around the house
kivered over with [ ] caps and pincushions and ten
thousand such little knick-knacks, tryin’ to sell ’em to the
fellows that were bowin’, and scrapin’ and kungeerin’ about ’em.
They would n’t let no Democrats in, for fear they’d disgust the
ladies, or scare the little gals, or dirty the floor. I looked
in at the window, and there was this same fellow Shields floatin’
about on the air, without heft or earthly substances, just like a
lock of cat fur where cats had been fighting.

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