The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

Now do not misunderstand this letter. I do not write it in any
unkindness. I write it in order, if possible, to get you to face
the truth, which truth is, you are destitute because you have
idled away all your time. Your thousand pretenses for not
getting along better are all nonsense; they deceive nobody but
yourself. Go to work is the only cure for your case.

A word for Mother: Chapman tells me he wants you to go and live
with him. If I were you I would try it awhile. If you get tired
of it (as I think you will not) you can return to your own home.
Chapman feels very kindly to you; and I have no doubt he will
make your situation very pleasant.

Sincerely yours,


Nov. 4, 1851


Chapman tells me he wants you to go and live with him. If I were
you I would try it awhile. If you get tired of it (as I think
you will not) you can return to your own home. Chapman feels
very kindly to you; and I have no doubt he will make your
situation very pleasant.

Sincerely your son,



SHELBYVILLE, November 9, 1851

DEAR BROTHER :-When I wrote you before, I had not received your
letter. I still think as I did, but if the land can be sold so
that I get three hundred dollars to put to interest for Mother, I
will not object, if she does not. But before I will make a deed,
the money must be had, or secured beyond all doubt, at ten per

As to Abram, I do not want him, on my own account; but I
understand he wants to live with me, so that he can go to school
and get a fair start in the world, which I very much wish him to
have. When I reach home, if I can make it convenient to take, I
will take him, provided there is no mistake between us as to the
object and terms of my taking him. In haste, as ever,



SPRINGFIELD, November 25, 1851.

DEAR BROTHER:–Your letter of the 22d is just received. Your
proposal about selling the east forty acres of land is all that I
want or could claim for myself; but I am not satisfied with it on
Mother’s account–I want her to have her living, and I feel that
it is my duty, to some extent, to see that she is not wronged.
She had a right of dower (that is, the use of one-third for life)
in the other two forties; but, it seems, she has already let you
take that, hook and line. She now has the use of the whole of
the east forty, as long as she lives; and if it be sold, of
course she is entitled to the interest on all the money it
brings, as long as she lives; but you propose to sell it for
three hundred dollars, take one hundred away with you, and leave
her two hundred at 8 per cent., making her the enormous sum of 16
dollars a year. Now, if you are satisfied with treating her in
that way, I am not. It is true that you are to have that forty
for two hundred dollars, at Mother’s death, but you are not to
have it before. I am confident that land can be made to produce
for Mother at least $30 a year, and I can not, to oblige any
living person, consent that she shall be put on an allowance of
sixteen dollars a year.

Yours, etc.,




On the fourth day of July, 1776, the people of a few feeble and
oppressed colonies of Great Britain, inhabiting a portion of the
Atlantic coast of North America, publicly declared their national
independence, and made their appeal to the justice of their cause
and to the God of battles for the maintenance of that
declaration. That people were few in number and without
resources, save only their wise heads and stout hearts. Within
the first year of that declared independence, and while its
maintenance was yet problematical, while the bloody struggle
between those resolute rebels and their haughty would-be masters
was still waging,–of undistinguished parents and in an obscure
district of one of those colonies Henry Clay was born. The
infant nation and the infant child began the race of life
together. For three quarters of a century they have travelled
hand in hand. They have been companions ever. The nation has
passed its perils, and it is free, prosperous, and powerful. The
child has reached his manhood, his middle age, his old age, and
is dead. In all that has concerned the nation the man ever
sympathized; and now the nation mourns the man.

The day after his death one of the public journals, opposed to
him politically, held the following pathetic and beautiful
language, which I adopt partly because such high and exclusive
eulogy, originating with a political friend, might offend good
taste, but chiefly because I could not in any language of my own
so well express my thoughts:

“Alas, who can realize that Henry Clay is dead! Who can realize
that never again that majestic form shall rise in the council-
chambers of his country to beat back the storms of anarchy which
may threaten, or pour the oil of peace upon the troubled billows
as they rage and menace around! Who can realize that the
workings of that mighty mind have ceased, that the throbbings of
that gallant heart are stilled, that the mighty sweep of that
graceful arm will be felt no more, and the magic of that eloquent
tongue, which spake as spake no other tongue besides, is hushed
hushed for ever! Who can realize that freedom’s champion, the
champion of a civilized world and of all tongues and kindreds of
people, has indeed fallen! Alas, in those dark hours of peril
and dread which our land has experienced, and which she may be
called to experience again, to whom now may her people look up
for that counsel and advice which only wisdom and experience and
patriotism can give, and which only the undoubting confidence of
a nation will receive? Perchance in the whole circle of the
great and gifted of our land there remains but one on whose
shoulders the mighty mantle of the departed statesman may fall;
one who while we now write is doubtless pouring his tears over
the bier of his brother and friend brother, friend, ever, yet in
political sentiment as far apart as party could make them. Ah,
it is at times like these that the petty distinctions of mere
party disappear. We see only the great, the grand, the noble
features of the departed statesman; and we do not even beg
permission to bow at his feet and mingle our tears with those who
have ever been his political adherents–we do [not] beg this
permission, we claim it as a right, though we feel it as a
privilege. Henry Clay belonged to his country–to the world;
mere party cannot claim men like him. His career has been
national, his fame has filled the earth, his memory will endure
to the last syllable of recorded time.

“Henry Clay is dead! He breathed his last on yesterday, at
twenty minutes after eleven, in his chamber at Washington. To
those who followed his lead in public affairs, it more
appropriately belongs to pronounce his eulogy and pay specific
honors to the memory of the illustrious dead. But all Americans
may show the grief which his death inspires, for his character
and fame are national property. As on a question of liberty he
knew no North, no South, no East, no West, but only the Union
which held them all in its sacred circle, so now his countrymen
will know no grief that is not as wide-spread as the bounds of
the confederacy. The career of Henry Clay was a public career.
>From his youth he has been devoted to the public service, at a
period, too, in the world’s history justly regarded as a
remarkable era in human affairs. He witnessed in the beginning
the throes of the French Revolution. He saw the rise and fall of
Napoleon. He was called upon to legislate for America and direct
her policy when all Europe was the battlefield of contending
dynasties, and when the struggle for supremacy imperilled the
rights of all neutral nations. His voice spoke war and peace in
the contest with Great Britain.

“When Greece rose against the Turks and struck for liberty, his
name was mingled with the battle-cry of freedom. When South
America threw off the thraldom of Spain, his speeches were read
at the head of her armies by Bolivar. His name has been, and
will continue to be, hallowed in two hemispheres, for it is

‘One of the few, the immortal names
That were not born to die!’

“To the ardent patriot and profound statesman he added a quality
possessed by few of the gifted on earth. His eloquence has not
been surpassed. In the effective power to move the heart of man,
Clay was without an equal, and the heaven-born endowment, in the
spirit of its origin, has been most conspicuously exhibited
against intestine feud. On at least three important occasions he
has quelled our civil commotions by a power and influence which
belonged to no other statesman of his age and times. And in our
last internal discord, when this Union trembled to its centre, in
old age he left the shades of private life, and gave the death-
blow to fraternal strife, with the vigor of his earlier years, in
a series of senatorial efforts which in themselves would bring
immortality by challenging comparison with the efforts of any
statesman in any age. He exorcised the demon which possessed the
body politic, and gave peace to a distracted land. Alas! the
achievement cost him his life. He sank day by day to the tomb
his pale but noble brow bound with a triple wreath, put there by
a grateful country. May his ashes rest in peace, while his
spirit goes to take its station among the great and good men who
preceded him.”

While it is customary and proper upon occasions like the present
to give a brief sketch of the life of the deceased, in the case
of Mr. Clay it is less necessary than most others; for his
biography has been written and rewritten and read and reread for
the last twenty-five years; so that, with the exception of a few
of the latest incidents of his life, all is as well known as it
can be. The short sketch which I give is, therefore, merely to
maintain the connection of this discourse.

Henry Clay was born on the twelfth day of April, 1777, in Hanover
County, Virginia. Of his father, who died in the fourth or fifth
year of Henry’s age, little seems to be known, except that he was
a respectable man and a preacher of the Baptist persuasion. Mr.
Clay’s education to the end of life was comparatively limited. I
say “to the end of life,” because I have understood that from
time to time he added something to his education during the
greater part of his whole life. Mr. Clay’s lack of a more
perfect early education, however it may be regretted generally,
teaches at least one profitable lesson: it teaches that in this
country one can scarcely be so poor but that, if he will, he can
acquire sufficient education to get through the world
respectably. In his twenty-third year Mr. Clay was licensed to
practise law, and emigrated to Lexington, Kentucky. Here he
commenced and continued the practice till the year 1803, when he
was first elected to the Kentucky Legislature. By successive
elections he was continued in the Legislature till the latter
part of 1806, when he was elected to fill a vacancy of a single
session in the United States Senate. In 18O7 he was again
elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, and by that
body chosen Speaker. In 1808 he was re-elected to the same body.
In 1809 he was again chosen to fill a vacancy of two years in the
United States Senate. In 1811 he was elected to the United
States House of Representatives, and on the first day of taking
his seat in that body he was chosen its Speaker. In 1813 he was
again elected Speaker. Early in 1814, being the period of our
last British war, Mr. Clay was sent as commissioner, with others,
to negotiate a treaty of peace, which treaty was concluded in the
latter part of the same year. On his return from Europe he was
again elected to the lower branch of Congress, and on taking his
seat in December, 1815, was called to his old post-the Speaker’s
chair, a position in which he was retained by successive
elections, with one brief intermission, till the inauguration of
John Quincy Adams, in March, 1825. He was then appointed
Secretary of State, and occupied that important station till the
inauguration of General Jackson, in March, 1829. After this he
returned to Kentucky, resumed the practice of law, and continued
it till the autumn of 1831, when he was by the Legislature of
Kentucky again placed in the United States Senate. By a
reelection he was continued in the Senate till he resigned his
seat and retired, in March, 1848. In December, 1849, he again
took his seat in the Senate, which he again resigned only a few
months before his death.

By the foregoing it is perceived that the period from the
beginning of Mr. Clay’s official life in 1803 to the end of 1852
is but one year short of half a century, and that the sum of all
the intervals in it will not amount to ten years. But mere
duration of time in office constitutes the smallest part of Mr.
Clay’s history. Throughout that long period he has constantly
been the most loved and most implicitly followed by friends, and
the most dreaded by opponents, of all living American
politicians. In all the great questions which have agitated the
country, and particularly in those fearful crises, the Missouri
question, the nullification question, and the late slavery
question, as connected with the newly acquired territory,
involving and endangering the stability of the Union, his has
been the leading and most conspicuous part. In 1824 he was first
a candidate for the Presidency, and was defeated; and, although
he was successively defeated for the same office in 1832 and in
1844, there has never been a moment since 1824 till after 1848
when a very large portion of the American people did not cling to
him with an enthusiastic hope and purpose of still elevating him
to the Presidency. With other men, to be defeated was to be
forgotten; but with him defeat was but a trifling incident,
neither changing him nor the world’s estimate of him. Even those
of both political parties who have been preferred to him for the
highest office have run far briefer courses than he, and left him
still shining high in the heavens of the political world.
Jackson, Van Buren, Harnson, Polk, and Taylor all rose after, and
set long before him. The spell–the long-enduring spell–with
which the souls of men were bound to him is a miracle. Who can
compass it? It is probably true he owed his pre-eminence to no
one quality, but to a fortunate combination of several. He was
surpassingly eloquent; but many eloquent men fail utterly, and
they are not, as a class, generally successful. His judgment was
excellent; but many men of good judgment live and die unnoticed.
His will was indomitable; but this quality often secures to its
owner nothing better than a character for useless obstinacy.
These, then, were Mr. Clay’s leading qualities. No one of them
is very uncommon; but all together are rarely combined in a
single individual, and this is probably the reason why such men
as Henry Clay are so rare in the world.

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