The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

” Next I propose to show that there are no cross currents. I
know their witnesses say that there are cross currents–that, as
one witness says, there were three cross currents and two eddies;
so far as mere statement, without experiment, and mingled with
mistakes, can go, they have proved. But can these men’s
testimony be compared with the nice, exact, thorough experiments
of our witnesses? Can you believe that these floats go across
the currents? It is inconceivable that they could not have
discovered every possible current. How do boats find currents
that floats cannot discover? We assume the position then that
those cross currents are not there. My next proposition is that
the Afton passed between the S. B. Carson and the Iowa shore.
That is undisputed.

“Next I shall show that she struck first the short pier, then the
long pier, then the short one again and there she stopped.”
Mr. Lincoln then cited the testimony of eighteen witnesses on
this point.

“How did the boat strike when she went in? Here is an endless
variety of opinion. But ten of them say what pier she struck;
three of them testify that she struck first the short, then the
long and then the short for the last time. None of the rest
substantially contradict this. I assume that these men have got
the truth because I believe it an established fact. My next
proposition is that after she struck the short and long pier and
before she got back to the short pier the boat got right with her
bow up. So says the pilot Parker–that he got her through until
her starboard wheel passed the short pier. This would make her
head about even with the head of the long pier. He says her head
was as high or higher than the head of the long pier. Other
witnesses confirmed this one. The final stroke was in the splash
door aft the wheel. Witnesses differ, but the majority say that
she struck thus.”

Court adjourned.

14th day, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 1857.

Mr. A. LINCOLN resumed. He said he should conclude as soon as
possible. He said the colored map of the plaintiff which was
brought in during one stage of the trial showed itself that the
cross currents alleged did not exist. That the current as
represented would drive an ascending boat to the long pier but
not to the short pier, as they urge. He explained from a model
of a boat where the splash door is, just behind the wheel. The
boat struck on the lower shoulder of the short pier as she swung
around in the splash door; then as she went on around she struck
the point or end of the pier, where she rested. “Her engineers,”
said Mr. Lincoln, “say the starboard wheel then was rushing
around rapidly. Then the boat must have struck the upper point
of the pier so far back as not to disturb the wheel. It is forty
feet from the stern of the Afton to the splash door, and thus it
appears that she had but forty feet to go to clear the pier. How
was it that the Afton with all her power flanked over from the
channel to the short pier without moving one foot ahead? Suppose
she was in the middle of the draw, her wheel would have been 31
feet from the short pier. The reason she went over thus is her
starboard wheel was not working. I shall try to establish the
fact that the wheel was not running and that after she struck she
went ahead strong on this same wheel. Upon the last point the
witnesses agree, that the starboard wheel was running after she
struck, and no witnesses say that it was running while she was
out in the draw flanking over.”

Mr. Lincoln read from the testimonies of various witnesses to
prove that the starboard wheel was not working while the Afton
was out in the stream.

“Other witnesses show that the captain said something of the
machinery of the wheel, and the inference is that he knew the
wheel was not working. The fact is undisputed that she did not
move one inch ahead while she was moving this 31 feet sideways.
There is evidence proving that the current there is only five
miles an hour, and the only explanation is that her power was not
all used–that only one wheel was working. The pilot says he
ordered the engineers to back her up. The engineers differ from
him and said they kept on going ahead. The bow was so swung that
the current pressed it over; the pilot pressed the stern over
with the rudder, though not so fast but that the bow gained on
it, and only one wheel being in motion the boat nearly stood
still so far as motion up and down is concerned, and thus she was
thrown upon this pier. The Afton came into the draw after she
had just passed the Carson, and as the Carson no doubt kept the
true course the Afton going around her got out of the proper way,
got across the current into the eddy which is west of a straight
line drawn down from the long pier, was compelled to resort to
these changes of wheels, which she did not do with sufficient
adroitness to save her. Was it not her own fault that she
entered wrong, so far wrong that she never got right? Is the
defence to blame for that?

“For several days we were entertained with depositions about
boats ‘smelling a bar.’ Why did the Afton then, after she had
come up smelling so close to the long pier sheer off so
strangely. When she got to the centre of the very nose she was
smelling she seemed suddenly to have lost her sense of smell and
to have flanked over to the short pier.”

Mr. Lincoln said there was no practicability in the project of
building a tunnel under the river, for there “is not a tunnel
that is a successful project in this world. A suspension bridge
cannot be built so high but that the chimneys of the boats will
grow up till they cannot pass. The steamboat men will take pains
to make them grow. The cars of a railroad cannot without immense
expense rise high enough to get even with a suspension bridge or
go low enough to get through a tunnel; such expense is

“The plaintiffs have to establish that the bridge is a material
obstruction and that they have managed their boat with reasonable
care and skill. As to the last point high winds have nothing to
do with it, for it was not a windy day. They must show due skill
and care. Difficulties going down stream will not do, for they
were going up stream. Difficulties with barges in tow have
nothing to do with the accident, for they had no barge. “Mr.
Lincoln said he had much more to say, many things he could
suggest to the jury, but he wished to close to save time.



BLOOMINGTON, Dec. 19, 1857.

J. M. Douglas of the I. C. R. R. Co. is here and will carry this
letter. He says they have a large sum (near $90,000) which they
will pay into the treasury now, if they have an assurance that
they shall not be sued before Jan., 1859–otherwise not.
I really wish you could consent to this. Douglas says they
cannot pay more, and I believe him.

I do not write this as a lawyer seeking an advantage for a
client; but only as a friend, only urging you to do what I think
I would do if I were in your situation. I mean this as private
and confidential only, but I feel a good deal of anxiety about

Yours as ever,



SPRINGFIELD, Jan. 19, 1858.

This morning Col. McClernand showed me a petition for a mandamus
against the Secretary of State to compel him to certify the
apportionment act of last session; and he says it will be
presented to the court to-morrow morning. We shall be allowed
three or four days to get up a return, and I, for one, want the
benefit of consultation with you.

Please come right up.

Yours as ever,



SPRINGFIELD, Feb 7, 1858

Yesterday morning the court overruled the demurrer to Hatches
return in the mandamus case. McClernand was present; said nothing
about pleading over; and so I suppose the matter is ended.

The court gave no reason for the decision; but Peck tells me
confidentially that they were unanimous in the opinion that even
if the Gov’r had signed the bill purposely, he had the right to
scratch his name off so long as the bill remained in his custody
and control.

Yours as ever,



SPRINGFIELD, December 18, 1857.


MY DEAR SIR:–Coming home from Bloomington last night I found
your letter of the 15th.

I know of no express statute or decisions as to what a J. P.
upon the expiration of his term shall do with his docket books,
papers, unfinished business, etc., but so far as I know, the
practice has been to hand over to the successor, and to cease to
do anything further whatever, in perfect analogo to Sections 110
and 112, and I have supposed and do suppose this is the law. I
think the successor may forthwith do whatever the retiring J. P.
might have done. As to the proviso to Section 114 I think it was
put in to cover possible cases, by way of caution, and not to
authorize the J. P. to go forward and finish up whatever might
have been begun by him.

The view I take, I believe, is the Common law principle, as to
retiring officers and their successors, to which I remember but
one exception, which is the case of Sheriff and ministerial
officers of that class.

I have not had time to examine this subject fully, but I have
great confidence I am right. You must not think of offering me
pay for this.

Mr. John O. Johnson is my friend; I gave your name to him. He is
doing the work of trying to get up a Republican organization. I
do not suppose “Long John” ever saw or heard of him. Let me say
to you confidentially, that I do not entirely appreciate what the
Republican papers of Chicago are so constantly saying against
“Long John.” I consider those papers truly devoted to the
Republican cause, and not unfriendly to me; but I do think that
more of what they say against “Long John” is dictated by personal
malice than themselves are conscious of. We can not afford to
lose the services of “Long John” and I do believe the unrelenting
warfare made upon him is injuring our cause. I mean this to be

If you quietly co-operate with Mr. J. O. Johnson on getting up
an organization, I think it will be right.

Your friend as ever,





SPRINGFIELD, Feb.19, 1858.


Mr, G. A. Sutton is an applicant for superintendent of the
addition of the Insane Asylum, and I understand it partly depends
on you whether he gets it.

Sutton is my fellow-townsman and friend, and I therefore wish to
say for him that he is a man of sterling integrity and as a
master mechanic and builder not surpassed by any in our city, or
any I have known anywhere, as far as I can judge. I hope you
will consider me as being really interested for Mr. Sutton and
not as writing merely to relieve myself of importunity. Please
show this to Col. William Ross and let him consider it as much
intended for him as for yourself.

Your friend as ever,





DEAR SIR:–Yours of the 9th written at Joliet is just received.
Two or three days ago I learned that McLean had appointed
delegates in favor of Lovejoy, and thenceforward I have
considered his renomination a fixed fact. My opinion–if my
opinion is of any consequence in this case, in which it is no
business of mine to interfere–remains unchanged, that running an
independent candidate against Lovejoy will not do; that it will
result in nothing but disaster all round. In the first place,
whosoever so runs will be beaten and will be spotted for life; in
the second place, while the race is in progress, he will be under
the strongest temptation to trade with the Democrats, and to
favor the election of certain of their friends to the
Legislature; thirdly, I shall be held responsible for it, and
Republican members of the Legislature who are partial to Lovejoy
will for that purpose oppose us; and lastly, it will in the end
lose us the district altogether. There is no safe way but a
convention; and if in that convention, upon a common platform
which all are willing to stand upon, one who has been known as an
abolitionist, but who is now occupying none but common ground,
can get the majority of the votes to which all look for an
election, there is no safe way but to submit.

As to the inclination of some Republicans to favor Douglas, that
is one of the chances I have to run, and which I intend to run
with patience.

I write in the court room. Court has opened, and I must close.

Yours as ever,



JUNE 15, 1858.

The compiler of the Dictionary of Congress states that while
preparing that work for publication, in 1858, he sent to Mr.
Lincoln the usual request for a sketch of his life, and received
the following reply:

Born February 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky.
Education, defective.
Profession, a lawyer.
Have been a captain of volunteers in Black Hawk war.
Postmaster at a very small office.
Four times a member of the Illinois Legislature and was a member
of the lower house of Congress.

Yours, etc.,


End of The Writings of Abraham Lincoln, Vol 2




In the Senatorial Campaign of 1858 in Illinois


[The following speech was delivered at Springfield, Ill., at the
close of the Republican State Convention held at that time and
place, and by which Convention Mr. LINCOLN had been named as
their candidate for United States Senator. Mr. DOUGLAS was not

know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better
judge what to do, and how to do it. We are now far into the
fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object
and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation.
Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only
not ceased, but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will
not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A
house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this
government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the
house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It
will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the
opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and
place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it
is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will
push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the
States, old as well as new, North as well as South.

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