Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; online

. (page 21 of 91)
Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 21 of 91)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


on account of their heavy bereavement.

Mesolred, That the Hon. A. Williams, District Attorney of this Court, be
requested in behalf of the meeting to present these proceedings to the Cir-
cuit Court, and respectfully to ask that they may be entered on the records.
E. N. Powell, Sec'y. Samtjel H. Treat, CKn.

[July 1, 1850?].— Fragment. Notes for a Lecture.

Niagara Falls! By what mysterious power is it that millions
and millions are drawn from all parts of the world to gaze upon
Niagara Falls ? There is no mystery about the thing itself. Every
Vol. L— 11.



162 ADDEESSES AND LETTERS OF ABBAHAM LINCOLN

effect is just as any intelligent man, knowing the causes, would
anticipate without seeing it. If the water moving onward in a great
river reaches a point where there is a perpendicular jog of a hun-
dred feet in descent in the bottom of the river, it is plain the water
will have a violent a,nd continuous plunge at that point. It is also
plain, the water, thus plunging, wiU foam and roar, and send up a
mist continuously, in which last, during sunshine, there will be per-
petual rainbows. The mere physical of Niagara Falls is only this.
Yet this is really a very small part of that world's wonder. Its
power to excite reflection and emotion is its great charm. The geol-
ogist wiU demonstrate that the plunge, or fall, was once at Lake
Ontario, and has worn its way back to its present position ; he will
ascertain how fast it is wearing now, and so get a basis for deter-
mining how long it has been wearing back from Lake Ontario, and
finally demonstrate by it that this world is at least fourteen thousand
years old. A philosopher of a slightly different turn will say, " Ni-
agara Falls is only the lip of the basin out of which pours all the
surplus water which rains down on two or three hundred thousand
square miles of the earth's surface." He will estimate with approx-
imate accuracy that five hundred thousand tons of water fall with
their full weight a distance of a hundred feet each minute — thus ex-
erting a force equal to the lifting of the same weight, through the
same space, in the same time. And then the further reflection comes
that this vast amoTmt of water, constantly pounding down, is sup-
plied by an equal amount constantly lifted up, by the sun; and still
he says, " If this much is lifted up for this one space of two or three
hundred thousand square miles, an equal amount must be lifted up
for every other equal space " ; and he is overwhelmed in the contem-
plation of the vast power the sun is constantly exerting in the quiet
noiseless operation of lifting water up to be rained down again.

But still there is more. It calls up the indefinite past. When
Columbus first sought this continent — when Christ suffered on the
cross — when Moses led Israel through the Eed Sea — nay, even
when Adam first came from the hand of his Maker : then, as now,
Niagara was roaring here. The eyes of that species of extinct giants
whose bones fill the mounds of America have gazed on Niagara, as
ours do now. Contemporary with the first race of men, and older
than the first man, Niagara is strong and fresh to-day as ten thou-
sand years ago. The Mammoth and Mastodon, so long dead that
fragments of their monstrous bones alone testify that they ever
lived, have gazed on Niagara — in that long, long time never stUl
for a single moment [never dried], never froze, never slept, never
rested.

[July 1, 1850?]— Fragment. Notes foe Law Lecture.

I am not an accomplished lawyer. I find quite as much material
for a lecture in those points wherein I have failed, as in those
wherein I have been moderately successful. The leading rule for
the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave
nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day. Never let your



ADDKESSES AND LETTERS OF ABBAHAM LINCOLN 163

correspondence fall behind. Whatever piece of business you have
in hand, before stopping, do all the labor pertaining to it which
can then be done. When you brine a common-law suit, if jou have
the facts for doiu^ so, write the declaration at once. If a law point
be involved, examine the books, and note the authority you rely on
upon the declaration itself, where you are sure to find it wlicn
wanted. The same of defenses and pleas. In business not likely
to be litigated, — ordinary collection cases, foreclosures, partitions,
and the like, — make all examinations of titles, and note them, and
even draft orders and decrees in advance. This course has a
triple advantage ; it avoids omissions and neglect, saves your labor
when once done, performs the labor out of court when you have
leisure, rather than in court when you have not. Extemporaneous
speaking should be practised and cultivated. It is the lawyei-'s avenue
to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other re-
spects, people are slow to bring him business if he cannot make a
speech. And yet there is not a more fatal error to young lawyers
than relying too much on speech-making. K any one, upon his
rare powers of speaking, shall claim an exemption from the drudij:ei-y
of the law, his case is a failure ia advance.

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise
whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is
often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peace-
maker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man.
There will still be business enough.

Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than
one who does this. Who can be more nearly a fiend than he who
habitually overhauls the register of deeds in search of defects in
titles, whereon to stir up strife, and put money in his pocket ? A
moral tone ought to be infused into the profession which should
drive such men out of it.

The matter of fees is important, far beyond the mere question of
bread and butter involved. Properly attended to, fuller justice is
done to both lawyer and client. An exorbitant fee should never be
claimed. As a general rule never takeyour whole fee in advance,
nor any more than a small retainer. When fully paid beforehand,
you are more than a common mortal if you can feel the same in-
terest in the case, as if something was stiU in prospect for you, as
well as for your client. And when you lack interest in the case the
job wUl very likely lack skill and diligence in the performance.
Settle the amount of fee and take a note in advance. Then you will
feel that you are working for something, and you are sure to do
your work faithfully and well. Never sell a fee note — at least not
before the consideration service is performed. It leads to negli-
gence and dishonesty — negligence by losing interest in the case,
and dishonesty in refusing to refund when you have allowed the
consideration to fail.

There is a vague popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dis-
honest. I say vague, because when we consider to what extent
confidence and honors are reposed in and conferred upon lawyers
by the people, it appears improbable that their impression of "dis-



164 ADDBESSES AND LETTEES OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN

honesty is very distinct and vivid. Tet the impression is common,
almost universal. Let no young man choosing the law for a call-
ing for a moment yield to the popular belief — resolve to be honest
at all events ; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest
lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some
other occupation, rather than one in the choosing of which you do,
in advance, consent to be a knave.



January [2 !], 1851.— Letter to John D. Johnston.

January 2, 1851.

Dear Johnston: Your request for eighty dollars I do not think it
best to comply with now. At the various times when I have helped
you a little you have said to me, " We can get along very well now " ;
but in a very short time I find you in the same difficulty again.
Now, this can only happen by some defect in your conduct. What
that defect is, I think I know. You are not lazy, and still you are
an idler. I doubt whether, since I saw you, you have done a good
whole day's work in any one day. You do not very much dislike to
work, and still you do not work much, merely because it does not
seem to you that you could get much for it. This habit of uselessly
wasting time is the whole difficulty ; it is vastly important to you,
and stiU more so to your children, that you should break the habit.
It is more important to them, because they have longer to live, and
can keep out of an idle habit before they are in it, easier than they
can get out after they are in.

You are now in need of some money; and what I propose is, that
you shall go to work, " tooth and naU," for somebody who wiU give
you money for it. Let father and your boys take charge of your
things at home, prepare for a crop, and make the crop, and you go
to work for the best money wages, or in discharge of any debt you
owe, that you can get ; and, to secure you a fair reward for your la-
bor, I now promise you, that for every dollar you will, between this
and the first of May, get for your own labor, either in money or as
your own indebtedness, I will then give you one other dollar. By
this, if you hire yourself at ten dollars a month, from me you will
get ten more, making twenty dollars a month for your work. In
this I do not mean you shall go off to St. Louis, or the lead mines,
or the gold mines in California, but I mean for you to go at it for
the best wages you can get close to home in Coles County. Now, if
you will do this, you wiU. be soon out of debt, and, what is better,
you will have a habit that will keep you from getting in debt again.
But, if I should now clear you out of debt, next year you would be
just as deep in as ever. You say you would almost give your place
in heaven for seventy or eighty dollars. Then you value your place
in heaven very cheap, for I am sure you can, with the offer I make,
get the seventy or eighty dollars for four or five months' work.
You say if I will furnish you the money you will deed me the land,
and, if you don't pay the money back, you will deliver possession.



ADDEESSES AND LETTEES OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN 165

Nonsense ! If you can't now live with the land, how will you then
live without it? You have always been kind to me, and I do not
mean to be unkind to you. On the contrary, if you will but follow
my advice, you will find it worth more than eighty times eighty
dollars to you. Affectionately youi- brother,

A. Lincoln.



January 12, 1851. — Letter to John D. Johnston.

Springfield, January 12, 1851.

Bear Brother : On the day before yesterday I received a letter
from Harriet, written at Greenup. She says she has just returned
from your house, and that father is very low and will hardly re-
cover. She also says you have written me two letters, and that al-
though you do not expect me to come now, you wonder that I do
not write.

I received both your letters, and although I have not answered
them, it is not because I have forgotten them, or been uninterested
about them, but because it appeared to me that I could write nothing
which would do any good. You already know I desii-e that neither
father nor mother shall be in want of any comfort, either in health
or sickness, while they live ; and I feel sure you have not failed to
use my name, if necessary, to procure a doctor, or anything else for
father in his present sickness. My business is such that I could
hardly leave home now, if it was not as it is, that my own wife is
sick-a-bed. (It is a ease of baby-sickness, and I suppose is not dan-
gerous.) I sincerely hope father may recover his health, but at all
events, tell him to remember to call upon and confide in our great
and good and merciful Maker, who will not turn away from him in
any extremity. He notes the fall of a sparrow, and numbers the
hairs of our heads, and He will not forget the dying man who puts
his trust in Him. Say to him that if we could meet now it is doubt-
ful whether it would not be more painful than pleasant, but that if it
be his lot to go now, he will soon have a joyous meeting with many
loved ones gone before, and where the rest of us, through the help
of God, hope ere long to join them.

Write to me again when you receive this. Affectionately,

A. Lincoln.



August 31, 1851. — Letter to John D. Johnston.

Springfield, August 31, 1851.
Bear Brother: Inclosed is the deed for the land. We are all well,
and have nothing in the way of news. We have had no cholera here
for about two weeks. Give my love to all, and especially to mother.

Yours, as ever,

A. Lincoln.



166 ADDRESSES AND LETTERS OF ABRAHAM UNOOLN



November 4, 1851. — Letter to John D. Johnston.

Shelbyville, November 4, 1851.

Bear Brother: When I came into Charleston day before yesterday,
I learned that you are anxious to sell the land where you live and
move to Missouri. I have been thinking of this ever since, and can-
not but think such a notion is utterly foolish. What can you do in
Missouri better than here ? Is the land any richer ? Can you there,
any more than here, raise corn and wheat and oats without work?
Will anybody there, any more than here, do your work for you? If
you intend to go to work, there is no better place than right where you
are ; if you do not intend to go to work, you cannot get along anywhere.
Squirming and crawling about from place to place can do no good.
You have raised no crop this year ; and what you reaUy want is to
sell the land, get the money, and spend it. Part with the land you
have, and, my life upon it, you wUl never after own a spot big enough
to bury you in. Half you will get for the land you will spend in
moving to Missouri, and the other half you will eat, drink, and wear
out, and no foot of land will be bought. Now, I feel it my duty to
have no hand in such a piece of foolery. I feel that it is so even on
your own account, and particularly on mother's account. The east-
ern forty acres I intend to keep for mother while she lives ; if you
will not cultivate it, it will rent for enough to support her — at least,
it will rent for something. Her dower in the other two forties she
can let you have, and no thanks to me. 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 desti-
tute because you have idled away all your time. Your thousand pre-
tenses for not getting along better are all nonsense; they deceive
nobody but yourself. Go to work is the only cure for your ease.

A word to 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 your son,

A. Lincoln.



November 9, 1851. — Letter to John D. Johnston.

Shelbyvillb, November 9, 1851.

Bear 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 cent.

As to Abram, I do not want him, on my own account ; but I un-
derstand 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.



ADDRESSES AND LETTEKS OP ABEAHAM LINCOLN 167

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,

A. Lincoln.

December [il], 1851.— Call for Whig Convention.

To the Whigs of Illinois.

The Whigs of the State of Illinois are respectfully requested to
meet in convention at Springfield, on the fourth Monday of Decem-
ber next, to take into consideration such action as upon consultation
and deliberation may be deemed necessary, proper, and effective
for the best interests of the party, and to secure a more thorough
organization of the Whig party at an early day.
(Signed)
Abraham Lincoln, Isaac Hardy, O. H. Browning,

J. T. Stuart, Horace Miller, C. W. Craig,

J. C. Conkling, E. B. Washburne, J. L. Wilson,

H. O. Merriman, Henry Watterman, B. G-. Wheeler,
GrEO. W. Meeker, Ezra Griffith, H. D. Risley,

J. O. Norton, Samuel Haller, LE^^ Davis,

Churchill Coffing, Joseph T. Eccles, B. S. Edwards,
Joseph Gillespie, Jas. W. Singleton, iVnd many others.



July 16, 1852.— Eulogy on Henry Clay Delivered in the State
House at Springfield, Illinois.

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 proble-
matical, — while the bloody struggle between those resolute relx-ls
and their haughty would-be masters was still waging, — of undis-
tinguished parents and in an obscure district of one of those col-
onies 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 traveled 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



168 ADDEESSES AND LETTEKS OF ABKAHAM LINCOLN

chiefly because I could not in any language of my own so well
express my thoughts:

Alas ! wto can realize that Henry Clay is dead ! Who can realize that
never again that majestic form shall rise ia the council-chambers of his coun-
try 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 reahze 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 experi-
enced, 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 con-
fidence of a nation will receive 1 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 faU; 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 dis-
tinctions of mere party disappear. We see only the great, the grand, the
noble features of the departed statesman ; and we do not even beg permis-
sion 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 fiUed the earth, his memory wih 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 fol-
lowed 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 faitie are national property. As on a question of Uberty 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 pubhc career. From his youth he has been devoted to
the pubhc 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 pohcy when all
Europe was the battle-field of coiy;ending dynasties, and when the struggle
for supremacy imperiled 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
Bohvar. His name has been, and will continue to be, hallowed m two hemi-
spheres, for it is

" One of the few, the immortal names
That were not bom to die ! "

To the ardent patriot and profound statesman, he added a quahty pos-
sessed by few of the gifted on earth. His eloquence has not been surpassed.



ADDEESSES AND LETTERS OF ABEAHAM LINCOLN 169

In tie eileotive power to move the lieart of man, Clay was without an equal,
and the heaven-born endowment, in the spirit of its origin, has boi.'n must
conspicuously exhibited against mtestine t'euil. On at least three impor-
tant occasions he has queued om- civil commotions by a power and influ-
ence which belonged to no other statesman of his age and times. And iu
om- last internal discord, when this Union trembled to its center, in old age
he left the shades of private life, and gave the death-blow to fraternal
strife, with the vigor of his earher years, in a series of senatorial efforts
which in themselves would biing 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 lite. 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 sta-
tion 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, iu 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 inci-
dents of his life, all is as well known as it can be. The short sketcii
which I give is, therefore, merely to maintain the connection of this
discourse.

Henry Clay was born on the twelfth day of April, 1777, iu Han-
over 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 lim-
ited. 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 per-
fect 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 wUl, he can acquire suflQcient
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 prac-
tice till the year 1803, when he was first elected to the Kentucky



Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 21 of 91)