Abraham Lincoln: From His Own Words and Contemporary Accounts

By Abraham Lincoln; Roy Edgar Appleman | Go to book overview

moral, and his object, whatever any may think of the deception which he practiced in changing his name, entirely praiseworthy.

He prospered in business and, pending his engagement with Ann, he revealed his true name, returned to Ohio [actually New York] to relieve his parents from their embarrassments, and to bring the family with him to Illinois. On his return to Ohio, several years having elapsed, he found his father in declining health or dead, and perhaps the circumstances of the family prevented his immediate return to New Salem. At all events he was absent two or three years.

In the meantime Mr. Lincoln paid his addresses to Ann, continued his visits and attentions regularly, and those resulted in an engagement to marry, conditional to an honorable release from the contract with McNamar. There is no kind of doubt as to the existence of this engagement. David Rutledge urged Ann to consummate it, but she refused until such time as she could see McNamar, inform him of the change in her feelings, and seek an honorable release. Mr. Lincoln lived in the village, McNamar did not return, and in August 1835 Ann sickened and died. The effect upon Mr. Lincoln's mind was terrible; he became plunged in despair, and many of his friends feared that reason would desert her throne. His extraordinary emotions were regarded as strong evidence of the existence of the tenderest relations between himself and the deceased.

My sister was esteemed the brightest mind of the family, was studious, devoted to her duties of whatever character, and possessed a remarkably amiable and lovable disposition. She had light hair and blue eyes.

R. B. RUTLEDGE TO HERNDON, OCTOBER 1866.

The facts are William Berry first courted Ann and was rejected; afterwards Samuel Hill; then John McNamar, which resulted in an engagement to marry at some future time. He, McNamar, left the county on business, was gone some years; in the meantime and during McNamar's absence, Mr. Lincoln courted Ann and engaged to marry her, on the completion of the study of law. In this I am corroborated by James McRutledge, a cousin about her age, and who was in her confidence. He says in a letter to me just received: "Ann told me once in coming from a camp meeting on Rock Creek, that engagements made too far ahead sometimes failed, that one had failed (meaning her engagement with McNamar), and gave me to understand that as soon as certain studies were completed she and Lincoln would be married."

R. B. RUTLEDGE TO HERNDON, NOVEMBER 21, 1866.


5. ADVICE TO A YOUNG FRIEND

In 1848, while serving in Washington as a Congressman from Illinois, Lincoln received a letter from his young law partner, William H. Herndon, complaining of some fancied grievances he held against certain Illinois personages. The following excerpt from Lincoln's reply discloses not only his sound advice to young Herndon but reveals something of his own character as well.

-5-

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