Abraham Lincoln: From His Own Words and Contemporary Accounts

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

was a headquarters for politics. Mr. Lincoln never stopped in the street to have a social chat with anyone; he was not a social man, too reflective, too abstracted; he never attended political gatherings till the thing was organized, and then he was ready to make a speech, willing and ready to reap any advantage that grew out of it, ready and anxious for the office it afforded, if any in the political world. If a man came into our office on business, he stated his case, Lincoln listening generally attentively while the man told over the facts of his case. Generally Lincoln would take a little time to consider. When he had sufficiently considered, he gave his opinion of the case plainly, directly, and sharply; he said to the man: "Your case is a good one," or "a bad one,"as the case might be. Mr. Lincoln was not a good conversationalist, except it was in the political world, nor was he a good listener; his great anxiety to tell a story made him burst in and consume the day in telling stories. Lincoln was not a general reader, except in politics. On Sundays he would come down to his office, sometimes bringing Tad and Willie and sometimes not, would write his letters, write declarations and other law papers, write out the heads of his speeches, take notes of what he intended to say. How do you expect to get much of interest out of this dry bone, a law office, when you know that Lincoln was a sad, gloomy, melancholic, and an abstracted man? Lincoln would sometimes lie down in the office to rest on the sofa, his feet on two or three chairs or up against the wall. In this position he would reflect, decide on what he was going to do and how do it; and then he would jump up, pick up his hat and run, the good Lord knows where.

HERNDON TO WEIK, FEBRUARY 24, 1887.

The system of business was as slovenly as the office itself: one day, Lincoln suddenly thrust his hand down deep into his pantaloons pocket, and fished up two dollars and fifty cents, which he gave to Herndon, saying: "Here, Billy, is your share of the fee for the suit before Squire -----."

This transaction had every semblance of reality and good faith; yet I felt bound somehow to consider it as a bit of pleasantry; and accordingly I said incredulously: "Is that the way this law firm keeps its accounts?""That's jest the way;" promptly replied Lincoln: "Billy and I never had the scratch of a pen between us; we jest divide as we go along:" and Herndon confirmed this statement of an extraordinary occurrence by a nod.

WHITNEY, Life on the Circuit with Lincoln.


10. JUDGE DAVIS APPRAISES LINCOLN, THE LAWYER

Lincoln's career as a lawyer was closely bound up with the old eighth Illinois judicial circuit. Lincoln loved the life of the circuit, and he became one of its best known personages. Judge David Davis, who later became a Justice of the United States Supreme Court, presided over court on the circuit a large part of the time, and Lincoln tried cases before him perhaps hundreds of times. No one was in a better position than Judge Davis to make an estimate of Lincoln's professional traits and talents.

-10-

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