Skip to main content

Full text of "The solitude of Abraham Lincoln"

See other formats


%^ Stf*r*~*L*' ^±+<r. 



S?Pu' 



LINCOLN 



' .c 






THE SOLITUDE 

OF 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN 

BY E. J. EDWARDS 



Typical Reminiscences Illus- 
trating a Life Whose Deepest 
Moments Were Lived Alone 



Peivately Printed 

For Gilbert A. Tracy 

By Permission Op The Author 

Putnam, Conn. 

1916 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

The Institute of Museum and Library Services through an Indiana State Library LSTA Grant 



http://www.archive.org/details/solitudeofabrahaOOedwa 



THE SOLITUDE 

OF 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN 

BY E. J. EDWARDS 

As time passes the historic Lincoln slowly but 
with ever-increasing clearness begins to be apprehend- 
ed. The perspective in which history will see him is 
now faintly recognized. The superficial and trivial 
aspects of his character, mere surface and incidental 
traits or habits, were in his lifetime and for a genera- 
tion after his death the subject of much that was writ- 
ten or said of him. Many men of ability and high culti- 
vation who were of Lincoln's generation were unable 
to make explanation to themselves, when contemplat- 
ing Lincoln's career, of the extraordinary and para- 
doxical diversities of his nature. He seemed to be two 
personalities, one flippant, often of undignified con- 
duct and speech; the other the possessor of as tender 
a heart as any of which history has made record, allied 
to marvelous intellectual power and the mystic gift of 
the seer or prophet. Some men of his day were never 
wholly reconciled to the view those who were nearest 
Lincoln were compelled to take of his moral grandeur, 
intellectual supremacy, ineffable patience, capacity for 
enduring suffering without complaint, and of the 
supreme solitude in which he lived. 

Lincoln's intimate companions were those known 
only to his inner nature ; and he possessed to a degree 
surpassed by none of the world's great characters the 



4 The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 

sense of solitude. Genius has no intimates. The great 
soul can make no confession, except to its Maker, of 
its aspirations and inspirations. 

That sense of Lincoln's solitude was at times pow- 
erfully impressed upon his associates in the National 
Administration. One or two of them perceived that 
his saving grace of humor served to mask or shield 
the hermit solitude of his real life, or else to give 
momentary relief to it. Charles A. Dana, who was a 
keen and accurate observer of men, fathomed much 
sooner than did Dana's chief, Edwin M. Stanton, Lin- 
coln's Secretary of War, the impulse that led Lincoln 
to turn in times of great stress to Petroleum V. 
Nasby's brilliantly humorous irony and read it in mer- 
riment as though the fate of the nation were not at 
issue. 

On the evening of the Presidential election of 
1864, Lincoln went from the White House to the old 
War Office to hear any returns that might be there 
received. He sat upon a sofa in Stanton's office, mak- 
ing merry over one of Nasby's letters. The grim Sec- 
retary of War said to Mr. Dana : "I wish you would 
look at Lincoln, sitting on that sofa, roaring over 
Nasby's nonsense, while at this moment throughout 
the Union they are counting the votes to find out 
whether Lincoln has been re-elected, or McClellan has 
beaten him. You wouldn't think it mattered the toss 
of a copper to him." But Dana knew better, and in 
after years he spoke to the writer of the incident. 

To him there was infinite pathos that there should 
be need for Lincoln to seek relief from the tremendous 
strain of that day and from his high sense of the world- 
moving responsibility imposed upon him, as he be- 
lieved by the Divine Kuler, and by those who would 
save the Union. Until late that night Lincoln was in 
solitary and solemn self-communion, and what was 



The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 5 

then whispered to him could not be translated, for it 
was not spoken to his soul in the language of men. Of 
that night of solitude one of Lincoln's truest friends, 
David Davis, had what he believed to be perfect proof. 

Early in Lincoln's first administration he revealed 
himself to his Secretary of State, impressively and 
with his first understanding, as a man of supreme soli- 
tude. For when Seward submitted to the President at 
one of the first Cabinet meetings a paper containing 
an offer to relieve Lincoln from the responsibility of 
conceiving and directing the policy of the Administra- 
tion, Lincoln replied with gentleness of speech and 
without any resentment, by saying no more than this, 
namely, that he must alone decide and do what was 
necessary to be decided and done. And Seward then 
first caught a glimpse of the solitude and of the moral 
grandeur of this man. The Secretary of State then 
determined that he would thereafter give loyal, con- 
stant, unhesitating support to Lincoln, and to that 
pledge Seward was faithful. 

An anecdote related to Gen. Thomas L. James at 
the time he was Postmaster General in Garfield's 
Cabinet illustrates the supreme solitude of Lincoln. A 
member of the Senate Committee on the Conduct of 
the War in Lincoln's first Administration said to Gen- 
eral James that as time passed the world would have 
clearer understanding of Lincoln's solitude, and the 
Senator went on to say, that his first understanding 
of Lincoln as a man of solitude was upon an occasion 
when the Senator was serving as a member of the 
Senate Committee on the Conduct of the War. 

"You remember, doubtless," said the Senator to 
General James, "that during a crucial period of the 
war many malicious stories were in circulation, based 
upon the suspicion that Mrs. Lincoln was in sympathy 
with the Confederacy. These reports were inspired 



6 The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 

by the fact that some of Mrs. Lincoln's relatives were 
in the Confederate service. At last reports that were 
more than vague gossip were brought to the attention 
of some of my colleagues in the Senate. They made 
specific accusation that Mrs. Lincoln was giving im- 
portant information to secret agents of the Confed- 
eracy. These reports were laid before my committee 
and the committee thought it an imperative duty to 
investigate them, although it was the most embarras- 
sing and painful task imposed upon us. 

"I had of course often met President Lincoln at 
the White House and been impressed by his command 
over himself and by the sense of authority and 
strength which he imparted to all who were in touch 
with him on matters of public business. I never saw 
the patient, anxious and wearied expression which 
some of my associates now and then noticed, but I did 
see and hear some of the unconventional ways and 
speech, of which the public heard so much. 

1 ' One morning our committee purposed taking up 
the reports that imputed disloyalty to Mrs. Lincoln. 
The sessions of the committee were necessarily secret. 
We had just been called to order by the Chairman, 
when the officer stationed at the committee room door 
opened it and came in with a half -frightened, half-em- 
barrassed expression on his face. Before he had 
opportunity to make explanation, we understood the 
reason for his excitement, and were ourselves almost 
overwhelmed by astonishment. For at the foot of the 
table, standing solitar3% his hat in his hand, his tall 
form towering above the committee members, Abra- 
ham Lincoln stood. Had he come by some incantation, 
thus appearing of a sudden before us unannounced, we 
could not have been more astounded. 

"The pathos that was written upon Lincoln's 
face, the almost unhuman sadness that was in his eyes 



The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 7 

as he looked upon us, and above all an indescribable 
sense of his complete isolation — the sad solitude which 
is inherent in all true grandeur of character and intel- 
lect — all this revealed Lincoln to me and I think to 
every member of the committee in the finer, subtler 
light whose illumination faintly set forth the funda- 
mental nature of this man. No one spoke, for none 
knew what to say. The President had not been asked 
to come before the committee, nor was it suspected 
that he had information that we were to investigate 
the reports, which, if true, fastened treason upon his 
family in the White House. 

"At last Lincoln spoke, slowly, with infinite sor- 
row in his tone, and he said — 

" 'I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United 
States, appear of my own volition before this Commit- 
tee of the Senate to say that, I, of my own knowledge, 
know that it is untrue that any of my family hold 
treasonable communication with the enemy.' 

"Having said that, Lincoln went away as silently 
and solitary as he came. We sat for some moments 
speechless. Then by tacit agreement, no word being 
spoken, the committee dropped all consideration of 
the rumors that the wife of the President was betray- 
ing the Union. We had seen Abraham Lincoln in the 
solemn and isolated majesty of his real nature. We 
were so greatly affected that the committee adjourned 
for the day." 

While speaking of Lincoln nearly twenty years 
after Lincoln's death Judge Davis said that as time 
passed he more and more realized what during his inti- 
mate association with Lincoln he did not perceive, 
namely, that it was the unconscious and unreasoned 
recognition of the deeper and the real character of 
Lincoln that gave him his unquestioned leadership 



8 The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 

among the plain people. They penetrated beyond the 
mask and shield with which Lincoln protected his soli- 
tude of mind and soul. The plain people did this with 
keener, surer insight than that of many with whom he 
was brought into professional association. 

So acute a man as Edwin M. Stanton was had not 
the slightest understanding of Lincoln, until after 
Stanton served under Lincoln as Secretary of War. 
And it was Judge Davis's opinion that in no way did 
Lincoln reveal his supreme ability as a leader as well 
as his moral greatness, better than when he named 
Stanton for Secretary of War, not permitting the sad 
recollection of the snub and sneer with which Stanton 
had once received Mm as associate counsel to affect 
his judgment of Stanton's ability. 

And when Lincoln selected McClellan for the 
Commander of the Army of the Potomac, Judge Davis 
recalled the brusque and arbitrary treatment of Lin- 
coln by McClellan a few years earlier, for Judge Davis 
had personal knowledge of that incident. Then Lin- 
coln was esteemed as no more than a prairie lawyer, 
while McClellan had already gained national reputa- 
tion as the engineer who constructed a bridge over the 
Mississippi. 

These and others who were numbered among the 
able men of that day were partly blinded to the funda- 
mental moral and mental greatness of Lincoln, for his 
solitude concealed it, but the plain people had clearer 
vision. And that, Judge Davis said, has been true of 
all the leaders truly great since history was first writ- 
ten. 

Gilbert Finch is now spending the years of his old 
age in comfortable retirement at his boyhood home in 
Connecticut. He was for nearly fifty years a conductor 
on the Chicago and Alton Railroad. Many times Lin- 
coln was a passenger on Mr. Finch's train. A cordial 



The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 9 

acquaintance was established between them. So also 
Mr. Finch carried Stephen A. Douglas and Lyman 
Trumbull and Norman Judd and David Davis and 
others of the group of brilliant Illinois politicians of 
Lincoln's day. 

Mr. Finch, who now frequently relates to his 
friends something of the personality of these men, all 
of whom except Lincoln are almost forgotten, recently 
said : 

"Lincoln was the most folksy of any of them. He 
put on no airs. He did not hold himself distant from 
any man. But there was something about him which 
we plain people couldn't explain that made us stand a 
little in awe of him. I now know what it was, but 
didn't then. It was because he was a greater man than 
any other one we had ever seen. You could get near 
him in a sort of neighborly way, as though you had 
always known him, but there was something tremen- 
dous between yon and him all the time. I have eaten 
with him many times at the railroad eating houses, 
and you get very neighborly if you eat together in a 
railroad restaurant, at least we did in those clays. 
Everybody tried to get as near Lincoln as possible 
when he was eating, because he was such good com- 
pany, but we always looked at him with a ldnd of 
wonder. We couldn't exactly make him out. Some- 
times I would see what looked like dreadful loneliness 
in his look, and I used to wonder what he was thinking 
about. Whatever it was he was thinking all alone. It 
wasn't a solemn lo"ok, like Stephen A. Douglas some- 
times had. Douglas sometimes made me think of an 
owl. He used to stare at you with his great dark eyes 
in a way that almost frightened you. Lincoln never 
frightened anybody. No one was afraid of him, but 
there was something about him that made plain folks 
feel toward him a good deal as a child feels toward his 



10 The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 

father, because you know every child looks upon his 
father as a wonderful man. ' ' 

Gilbert Finch, the veteran of the Chicago and 
Alton Railroad, is after his years of varied experience 
in Illinois still one of the plain people. 

When Lincoln went to New York City to deliver 
the now traditional Cooper Union address on Febru- 
ary 27, 1860, Cephas Brainerd, one of the foremost 
lawyers of New York, and in 1860 a member of the 
so-called Young Republican Association, was Chair- 
man of the committee appointed to receive and enter- 
tain Lincoln. It was Lincoln's expectation that the 
address would be delivered in Plymouth Church, 
Brooklyn, but the plans were altered. 

At that time it was the expectation of the Repub- 
licans of New York that William H. Seward would be 
nominated for President by the convention which was 
to meet at Chicago in the Spring of 1860 and that 
Abraham Lincoln would be nominated for Vice-Pres- 
ident. 

Lincoln, in his debates with Stephen A. Douglas 
in 1858, gained the first recognition by the Republi- 
cans of the East. It was therefore partly due to the 
expectation that Lincoln would be named for Vice- 
President with Seward as candidate for President, and 
in part to the echoes of the renown Lincoln had gained 
in the West in the series of joint debates with Douglas, 
that Lincoln's visit to New York by invitation to speak 
on the moral and political issues of the time was 
deemed the political event of that Winter. It was 
expected that his speech, or lecture, as Lincoln called 
it, would in some measure open the National Republi- 
can campaign. Yet there was a half expectation that 
the great men of New York would be disappointed, 
and that it might be discovered that what passed for 
great public speaking on the prairies of Illinois would 



The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 11 

not meet the high standard established in New York 
by William M. Evarts and William H. Seward. 

Mr. Brainerd discovered while giving courteous 
and cordial reception to Lincoln some hint of that 
inner and fundamental quality of Lincoln's nature. 
The unconventional manner did not conceal the sub- 
lime dignity that lay behind it. Mr. Lincoln met an 
old acquaintance while Mr. Brainerd was escorting 
him through Wall street. Mr. Lincoln was in high 
good spirits. He asked his old friend how he had 
done since he had entered Wall street to make a for- 
tune, and was told that the fortune had at last reached 
a hundred thousand dollars. 

"Isn't that enough?" Mr. Lincoln asked. "I 
should call myself a rich man if I had that much. I've 
got my house at Springfield and about three thousand 
dollars. And if they make me Vice-President with 
Seward, as some say they will, I expect to save enough 
to make me feel comfortable the rest of my life." 

Lincoln said that in sincerity, and Mr. Brainerd 
wondered how it could be that a man who was success- 
ful enough to be thought worthy to be made Vice-Pres- 
ident with Seward could look upon so small a sum as 
sufficient fortune. 

Lincoln went to his hotel to prepare for the 
severely critical test that was to be made of him that 
evening by the foremost intellects of New York; yet 
he showed no concern. Mr. Brainerd wondered wheth- 
er or not Lincoln realized that the standard by which 
New York would measure him that evening, was very 
high and that he must stand or fall by the measure- 
ment. Lincoln had spoken of the address to no one 
except Horace Greeley, and to him simply to arrange 
for the publication of the speech from the manuscript 
in The Tribune next morning and further to inquire at 



12 The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 

what hour he could call at The Tribune office to look at 
the proof slips. 

Some who were with Lincoln at the hotel and who 
were to share in the escort of him to Cooper Union 
were astonished that he should be without anxiety and 
free from nervous apprehension. Had he been about 
to take a pleasure excursion he could not have been 
less concerned. 

A few moments before Lincoln was introduced to 
the Cooper Union audience, which was representative 
of the highest intellectual power in New York, Mr. 
Brainerd observed a slight and very subtle change in 
Lincoln's manner. There came a prophet-like serenity. 
The superficial attitude was gone. It had been thrown 
off like a cloak, and there was not one in that great 
audience who did not on the instant fyid himself in the 
presence of a master mind and a great soul. 

The penetrating eyes of the leaders of the Ameri- 
can bar, some of whom were to be spokesmen for 
Seward at the National Convention, were fixed steadily 
upon Lincoln. The great lawyers seemed so fascinated 
by the prairie lawyer that it was impossible for them 
to take their eyes off him. 

The perfect rhetorical form of the address, the 
crystalline clearness of the verbal expression, the lack 
of sentimental appeal or of cheap rhetorical flourish, 
the steady appeal of reason to the intellect, and the 
supreme art of speaking, which is the art of persuad- 
ing and convincing, and a solemnity of manner and 
utterance which with overwhelming force conveyed 
the sense of the tremendous issues involved — namely, 
that the Nation could not endure half slave, half free 
— all this demonstrated to the men of New York who 
then heard Lincoln that the standard that they had 
fixed was too slender and slight a standard by which 
to measure Lincoln, and that he had established anoth- 



The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 13 

er standard beyond the capacity of any man of New 
York to measure up to. Throughout the address there 
were glimpses of the immense solitude in which tins 
man lived. 

The manuscript of the Cooper Union address was 
tossed into the Tribune's composing room waste paper 
bin after the proof slips had been read and revised. 
A half hour before midnight Lincoln called at The 
Tribune office and was shown to the little room where 
the proof-readers scrutinized the galley proofs. The 
proof-reader who was comparing the proofs with Lin- 
coln's manuscript was the late Amos J. Cummings, 
who afterward represented a New York City district 
in Congress for several terms. Lincoln drew a chair 
beside Cummings, adjusted his glasses and under the 
glare of the gas light read each proof with scrupulous 
care. Never before had he opportunity to witness the 
throbbing life of a great newspaper at the hour when 
the tension is most tense — the hour before the presses 
begin to whirl with fierce energy. 

But the animation, the hurried steps, the clanging 
of the form, the vizored compositors clicking the type 
in their composing sticks, and the vast, orderly con- 
fusion of midnight in the composing room of a great 
newspaper did not distract or in any way interest 
Lincoln. His manner was that of a man accustomed 
to these midnight sights and sounds. 

When the proofs were read and corrected, revised 
proofs were prepared for him, and these he read with 
care. After that he said a pleasant word or two to 
Mr. Cummings,* and then went away unescorted 

The proof-reading of the address in The Tribune office by Mr. 
Lincoln on the evening of its delivery in Cooper Union and the loss 
of the manuscript are incidents which were related with much detail 
by Mr. Cummings to Mr. Edwards and assure their authenticity. 



14 The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 

through Printing House Square, and across City Hall 
Park to the Astor House. 

In another place some of the great intellects that 
heard Lincoln speak that night were confiding to one 
another the sense of marvelous intellectual power with 
which the address impressed them. Mr. Evarts invit- 
ed a few friends to go with him to his house at Four- 
teenth street and Second avenue, a short distance 
from Cooper Union. They were among the elect of 
New York's intellect, and they talked with one another 
until long past midnight of the serene intellectual 
grandeur of which the address gave competent evi- 
dence. 

There was always eager curiosity to learn how 
and when Lincoln prepared this address, but that curi- 
osity was never gratified. The solitude of Lincoln when 
in the presence of great opportunity and responsi- 
bility was the isolation in which he lived when prepar- 
ing the Cooper Union address. So far as is known he 
consulted no one, when preparing it, nor did he read 
it in whole or in part to any one, before he spoke upon 
the Cooper Union platform. 

David Davis, Lincoln's early and life-long friend, 
whom Lincoln nominated for Justice of the United 
States Supreme Court, said to the present writer that 
aside from the statement Lincoln made to his Illinois 
friends that he had accepted an invitation to speak to 
the Republicans of New York City, he made no other 
allusion to the address. 

He did say to Judge Davis, by way of explaining 
the invitation, that some one in New York had learned 
that it was his intention to pay a visit to his son, who 
was a student at Harvard, some time in February. To 
this Lincoln said he owed the invitation to stop over 
in New York, so that the Republicans of that city might 



The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 15 

hear what he had to say upon the issues that people 
were then facing. 

The suspicion was aroused that, impelled by his 
supreme instinct for great politics, Lincoln determined 
to find a way by which he might, without seeming to 
volunteer, speak to the Republicans of the East. Ex- 
cepting in the campaign of 1848, when Lincoln was an 
obscure member of Congress, he had never visited the 
Eastern States. In that campaign he spoke at Wor- 
cester, Mass. David Davis was always convinced that 
the contemplated speech was the inspiration for his 
visit to Harvard. 

Lincoln had no other material for the preparation 
of the Cooper Union address than the reports of the 
proceedings and debates in the convention that framed 
the Constitution of the United States, several of the 
speeches of Webster, and two or three of the decisions 
written by Chief Justice Marshall of the Supreme 
Court. These he must have absorbed by prolonged 
and intense study, although no one knew that he was 
thus occupied. He was in perfect mental solitude. His 
companions were these few books and his thoughts. 
In that isolation he prepared the address by which he 
conquered the intellect of New York. 

In this solitude all of his addresses were prepared, 
and he made confidants of no one excepting in two 
instances. The Emancipation Proclamation was read 
to his Cabinet, not for approval or disapproval, but 
only for suggestions for verbal changes. One change, 
counseled by the Secretary of the Treasury, Judge 
Chase, was accepted by Lincoln. 

Four years earlier he confided to some of his 
friends a portion of his speech prepared for delivery 
in the Illinois campaign for the election of a successor 
to Stephen A. Douglas in the Federal Senate. Lincoln 



16 The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 

was the candidate of the Republicans, Douglas of the 
Democracy. 

The friends counseled Lincoln against delivering 
the portion of the speech which he repeated to them, 
saying, "It will defeat you and re-elect Douglas to the 
Senate." 

And Lincoln replied: "Yes. But if Douglas 
takes that shoot, he can never be elected President." 
And it was as Lincoln predicted. Douglas was re-elect- 
ed Senator, but he took the "shoot" in replying to 
Lincoln, and thereby split the National Democracy. No 
one knew that Lincoln had prepared the now tradi- 
tional Chicago speech, beginning, "A house divided 
against itself cannot stand." 

In his solitude Lincoln wrote that sentence, and no 
man heard it until it was delivered. Yet if he were 
then nursing ambition to be President, he risked it 
upon that speech. 

Judge Davis spoke of the two inaugural addresses, 
that with which Lincoln began his first, and the brief 
and beautiful words spoken at his second inaugura- 
tion. Lincoln must have written the first inaugural 
address at odd moments in the early Winter of 1861. 
Yet few leisure moments were permitted him. Many 
politicians visited him at Springfield, and came away, 
as the late Judge Kelley of Pennsylvania did, in much 
perplexity and anxiety. Judge Kelley took life and his 
long service in Congress very seriously, and when the 
President-elect turned the visit of Judge Kelley into 
something like boys' play, for he asked the Judge to 
measure height with him, standing back to back, the 
Pennsylvania Republican wondered what manner of 
man this prairie lawyer was, and whether he was to 
take the horse play of the prairies into the White 
House. 



The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 17 

Years afterward Judge Kelley said to the writer : 
1 ' I now understand what then seemed to me an amaz- 
ingly undignified performance for a man who was to 
be President in a few months. Lincoln in this way 
threw me off. He did not want to talk politics with any 
one, for he was in perfect communion with himself." 

In the choice of his Cabinet Lincoln was relieved 
of embarrassment by deciding to invite each one of 
those who had received a considerable vote for nomina- 
tion for the Presidency at the Chicago Convention. 
Seward he was to name Secretary of State, Chase 
Secretary of the Treasury, Judge Bates Attorney 
General, and Simon Cameron Secretary of War, in 
recognition of the vital support Pennsylvania gave 
Lincoln 's candidacy at the very critical moment of the 
convention. Thus the Cabinet almost formed itself, 
although first formed mentally by Lincoln. But Lin- 
coln was much occupied for some weeks in inducing 
Seward to accept the offer of the State Department. 

With the exception of formal and perfunctory 
communications, which may have been prepared by a 
secretary, all of Lincoln's correspondence at that time 
was written by himself, and must have required sev- 
eral hours each day. These letters of the Winter of 
1861 are good evidence of the perfect mental solitude 
in which Lincoln dwelt in those momentous months. 
Not one of them discloses what was in his mind. He 
wrote to be informed of men and of situations, but he 
gave no hint of his reason for wishing the information. 
There is stupendous solitude behind them. 

Yet at some time between January and mid-Feb- 
ruary, 1861, Lincoln prepared the inaugural address. 
No one knows when. None can tell, although possibly 
the late John Hay could have done so, what hours he 
set apart for the writing of it. The exquisite beauty 
and perfect dignity of the language used, the kindli- 



IS The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 

ness tempered with sadness that ran through the 
address, the fundamental thought, solemn and defiant, 
giving warning that the duty, namely, to preserve the 
Union, was his highest obligation under his oath of 
office — these came from that solitude in which the 
address was prepared. That, at least, was the view 
of Judge Davis. 

So, too, the second inaugural, with its matchless 
prose, its pathos and glowing hope of a speedily re- 
stored Union, was conceived in solitude, penned with 
no eye to see or ear to hear. It was presumed that the 
brief Gettysburg oration would become the classic 
American utterance, and that Lincoln in it had mas- 
tered the supreme art, wherein prose is greater than 
any poetry. Yet one passage in the second inaugural 
is esteemed worthy to stand engraved beside the few 
words spoken on the Gettysburg battlefield. 

Various versions of the preparation of the Get- 
tysburg address have been given. Although these 
versions differ in narrating the time and manner of 
writing the address, yet all are in agreement upon 
the important and characteristic points. Whether 
Lincoln wrote the address in a railway train while on 
the way to Gettysburg, or penned it in the White 
House on the morning of that dedicatory day, or spent 
some part of the evening before in preparing it, is of 
little interest. Wherever he composed it, whenever he 
put it upon paper, it was conceived and perfected in 
solitude. He read no famed funeral oration that he 
might get inspiration. He consulted no books. The 
English of the Bible and of Shakespeare had been 
absorbed by him, so that he spoke and thought in it, 
and this was his vehicle of expression. He told no one 
any secret of the composition. Many inquiries were 
made. He was content to let the address give the only 



The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 19 

answer. And, as was said of Shakespeare, so it might 
be said of Lincoln : 

"Others abide onr question. Thou art free. 

We ask and ask — Thou smilest and art still. 

Self-schooled, self-scanned, self-honored, self-se- 
cure. ' ' 

Edward McPherson, member of Congress from 
the Gettysburg district, said to the writer that Lincoln 
rode with him from Washington to Gettysburg on the 
morning of the dedication day. At some time on the 
trip Mr. Lincoln took a sheet of note paper from his 
pocket and resting that upon his knee penciled a few 
lines upon it. From this paper Lincoln read the 
address, for Mr. McPherson recognized the sheet of 
paper. 

But if Mr. McPherson 's memory actually recalled 
the circumstance, yet Lincoln was merely putting upon 
paper what he had already written mentally. That 
was a mere clerical matter. The immortal oration was 
written in solitude. 

Lincoln rarely made any allusion to the time or 
the place of writing, and he never spoke of the inspir- 
ation that was behind any of his addresses. It is 
probable he could have clone so only in the vaguest 
way. For solitude like that with which he was encom- 
passed is not to be interpreted by any words. It is 
beyond language. 

Of the New England States, New Hampshire, 
Rhode Island and Connecticut held annual elections 
until recent years in the early Spring. These elections 
in the year 1860 were of more than local or State conse- 
quence. They were to be the first test of public senti- 
ment that would have ultimate expression at the Presi- 
dential election in the Fall. Connecticut was to make 
the severest test, since in that State there was no 
stable, dependable majority for either the Republican 



20 The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 

or the Democratic Party. The annual election in that 
State took place on the first Monday of April. The 
Rhode Island election and that of New Hampshire 
occurred about the same time. 

So profound was the impression made by Lin- 
coln's Cooper Union address that the managers of the 
Republican campaign in Connecticut and Rhode Island 
earnestly invited him to make two or three speeches in 
each State. There appeared to be abundant opportun- 
ity to speak in Connecticut and Rhode Island if Lin- 
coln could make a leisurely itinerary from New York 
to Cambridge. He was able to promise three speeches 
in Connecticut and one in Rhode Island. The Connec- 
ticut committee selected New Haven and Hartford, 
then the two capitals of the State, and Norwich. The 
candidate for Governor, William A. Buckingham, was 
a citizen of Norwich. He was then Governor and a 
candidate for re-election. 

Incidentally it may be of present interest to report 
that there was no question in Connecticut on the day 
after the election that the addresses made by Lincoln 
saved the State to the Republicans. The majority was 
slender, a little over 500, but it was interpreted 
throughout the country as foreshadowing the vote of 
the Northern States in the Presidential election in 
November. In this brief campaigning excursion in 
Connecticut Lincoln received constant assurances that 
the Connecticut Republicans would support him for 
the Vice-Presidential nomination. 

At the Norwich meeting Lincoln and Gov. Buck- 
ingham met for the first time. They were to meet 
many times during Lincoln's Presidency, and were to 
establish intimate relations, for Buckingham was 
known as one of the great War Governors. At the 
first instant of the meeting between Lincoln and Gov. 
Buckingham the Governor could not escape some sense 



The Solitude of Abraham Lincoln 21 

of disappointment, wondering if it were trne that this 
was the man who had overthrown "The Little Giant" 
in the terrific verbal combat in Illinois, the man who 
had delivered the widely-famed "House Divided 
Against Itself" speech and the man who had gained 
the amazing triumph on the Cooper Union platform. 

The Connecticut Governor was a courtly gentle- 
man of the so-called ' ' old school, ' ' and he differed not 
from the men of ability in New England in esteeming 
elegance and conventional propriety of manners as 
some part of the equipment of those who of right com- 
manded homage for their intellectual achievements. 

Lincoln greeted the Governor in a whimsical, 
homespun way, so that the Governor was momentarily 
distressed, but later, when listening to Lincoln, Gov. 
Buckingham found himself thinking, "What manner 
of man is this who speaks? Is this the man whom I 
saw this afternoon! It is he, yet another and a won- 
derful man, such as I never before saw or heard." 
That was what Gov. Buckingham said some years later 
was impressed upon him as he listened to Lincoln. And 
so profound was the impression made by Lincoln upon 
the audience that when he closed and turned to quit the 
platform no man moved, none cheered, nor was there 
any applause by hand -clapping or stamping of the feet. 
It was the perfect tribute of silence. The recognition 
of intellectual supremacy and moral sublimity is best 
acknowledged in that way. But when applause did 
begin it was overwhelming. 

The proof welding of the address in The Tribune 
office by Mr. Lincoln on the evening of its dei, $ i 

L oper Union and the loss of the manuscript ; >ci- 

lents which were dated with much detail by "* am- 

] "igs to Mr. Edwards and assure their authenticity. 



THE OBSERMER COMPANY, PUTNAM 



"?/„ 2-£>& c ?