Whig ranks. Twice Lincoln was his party's candidate for speaker, and when defeated, he served as its floor leader.
His greatest achievement in the legislature, where he was a consistent supporter of conservative business interests, was to bring about the removal of the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield, by means of adroit logrolling. When certain resolutions denouncing antislavery agitation were passed by the house, Lincoln and a colleague, Dan Stone, defined their position by a written declaration that slavery was "founded on both injustice and bad policy, but that the promulgation of abolition doctrines tends rather to increase than abate its evils." An internal improvement project that Lincoln promoted in the legislature turned out to be impractical and almost bankrupted the state. On national issues Lincoln favored the United States Bank and opposed the presidential policies of
Andrew JACKSON and Martin VAN BUREN.
His friend Stuart had encouraged him to study law, and he obtained a license on Sept. 9, 1836. By this time New Salem was in decline and would soon be a ghost town. It has since been restored as a state park. On April
15, 1837, Lincoln moved to Springfield to become Stuart's partner. His conscientious efforts to pay off his debts had earned him the nickname
"Honest Abe," but he was so poor that he arrived in Springfield on a borrowed horse with all his personal property in his saddlebags.
With the courts in Springfield in session only a few weeks during the year, lawyers were obliged to travel the circuit in order to make a living. Every year, in spring and autumn, Lincoln followed the judge from county to county over the 12,000 square miles (31,000 sq km) of the Eighth Circuit.
In 1841 he and Stuart disolved their firm, and Lincoln formed a new partnership with Stephen T. Logan, who taught him the value of careful preparation and clear, succinct reasoning as opposed to mere cleverness and oratory. This partnership was in turn dissolved in 1844, when Lincoln took young William H. Herndon, later to be his biographer, as a partner.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 4, 1842, after a somewhat tumultuous courtship,
Lincoln had married Mary Todd. Brought up in Lexington, Ky., she was a high- spirited, quick-tempered girl of excellent education and cultural background. Notwithstanding her vanity, ambition, and unstable temperament and Lincoln's careless ways and alternating moods of hilarity and dejection, the marriage turned out to be generally happy. Of their four children, only Robert Todd Lincoln, born on Aug. 1, 1843, lived to maturity. Edward Baker, who was born on March 10, 1846, died on Feb. 1,
1850; William Wallace, born Dec. 21, 1850, died on Feb. 20, 1862; and
Thomas ("Tad"), born April 4, 1853, died on July 15, 1871.
Though Mrs. Lincoln was by no means such a shrew as has been asserted, she was difficult to live with. Lincoln responded to her impulsive and imprudent behavior with tireless patience, forbearance, and forgiveness.
Borne down by grief and illness after her husband's death, Mrs. Lincoln became so unbalanced at one time that her son Robert had her committed to an institution.
Having attained a position of leadership in state politics and worked strenuously for the Whig ticket in the presidential election of 1840,
Lincoln aspired to go to CONGRESS. But two other prominent young Whigs of his district, Edward D. Baker of Springfield and John J. Hardin of
Jacksonville, also coveted this distinction. So Lincoln stepped aside temporarily, first for Hardin, then for Baker, under a sort of understanding that they would "take a turn about." When Lincoln's turn came in 1846, however, Hardin wished to serve again, and Lincoln was obliged to maneuver skillfully to obtain the nomination. His district was so predominantly Whig that this amounted to election, and he won handily over his Democratic opponent.
Lincoln worked conscientiously as a freshman congressman, but was unable to gain distinction. Both from conviction and party expediency, he went along with the Whig leaders in blaming the Polk administration for bringing on war with Mexico, though he always voted for appropriations to sustain it.
His opposition to the war was unpopular in his district, however. When the annexations of territory from Mexico brought up the question of the status of slavery in the new lands, Lincoln voted for the Wilmot Proviso and other measures designed to confine the institution to the states where it already existed.
Disillusionment with Politics
In the campaign of 1848, Lincoln labored strenuously for the nomination and election of Gen. Zachary TAYLOR. He served on the Whig
National Committee, attended the national convention at Philadelphia, and made campaign speeches. With the Whig national ticket victorious, he hoped to share with Baker the control of federal patronage in his home state. The juiciest plum that had been promised to Illinois was the position of commissioner of the General Land Office in Washington. After trying vainly to reconcile two rival candidates for this office, Lincoln tried to obtain it for himself. But he had little influence with the new administration.
The most that it would offer him was the governorship or secretaryship of the Oregon Territory. Neither job appealed to him, and he returned to
Springfield thoroughly disheartened.
Never one to repine, however, Lincoln now devoted himself to becoming a better lawyer and a more enlightened man. Pitching into his law books with greater zest, he also resumed his study of Shakespeare and mastered the first six books of Euclid as a mental discipline. At the same time, he renewed acquaintances and won new friends around the circuit. Law practice was changing as the country developed, especially with the advent of railroads and the growth of corporations. Lincoln, conscientiously keeping pace, became one of the state's outstanding lawyers, with a steadily increasing practice, not only on the circuit but also in the state supreme court and the federal courts. Regular travel to Chicago to attend court sessions became part of his routine when Illinois was divided into two federal districts.
Outwardly, however, Lincoln remained unchanged in his simple, somewhat rustic ways. Six feet four inches (1.9 meters) tall, weighing about 180 pounds (82 kg), ungainly, slightly stooped, with a seamed and rugged countenance and unruly hair, he wore a shabby old top hat, an ill-fitting frock coat and pantaloons, and unblacked boots. His genial manner and fund of stories won him a host of friends. Yet, notwithstanding his friendly ways, he had a certain natural dignity that discouraged familiarity and commanded respect.
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