The Real Life – Abraham Lincoln by George Alfred Townsend

SPRINGFIELD, III., Jan. 25, 1867.

When history makes up its mind to commemorate a place, no special correspondence can keep pace with it1. After Mr. Lincoln’s nomination to the Presidency—the most Republican of all coups d’etat—2the little city of Springfield ascended at a bound from the commonplace to the memorable. Caravans of patriots from all the other States wended across the prairies to visit it. From a market town,3 where eggs were duly exchanged for calico, and the father of the family reported himself twice a year to get stone-drunk, it rose to be the home of a President, and sent him across the continent to usefulness and martyrdom. His body lies near by it—shrine which any city might covet—and his prim frame residence,4 practical and mud-colored,5 I have walked around these two nights, to find my curiosity shared by a half-dozen couples, looking upon it as if the tall ghost of its former owner might possibly appear.

I came here to lecture;6 of two days leisure spared me I have passed one-half of each in conversation with a man who knew the great citizen of Springfield for twenty years anterior to his Chief Magistracy better and closer than any human being. Until very lately you might have read upon a bare stairway, opposite the State House Square, the sign of LINCOLN & HERNDON. A year ago it gave place to the name of HERNDON & ZANE.7 Ascending the stairs one flight,8 you see two doors opening to your right hand. That in the rear leads to what was for one generation the law office of the President.9 Within, it is a dismantled room, strewn with faded briefs and leaves of law books; no desks nor chairs remaining; its single bracket of gas darkened in the center, by whose flame he whom our children’s children shall reverently name, prepared, perhaps, his gentle, sturdy utterances; and out of its window you get a sweep of stable-roofs and dingy back yards, where he must have looked a thousand times, pondering Freedom and Empire, with his eye upon ash-heaps and crowing cocks and young Americans sledging or ball-playing.10. As simple an office,11 even for a country lawyer, as ever I saw in my life, it is now in the transition condition of being prepared for another tenant. In the middle of the room the future President sat at a table side, and in the adjoining front room this table and all the furniture of the place is still retained, while in its back corner, looking meditatively at the cylinder stove, you see Mr. Herndon, the partner and authority I have referred to.


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