Abraham Lincoln is considered one of our greatest Presidents. Perhaps the greatest.
We know he was born in a log cabin, became a Republican, was elected the sixteenth President of the United States, saved the Union, freed the slaves, delivered the Gettysburg Address, and was assassinated.
There is a personal part of Lincoln not well known. Such is the thrust of this article. To share the less well known with you.
Lincoln at age 22 was a bartender. Purportedly a licensed bartender.
Lncoln returned from the Black Hawk War and ran for the Illinois State Legislature. He lost. He was living in New Salem, Illinois at the time. He and a William Berry decided to open a general store and drinking establishment. The store to sell lard, bacon, firearms, beeswax and honey. The tavern portion alcoholic beverages.
Illinois law provided that if alcohol was sold for consumption on the premises, a license was required. Another requirement was that if even taken off premises for consumption, if less than a quart, a license was required.
William Berry obtained the license. All bartenders had to sign. It appears Berry forged Lincoln’s signature.
The business opened in January 1833. Lincoln had Berry buy him out three months later. The business was not making money. Debts were increasing rapidly. Berry was an alcoholic. He was drinking up the profits. Lincoln contributed to the failure of the business, also. He was lazy. Spent his time reading and chatting with customers rather than working.
Two years later, Berry died. The business debts were even more than when Lincoln had withdrawn. Berry left an estate of $60. The business debts exceeded $1,100. A lot of money at the time.
Lincoln had no legal responsibility for the debts. However, he felt a moral obligation to pay them. He went to each creditor and advised he would see that they were paid. However he could promise no time frame. It took 13 years for all the debts to be paid. Till 1848.
Interestingly, Lincoln was not a drinker. He abstained from alcohol. Whether a drinker was no big deal in the 1820s and 1830s. Illinois was a frontier state. Drinking was part of frontier society life. The backwoodsmen were all heavy boozers. No one thought anything less of those who enjoyed their drinks.
Things changed as time ran on. A temperance league was formed. It gained power and popularity. By the Senate race in 1858 and the Presidential race in 1860, drinking was a major national issue.
Lincoln’s short lived partnership with Berry many years earlier in 1822 became an issue. Lincoln’s purported signature on the license evidenced that he sold the dirty brew. Lincoln refused to acknowledge the license, saying Berry had forged his name. He further stated he worked only the store portion of the business and had nothing to do with the tavern. He also relied on the fact he was known not to be a drinker.
It did not bother Lincoln that others drank. As General Ulysses Grant’s Civil War successes became evident, Lincoln told one of his aides to “…..find out what Grant is drinking and send a case of it to all my generals.” Grant was a known heavy drinker. Considered by some to be an alcoholic.
Earlier, I mentioned Lincoln was a bit lazy. He was of the opinion that at least for himself, physical labor was to be avoided. His step brother once said to Lincoln, “I doubt whether since I saw you, you have done a good whole day’s work in any one day.”
Tobacco was big at all times during Lincoln’s life. He did not partake of tobacco, either smoking or chewing.
Other than his brief time in the Black Hawk War when he was in his very early 20s, Lincoln never carried nor used a gun. Even for hunting.
He advocated the vote for women. Hard to believe that someone that far back was promoting the cause for women.
Lincoln was a sloppy dresser. Even when President. Clothes were of no importance to him. Even his hair. He rarely combed his hair.
Lincoln avoided profanity. At all times. “By Jingo!” was the strongest expletive used by him in the White House.
Ann Rutledge was Lincoln’s first love.
Ann’s father was a founder of New Salem. Ann was engaged to a John Mac Namar. Described as a dubious character. The engagement took place before Ann and Lincoln met. Mac Namar left for New York City after the engagement. He forgot to return.
Ann and Lincoln fell in love during Mac Namar’s absence. Things were different back then. She did not feel she could marry Lincoln until Mac Namar released her from her promise to marry. She wrote him many times. Mac Namar ignored her letters. Ann and Lincoln were anxious for Mac Namar’s return so they could have a sit down and obtain the release.
Mac Namar returned to New Salem after Ann’s death. Typhoid intervened in 1835. Ann died from the typhoid. She was only 22 years old. Lincoln went into severe depression.
Historians are mixed as to whether Lincoln loved Ann. After his election as President, Lincoln is reported to have told his old friend Issac Cogdal, “I loved the woman dearly and soundly…..I did honestly and truly love the girl and think often-often of her now.”
Ann was buried locally in the New Salem area. A small cheap marker for a stone.
In 1890, an undertaker became financially interested in the cemetery. For other than burial purposes. Ann was exhumed and reburied in Oakland Cemetery in Petersburg, Illinois.
A new stone marked her grave. A large granite one. Part of the inscription on the new stone read as follows: “I am Ann Rutledge who sleeps beneath these weeds, Beloved in life of Abraham Lincoln, wedded to him though not through union, But through separation. Bloom forever, O Republic, from the dust of my bosom.”
Thus are some of the personal parts of Lincoln’s life. As great as his public figure, it is good to be reminded his life prior to the Presidency was that of a common man. He enjoyed and suffered life in the same fashion as the people he ultimately represented.
Such contributed to his being a great President.
Most Presidential candidates today are not of Lincoln’s ilk. The group consists of millionaires, children of millionaires, corporate leaders, and the like. No wonder we are screwed up.
Most do not know or understand America.