Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Abraham Lincoln and Women

Mary Todd Lincoln
Lucky in politics, unlucky in love may have been a good motto for Lincoln.

Lincoln’s first infatuation was with a young woman named Anne Rutledge. They met in 1835, shortly after he moved to New Salem. It is said Lincoln had a great fondness for her.

Unfortunately, Anne Rutledge died suddenly in August of 1835. She was twenty-two years old. Lincoln was heartbroken.

Lincoln’s next love interest was Mary Owen. She was a Kentucky girl, and Lincoln met her in 1836 when she was visiting her sister in New Salem. They had a short courtship that lasted less than a year.


Mary Todd came into Lincoln’s life in December of 1839. They were engaged in December of 1840, and planned on marrying the next year. Lincoln soon had second thoughts and broke off the engagement. They met again in 1842, and ended up tying the knot on November 4th of that year.

Lincoln Douglas Debates

Lincoln Douglas Debates at Knox College (from a 
1912 postcard)
The Lincoln Douglas Debates came about because of a rift in the Republican Party in 1857. Stephen Douglas had broken away from the Democratic Party in the summer of that year over the slavery issue.

Horace Greeley requested the Illinois Republicans keep the seat open for Douglas as he attempted to woo him into the party.

To Lincoln this was a personal affront. Lincoln wrote, “Greeley is not doing me right. I am a true Republican, and have been tried already in the hottest part of the fight; and yet I find him taking up Douglas, a veritable dodger, once a tool of the south, now its enemy.”

In June of 1858 the Republican State Convention meeting at Springfield nominated Lincoln as their candidate for senate.

It was at this convention Lincoln uttered these famous words,

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be free.”

After that Lincoln accused Buchan, Taney, Pierce, and Douglas of trying to legalize slavery both in the North and the South. It was a brilliant move that forced Douglas to come out and defend his position.

What followed was the Lincoln Douglas Debates.

To his friends Douglas confided, “I do not feel between you and me, that I want to go into this debate. The whole country knows me and has me measured. Lincoln, as regards myself, is comparatively unknown, and if he gets the best of this debate, and I want to say he is the ablest man the Republicans have got, I shall lose everything, and he will gain everything.”

The debates took place between August 21 and October 15, 1858, with the first one being held at Ottawa, Illinois.

Stephen Douglas could best be described as a stuffy pompous ass. He had a special car on the Illinois Central Railroad, and often times it sped by Lincoln while he was sidetracked waiting for his train to begin moving.

Douglas was met at each stop by a brass band and a 32 gun salute, one for each state in the Union. Lincoln was carried to his speech either on the shoulders of his followers (as was done at Ottawa) or drawn there atop a hay wagon. His followers were contemptuous of Douglas’s pompousness.

In the end, Lincoln lost the race for senator, but won the race for President. His greatest victory in the debates came during the second debate held at Freeport. Against the better judgment of his advisors, Lincoln posed Douglas the following question – “Can the people of a United States territory in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formulation of a State Constitution?”


Douglas’s answer was slavery could be kept out of the territories by legislation other than a state constitution. It became known as “the Freeport Doctrine,” and two years later at the Democratic Presidential Convention of 1860, the South refused to support Douglas as a candidate because of it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Duels of Andrew Jackson


Andrew Jackson fought at least three duels in his lifetime.

His first duel took place in 1788. The twenty-one year old Jackson was ridiculed by Revolutionary war hero Waightsill Avery, and demanded satisfaction. Clearer heads took charge by the time they met to fight, and both men agreed to miss when they fired.

Jackson’s next duel was with Tennessee Governor John Sevier in 1802. Jackson, who at this time was a judge on the Tennessee Supreme Court, accused the ex-governor of dealing in forged land warrants. Sevier burst into his chambers brandishing a sword, and demanded satisfaction. The duel was scheduled to be fought in Virginia, but never took place.


Jackson’s final duel took place at Harrison’s Mill, Kentucky where he faced down Charles Dickinson. The men stood twenty-four feet apart. Dickinson fired first, putting a ball in Jackson’s chest. To his surprise Jackson barely reacted. Instead, he leveled his pistol, took deliberate aim, and shot Charles Dickinson dead.