Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, 27 March 18421Springfield, March 27th 1842Dear Speed:2
Yours of the 10th Inst was received three or four days since—3 You know I am sincere, when I tell you, the pleasure it’s contents gave me was and is inexpressible4— As to your farm matter, I have no sympathy with you— I have no farm, nor ever expect to have; and, consequently, have not studied the subject enough to be much interested with it— I can only say that I am glad you are satisfied and pleased with it—
But on that other subject, to me of the most intense interest, whether in joy or sorrow, I never had the power to withhold my sympathy from you— It can not be told, how it now thrills me with joy, to hear you say you are "far happier than you ever expected to be". That much I know is enough— I know you too well ^to^ suppose your expectations were not, at least sometimes, extra[v]agant; and if the reality exceeds them all, I say, enough dear Lord— I am not going beyond the truth, when I tell you, that the short space it took me to read my your last letter, gave me more pleasure, than the total sum of all I h[av]e enjoyed since that fatal first of Jany '41[January 1841]—5 Since then, it seems to me, I should have been entirely happy, but for the never-absent idea, that there is one
<Page 2>still unhappy whom I have contributed to make so— That still kills my soul— I can not but reproach myself, for ^even^ wishing to be happy while she is otherwise—6 She accompanied a large party on the Rail Road cars cars, to Jacksonville last monday; and on her return, spoke, so that I heard of it, of having enjoyed the trip exceedingly— God be praised for that—
You know with what sleepless vigilance I have watched you, ever since the commencement of your affair; and altho,,[although] I am now almost confident it is useless, I can not forbear once more to say that I think it is even yet possible for your spirits to flag down and leave you miserable— If they should dont fail to remember that they can not long remain so—
One thing I can tell you which I know you will be glad to hear; and that is, that I have seen Sarah, and scrutinized her feelings as well as I could, and am fully convinced, she is far happier now, than she has been for the last fifteen months past—
You will see by the last Sangamo Journal that I made a Temperance speech on the 22— of Feb which I claim that Fanny and you shall read as an act of charity to me; for I can not learn that any body else has read it, or is likely to— Fortunately, it is not very long,
<Page 3>and I shall deem it a sufficient compliance with my request, if one of you listens while the other reads it— As to your Lockridge matter, it is only necessary to say that there has been no court since you left, and that the next, commences to-morrow morning, during which I suppose we can not fail to get a judgement—7
I wish you would learn of Everett what he will take, over and above a discharge for all trouble we have been at, to take his business out of our hands and give it to somebody else—8 It is impossible to collect money on that or any other claim here now; [and?] altho,, you know I am not a very petulant m[an] I declare I am almost out of patience with . . . Everett's endless importunity— It seems like [he not] only writes all the letters he can himself; [but] gets every body else in Louisville and vicinity to be constantly writing to us about his claim—
I have always [h]eard that Mr Evere[tt] [is] a very clever fellow, and I am very [sor]ry he can not be obliged; but it does seem to me he ought to know we are interested [to?] collect his money, and therefore would do [so,] if we could— I am neither joking nor in a . . . when I say we would thank him to transfer his business to some other, without any compensation for what
<Page 4>we have done, provided he will see the court cost paid, for which we are security—
The sweet violet you enclosed, came safely to hand, but it was so dry, and mashed so flat flat that it crumbled to dust at the first attempt to handle it— The juice that mashed out of it, stained a [place?] on the letter, which I mean to preserve and ch[erish] for the sake of her who procured it to be se[nt.]9 My renewed good wishes to her, in particula[r] an[d] generally to all such of your relatives as know me—As everLincolnSPRINGFIELD Il.
MAR[March]Mr J. F. SpeedLouisvilleKentucky
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter. He also wrote the address on the last page, which was folded to create an envelope.
2Sometime in 1840, Lincoln began courting Mary Todd, and the two broke up subsequently. Historians, and indeed onlookers at the time, have disagreed about the underlying cause, but suffice it to say that the breakup pushed Lincoln into a deep depression. Compounding this, in April, his close friend Joshua Speed moved home to Louisville, Kentucky, where he soon began courting Fanny Henning, who he married in February 1842. Sometime in 1842, Lincoln and Mary Todd renewed their courtship. From January 1842 until his own marriage in November 1842, Lincoln exchanged many letters with Speed mutually consoling and reassuring each other on the matter of their respective romances.
See Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed; Jean H. Baker, Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987), 85-86, 89-91, 93, 97; Interview of Ninian W. Edwards, 22 September 1865; Joshua F. Speed to William H. Herndon, 30 November 1866; Interview with Joshua F. Speed, , Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, eds., Herndon’s Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 133, 430-31, 477.
5Historians have long assumed that the “fatal first” references the date of Lincoln’s breakup with Mary Todd, but more recent scholarship has brought that into question.
Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1:282; Jean H. Baker, Mary Todd Lincoln (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987), 89-90; “Abraham Lincoln and ‘That Fatal First of January,’” Douglas L. Wilson, Lincoln before Washington: New Perspectives on the Illinois Years (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), 99-132.
7Speed had been a partner in the mercantile firm of James Bell & Co. in Springfield. In 1841, the partners retained Logan & Lincoln to sue John Lockridge for payment of a $294.43 debt. On March 28, 1842, the court ruled for Bell & Co., awarding $312.09 in damages. There were two adult males named John Lockridge in the 1840s in Sangamon County; it is impossible to tell which is the one sued by Bell & Co.
James Bell & Co. v. Lockridge, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org.
8Logan & Lincoln handled several cases involving Isaac Everett. In March 1841, they were litigating Throckmorton & Everett v. Francis et al. Later that year, they handled Rogers v. Francis et al., in which Everett was a defendant. In 1844, Lincoln handled an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court on behalf of Everett and Avis Throckmorton.
Throckmorton & Everett v. Francis et al., Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=140532; Dockum v. Throckmorton & Everett, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=138800; Rogers v. Francis et al., Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=140327.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).