Abraham Lincoln to Joshua F. Speed, 4 July 18421Springfield, Ills— July 4th 1842—Dear Speed:
Yours of the 16th June was received only a day or two since—2 It was not mailed at Louisville till the 25th— You speak of the great time that has elapsed since I wrote you— Let me explain that. Your letter reached here a day or two after I started on the circuit; I was gone five or six weeks, so that I got the letter only a few days before ^Butler^ started to your country—3 I thought it scarcely worth while to write you the news, which he could and would tell you more in detail— On his return, he told me you would write me soon; and so I waited for your letter— As to my having been displeased with your advice, surely you know better than that— I know you do; and therefore I will not labour to convince you— True, that subject is painfull to me; but it is not your silence, or the silence of all the world that can make me forget it— I acknowledge the correctness of your advice too; but before I resolve to do the one thing or the other, I must regain my confidence in my own ability to keep my resolves when when they are made— In that ability, you know, I once prided myself as the only, or at least the chief, gem of my character; that
<Page 2>gem I lost— how, and when, you too well know— I have not yet regained it; and until I do, I can not trust myself in any matter of much importance— I believe now that, had you understood my case at the time, as well as I understood yours afterwards, by the aid you would have given me, I should have sailed through clear; but that does not ^now^ afford me sufficient confidence, to begin that, or the like of that, again—4
You make a kind acknowledgement of your obligations to me for your present happiness— I am much pleased with that acknowlegement; but a thousand times more am I pleased to know, ^that^ you enjoy a degree of happiness, worthy of an acknowledgement— The truth is, I am not sure there was any merit, ^with me^ on my part, in the part I took in your difficulty; I was drawn to it as by fate; if I would, I could not have done less than I did— I always ^was^ superstitious; and as part of my superstition, I believe God made me one of the instruments of bringing your Fanny and you together, which union, I have no doubt He had fore-ordained— Whatever he designs, he will do for me yet— "Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord" is my text just now—5 If, as you say, you have told Fanny all, I should have no objection to her seeing this letter, but for it's reference to our friend here—6 Let her seeing it, depend on whether she has ever known any thing of my affair;
<Page 3>and if she has not, do not let her—
I do not think I can come to Kentucky this season— I am so poor, and make so little headway in the world, that I drop back in a month of idleness, as much as I gain in a year's rowing— I sh[ou]ld like to visit you again— I should like to see that "Sis" of yours, that was absent when I was there; tho,,[though] I suppose she would run away again, if she were to hear I was coming—7
About your collecting business—8 We have sued Branson; and will sue the others to the next court, unless they give deeds of trust as you require—9 Col Allen happened in the offic[e] since I commenced this letter, and promises to give a deed of trust— He says he had made the arrangement to pay you, and would have done it, but for the going down of the Shawanee money—10 We did not get the note in time to sue Hall at the last Tazewell court—11 Lockridge's property is levied on for you—12 John Irwin has done nothing with that Baker & Van Bergen matter—13 We will not fail to bring the suits for your use, where they are in the name of James Bell & Co. I have made you a subscriber to the Journal; and also sent the number containing the temperance speech— My respect and esteem to all your friends there; and, by your permission, my love to your Fanny—Ever yours—Lincoln
<Page 4>SPRINGFIELD Il[Illinois]
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed the letter. He also authored the address on the back page, which was folded to create an envelope.
3“The circuit” is a reference to the legal circuit, wherein the judge, other court officials, and many lawyers travelled from one county seat to the next, holding the circuit court in each county in succession. As junior partner of Stephen T. Logan, Lincoln took on the duty of doing business on the Eighth Judicial Circuit. In 1842, the Eighth Judicial Circuit started in Sangamon County in late March and ran successively thereafter in Tazewell, McLean, Livingston, De Witt, Champaign, Macon, Shelby, Christian, Logan, and Menard counties, ending in June.
Daniel W. Stowell et al., eds., Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases, (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008), 1:191; Sec. 21, “An Act to Establish Circuit Courts,” 23 February 1841, Laws of Illinois (1841), 108-9.
4The last half of this paragraph likely refers to Lincoln’s courtship of Mary Todd, which had renewed sometime earlier in the year. From January 1842 until his marriage in November 1842, Lincoln exchanged many letters with Speed, advising 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.
7In The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Roy P. Basler notes this may refer either to Speed’s niece or to his younger sister, Eliza Davis Speed. Lincoln had visited Speed’s family home in Louisville in August and September of 1841.
Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1:261, n6; Robert L. Kincaid, Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Most Intimate Friend (Harrogate, TN: Lincoln Memorial University, 1943), 15.
8In January 1842, Speed moved home to Louisville, Kentucky, from Springfield, Illinois, where he had been a partner in the mercantile firm of James Bell & Company. He hired Logan & Lincoln to collect the outstanding debts owed to him by Illinois residents.
Daniel W. Stowell et al., eds., Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases, 1:251-52; Joshua F. Speed to William H. Herndon, 17 September 1866, Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, eds., Herndon’s Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 342.
9Logan & Lincoln had brought suit against John Branson Jr. at the July term of the Sangamon County Circuit Court. The parties reached an agreement, and the court dismissed the case on July 25. In August, they sued William Hall in the Tazewell County Circuit Court.
James Bell & Co. v. Branson, James Bell & Co. v. Hall, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org.
10This is a reference to the paper money printed by the Bank of Illinois, which was headquartered at Shawneetown. The Bank of Illinois failed in June, and its paper money, which had been discounted before the bank’s insolvency, was more heavily discounted afterwards.
Roy P. Basler, ed., Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 1:286, n3; Charles Hunter Garnett, State Banks of Issue in Illinois (Champaign: University of Illinois, 1898), 38.
11Logan & Lincoln brought the suit against Hall at the August 1842 term of the Tazewell County Circuit Court.
James Bell & Co. v. Hall, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org; Daniel W. Stowell et al., eds., Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases, 1:251-58.
12In 1841, James Bell & Co. retained Logan & Lincoln to sue John Lockridge for payment of a $294.43 debt. On March 18, 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 one was 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, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org.
Autograph Letter Signed, 4 page(s), Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL)