Abraham Lincoln to Mr. Wallace, January 18511Springfield, Ill.
Jan. 1851.Mr. Wallace, Peoria:Dear Sir:
This boy wants to reach the Rock River country somewhere near Beloit.2 If he needs any assistance so you can help him in any way, it will be appreciated, and I will be responsible.3Yours,A. Lincoln
1This note is attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but the original note in Lincoln’s hand has not been located.
Neither Gilbert J. Greene, the “boy” referred to in this note, nor Gilbert A. Tracy, who originally published a transcription of this note in his Uncollected Letters of Abraham Lincoln, identified the first name of Mr. Wallace. The editors were also unable to identify Mr. Wallace’s first name. In his Lincoln the Comforter, Greene noted only that Mr. Wallace was “a business man” in Peoria.
Gilbert A. Tracy, Uncollected Letters of Abraham Lincoln (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1917), 45; Gilbert J. Greene, Lincoln the Comforter (Hancock, NY: Herald Press, 1916), 39.
2Gilbert J. Greene was attempting to reach his home in far northern Illinois, near the border with Wisconsin, after being forced out of his temporary residence near Jackson, Tennessee by threats of violence following public arguments he made against the institution of slavery. He began a long, arduous journey to his home with only the few dollars in his pockets and the clothing he wore when he first spotted armed men patrolling his Tennessee residence and fled.
Gilbert J. Greene, Lincoln the Comforter, 26-30
3After walking to Memphis, Tennessee and taking a river boat to Cairo, Illinois, Greene walked all day in the direction of his home. He then stayed overnight at the home of farmer Jacob Strause, near Jacksonville, in exchange for agreeing to take Lincoln some legal papers as he passed through Springfield, thirty-five miles to the north of Strause’s farmhouse, the next day. When Greene arrived to deliver the papers, Lincoln was interested in why he had walked the entire distance, particularly since the weather was cold and snowy. After hearing Greene’s story, Lincoln discussed the institution of slavery with him for some time. He then gave Greene $5.00 for delivering the papers, scribbled a note in the margin of the edition of the Louisville Journal he had been reading upon Greene’s arrival at his office, tore the note off, handed it to Greene, pointed to the Globe Hotel across the square from his office, and told him to stay there until he was able to continue on his journey.
The next morning, as Greene prepared to leave the hotel, a messenger delivered this handwritten note from Lincoln, asking Mr. Wallace to render what aid he could to Greene, should Greene require it, and accepting the responsibility for the cost of such aid. Greene did not meet Wallace, eventually made it home after walking a total of more than 800 miles on foot, and claimed he sold this “dingy” note around 1871 for $20.00.
Gilbert J. Greene, Lincoln the Comforter, 26-40; Gilbert A. Tracy, Uncollected Letters of Abraham Lincoln, 45; Illinois Daily Journal (Springfield), 2 January 1851, 1:2; James T. Hickey, “The Lincolns’ Globe Tavern: A Study in Tracing the History of a Nineteenth-Century Building,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 56 (Winter 1963), 632.
Printed Transcription, 1 page(s), Gilbert A. Tracy Uncollected Letters of Abraham Lincoln (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1917), 45.