The Lincoln Letter

I meant to have this done and out in time for Lincoln’s February 12th birthday, but life happens.  One of my family tropes is that some of our ancestors met the other ancestors when they got off in Plymouth.  So yes, we’re classified with the mongrels in America, though the girls in the bunch can lay a whole Victorian silver service for 12 and dress out the turkey that will be eaten with it. With that said, my grandmother, a very proud DAR had a great aunt who came out from Boston with her husband and set up housekeeping in Springfield, IL sometime in the early 1800’s.

                   It is said that Great-great-Aunt was a bit of a snob.  Ok, a total snob.  After all, she was the wife of the biggest new banker in Springfield, owned a brick house and from Boston.  She was one of those Bostonians who live on the hills and are nasally structured in such a way as to drown if it rains.  It is her blasted silver we had to learn to layout and the proper uses of things like fish knives and toast rakes!  And then, we come to the family heirloom that always gives me a giggle.

In times gone by, people wrote Long, Very Long letters.  All the news for a month or two would be written out over time and then sent out to the people back home.  Correspondence was very much in the genteel ladies repertoire.  Such is the letter, written by my great-great-aunt in the early 1830’s.  The gossip, shopping, who was dead, who’d had a baby, who’d gone broke and on and on.  Then, in the midst of this very mundane letter, a name leaps off the page.  And this is what my oh so upper crusted relative had to say about Lincoln:

“Gertrude, I know you will be just as shocked and dismayed as I am when I tell you that those white trash, the Lincolns, that live down by the river (possibly a reference to Lincoln’s time in New Salem, just downstream from Springfield on the Sangamon River).  Why, their son, the store clerk has had the audacity to read for the Law!  What is this world coming to when folks like that think they can know the Law?  I ask you. And his mother, well, she’s no better than she ought to be for all her education.” (this was probably a reference to his father’s much younger 2nd wife and her being some sort of teacher).

There it is, in sepia on parchment, what the “town leaders” thought of the aspirations of a young man that all Americans have some sort of opinion about, one way or another.  

Happy Birthday President Lincoln!  Oh, btw, they went broke in the late 1800’s bank panics.  The family silver and this letter are all that is left.

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