How Lincoln Received the Nomination


Richard Hershberger

Richard Hershberger is a paralegal working in Maryland. When he isn't doing whatever it is that paralegals do, or taking his daughters to Girl Scouts, he is dedicated to the collection and analysis of useless and unremunerative information.

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17 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Montgomery Clift was gay. I suppose he could have still had sex with Elizabeth Taylor though.

    Great piece thoughReport

  2. Avatar Dan Scotto says:

    Excellent post. Lincoln loved the telegraph, definitely, and he genuinely liked the mechanics of politics. So I can’t imagine he played much ball during the day. (I think I’ve read that he might have in the morning…)Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to Dan Scotto says:

      Regarding that morning, I don’t believe it. This smacks of someone trying to salvage the story by finding a gap in his known schedule, and assigning the ball game to it. There is a thriving tradition of trying to associate Lincoln with baseball. The sad fact is that the first president known to have attended a baseball game was Andrew Johnson. This is clearly unacceptable, hence the push back to Lincoln. These attempts include taking an actual game account, filing off the date, and assigning it to the Lincoln administration. Who is going to go back and check? (Answer: Me.)Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Dan Scotto says:

      There’s also Lincoln’s reputation (which some people embellish on) that he far preferred socialization with all male groupings of people.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko in reply to Kolohe says:

        Which is not fair. He had deep care and affection for his wife and given the presence of children from the marriage there is good reason to believe he “performed his husbandly duties.”

        A compromise is possible and again, baseball shows the way. Some players bat left-handed. Some bat right-handed. This is not the universe of available options.Report

  3. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I deeply loved this cocktail of history, Baseball Bullshit, Political Bullshit, and dry wit. An unalloyed delight.

    Keep ’em coming, @richard-hershberger .Report

  4. Avatar PD Shaw says:

    I enjoyed reading this and having read a lot of Lincoln books have never come across any discussion of him playing ball, but your judgments seem sound.

    “Out in the sticks in places like Springfield, Illinois, the traditional local versions still prevailed.”

    Springfield was largely settled from the Upper South, particularly from Northern Kentucky, so if the sport was called “town ball” in the Ohio River valley, that’s most likely what it would be called in Springfield.

    It was a rapidly urbanizing city when Lincoln arrived, but the gender ratios were heavily skewed to the male-side as one would expect in a frontier area. As a result, it was dominated by male youth culture where men remained single into their mid 30s. The young men hung-out together, arguing politics, telling stories and playing games, including sports and contests of strength and skill. Lincoln certainly enjoyed the comradery, and if ball was played at that time, its hard to imagine he didn’t, unless there was alcohol involved.Report

  5. Avatar PD Shaw says:

    I also note there are two different events being described. The first is when Lincoln first learned of the nomination, which as noted above, we know Lincoln learned of the nomination personally by telegraph. He was getting telegraphed after each round of voting, surrounded by friends, after which he went home.

    A few days later, formal notification came by an official delegation, which was an organized meeting, which was itself preceded by an advance party to make arrangements. There are a number of accounts of these events, including whether Mary should be permitted to be present, and the anxious neighbors stocking the Lincoln household with alcohol for the notable guests, which upset Mary.

    If there is some truth to the story, it is more likely that it happened when any number of politicians, and newspaper reporters came to Springfield to check-out Lincoln.Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to PD Shaw says:

      Except that the contemporary account is clear that this was breaking news. The delegation story is in the half-century-later version. I suppose that it is possible that Spalding changed the story to make it more plausible, but I doubt it. I think it is simply a garbled version.Report

      • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

        OK, I see your point. What newspaper reported this? The standard account has him waiting at the Illinois State Journal (the Springfield Republican paper), waiting and commenting to others as developments at the convention arrive by telegraph. This is the standard account from Michael Burlingame’s Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Chapter 15):

        When the news of Lincoln’s victory reached Springfield, the bearer of the dispatch rushed into the office of the Illinois State Journal, where the candidate and a large crowd has been following events, and proposed “three rousing cheers for Abraham Lincoln, the next President of the United States.” After the huzzahing, Lincoln took the dispatch, read it, accepted congratulations from all present, and said: “I must go home; there is a little short woman there that is more interested in this matter than I am.” En route, people stopped him on the street to offer congratulations. He thanked them and jestingly said: “you had better come and shake hands with me now that you have an opportunity – for you do not know what influence this nomination may have on me. I am human, you know.” He then returned home and remained there the rest of the day.

        There is certainly a feigned disinterest by this account similar in attitude to the ball story. But looking at the supporting footnote, I found this comment:

        Other versions of the events of this memorable day, which seem less plausible than these, can be found in the reminiscences of T. W. S. Kidd, Illinois State Register (Springfield), 13 February 1903; an undated statement of George M. Brinkerhoff, Sr., in Weik, Real Lincoln, ed. Burlingame, 410-11; and Clinton L. Conkling, “How Mr. Lincoln Received the News of His First Nomination,” Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society 14 (1909): 63-66. Kidd denied the story that Lincoln was playing ball when he received word of his nomination. So too did Christopher C. Brown and James Gourley. Chicago Times-Herald, 25 August 1895; Wilson and Davis, eds., Herndon’s Informants, 437-38, 453.


        • Avatar Richard Hershberger in reply to PD Shaw says:

          What newspaper reported this?

          Many, but none that I have seen that would have any plausible claim on original reporting of this. It was widely copied, as was typical at the time.Report

          • Avatar PD Shaw in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

            OK, I was just curious if was also traced to the Illinois Journal.

            There is a posthumous interview conducted by Herndon of Lincoln’s neighbor James Gourley who said: “We played the old fashioned town ball — jumped — ran — fought & danced. Lincoln played town ball — he hopped well — in 3 hops he would go 40.2 on a dead level.”

            He’s not making this comment in reference to any specific event; he was simply a next-door neighbor of 19 years reminiscing. It would be hard to imagine why he would simply make this up as opposed to sharing things he remembered.

            I’ll stop my obsessing now. I had never heard of “town ball,” and was unaware that Lincoln would have played baseball, my favorite sport.Report

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  7. Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

    The source for the campaign squib is San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin of June 16, 1860. That is just the one I happened to pull it from. The item appeared widely.

    The Spalding version of the story is from his book “America’s National Game” 1911 edition (1992 facsimile reprint) p. 361.

    For what Lincoln was actually doing that day, see Douglas Wilson and Rodney Davis eds., “Herndon’s Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln”

    The bit about Mongtomery Blair is from the 1900 bood by.Ida M. Tarbell, “The Life of Abraham Lincoln”

    As for the interpretations, these are my own fevered imaginings. Take them for what they are worth.Report