A True Estimate of Abraham Lincoln
and Vindication of the South
by Mildred Lewis Rutherford
Abraham Lincoln is held up as a great prohibitionist. He was not. While never a drunkard himself, he did not hesitate to make others drunk. On 6 March 1833, Lincoln had a Saloon License issued under the name of Berry & Lincoln. This license was certified to by Charles E. Apel, County Clerk of Sangamon County, Illinois, 25 April 1908. They were allowed to sell whiskey, rum, wine, Holland gin, apple, peach, and French brandy. The Bond is now in existence signed by Abraham Lincoln.
Some will argue that it was quite common for taverns and inns to have saloons connected with them in Lincoln’s time. So it was, but the saloon keeper was never held up as a prohibitionist.
Then on 19 December 1840, an act was presented to the Illinois House of Representatives (Abraham Lincoln being a member of the Legislature at that time) to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors and to have a fine of $1,000 placed upon the sale of any vinous or spiritous liquors after the passing of the act. Abraham Lincoln moved to lay the bill on the table, and this was done.(1)
Lamon, in speaking on this subject, said, "When President he signed the liquor revenue bill and turned the saloons loose on the country. The people all drank and Abe was for doing what the people did."(2)
Abraham Lincoln was a remarkable man in that he fooled so many people most of the time — but he was neither good nor great.
An irreligious and vulgar man cannot be called good. A man who says one thing and does another cannot be called great.
He was not an honest man. I do not mean to say that he would steal, for there cannot be found in his life anything to indicate the slightest dishonesty along this line, although he did wink at it in others. He died with empty coffers. Had he been dishonest he could have died rich. It is true he was called "Honest Abe," but he was not honest in his speech, and he was not honest in his politics.
His Republican Party that felt the necessity of exalting him since his death could not have worshipped him before he died, or they would not have allowed his widow to plead for support as her lately discovered letters show,(3) nor have allowed her to accept charity from Cyrus Field as testified by J.P. Morgan,(4) who said elsewhere:
I supported President Lincoln. I believed his war policy would be the only way to save the country, but I see my mistake. I visited Washington a few weeks ago, and I saw the corruption of the present administration — and so long as Abraham Lincoln and his Cabinet are in power, so long will war continue. And for what? For the preservation of the Constitution and the Union? No, but for the sake of politicians and government contractors.(5)
Horace Greeley said, "I cannot trust ‘honest old Abe.’ He is too smart for me." Yes, Lincoln was smart — that term fits him. He saw Seward was too smart and would give trouble out of the Cabinet, so he made him Secretary of State — better to have him in than out. He saw Chase was aspiring to be President, so he named him Chief Justice to get rid of him. Chase had been called "the irritating fly in the ointment" at the White House. Lincoln was smart enough to know it was his daughter, Mrs. Kate Chase Sprague, who was managing her father’s Presidential aspirations. So he anticipated her schemes and without her knowledge had her father made Chief Justice. When Sumner told her of her father’s appointment as Chief Justice, she replied, "Are you, too, Mr. Sumner, in this business of shelving papa?"(6) Cameron was giving trouble so he made him Minister to Russia.
Mr. Lincoln did not possess a single quality for his office as President. People said he was good and honest and well meaning, but never pretended that he was great.
He was only nominated by means of a corrupt bargain entered into by Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania and Caleb Smith, of Indiana, provided Lincoln would pledge them Cabinet positions. These pledges Lincoln fulfilled and thus made himself a party to corrupt bargains.(7)
George Lunt said, "The nomination of Mr. Lincoln was purely accidental. Few had ever heard of him before his nomination."(8) The New York Times said, "His election was more by shouts and applause which dominated than from any direct labors of any of the delegates." John T. Morse said, "He was nominated purely as a sectional candidate of a sectional party."(9)
Had Lincoln not been assassinated would he have made better terms during the Reconstruction period? It was thought so at first and Jefferson Davis, General Howell Cobb, and others expressed their opinion that he would, but the history of the man, not known then, has brought the South to the conclusion that he would not have done even what Andrew Johnson tried to do.
1. Journal of House of Representatives of Illinois (1840), page 135.
2. Life of Lincoln.
3. Mary Lincoln’s letters, dated 26 December 1865 and 13 January 1866.
4. Barron’s, 25 December 1922, p. 11.
5. New Haven Register; copied in New York World, 15 September 1864.
6. Life of Salmon P. Chase, p. 630.
7. Life of Lincoln, page 449.
8. Origins of the Late War.
9. Lincoln (Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton, Mifflin, and Co., 1892), Volume I, page 178.