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Lincoln QuizWhat two things would Lincoln not want you to know about his life?
Lincoln's last law partner and long-time friend, William H. Herndon, put it this way -- "There were two things Mr. Lincoln always seemed willing to forget. One was his unparliamentary escape with Joseph Gillespie from the Legislature ... and the other was his difficulty with James Shields."
And what were they? The escape happened in 1840, during one of Lincoln's terms in the Illinois House of Representatives. On that day Democrats wanted a quorum and the Whigs didn't, so the Democrats locked the door of the House to keep the quorum in. Lincoln and two fellow Whigs jumped out the window to avoid it but were ridiculed anyway. It seems they had voted on a motion to adjourn and in doing so they made a quorum which counted before their hasty departure.
The "difficulty with Shields" refers to a duel which Lincoln almost fought with the Illinois State Auditor over some inflammatory letters which appeared in a Springfield newspaper, poking fun at Shields. Lincoln had written one of the letters anonymously; Mary Todd, Lincoln's wife-to-be, and her friend Julia Jayne, authored the others.
Herndon described Shields as "a gallant, hot-headed bachelor," who was a man of "inordinate vanity....Blind to his own defects, and very pronounced in support of every act of the Democratic Party, he made himself the target for all the bitterness and ridicule of the day."
Naturally, Shields demanded satisfaction. The affair escalated to a meeting in Missouri between Lincoln and Shields on September 22, 1842 (dueling was illegal in Illinois), with the intent to fight a duel. At the last minute, two men in the party, John Hardin and R.W. English, intervened and brought an end to the quarrel.
Shields, by the way, later fought in the Mexican War and was appointed by President Lincoln as a Brigadier General in the Civil War. He was badly wounded in a battle against Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson in 1862.
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