Lincoln Nominates Himself For The Presidency
( Originally Published 1902 )
THE late David Davis, one of the greatest men Illinois ever produced, lived at Bloomington, in the central part of the State, in the finest home in the city. The mansion was large and of comely architecture and the grounds ample and beautiful.
I frequently called on the judge, the oftener because he and Lincoln had been intimate friends, and I knew that everything he said about the lamented President was authentic. Seated in his library one evening, I said, " Judge Davis, the people generally think that you had more to do in securing the nomination of Lincoln for the Presidency the first term than any other one." He said, " It may not be immodest in me to say I did have much to do in bringing about his nomination." I said, " Tell me something about it." He continued, " You know I was Judge of this circuit and Lincoln practiced law in my court. He was so able and jolly and kind in spirit that I grew to love him very much, and my regard was reciprocated. He used to come over from Springfield and ride with me around the circuit behind my old claybank horse. We had the best times, so many funny things occurred." He then related several incidents that were side-splitting with their humor. I said, " Judge, do not forget to tell me about the nomination." He answered, " I will not. I was introducing the subject by showing you how closely we were bound to each other by the practice of our profession. You will be surprised to hear that the first time I. ever heard the name of Lincoln used in connection with the Presidency was by the lips of Lincoln himself. Lincoln, Leonard Swett, Jesse D. Fell, one or two others and I, felt the nomination ought to come to the West. And one day we had a meeting to agree upon a man that we would support. One name after another was mentioned, and their strong and weak points considered. At last Lincoln spoke tip and said, ` Why don't you run me? I can be nominated, I can be elected, and I can run the government.' We all looked at him and saw that he was not joking. That was the first time I ever knew of his name having been suggested for the office by pen or tongue. The meeting adjourned without any action. But the more we thought of Lincoln's proposition to run himself the better we liked it. Lincoln's immortal career began with that little circle and with his own imperial will. We set ourselves to work to lay the wisest possible plans, and to execute them with the greatest vigor. Each one, including the prospective candidate, was given his specific task to perform. We captured the McLean County Convention, and the Illinois State Convention. We had greater difficulty in winning the National Convention at Chicago. We put up a desperate fight and won. One thing that helped us to take the Convention away from Mr. Seward, was the fact that years before he had said some unkind things about the Masonic fraternity, and I got hold of them, had them printed in circular form, and just at the critical moment I had them scattered among the delegates. They caused a stampede of his forces and made it the easier to secure the nomination for our candidate." I said, " Judge Davis, I am not sorry you have told me that Lincoln first suggested himself for the Presidency and wrought systematically to secure it. You have not broken our idol with your hammer of hard fact. We love him the more that we find him so human, that we see that consciousness of power not inconsistent with his natural humility. Besides, I more than suspect that God spoke to him, telling him that he desired him to be the leader of the nation in its time of peril." Mr. Davis answered, " From what I often heard him say he considered himself divinely appointed as a leader in the presevation of the Union." The old fashioned clock struck ten, and I bade the judge good-night.