(From the work in progress … I am now reading my stacks of materiel on the American Civil War, and making notes for the next half of the book. In this excerpt, Minnie is introduced to a man who will soon become very important.)

“Auntie,” Richard Brewer asked one afternoon, on a mild spring afternoon some three years later, “There is a man I think that you would enjoy being introduced to – a Westerner, so you might not already be known to you or you to him, but he is fierce regarding the limits of the slave system, and not allowing it in those proposed new states.”

“I thought that I knew every prominent abolitionist that there is,” Minnie fretted. She and Lolly were preparing for another lecture tour, this time to Illinois, where the fight against the vile institution was fierce and unrelenting – nearly as fierce as it was in the Kansas and Missouri Territories, where the cause had already been baptized in blood – the blood of abolitionists and slavers alike. “But of course – when do you propose that we shall meet?”

“At our house, tomorrow evening for supper and a small gathering of like-minded among legal circles,” Richard replied, with a grin. “And I’ll have you know that he has expressed a desire to meet you, Auntie – the famed and impassioned lady lecturer.”

“I suppose that my attendance has already been assured?” Minnie asked, concealing a small sigh. She had yet to pack for this latest circuit of lectures, although Lolly had already made most of the travel arrangements. Lolly was incredibly thorough about such matters – a passing miracle for everyone who had ever thought of her as one of the most feather-headed females imaginable.

“Of course,” Richard assured her, with a bow over her hand. “And I think you will enjoy Mr. Lincoln’s company, enormously – he is one of the most entertaining and companionable gentlemen I have ever had the pleasure of spending a number of hours with – and could have spent twice as many in his company, while laughing like a fool.”

“Mr. Lincoln?” Lolly Bard exclaimed in delight. “Why yes – I know of him, and he is a delight, if it is he who is the chief legal counsel for the Illinois Central Railroad! Mr. Bard was a shareholder in that company you know, and I still correspond with many of his old friends! They think the world of Mr. Lincoln, if that is the same man…”

“It would be,” Richard agreed, “For he has practiced as a lawyer for many years, and was elected to state office, and served representing Illinois in Washington for a term. The word is that he is a formidable man, for all that he looks the picture of the ungainly country yokel, and never darkened the door of a schoolhouse after the age of about ten or so. They say he split rails and felled trees to earn a living, early on. You can imagine what our cultivated acquaintances will think of that!”

“Oh, my,” Minnie exclaimed. She could just imagine what some of the other erudite, comfortably monied and well-raised Bostonians would think and say of Mr. Lincoln, the country-bred, self-educated westerner. “But I have had occasion to meet many people, in my tours, Richard – and many of them in ragged working-men’s garb, who are more courteously-mannered and considerate than … then my brother Tem,” she added, for Tem, for all the wealth of Papa-the-Judge and the advantages of education, had often been waspish, rude and … not to put too fine a point on it, snobbish to a degree that would embarrass an English noble. “I would be honored to meet this prairie lawyer acquaintance of yours. If he is determined an abolitionist as you say, then he is already a man of whom I am inclined to think well!”

“I thought you would welcome the introduction,” Richard said, “As you and Mrs. Bard are venturing into the near west, in the next weeks. And I think that Mr. Lincoln will prove to be an important man, soon enough.”


Minnie privately thought that Richard exaggerated – she had met all sorts, when she was a girl, and Papa-the-Judge offered hospitality to a great many, either obscure or of note, but all interesting. She had met even more, as she had said to Richard, traveling from city and city, town to town, giving lectures on the iniquity of the slave system. But none of them were like Mr. Lincoln. Tem would have said he was sui generis, one of a kind, when she was presented to him in Sophie’s parlor; she and Lolly Bard and Mr. Lincoln were nearly the first arrivals. When Betty the maid opened the front door of the Brewer mansion, the sound of delighted laughter led Minnie and Lolly to the parlor almost at once, where Sophie and Richard sat with a tall, awkward gangle of a man clad in an ill-fitting suit, a man in intense conversation with Richie.

“… three boys,” Mr. Lincoln was saying, “You’d be right in between Robert and Willie … ma’am!” he added, upon seeing Minnie in the doorway. He and Richard both rose hastily from where they sat, and Richard performed the introductions, barely concealing his own amusement, as Sophie took Richie by the hand and led him out of the room.

“I am mos’ pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Vining,” Mr. Lincoln bowed over her hand – a very disjointed bow, like a badly-strung puppet, for he was very tall, towering over Minnie like a tall tree – and she was barely taller than she had been at the age of thirteen. Rather to her surprise, his voice was thinner than she expected, a light tenor, like a boy whose voice hadn’t broken yet. His hands were powerful, the hands of a working man, who did more than just wield a pen; she sensed that he was particularly, purposefully gentle with her own hand, as she was in handling the birds, with their delicate bones, bones that could so readily be crushed without care taken. “I have read your articles in the Liberator with much interest, although I cannot honestly claim to be an absolutist when it comes to Abolition of the slave system.”

“You are not a reformer, then?” Minnie replied, somewhat surprised.
Mr. Lincoln smiled – he had a rather homely face, with knobby features and a great beak of a nose, but the smile transformed into a rather melancholy countenance, although the melancholy never really lifted from his eyes, deep-set as they were under a brow that the unkind would later liken to that of an ape.

“Of the Whiggish persuasion, Miss Vining – I would advocate for reformist measures in a slow and gradual manner, upon which most would agree.”

“But your feelings on the matter of slavery,” Minnie persisted.

“I would not be a slave,” Mr. Lincoln replied, thoughtfully, “And I would not be a master of slaves, either. It is a great injustice to be the first, and an insupportable moral burden to be the other …”

“That is exactly what was said to me, early on,” Minnie replied earnestly. “By one who had good reason to know. But what is the principle with regard to the vile institution that you hold to, without reserve?”

“This one,” Mr. Lincoln replied, with another one of those melancholy smiles. “That I would work to keep the institution from extending to those new territories of ours, which will become states, and very soon, I believe. They shall not have the stain of slavery marring them. And that is my governing principle, Miss Vining, although it may come about that I might be forced by circumstances to acquire others, as the situation suggests. Predicting the future developments in our world is a chancy thing, which would try the talents of a modern Nostradamus.”

“Indeed,” Minnie agreed, and Mr. Lincoln favored her with another one of those transforming smiles.

“Your late father, Judge Lycurgus Vining – he was a notable jurist in his day, was he not? A number of his rulings and arguments before the superior courts were cited in several of my independent readings … are you able to enlarge upon his reasonings in those matters? Mr. Brewer assures me that you were a student of your father’s dealings in that regard…”

“At another time, perhaps,” Richard Brewer intervened, as they heard Betty opening the front door to another guest. “We have invited all to a purely social gathering, Mr. Lincoln – not a meeting of the American Missionary Association.”

“Still,” Mr. Lincoln made a slight bow towards Minnie, and Lolly Bard. “I’d ‘mire to meet with Miss Vining again, and speak with me, concerning her reminiscences of her father, and of her observances of the slave system.”

“Of course,” Minnie replied – and she had been charmed beyond words, at meeting a man who might yet become an ally in the great cause – and who knew of and wholly admired Papa-the-Judge.


  1. Excellent. It’s interesting to see Mr. Lincoln as he is about to become well-known. Your post above is also very helpful – I have been reading posts dealing with research here and on other blogs, as I am contemplating a book idea which would require significant research in the interests of accuracy.

    • Lincoln is one of those complicated people that I would like to have met in real life – but the best that I can do is to kind of put together my best reading of what they were like, drawn on historical records…
      He would have been moderately well-known at the time of this meeting, since I have put it after his Cooper Union speech, which really put him in the public eye nationally.