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633. Henry C. Whitney (Jesse W. Weik Interview).


"Judge Davis," said Whitney, "held court, and Lincoln, who had two or three cases to try, was there also. At the judge's request I secured a room for him, also for Lincoln and myself, at the American House, a primitive hostelry kept by one John Dunaway. The building had three front entrances from the street, but not a single hall downstairs; one of these entrances led directly into the ladies' parlor, and from it an entrance was obtained to the dining-room and from another corner a flight of stairs conducted us to our room. Close by the front and dining-room doors hung a gong which our vulgar boniface, standing in the doorway immediately beneath our windows, was in the habit of beating vigorously as a prelude to our meals. It was frequently very annoying, and so often disturbed our slumbers in the early dawn that we decided one morning it must be removed or forever silenced. By a majority vote Lincoln was chosen to carry out the decree. Accordingly, shortly before noon, he left the court-room, hastened to the hotel, passed through the dining-room, and, in a mischievous prank, took the offensive and noisy instrument from the place where it hung and quietly secreted it between the top and false bottom of a center table where no one would have thought of looking for it. In a short time I encountered Dunaway, our host, coming down from our


room, where he had been and still was searching anxiously for the gong which some ruthless hand had, alas, abstracted. I passed on, and when I reached our room I realized I was in the presence of the culprit, for there sat Lincoln in a chair tilted awkwardly against the wall after his fashion, looking amused, sheepish, and guilty, as if he had done something ridiculous as well as reprehensible. The truth is we all enjoyed the landlord's discomfiture, and even Judge Davis, who urged Lincoln to restore the gong, was amused. Presently, however, Lincoln and I repaired to the dining-room, and while I held the two contiguous doors fast Lincoln restored the gong to its accustomed place, after which he bounded up the stairs two steps at a time, I following. The next day when the Chicago paper came in — it usually arrived about noon — it brought the news that Lincoln had received 110 votes for Vice-President at the Philadelphia Convention the day before. The announcement created something of a stir. Lincoln and Davis had left the court-room and had gone down to the hotel, where I joined them a few minutes later, bringing with me Judge Cunningham's copy of the ‘Chicago Press’ which I read to them. Of course Davis and I were more or less jubilant. Alluding to Lincoln's rude and undignified prank with the hotel gong, Davis laughed and with harmless irony admonished him: ‘Great business for a man who aspires to be Vice-President of the United States.’ But the news of the honor shown him at the Philadelphia Convention made but slight impression on Lincoln. Apparently he was unmoved, if not indifferent, his only response being: ‘I reckon it's not me. There's another Lincoln down in Massachusetts. I've an idea he's the one.’

"The term of court that week at Urbana was decidedly prosaic, and the cases tried, usually by the court without aid of a jury, were meager both in amount and incident. In due time Lincoln was ready to return home. He had collected twenty-five or thirty dollars for that term's business, and one of our clients owed him ten dollars which he felt disappointed at not being able to collect; so I gave him a check for that amount and went with him to the bank to get it cashed. T. S. Hubbard was the cashier who waited on us. I never saw Lincoln happier than when he gathered his little earnings together, being, as I now recollect it, less than forty dollars, and had his carpet-bag packed ready to start home."

Weik, 209-11



1. This anecdote, according to JWW, is one that Whitney "told me once" (Weik, 209). Cf. §298.

2. AL received these votes at the Philadelphia convention on June 19, 1856.

3. J. O. Cunningham, editor of the Urbana Union in 1856, later became a judge.