Abraham Lincoln in Cincinnati

Abraham Lincoln made two visits to Cincinnati.

The source for the following is Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin, copyright 2005, summarized from pages 173-175 and page 225 with direct quotes included and shown as such:

1855—Abraham Lincoln’s first visit to Cincinnati was not a pleasant one.   It all started with the McCormick v. Manny patent infringement case, known as the Reaper case, that was to be tried in Chicago.  It seemed a good idea to have an Illinois lawyer who was familiar with the judge.  However, the case was transferred to Cincinnati, so Lincoln’s services were not needed.  Renowned attorneys would argue the case. Nevertheless, Lincoln continued to research and prepare for the case.  Attorney Reverdy Johnson’s first impression of Lincoln was dismissive.  Lincoln was a “tall, rawly boned, ungainly backwoodsman, with coarse, ill-fitting clothing, his trousers hardly reaching his ankles, holding in his hands a blue cotton umbrella with a ball on the end of the handle.” (quote from page 174)

Lincoln got the message to withdraw from the case, but he stayed in Cincinnati and attended the proceedings.  Lincoln was excluded from the company of the illustrious attorneys.  It was enough for Lincoln to realize he needed to hone his practice to compete with the Eastern lawyers who would be heading west.  He had no intention to ever return to Cincinnati.

1859—In his quest for the Republican nomination, Abraham Lincoln returned to Cincinnati.   Quoting from Goodwin:  Perhaps Lincoln’s most rewarding stop was Cincinnati, which he had vowed never again to visit after the humiliating Reaper trial.  This time he was “greeted with the thunder of cannon, the strains of martial music, and the joyous plaudits of thousands of citizens thronging the streets.”  He arrived at the Burnet House and was put up “in princely style,” delighted to find the most prominent of Cincinnati’s residents were vying to meet the “rising star.” (quote from page 225)


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