LINCOLN, Abraham. Autograph letter signed ("A. Lincoln") to Johnson, Saunders & Co. (operators of the Burnet House, a hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio), Cincinnati, 19 September 1859.
1½ pages, 4to, fine condition.
[With:] Photocopy of a partly printed document, Lincoln's bill for lodging at the Burnet House, 19 September 1859. 1 page, oblong, decorative stationery with colonnaded facade of the hotel.
"I DO NOT WISH TO BE DIDDLED": LINCOLN, ON THE STUMP, CONTESTS A HOTEL BILL FOR "LICKER & CIGARS"
A hitherto unpublished letter that furnishes an intriguing glimpse of Lincoln's life on the campaign trail just prior to his becoming the Republican presidential candidate. Following his epic oratorical duel against Stephen Douglas in the 1858 campaign for an Illinois Senate seat, Lincoln had returned to his law practice, but remained very active in Republican political efforts. In early September he had been invited by Peter Zinn to speak in Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton, Ohio. His wife Mary and young son (Thomas or Willie; the record is unclear) accompanied him on this speech-making jaunt. Lincoln spoke twice in Columbus on September 16 (making the well-known pledges that "I have no purpose directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it now exists" (see Basler, 3:402 for the whole speech). He addressed another gathering in Dayton the following day, and arrived in Cincinnati on September 18, where a party of local Republicans escorted them from the train station. The Lincolns registered at the city's grandest hotel, the Burnet House. At 8 p.m. that evening, Lincoln addressed a crowd in Cincinnati's Market House Square. The next day the Lincolns visited a cousin of Mary's, Mrs. William M. Dickson, and, evidently, Lincoln took time to confer with local Republican party members in a conference room at his hotel.
But, the following day, when he examined the hotel's itemized bill, Lincoln was justifiably incensed, and immediately requested an adjustment. Here, at the top of the first page, Lincoln has transcribed the Burnet House bill, which tallies $37.50 for "Board & Parlor self & family," $3.50 for "Extra suppers," $7.50 for "Licker & cigars," and $5.00 for "use of room #15" (probably a meeting room). The charges totaled $53.50, to which Lincoln takes vigorous issue: "Now this may be right, but I have a slight suspicion of it, for two or three reasons. First, when I left, I called at the office of the Hotel, and was then distinctly told it 'was settled way all right,' or words to that effect. Secondly, it seems a little steep that 'Board, parlor' from Saturday 7½ P.M. to Monday 10½ A.M. for a man, woman and one small child, should be $37.00. Thirdly, we had no extra suppers, unless having tea at our room the first evening, was such. We were in the house over the time of five meals, three only of which we took in the house. We did not ever dine in the house. As to wines, liquors & cigars we had none--absolutely none. This last may have been in room 15 by order of the Committee but I do not recollect them at all. Please look into this, and write me. I can and will pay it if it is right but I do not wish to be 'diddled!' Please do what you do generally and no fun about it."
After leaving Cincinnati, the Lincolns went on to Indianapolis, where Lincoln spoke on the 19th (the same days as the present hastily penned letter of complaint), returning to Springfield on the evening of the 20th. Whether the Burnet Hotel's saw fit to adjust its apparently padded bill is not known. Evidently unpublished, not in Collected Works, ed. R.P. Basler or Supplements.