Lincoln Family Friend Edward Jonas Recalls Abraham Lincoln and the Lincoln-Douglas Debates

December 3, 1917

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Lincoln Family Friend Edward Jonas Recalls Abraham Lincoln and the Lincoln-Douglas Debates
Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages | SMC 398

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      Background

      Certain immortal words to the contrary, a house divided against itself can stand - if, that is, the house be that of Lincoln's dear Jewish friend, Abraham Jonas, who saw five of his six sons fight for the Confederacy and yet whose family not only held together, but were united in their affection for their father's foremost friend.

      In
      1917, the then-old youngest Jonas son - and the only one to take up arms for the Union - recalled Lincoln to the avid Lincoln collector John E. Boos. He described in some detail Lincoln's lawyerly dress, the ease with which he conversed, and the care with which he listened, and too, what he recalled of the Lincoln-Douglas debate that took place in Jonas' hometown of Quincy...

      Mr. Lincoln dressed just as all gentlemen & particularly lawyers did at that time. He wore a dark breasted frock coat & high silk hat & his clothes ...were as well cut... as clothes could be outside of a New York or London...

      He was perfectly plain & easy to talk to... and as a listener my old General G.M. Dodge on whose staff I served used to say when we had anything to tell Mr. Lincoln & finished it seemed a shame that it was not more important, Mr. Lincoln was such a close listener. Yes Mr. Lincoln used to tell stories, when I happened to be present, not always funny stories but with appreciation.

      The debates I attended between Mr. Lincoln and Douglas were very largely attended. The one in Quincy Illinois numbered over 25,000.  In Carl Schurz' reminisces... you will find a description of the Quincy meeting with a view of the crowd & also of my father's office... Mr. Lincoln's Hd: Qtrs. Quincy was Democratic but Mr. Lincoln had quite as many friends there as Mr. Douglas &... the audiences were fairly divided.

      In a postscript, Jonas speaks to the present, in the specific form of Boos himself, whose quest it was to record and collect, in the early 20th century, the eyewitness accounts of those who actually knew Lincoln. Jonas says to the then 38 year-old Boos, "I had supposed you to be a veteran of the civil war am glad to hear that life is before you." For himself he remarks, "I am 73 years young."

      Boos' documentary evidence made its way into print, finally, in 2005, in Rare Personal Accounts of Abraham Lincoln. Jonas is included, albeit this particular letter, is not.



      [Abraham Lincoln] Edward Jonas (the son of Lincoln friend Abraham Jonas), Autograph Letter Signed, 2 pages, quarto, New Orleans, December 3, 1917. To John E. Boos.

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      New Orleans   Dec 3 - 17

      Mr J.E. Boos

      Dear sir

      I am glad to reply to your questions as to Mr Lincoln.  Mr Lincoln dressed just as all gentlemen & particularly Lawyers did at that time.  He wur [sic] a double-breasted frock coat & high silk hat & his clothes despite the... were thought it proper to make him a very plain man were as well cut & made as clothes could be out-side of N York or London & in looks he was quality the equal of [...] made out of every [...] our [...] in a day's walk with some-thing distinguishing him from all.  Yes he was perfectly plain & easy to talk to & to talk to you and as a listener my old General G. M. Dodge on whose staff I served used to say when [text is crossed out] we had anything to tell Mr Lincoln & finished it seemed a shame that it was not more important.  Mr. Lincoln was such a close listener. Yes Mr Lincoln used to tell stories, when I happened to be present, not always funny stories, but with appreciation

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      Page 2 transcript

      Yes the debates I attended between Mr Lincoln & Douglas were very largely attended.  The one in Quincy Illinois numbered over 25,000.   In Carl Schurz's reminiscences first published either in the Atlantic or Scribner or Harpers & later in book form & probably in your public library you will find a description of the Quincy meeting with a view of the crowd & also of my Father's office [...] where Mr Lincoln's Hd: Qtrs.  Quincy was Democratic but Mr Lincoln had quite as many friends there as Mr Douglas & [...] the audiences were fairly divided

      I hope the little information I have given may interest you

      Very truly

      EDWARD JONAS.

      I had supposed you to be a veteran of the Civil war am glad to hear that life is before you   I am 73 years young