Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition

...being truly esteemed of my fellow men

Posted by Torin Lucas on May 24, 2019

On March 29, 1832 the Springfield Journal reported: “On Saturday last the citizens of this place [Springfield] were gratified by the arrival of the steamer Talisman… The safe arrival of a boat of the size of the Talisman on a river never before navigated by steam had created much solicitude, and the shores for miles were crowded by our citizens. Her arrival at the destined port was hailed with loud acclaim and full demonstrations of pleasure…”

The arrival of the Talisman would have had a profound effect on Lincoln. Prior to the coming of the railroad, Springfield was handicapped by inadequate transportation facilities which the towns people hoped the Talisman would address. The community had invested in the undertaking and were naturally thrilled by its successful arrival with Lincoln very much involved in the undertaking. The Talisman represented not only an economic lifeline for Lincoln, but a political one as well. He and the river were intimately linked having provided him recent passage to the state of Illinois and New Salem byway of a flatboat. River travel had also provided a means earning a living hauling cargo down to New Orleans and back.

As a consequence of his experience and sensitivity to the needs and aspiration of his new adopted community, Lincoln sought to galvanize new political and economic support for the transportation development for the region as reflected in his first political announcement made just three weeks prior to the arrival of the Talisman. The Sangamon Journal published this statement by Abraham Lincoln, who was seeking his first seat in the Illinois General Assembly. The following are excerpts from that letter which illustrates many of the facets of Lincoln’s personal integrity and visionary leadership.

From my peculiar circumstances, it is probable that for the last twelve months I have given as particular attention to the stage of the water in this river as any other person in the country. In the month of March, 1831, in company of others, I commenced the building of a flat boat on the Sangamon, and finished and took her out in the course of the springFrom this view of the subject, it appears that my calculations with regard to the navigation of the Sangamon cannot be unfounded in reason; but whatever may be its natural advantages, certain it is, that it never can be practically useful to any great extent, without being greatly improved by art.…What the cost of this work would be, I am unable to say. It is probable, however, it would not be greater than is common to streams of the same length. Finally, I believe the improvement of the Sangamon river, to be vastly important and highly desirable to the people of this county; and if elected, any measure in the legislature having this for its object, which may appear judicious, will meet my approbation, and shall receive my support. … Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed. I am young and unknown to many of you. I was born and have ever remained in the most humble walks of life. I have no wealthy or popular relations to recommend me. My case is thrown exclusively upon the independent voters of this county, and if elected they will have conferred a favor upon me, for which I shall be unremitting in my labors to compensate. But if the good people in their wisdom shall see fit to keep me in the back ground, I have been too familiar with disappointments to be very much chagrined.Your friend and fellow-citizen, A. Lincoln – New Salem, March 9, 1832.