Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2018

Department 1

Civil War Era Studies

Department 2



On the day in April 1837 that Abraham Lincoln rode into Springfield, Illinois, to set himself up professionally as a lawyer, the American republic was awash in religion. Lincoln, however, was neither swimming nor even bobbing in its current. “This thing of living in Springfield is rather a dull business after all, at least it is so to me,” the uprooted state legislator and commercially bankrupt Lincoln wrote to Mary Owens on May 7th. “I am quite as lonesome here as [I] ever was anywhere in my life,” and in particular, “I’ve never been to church yet, nor probably shall not be soon.” Lincoln blamed this on his own shyness and lack of social grace:”“I stay away because I am conscious I should not know how to behave myself.” [excerpt]


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