Peace and Quiet

lincoln cottageThe one thing that all good lawyers need periodically is peace and quiet. They might need peace and quiet to draft a will, prepare for trial, or prepare a pleading or a contract. They need peace and quiet to sort their thoughts and to make decisions.

We all respond differently to that need. We have lawyers who are morning persons and some who are night owls. Some need to get out of town to a cottage, while others have a favorite place in their office or home that satisfies the need. Peace and quiet is a personal thing that must meet the needs of the lawyer and no one else. It is peace in your head that we are looking for. Peace and quiet can be found in unusual places.

Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer, and he also needed peace and quiet. 

Walt Whitman in his book Abraham Lincoln says, “He never sleeps at the White House during the hot season, but has quarters at a healthy location some three miles north of the city, the Soldiers’ home . . . .” Some people call this home his “Cottage” or “Lincoln’s Cottage.” Various writers have stated that the privacy afforded and the quiet it gave him allowed him to think deeply about the affairs of the day. They say that he wrote most of the Emancipation Proclamation and made decisions such as firing General McClellan at the Cottage. He spent over a quarter of his presidency at the Cottage. This was a very attractive place for him to live, especially in hot weather.

Lincoln would ride his horse to the Cottage in the evening, sometimes in the dark, and ride back again to the White House in the morning. It was about the only place he could go while he was president and have a private thought. The White House was steaming with people giving advice, looking for jobs, and others who just wanted to see and gawk at Lincoln.

In the initial years of his presidency, he made this ride with little thought to his security and without any escort. At one point Lincoln was on a night ride to the Cottage and heard a shot and lost his hat. A soldier went out later to retrieve his hat and found a bullet hole in the hat. After that more security was provided.

There were wounded soldiers at the Soldier’s Home and a military cemetery that was quickly filling up. Walking in the cemetery and interacting with the soldiers gave Lincoln understanding and some comfort to sort out the effects of the war. Crippled veterans were often walking near this home. This was a different kind of quiet.

If you are interested in learning more about this subject, you might wish to read the book Lincoln’s Sanctuary by Matthew Pinsker. The information in this blog post was learned from a personal visit to the Cottage and from this book. Also see the Cottage website of the National Trust For Historic Preservation.

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