— Looking for Lincoln —
Warner's Memories Top Section
Lincoln traveled the Eighth Judicial Circuit six months a year, becoming close friends with his fellow lawyers, with whom he shared, not only courtroom, but also meals, an easy camaraderie, and often a room. "In my opinion, Lincoln was happy - - as happy as he could be, when on this Circuit - - and happy no other place. This was his place of enjoyment, "sad David Davis, the judge who presided over the circuit. Davis; also Lincoln's campaign manager, and Ward Hill Lamon were instrumental in orchestrating Lincoln's Presidential nomination. Davis managed to have the Republican Convention located in Illinois, and Lamon printed up counterfeit tickets in order to pack the hall with Lincoln supporters.
Lincoln, Judge David Davis, and Ward Hill Lamon, a Danville lawyer and a great bear of a man, were visiting one evening on the porch of the Barnett Tavern (a term used then for an inn, not a saloon) while young Vespasian "Pash" Warner listened. Lamon suggested making a trip across the square to the grocery (then a term for a place that sold liquor, not food) to obtain some whiskey. Davis objected, reminding Lamon that only the week before in Mt. Pulaski, Davis had found it necessary to postpone court since Lamon had been too indisposed (hungover) to argue a case the next day.
Lincoln pointed out that Davis often allowed a first offender in the courtroom a second chance and asked that he give Lamon the same consideration. Davis relented. Lamon returned with a pitcher of whiskey, and the three retired upstairs to Lamon's room to continue their discussions, leaving the boy behind. Lincoln never drank but often enjoyed the company of others who did. Lamon became one of Lincoln's staunchest supporters and accompanied him as his bodyguard on his journey to Washington, D. C., when Lincoln was elected President.
Vespasian Warner, named after a Roman emperor, was a toddler when his father, Dr. John Warner, moved from Mt. Pleasant (now Farmer City) to Clinton in 1842. To supplement his budding medical practice, Dr. Warner and his wife, with Harry P. Merriman, ran a hotel on the west side of the square. There, the Eighth Judicial Circuit lawyers paid $1.50 for a week's food and lodging.
The doctor prospered, gave up the hotel, building the first brick residence in Clinton across the street from the Barnett Tavern, located a block south of the square. Vespasian Warner said of this time when he was an adolescent, "Being young and curious, I would hang around the tavern in the evenings, as long as my parents would allow me to remain out of bed, to hear the judge and lawyers, great men in my eyes at the time and great later."
Lawyers and Book Lovers Top Section
"The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is a man who'll get me a book I ain't read," said Abraham Lincoln when he was about ten years old. Lincoln, who was known to be awkward around the gentler sex, bound he was comfortable discussing books with Mary Todd, a woman also interested in the "unfeminine" world of politics. One of her attractions for Lincoln was their shared love of Shakespeare and poetry, both of which he would quote at length. As President, his favorite form of relaxation was reading aloud from his favorite books to friends, and he usually carried one or two to share with fellow travelers.
Abraham Lincoln had a hunger for books, which began when he was only a boy. He said that he read all the books he could lay his hands on within thirty miles of his boyhood home in Indiana. Neighbors remembered he would walk miles to borrow a book. According to Dennis Hanks, Lincoln's cousin and best friend, when Lincoln went out to plow a field, he put a book under his shirt and read at the end of rows when the horses were resting. Hanks added, "I never saw Abe after he was 12, that he didn't have a book in his hand or in his pocket."
Later, living in New Salem, Lincoln taught himself law from books he walked fourteen miles to Springfield to borrow, often absorbing thirty to forty pages on the way home. In fact, Lincoln was the first person to check out a book from the Illinois State Library in Springfield, which opened in December 1839 in a thirty-by-forty-foot room next to the Secretary of State's office. As President, he was a frequent patron of the Library of Congress.
Lincoln met a kindred soul in Clinton's first resident lawyer, C. H. Moore, a great lover of books who owned the largest private library in downstate Illinois during the nineteenth century. Before his death, Moore commissioned an architect to draw up plans for a public library. His son-in-law and law partner, Congressman Vespasian Warner, donated funds and land to make Moore's dream come true.
The Vespasian Warner Public Library, including the C. H. Moore Rare Book Collection, opened in 1908, and today remains the repository for more than 5,000 volumes of Moore's collection. Among its highlights is a book bearing Lincoln's handwriting, presented to his friend C. H. Moore shortly before Lincoln left Illinois to assume the office of President. Vespasian Warner later built his own residence next to the library. The large brick home facing Center Street to the East of the library was constructed in 1912.