Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 1.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Memorandum of Duel Instructions to Elias H. Merryman [1]

[September 19, 1842]

In case Whitesides [2] shall signify a wish to adjust this affair without further difficulty, let him know that if the present papers be withdrawn, & a note from Mr. Shields asking to know if I amPage  301 the author of the articles of which he complains, and asking that I shall make him gentlemanly satisfaction, if I am the author, and this without menace, or dictation as to what that satisfaction shall be, a pledge is made, that the following answer shall be given---

``I did write the `Lost Township' letter which appeared in the Journal of the 2nd. Inst. but had no participation, in any form, in any other article alluding to you. I wrote that, wholly for political effect. I had no intention of injuring your personal or private character or standing as a man or a gentleman; and I did not then think, and do not now think that that article, could produce or has produced that effect against you, and had I anticipated such an effect I would have forborne to write it. And I will add, that your conduct towards me, so far as I knew, had always been gentlemanly; and that I had no personal pique against you, and no cause for any.''

If this should be done, I leave it with you to arrange what shall & what shall not be published.

If nothing like this is done---the preliminaries of the fight are to be---

1st. Weapons---Cavalry broad swords of the largest size, precisely equal in all respects---and such as now used by the cavalry company at Jacksonville.

2nd. Position---A plank ten feet long, & from nine to twelve inches broad to be firmly fixed on edge, on the ground, as the line between us which neither is to pass his foot over upon forfeit of his life. Next a line drawn on the ground on either side of said plank & paralel with it, each at the distance of the whole length of the sword and three feet additional from the plank; and the passing of his own such line by either party during the fight shall be deemed a surrender of the contest.

3. Time---On thursday evening at five o'clock if you can get it so; but in no case to be at a greater distance of time than friday evening at five o'clock.

4th. Place---Within three miles of Alton on the opposite side of the river, the particular spot to be agreed on by you.

Any preliminary details coming within the above rules, you are at liberty to make at your discretion; but you are in no case to swerve from these rules, or to pass beyond their limits.

Annotation

[1]   AD, DLC-RTL. The peaceable conclusion of the matter seemed unlikely when Whiteside refused to convey Lincoln's condition of withdrawal of the first letter written by Shields. Under threat of impending arrest all parties proceeded to Alton. At this point John J. Hardin and Revel W. English intervened as mutual friends of Shields and Lincoln, in a letter addressed to Whiteside and Merryman, proposing that ``the whole difficulty be submitted to four or more gentlemen, toPage  302

be selected by yourselves, who shall consider the affair, and report thereupon for your consideration.''

In spite of further disagreement and recrimination among the ``friends'' of the two principals in the duel, Shields finally accepted Lincoln's ``explanation,'' through the arbitrament of seconds and mutual friends.

[2]   Lincoln's use of the final ``s'' in Whiteside's name is erroneous. John D. Whiteside was a Democrat, representative in the legislature from Monroe County 1832-1836, and state senator from Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties, 1836-1837.