Personal Finances of Abraham Lincoln
Pratt, Harry E.


ON December 21, 1865, the Congress of the United States voted to pay Mrs. Lincoln one year's presidential salary, minus any payments made to the President or to his estate between March 4, 1865 and March 4, 1866. Such payments amounted to $2,829.50, and were deducted. Deducted also was the five per cent income tax on these payments, or $145.16. The remainder, $22,025.34, was paid to Mrs. Lincoln in 7-30 bonds of 1865. No income tax on this amount was withheld because the Treasury ruled that it was a donation. Mrs. Lincoln used most of the money ($18,000) to pur|chase a house at 375 West Washington Street, Chicago.

In July, 1870, Congress voted an annual pension of $3,000 to Mrs. Lincoln. A year later she received one-half of the estate of her son Thomas.

In May, 1875, Mrs. Lincoln was adjudged incapable, because of mental illness, of handling her own finances, and her son Robert was appointed conservator. He acted in this capacity until June, 1876, when his mother was declared to be competent. Robert Lincoln reported that her estate amounted to $68,750, with income of $11,140.35 during the period of his conservatorship.

Page  185Mrs. Lincoln placed her business affairs in the hands of Jacob Bunn, Springfield banker in September, 1876. From him she borrowed $1,800 in gold to make a trip to France, reimbursing him in January, 1877. Bunn was empowered to collect for her the $1,800 semi-annual interest on $60,000 on six per cent federal bonds which she owned, and $125 monthly payment on her Chicago house, and the $3,000 annual pension. He attended to these matters faithfully and to the satisfaction of Mrs. Lin|coln. She lived comfortably on her annual income of $9,100, in Pau, a resort in the southern part of France which was patronized by many English people. When the weather became warm she stayed at resorts high in the Pyrenees. There were occa|sional trips to Paris, Rome and Naples, but most of the time she resided in Pau.1

Bunn's Bank failed on January 1, 1878—a casualty of the long depression which followed the Panic of 1873.2 To a letter announcing his failure Mrs. Lincoln sent a reply which the man who had lost the results of his life work cherished as long as he lived. She wrote: "Most truly do I sympathize with you and your amiable, kind hearted family in this unexpected trouble. . . . Allow me to thank you for your kind|ness in going up to Chicago to collect money on interest. Your kind attention to my business, as well as your great promptitude, is most gratefully remembered by me. Please present my affectionate regards to your family."3

When Jacob Bunn again suggested that in view of his bankruptcy she might wish him to turn the management of her affairs over to another, Mrs. Lincoln wrote: "I entreat you in the future to send my remittances yourself, take charge of my business & I will endeavor to give you as little trouble as possible. Retain my Bonds & my papers, for in your honourable hands I feel well assured, they are perfectly safe. Will you please respect my wishes in regard to this dear Mr. Bunn, for I wish to feel at rest re|garding these matters."4 He continued to look after her business matters until her return to the United States in October, 1880.

In January, 1882, Mrs. Lincoln's pension was increased from $3,000 to $5,000 a year. At the same time, Congress voted her a donation of $15,000.

Mrs. Lincoln died on July 16, 1882, leaving no will. Robert Todd Lincoln, who served as administrator, filed his final report on November 6, 1884. Her estate, worth $84,035, went to him as the sole heir.5