It’s amazing to me how limitless the stories about Abraham Lincoln seem to be. Now thanks to some research by an Illinois woman, we now are learning how Abe might have dealt with the exhaustion he felt after a three-hour long debate with Stephen A. Douglas in Quincy, Illinois on October 13, 1858.
The article from yesterday’s Quincy Herald-Whig newspaper relates how a local historian, Iris Nelson, stumbled upon an article in a 1907 issue of McClure’s Magazine recounting how Lincoln was on the verge of collapse from exhaustion after the debate. According to the author of the McClure’s article, George P. Floyd, Lincoln was taken back to his hotel and treated to a “rum sweat” in which a pan of rum was placed under a chair which Lincoln sat on, lit on fire, and then had Lincoln inhale the vapors of the burning rum. Afterwards, he was put to bed and the profuse sweating from the liquor vapors caused him to exude the stress from the debate. Supposedly later that night, Lincoln felt restored and was able to join his supporters for a torchlight parade.
Mr. Floyd was writing about this story some 50 years after it was alleged to happen. It was he and his wife who “prescribed” the treatment to Lincoln back in 1858. While it’s always difficult to prove these anecdotes, the historian, Ms. Nelson, who serves on the local Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, feels that the story is accurate. She explains that Lincoln’s supporters would have kept this story of the “rum sweat” from the press due to the vicious nature of the opposition papers of the day. No doubt, it would have led people to claim that Lincoln was a drinker, when in fact, he was not.
Who really knows if the story is true or not. Lincoln was of course in Quincy on that date, and it can be documented that Mr. Floyd was indeed a resident of Quincy, who served as a marshal in a parade of Lincoln supporters. In any case, it makes for an interesting story, yet another to add to the legend behind Lincoln.