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On this day in 1860, Abraham Lincoln, in the final day of his run for the U.S. presidency, wrote a letter to an 11-year-old girl from Westerfield, New York, named Grace Bedell. Four days earlier, Grace had written to her favorite candidate with the following specific advice:
I am a little girl only eleven years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you won’t think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got 4 brother’s and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President.
Lincoln’s response to Grace’s letter was brief, yet its words showed that he had read her letter and was considering her advice regarding facial hair:
October 19, 1860
Miss. Grace Bedell
My dear little Miss.
Your very agreeable letter of the 15th is received.
I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters. I have three sons — one seventeen, one nine, and one seven, years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family.
As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now? Your very sincere well-wisher
- Lincoln (1)
As reflected in Grace’s letter, Lincoln was, in fact, clean-shaven before he became president. However, by the time he took the oath as the 16th president, Lincoln had grown the beard that he wore throughout his presidency. In fact, prior to taking the oath on March 4, 1861, he made a stop in Westfield, meeting his young campaign advisor.
Today’s Challenge: Take My Advice
If you were to write a letter of advice to a public figure, to whom would you write and what kind of advice would you give them? Brainstorm some possible public figures to whom you might write letters of advice: politicians, celebrities, professional athletes, etc. Select one and write an open letter of advice. An open letter is a letter that is written to an individual but is intended to be published publically and to be read by a wide audience. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)
1-Abraham Lincoln Online. Letter to Grace Bedell. 1860. Public Domain. http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gracebedell.htm.