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How His Clothes Were Stolen By the Rascally Whigs
Something That Happened in Springfield in the Year 1840

In the balmy month of June away back in the year 1840 a young boy sat one evening on the steps of THE JOURNAL office weeping as only a boy can weep whose heart as been broken by some fancied wrong, and to whom the future seemed for a time an endless stretch of dreary tomorrows. THE JOURNAL office was then on the northeast corner of the square, near the present office of the Sangamon Loan and Trust company. It occupied an airy and unpretentious old frame building which has long since given place to a more magnificent successor.

The boy who sat there convulsed with sobs on the far-away evening had come to the office but a few days before to learn the printer’s trade, and the typos had nicknamed him “Devil Dick” from the very first day. Devil Dick was a ruddy, strong, good natured lad and the idol of his father, who hoped “to make an editor outen of him.” With this end in view he had been brought in by the proud parent and bound out as an apprentice to Simeon Francis, then editor of THE JOURNAL. When Dick saw the legal documents which Squire Moffit had made out he felt that his personal liberty was being taken away from him forever. But Fate conspired with Dick to give him many a happy hour in the companionship of the boys he called in those days Milt Hay, Billie Herndon, Jim Matheny and Jim Conkling. They used to skate together on the pond which then lay in a glassy sheet where the court house now stands. In the summer they played “fives” and scored against the back of the office. Dick’s friends, persuaded that his liberties were being too much abridged, induced him to run away from his master one day, but he came back later and was reinstated after an impressive reprimand from stern Mr. Francis.

Editor Francis was a man of stern, inflexible character whose arbitrary nature expressed itself in arbitrary rules. From these he could not brook the slightest departure, and Dick was constantly in dread of the consequence of some accidental infraction of discipline. Though a man of sterling integrity, Editor Francis could not appreciate the cravings of a boy’s nature nor feel in touch with the childish heart when in the agony of grief or disappointment and so he had swept out the door past Dick without asking the secret of his tears. But it was left for a greater soul to administer balm to his desolate heart. A tall, awkward man came ambling down the street. A homely hand touched Dick on the shoulder. The very touch was full of empathy and fuller of sympathy was the voice that inquired, “Boy, what is breaking your heart?” And then between his sobs Dick told his story, to get the thread of which it is necessary to go back a chapter or two.

Dick had brought all his worldly possessions to Springfield in a little old hair trunk bound with a half-inch rope. The trunk had been deposited in an empty room in the office and it was still there until the evening in question, when it mysteriously disappeared, and hence Dick’s tears. It was near the end of the week and he would have no change of clothing for Sunday.

The great Whig convention of that year had just come to a close. The Chicago delegation had driven down across the broad prairies in a caravan of wagons, for Springfield had then never echoed to the whistle of a locomotive. With their characteristic enterprise, the Chicago boys had constructed and brought down upon one of these wagons a huge schooner, which they presented to the city of Springfield. During their stay they had left their baggage in the same room that contained Dick’s trunk and when they loaded up their effects to return, the little hair trunk was unwittingly taken with the others. Dick didn’t think of the possibility of a mistake. He had become acquainted with only the b*ighter and cruder experiences of life, and it was a crushing blow, to have his faith in humanity utterly shattered in a moment.

The great man who volunteered his sympathy, however, had seen the shadows as well as the lights of human experience. He guessed the trouble at once and said: “Those rascally Whigs have stolen your clothes. Never mind, dry your tears and I will have you more and better clothes.” The good man then sat down and wrote the following letter to Dick’s father:

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., June 16, 1840. – Jonathan G. Randall, Rushville, Ill.
MY DEAR SIR: Your son Richard has just told me of his great loss. The rascally Whigs, through a mistake, took his trunk containing all of his clothes off to Chicago, and his heart is almost broken. Make him up some more just such as you know he needs and make his heart glad.


The reader of this story had already guessed who it was whose heart could throb in sympathy for a boy whom he had never seen before, and that at a time when the country was ablaze with excitement over the great political contest that had just been launched in the state. Many of the old gray haired readers of THE JOURNAL have surmised also who was the boy. It was Richard R. Randall, today a prominent railroad man in Lincoln, Neb. The little incident mentioned above was the beginning of a warm friendship that ever after existed between Devil Dick and the man whom fate had named to unshackle a race and leaven the asperities of the great world heart. For four years afterwards Dick delivered THE JOURNAL to Abraham Lincoln, and the latter’s kindly, honest nature was one of the strongest formative influences in Dick’s character. On the lapel of his coat today he wears the bronze badge that marks him a veteran in the war. As a member of the old Seventy-third infantry, better known as the “preacher regiment,” he carried a gun beneath sunny southern skies. Every year he comes back to attend the reunion of his comrades and pay the respect of memory to the illustrious dead. Devil Dick told this story to a JOURNAL representative a few evenings ago, and as the memory of the scenes of the early forties and the martyr president grew heavy upon him his voice became husky and there was a trace of a tear in his eye.
Illinois State Journal - January 30, 1893