Lincoln and his slave

1860 United States Federal Census

Home in 1860: Springfield, Sangamon, Illinois
Gender: Male
Post Office: Springfield
Value of real estate: View image

Household Members: Name Age
Abraham Lincoln
Mary Lincoln
Robt T Lincoln
Willie W Lincoln
Thomas Lincoln
M Johnson

Phillip Dinkell

A. Lincoln 1


106 thoughts on “Lincoln and his slave

  1. Wrong Mr. Baker. Some servants were and some were not slaves. Many that were followed their masters because of lifetime connections such as loyalty and friendship. Yes even then black slaves were capable of loyalty and friendship as many blacks and whites enjoy today. Many, many thousands of free blacks and slaves in the South served with the Southern armies. This FACT is well documented through pension and service records, grave markers and the Black Southern Veterans that attended the many reunions (and documented on tin plate) held post war. In the document displayed concerning Lincoln, M. Johnson is listed as a servant, nothing more, nothing less. Black, white, paid, free, slave? Don’t know myself, probably neither do you. As slavery was a LEGAL institution in the ENTIRE country until the13th Amendment was adopted on December 18, 1865 (over 8 months AFTER the end of the war on Apr. 9, 1865) it’s very possible that M. Johnson was a slave and unless records indicate otherwise, wasn’t. You could always use as a moral gage the case of the very honorable Union General and future President of the United States, U.S. Grant. When asked why he had not freed HIS SLAVE until the adoption of the 13th Amendment his answer was (now get this as it shows his legendary wit) “Good help is hard to find.” Great excuse as his counterpart R.E. Lee freed his wifes family slaves in 1862. Weird!

    • The proof that Mary Johnson was a white woman is right here on this blog post. It’s the very page from the 1860 census which is illustrated above.

      First, if you click on the census page, you’ll see at the top that it lists “FREE INHABITANTS” of the county in question. Slaves were counted separately in the 1860 census.

      Second, if you look at the bottom, you’ll see that each and every person listed on the page was white. There are forty names on the list, and the census taker noted that 26 were white males and 14 were white females. That’s everybody on the page, including Mary Johnson.

      In the nineteenth century, it was quite common for upper- and middle-class families to employ paid house servants. The Lincolns employed a number of girls around the house during their time in Springfield. They were employees who were paid and could leave. They weren’t slaves. (Illinois, after all, was a free state. It’s rather hard to own slaves in a state where slavery is illegal when you’re a prominent lawyer and politcian, as Lincoln was.)

      Mary Johnson was a free white servant, hired and paid as an employee of the Lincolns. The proof is right there on that document, in black and white.

      Congratulations. You proved that Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln hired a housekeeper. It’s the find of the century.

  2. Pingback: Out of SHAPE: Another Confederate Heritage Lie | Crossroads

    • Yes and this is the same fellow that presents us with a letter from J. S. Mosby, as proof positive the war was about slavery. Perhaps someone should ask Brooks Simpson why he doesn’t come here and engage in an open debate without hiding behind his admin tools.

      Maybe you should ask him about his venture into MLB!!!!!!


    George you are missing the point here. The 1860 image you posted was for free inhabitants…not slaves…and from what I can tell there is nothing to indicate that Mary Johnson was black…she was most likely white and a servant for Mary. Meaning she was paid and hired…therefore she could quit and leave at any time…that was not the case for slaves.

    You wont be able to find what she was paid on the census report, that type of information was not collected by the Census at that time.

    George and Hubert, I am surprised you have not thought of the fact that as of 1848…with Illinois new Constitution…forbid or slave from living in the state longer than about 3 months. So it would have been illegal for Lincoln to have a black/slave servant.

    I wont get into the Black Confederate argument now…later.

    • I never said she was black, red or white. I posted the census as it is found. I am looking for documentation to prove she a hired hand.

      I know about the laws in the Ill. Surprised that you woukld post something like that regarding a state that fought to free thye slaves.

      • I have never said that Yanks were fighting to free the slaves. The Yanks were fighting to preserve the Union. It was the South that was fighting FOR slavery and it was that fight that provided the opportunity during their fight to save the Union to end slavery.

      • You are just totally wrong. You already tried to prove that on another one of my posts but failed miserably. When you get some real facts together on the issue, I’ll be here or on Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education.

      • So documents claiming why a southern state seceded and shows that slavery was the cause of secession is failing miserably? You need to redefine miserably.

      • Yes it sure is. The docs are not war declarations. I have told you at least twice if slavery was the cause the South could have went back to the Union and kept their slaves under the Ghost Admendment and the EP. These are United States documents that offer the opportunity. If slavery was what the South was fighting for why didn’t they jump on these two chances. It is simple it was not the reason they were fighting.

        You may want to re-think that fighting for the Union stuff. If the North was fighting for the union then they were also fighting for slavery since it was leagl in the United States.

        Heck Indian attacks and bailouts were also causes of secession.

  4. You said, “True, but not all slaves were black. This is just your opinion, bring some fact and I will accept it.”

    It’s not my opinion; it’s right there on the document you posted. The top of the document states that it’s a list of free Illinoisans.

    Do you really expect us to believe that the Lincolns were keeping a slave illegally, and although that information ended up in the census no one found out about it until now, despite the fact that Lincoln was so well-known in Springfield?

    • The page reveals two others also listed as ‘servants’.

      If 3 out 0f 40 inhabitants were slaves in Illinois and that is representative of the entire northern census data, then the free population is over-counted.

      These ‘other persons’ should only have counted as 3/5 in determining congressional representation. For census purposes, this sheet counts 38 4/5 (37 +3/5 + 3/5 +3/5) people rather than 40.

      Hence, the north should have had fewer overall congressmen.
      ’m surprised the ante bellum south was not more aware of this…

  5. You said, “True, but not all slaves were black. This is just your opinion, bring some fact and I will accept it.”

    That isn’t my opinion. It’s right there at the top of the census list you posted. All the people on the list were free Illinoisans. Enslaved people in slave states were counted separately on the 1860 census.

    You also said, “We know but you could call a slave anything you wanted and get away with it.”

    So originally your point was that the girl was a slave because the census said “servant.” Are you now saying that we can assume the girl was a slave whether the census said so or not? If it doesn’t matter what the census said, then why did you use the census to try to prove your point in the first place?

    Again, the use of free, paid, and often live-in servants was extremely common in upper- and middle-class homes of the nineteenth century. In 1850, around 25% of the homes in Springfield, IL had such hired help.

    Are you suggesting that the Lincolns were keeping a white slave girl illegally and she was included in the U.S. census, but nobody caught their hand on it? Even though Lincoln was a prominent politician in Illinois and later elected to the most powerful office in the country? Do you see why that’s a little hard to swallow?

    • The statement was made in response to another post that mentioned Black slavery and not necessarily this image. At least that is the way I read the post. I appreciate your comments, is it your intention to prove that all slaves were Black???

      I am not sure what the girl is, neither are you. See my next post to Cold Southernn Steel “How Dumb does one —” for additional information.

      • Actually, I’m quite sure of what the girl is, because (as I’ve stated repeatedly) the information is right there in the document you posted. All the individuals listed on the page were “free inhabitants” of Springfield, as stated on the top of the document. Many middle-class homes employed live-in servants in the nineteenth century, and they were employees, not slaves who were the property of the families they worked for.

        There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that Mary Johnson (or the other documented women and girls the Lincolns employed over the years) was a slave. None. You’re asking us to consider the possibility that the Lincolns were keeping her enslaved illegally. Do you have any evidence that they were doing this? Any at all? If not, then there’s no reason to consider your suggestion that she was a slave.

        Ever heard the old saying, “What is gratuitously asserted may be gratuitously denied”? It applies in this case. You’re making a claim for which there’s no evidence at all, and which contradicts the evidence we do have. There’s no reason at all for people to take claims of that kind seriously. I might as well say that my cat is really an alien from Mars disguised as a cat, and then demand that you prove me wrong. That’s basically the same thing you’re doing here.

        I suggest you have a look at this resource that Lincoln Home National Historic Site put together on the women and girls employed by the Lincolns:

      • Well then good for you.

        I never said the Lincolns enslaved anyone. If you have read th my other posts you can see how it could be possiible she could have been someones slave ot indentured servant.

        I did look at the website. I suggest you READ it.

    • No I maybe slow but I do approve all civil responses. I limit my time on the computer I refuse to allow it to dominate my life.

      The post doe not show up in real time because of the actions of Rob Baker. You can research his comments by clicking on previous posts at the top of the page.

      • LOL LOL LOL. To be sure Baker is out of chances. If he fails to show up you know why. Corey Meyers pulled the same trick on my post “How Dumb” Corey can make a public apology to me and I will approve his posts.

      • Actually, I think Rob’s only problem is he tried to use his phone to post responses.

        So, Mr. Purvis, explain please if you would the meaning of this document you have shown us. What exactly is it evidence of? What is your argument?

      • Actually Rob actions have to do with other posts. To see them you would have to go back through the archives. Trust me Rob knows what he did.

        I had been posting about slave ownership by various WBTS leaders. Never heard of Lincoln owning slaves or anything of that nature. I had viewed this document before, really didn’t pay much attention to it as I read it. Went to a couple of other websites looking for info on slavery in some Northern states. Came across a couple that mention indentured servents in Illinois. Knew of the “No Itish need apply signs” and the racism toward them in the North. Went back and saw M. Johnson was was born Ireland and got to wondering. I still wonder if perhaps she was an indentured servent. Maybe that info is just not available, I have no idea. So I let everyone have their say in the matter as long as they were respectful.

        I did go to trying to find some info, but seems like there is no “white race” section.

        Just wondering is all. I will say this I did get some wonderful info on Lincoln thsat I may use in the future.

        Oh and Chris you may tell any those idiots at Crossroads they are welcome to come here anytime See they have to be civil like you.

        Now do you have any real facts to add to the one Rob has posted???

    • The first link seems to have some conflicting information still it is a good catch. Now we still haven’t found out the exact status of M. Johnson. Was she a slave( indentured servant) as my link on “How dumb” suggests that she could be? Was she married or what? When I have time I will do more work in the census records BTW that article is the one that got me to thinking about this census records. I will go to link #2 now.

      Link #2 says she was only a domestic worker.

      • There isn’t any conflicting information.

        Her status was hired help. One of the books I cited tells the reader she discussed her wages. Wages imply employment, not slavery or indentured servitude. Domestic worker, is an employee that worked domestically (in homes).

      • Iwould have to go back and read again. Seems like the person telling the story had some facts wrong. This was brought out in the book.

        Oh gee I didn’t know what a Domestic worker was. Still the point we are trying to get to is she an indentured servant. So far you have proven your case.

      • I know I’ve proven my case. You started out saying she was a slave. She wasn’t. Now you’re saying she was an indentured servant. She wasn’t, she was collecting wages.

  6. Pingback: Yes, the Lincolns had servants…but not slaves | Past in the Present

  7. You titled the post “Lincoln and his slave,” and now you’re suggesting you never said the Lincolns enslaved anyone?

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  9. You said, “Yes and it could be for a liftime also, making them little betrter than a slave.”

    That’s not true. In early America, indentured servants were contracted to work for a set number of years, not indefinitely. In colonial Virginia, indentured servants could have their periods of service extended if they left before the indenture was up, but they were not bound for life as property of the person they worked for.

    In any case, the nature of indentured servitude is beside the point unless you can demonstrate that Mary Johnson was an indentured servant. The NPS says her ancestry was Irish, but doesn’t the census state that she was born in Illinois? If she was born in the US, she wouldn’t have to work to pay off passage across the Atlantic. Again, many live-in servants of the 1800s were simply paid employees. Families or housewives hired them to help around the house, and sometimes docked their pay for room and board.

      • You mean provide sources on indentured servitude showing they weren’t enslaved for life? Any good book on colonial Virginia will probably give you that information. Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom discusses indentured servitude and the development of slavery.

      • This is getting ridiculous. Here’s the definition of indentured servant from Merriam-Webster (

        “Main Entry: indentured servant
        Function: noun
        Date: 1723
        : a person who signs and is bound by indentures to work for another for a specified time especially in return for payment of travel expenses and maintenance”

        American slaves weren’t bound for only a specified time. They were property of their masters for life.

        And in any case, there’s no evidence that Mary Johnson was an indentured servant. The census lists her as born in Illinois, right?

      • I agree—–


        By Ethan A. Snively.

        “The territorial legislature on the 17th of September, 1807, passed a law providing that any person, being the owner of any negroes or mulattoes of and, above the age of fifteen years, and owing service and labor as slaves in any of the states and territories of the United States, or any person purchasing negroes or mulattoes, might bring the same into the territory. provided, the owner or master within thirty days should take them before the clerk of the court and have an indenture between the slave and his owner entered upon record specifying the time which the slave was compelled to serve his master. if, however, the negro or mulatto was under fifteen years, the owner was given power to hold the males until they were thirty-five years of age and the females until they were thirty-two. Children born of a parent who owed service of labor, by indenture, were required to serve, the males until the age of thirty, and the females until the age of twenty-eight. The law further provided that when a slave was brought into the territory and refused to be indentured, the owner had sixty, days in which to remove such slave to any state where such property could be legally held. The period of indenture was generally ninety-nine.”

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