Abraham Lincoln’s first success in the world of politics came when he won a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. He learned the craft quickly and by 1840, he was in a life and death struggle with the Democrats over the Illinois State Bank in Springfield. This set the stage for one of the most bizarre episodes in the career of Abraham Lincoln.
Now it just so happened that Illinois was in deep financial trouble in 1840. Its bank had given out more paper money than it had gold and silver in reserve. That’s when the Democrats saw their chance to destroy the despised institution. They agreed to allow it to suspend its obligation to exchange its paper money for specie, but only for the remainder of the legislative session.
That’s when Lincoln determined to keep the legislature in session in order to buy precious time for the bank to find a way to survive, and that’s how he jumped into the national limelight on December 5, 1840. On that date, the Democrats proposed an early adjournment, knowing this would bring a speedy end to the State Bank. The Whigs tried to counter by leaving the capitol building before the vote, but the doors were locked. That’s when Lincoln made his move. He headed for the second story, opened a window and jumped to the ground!
For a while Lincoln’s escape denied the House its quorum, but it didn’t last long. He was returned to the chambers and the House voted to adjourn.
Although Abraham Lincoln wasn’t able to prevent the vote on adjournment that day, his determined antics put him in the media spotlight for the first time. The newspapers couldn’t resist telling their readers of “Mr. Lincoln’s celebrated leap” from the 2nd story and how it “caused him no harm because his legs reached nearly from the window to the ground.”
They knew they had not heard the last of Abraham Lincoln. Any politician who was willing to jump out of a window on principle was bound to amount to something some day.