“Othello’s Occupation’s Gone!”

Although Lincoln was probably more deeply read in Shakespeare than any other author, quotations from the plays or other references to the Bard’s works are extremely rare in his letters. Lincoln drafted this letter, in haste, to a resident of Magnolia, Illinois, when serving as a first-term Whig congressman. Lincoln quotes lines from act 3, scene 3, of Othello, in which the seemingly betrayed protagonist abjures his generalship and bids farewell to his peace of mind. Lincoln, who opposed the Mexican- American War and was a vocal critic of President James K. Polk’s policy, nevertheless agreed to support Lynch’s recommendation of Robert Irwin for a lieutenancy. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, referred to by Lincoln in this letter, was ratified on 26 May 1848.