:142He was an affectionate, though often absent, husbandand father of four children. Robert Todd Lincoln was born in 1843 and Edward Baker Lincoln (Eddie) in 1846. Edwarddied on February 1, 1850, in Springfield, probably of tuberculosis. "Willie" Lincoln was born on December 21, 1850, anddied of a fever on February 20, 1862. The Lincolns' fourth son, Thomas "Tad" Lincoln, was born on April 4, 1853, and diedof heart failure at the age of 18 on July 16, 1871.:179–181, 476Robert reached adulthood and produced children. TheLincolns' last descendant, great-grandson Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, died in 1985.Lincoln "was remarkably fondof children",:126and the Lincolns were not considered to be strict with their own.:120In fact, Lincoln's law partnerWilliam H. Herndon would grow irritated when Lincoln would bring his children to the law office. Their father, it seemed,was often too absorbed in his own work to notice his children's behaviour. Herndon recounted, "I have felt many andmany a time that I wanted to wring their little necks, and yet out of respect for Lincoln I kept my mouth shut. Lincoln didnot note what his children were doing or had done."The deaths of their sons had profound effects on both parents. Abraham suffered from "melancholy", a condition laterreferred to as clinical depression.Later in life, Mary struggled with the stresses of losing her husband and sons, andRobert committed her temporarily to a mental health asylum in 1875.:341Lincoln's father-in-law and others of the Todd family were either slave owners or slave traders. Lincoln was close to theTodds, and he and his family occasionally visited them.:440–447Mary cooked for Lincoln often during his presidency. Raised by a wealthy family, her cooking was simple, but satisfiedLincoln's tastes, which included imported oysters.In 1832 Lincoln and partner Denton Offutt bought a general store on credit in New Salem, Illinois.Although theeconomy was booming, the business struggled and Lincoln eventually sold his share. That March he entered politics,running for the Illinois General Assembly, advocating navigational improvements on the Sangamon River. He could drawcrowds as a raconteur, but he lacked an education, powerful friends, and money and lost the election.:41Lincoln interrupted his campaign to briefly serve as a captain in the Illinois Militia (during the Black Hawk War).:86–95He then returned to his campaign. At his first speech, he observed a supporter in the crowd under attack, grabbed theassailant by his "neck and the seat of his trousers" and tossed him.:46Lincoln finished eighth out of 13 candidates (thetop four were elected), though he received 277 of the 300 votes cast in the New Salem precinct.:114–1161864 photo of PresidentLincoln with youngest son,TadMary Todd Lincoln, wife ofAbraham Lincoln, age 28Early career and militia service
Lincoln served as New Salem's postmaster and later as county surveyor, all the while reading voraciously. He decided tobecome a lawyer and began teaching himself law by reading Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of Englandandother law books. Of his learning method, Lincoln stated: "I studied with nobody".