chapter  1
28 Pages

“Oh Ambition!”: Careers and Home

By his forty-fifth year, Lincoln Clark had come to regret career choices made earlier in life. Born in Massachusetts at the turn of the nineteenth century, he had ventured to Alabama in 1837 with hopes of establishing a law practice in a developing region of the coun­ try. By 1845, however, he was tired of the itinerant life of the circuit court. “ I am becoming to believe that I am the greatest home man in the world,” he wrote to his wife Julia, “ and this I think speaks well for me and better for you. I sometimes think I can not endure this judge­ ship, it will keep me so long from the only place at which I am satis­ fied.” 1 Also worried about his children growing up in a culture dominated by slavery, Clark decided to return to the North. But not just any region above the Mason-Dixon Line would do. Having made a stagnating choice a decade earlier, Clark agonized over his decision. He wanted to return to live near family in Massachusetts but worried about the prospects for a law practice in rural New England. “ I should probably get nothing but small business and should almost certainly be looked upon as of small importance, and to endure this I have too much pride, and my habits and associations revolt at it; we had place, character and influence in our circle and I must have it still in order to be satisfied.”2 Clark finally chose to move his family to Iowa, where, ironically, his ambition eventually pushed him into politics, a career that often kept him away from home for months at a time.